Terror Trax: Grave Of Thorns

TerrorTrax

Our featured band for episode 135 of the podcast is Grave Of Thorns. Recently we asked them a few questions about their music:

 1. Band name and member names/what instrument they play. Who writes your lyrics?

7-496-desolation-1Our band is Grave of Thorns. We have two members, Thorn and Ron Graves.

Thorn ~ I write all the lyrics and sing.

Ron Graves ~ I play all the instruments.

 2. What singers or bands inspired you growing up? Who are your favorite artists today?

Thorn ~ I was really inspired by the Virgin Prunes, 45 Grave, Christian Death, Subhumans, Skeletal Family and Alien Sex Fiend. They’re still my favorite artists but more recent artists that I like are Crimson Scarlet, Fangs on Fur and Dystopian Society.

Ron Graves ~ My journey began with gothic rock and synthpop such as The Cure and Depeche Mode, but my tastes later turned darker to bands like Ministry and Skinny Puppy.  Today I enjoy all things heavy, with a few favorites being Hocico, Excision, and Meshuggah.

3. When did you first know you wanted to be a musician and how did you start out?

Thorn~ I wanted to be a musician all my life but I thought it was an impossible dream that required years of music school that I could never afford. Then one day I just thought I can do this on my own, so I did.

Ron Graves ~ I’ve never been obsessed with being a performer, but I’ve always wanted to create.  I was exposed to music theory, vocal performance, music notation, and guitar from a very young age, but my obsession with music production over the last 10 years is why I’m making music today instead of other art forms.

3-540-the-belfry4. What non-musical things inspire your music? Is there a place where you go to be inspired?

Thorn~ I’m inspired by my life experience, dreams, adventures, the plights of society and politics. The places I mostly go to be inspired is my mind and nature.

Ron Graves ~ I find patterns and contrasts a motivator to create.  When the internal struggles of hope, fear, desire and despair aren’t enough, nothing beats a walk through downtown Oakland.  There you can see really feel wealth and poverty, art and vandalism, love and hate, all shaping the city’s soul.

5. What’s been the greatest achievement of your band? Or, where was the coolest place to play? Where did you enjoy yourselves the most?

Thorn~ The greatest achievement of our band is our self-titled 4 song EP Grave of Thorns. We have yet to play live. I really enjoyed seeing my lyrics come to life and sharing that with like minded souls around the world.

Ron Graves ~ The greatest achievement has been seeing our EP from conception to completion.  The most enjoyable moments were found in the creation process and finally being able to share our work.

 6. What are your favorite horror movies?

 

Thorn~ I have a lot! Here are some from my personal collection: Kwaidan, Susperia, Nosferatu, The Hunger, The Crow, The Underworld Series, Vampire Hunter D, Vampyr, Classic Universal Monster Movies, The Fall of the House of Usher, Flatliners, The Alien series, Gothic, The Lost Boys, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,  Poltergeist 1982, Blood: the Last Vampire, Let the Right One In, Shaun of the Dead, The Craft, A Chinese Ghost Story.

 

Ron~ I love the suspense of Alien, the horrific humor of A Nightmare on Elm Street 3, and the gruesome effects of The Thing.

7. What was the scariest night of your life?

Thorn~ That would be telling. But I can say that I had a recent night of terror when I had an episode of sleep paralysis. I’m forming it into a song.

Ron Graves ~ My scariest night was when I was around 10.  I was in my bedroom and I saw the bathroom light turning on and off every couple seconds from under the crack in my door.  I opened my door to see who was doing it, but the light stayed off at that point and no one was there.  I spent the rest of the night buried under my blankets, wide-eyed and bathed in cold sweat.  After that, I was beset by nightmares nearly every night until I moved out of that house

8. What is available now that the listeners can download or buy? What is the website they can find it on? What is the best social media site for listeners to connect with you on? Twitter? Facebook? Instagram? Other? Bandcamp? What are your id’s/ web addresses?

Thorn~ We have videos of all four songs from our EP on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9TzsPAYXgD-m_iLPNvuQOg

Ron Graves ~ We have a self produced EP available for free on Bandcamp at https://graveofthorns.bandcamp.com/releases

Message and like the band on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/graveofthorns/

9. If you could play anywhere in the world, where would it be and who would be your opening band?

Thorn~ I would love to play at The Castle Party Gothic Festival in Poland with Alien Sex Fiend.

Ron Graves ~ Nothing beats playing to the home crowd in the SF Bay Area, and any of the great local bands could open for us. There is so much talent here it would be hard to choose!

10. What are you working on now for future release? Are you on tour? Where can they see you?

Thorn~ People can see us on YouTube. I continue to write lyrics.

Ron Graves ~ We do not have live shows booked at this time but please like us on Facebook to be notified of updates.

KBatz: Underworld Rise of the Lycans

Mixed Bag with Underworld Rise of the Lycans

By Kristin Battestella

As opposed to rushing to the theater for Underworld: Evolution, my anticipation of the 2009 prequel Underworld: Rise of the Lycans was meh. When I finally took a chance on the bluray, however, my feeling was, well, meh.  While it’s wonderful to see a complete, complex storyline come to fruition, an abundance of ill effects and darkness undoes Rise of the Lycans.

Elder vampire Viktor (Billy Nighy) takes in a werewolf servant Lucian (Michael Sheen) and raises him along side his daughter Sonja (Rhona Mitra). Lucian is able to control his Lycan urges and remain in human form; and over time, he and Sonja fall in love.  Unfortunately, this upsets Viktor’s plan for establishing an entire class of werewolf guardians, along with his domination of local human nobles.  Viktor and his vampire Death Dealers protect the populations from wild, ruthless Lycans; but when the Lycans bow to Lucian as their leader, both he and Sonja are subject to Viktor’s wrath.

Cinema today is somewhat bizarre.  We have franchises that play out and go for far too long while others are butchered, cut short, and cease to realize their full potential.  For Rise of the Lycans and the Underworld franchise, it seems they’ve suffered both.  On one hand, it’s a delight that house writers Danny McBride, Len Wiseman, and Robert Orr along with Dirk Blackman and Howard McCain (Outlander) (whew) are able to bring their entire vision to the screen.  Through the first and second films, we get tantalizing pieces of this complex back-story.  It may seem a slim Romeo and Juliet knock off in some spots, but Rise of the Lycans serves its purpose for fans who want all the ins and outs of this universe.

Then again, Rise of the Lycans is a little bit of a downer against its precursor successors. Yes, it lays the foundation for what is to come, but this picture is too different from the others.  A period piece following hot black leather-Rise of the Lycans reeks of that sub par, unloved third film that just goes too far.  We loved the Ewoks as kids, of course, but now…Not so much.

As with most action films, regardless of what format or setup you have, the voices are always too damn soft and the action is too freaking loud.  Unfortunately, Rise of the Lycans’ effects aren’t that good, either.  Even though Underworld mated film, comics, and CGI before 300, Rise of the Lycans looks distinctly ‘300ified’.  So many layers of repeated werewolf action in dark, nondescript forest settings; over and over, you can’t tell who is who unless it’s a slow motion panoramic Lycan up on his hind legs for a roar.  Even the fights are unoriginal.  Sure, it’s cool the first time, but after a dozen chops of the wolf’s head in half through the jaw, it’s not impressive.  Modern Underworld fans liked the slick black leather and vampire gunnery, so I’m not even sure that such an audience would go for a film with swords, crossbows, and castle sieges.  For whom then, is Rise of the Lycans made?

I’m sure there are documents out there clarifying who is who and when and where all this takes place, but the castle could have been any old castle, the vampire chicks wear sassy modern stuff, and Rhona Mitra looks just like she did in the futuristic Beowulf.  Mitra is pretty, sweet Jesus of course; but her lips are kind of big, her hair is always in her face, and though skilled, she does not have the presence or appeal of Kate Beckinsale’s Selene.  Her look and critical scenes match the Underworld flashback snips we received previously, fortunately.  We hear time and again how Viktor adores Selene because of her kinship to Sonja, but I think it would have been too over the top to have Beckinsale portray both.  Mitra’s dialogue and delivery are just right-I think it’s the film’s ill balance between romance and action that hinders Sonja.  Rise of the Lycans is too short for any real love to develop, but its overlong in its action.

Confusing nighttime action also takes away from the fine performances of Brit A-listers Michael Sheen (The Queen, Frost/Nixon) and Billy Nighy (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pirates of the Caribbean). The battle of words and wits between them is wordy and confusing, yet not nearly enough.  I’d love to see these two men at odds again in a straightforward dramatic piece-a film that allows them to sit opposite each other and debate.  In Rise of the Lycans, it doesn’t seem like they have any time together.  Again, the mix of action trying to be period piece hinders what talent and maturity it has.  Sheen and Nighy could certainly handle a solid, gothic picture; but would Underworld fans watch that? No.

Going by the title, Rise of the Lycans is definitely pro werewolf.  There are werefans out there who will eat up all the bad CGI wolves and cheer when these dogs get there day.  The re-invigorated vampire audiences created by the first two films, are however, left by the wayside.  Outside of a few lines ala ‘They are vampires!’ there is no evidence of vampirism.  They have cool eyes, pale skin, and fangs, big deal.  Not that the first two films gave us traditional bloodsuckers by any means, but after Rise of the Lycans, I realized how unscary and technically not horror this franchise is.  Was I scared out of my werewatching wits like Silver Bullet or creeped out like An American Werewolf in London? No.

Although the bluray disc was easy to navigate, there were only the usual behind the scenes features. What, no deleted scenes- it seemed like there should have been more than the feature proper. Honestly, this wasn’t the best bluray transfer I’ve seen, either.  In comparison with The Dark Knight’s multilayered and detailed nighttime streets and black on black costumes and gear, Rise of the Lycans is a blur.  Everything is so dang dark.  Was this cinematography error or bad bluray?  Perhaps it is a bit of both.

Fans of the series no doubt love Rise of the Lycans and accept it for its story despite its flaws.  Fans of the cast and collectors of course own the DVD, but casual viewers will be left out in the cold.  Already confused with a fine story but poor action, Rise of the Lycans biggest fault is that you have to be intimate with the first two pictures to appreciate the plot or even care about the characters.  General werewolf fans or vampire lovers should definitely wait for lower prices, rentals, or other viewing options before taking the plunge with Underworld: Rise of the Lycans.  And while you wait, feast of the first two Underworlds.

KBatz: Underworld and Underworld: Evolution

Slick, Sexy, Popular Underworlds

By Kristin Battestella

I’ve long held the theory that whenever Hollywood needs bite at the box office, it raises one of film’s longest staples: vampires.  Some think film, television, books, and comics are overloaded with creatures of the night, but others claim there isn’t enough vampy goodness onscreen or off.  Luckily, those fans have Underworld and its sequel Underworld: Evolution.

2003’s Underworld introduces us to the underground battle between vampires and Lycans. Expert Death Dealer Selene (Kate Beckinsale, Pearl Harbor) enjoys hunting the lycanthrope werewolves and their leader Lucian (Michael Sheen, The Queen). After rescuing the human Michael Corvin (Scott Speedsman, Felicity) from the Lycans, Selene’s perceptions of her vampire elder Viktor (Billy Nighy, Shaun of the Dead) change. The Lycans want Michael’s DNA to create a hybrid creature, and Viktor’s tale of Selene’s past may not be all that he led her to believe.

In Underworld: Evolution (2006), Selene and Michael seek out the immortal Wiliam Corvinus (Brian Steele, Hellyboy), a werewolf, while his hybrid vampire brother Markus (Tony Curran, The League of Extraordinary Gentleman) hunts them.  The original immortal Alexander Corvinus (Derek Jacobi, Hamlet) runs a secret military clean up operation, keeping his sons and the underground war from spilling over.  Together, they must destroy Markus and protect humanity while Selene resolves her past and future.

While the back story and history of Underworld’s set up is very detailed and carefully played out over the two films by director Len Wiseman (Live Free or Die Hard) and his writing compatriots Kevin Grievoux (werewolf Raze here and in Underworld: Rise of the Lycans) and Danny McBride (The Outer Limits)- the plots at hand are somewhat superficial.  You can tell this trio stems from the props and stunts side of films, for in some ways, that’s all Underworld is.   There’s action, great effects, the latest visual tricks and technological talk-making the strong back story and thin visuals somewhat uneven.  We spend a few critical scenes of flashbacks and historical conversations amid the Death Dealer and Lycan action.  Throw in the budding romance between Selene and Michael-and its tough to tell what these pictures are about.  Underworld sets up its universe just fine, but there’s too much action at hand.  Then again, Underworld: Evolution gives us more of the past while advancing the hybrid relationship.  I’m confused, too-but I don’t think we’re supposed to put this much thought into it.

Thankfully, the stylized productions make up for the thinly veiled storylines.  The leather, werewolf transformations, muted vampire looks, and updated weaponry forgive the double talk conversations.  Enough of the people talking about the old days if you’re going to give us such fast-paced supernatural action!  The rainy, dark, blue tinted European scenery is moody and atmospheric, but a little annoying at times.  You can’t always see the dark werewolves amid the dark tunnels fighting with black clad vamps.  Someone, turn on the lights!  Even with a few dark spots, it is the action that attracts and holds the audience through Underworld and Underworld: Evolution’s slow spots.

Of course, we wouldn’t care about the Underworld franchise at all if it weren’t for the kick ass, pouting, post Buffy Kate Beckinsale as Death Dealer Selene.  Combining the misunderstood vampire with the tough cookie modern female not only charms the lucrative young female demographics, but it also gives the boys some serious eye candy.  Not without talent, Beckinsale manages to take the brooding vampire material seriously while having fun in the swift action sequences.  In comparison, view the 2004 miss Van Helsing.  Kate’s monster fighting gypsy princess is a complete parody stuck in a drivel of a film.  For those that think Selene is melodramatic fluff, a night with Van Helsing brings new appreciation.

The Underworlds can get away with the risks of a conflicted female lead because each has some fine veteran leadership.  Billy Nighy brings a touch of spooky class as the slick and deceiving vampire elder Viktor.  He wants to keep Selene in his power hungry pocket, but his control is coming undone via his own wicked actions.  Likewise, Sir Derek Jacobi adds an elder element to Underworld: Evolution.  Alexander Corvinus is another piece to the puzzle that doesn’t fit quite right.  Immortality should make these men all the wiser, but personal, rose colored glasses guide the parents-at-odds.  As much as I like the modern stylings of Underworld, I wish there were more of Nighy and Jacobi’s old school boys.

Sometimes it hampers a viewing experience, but I’m always curious about the behind the scenes goings on of a film.  How difficult must it have been on the set of Underworld after couple Kate Beckinsale and Michael Sheen split? How much worse did it get when Beckinsale married director Len Wiseman?  You wouldn’t know things weren’t peachy by Michael Sheen’s bittersweet performance as Lycan leader Lucian.  He’s got a serious grudge to pick with Viktor and is quite the vicious fellow; yet we believe Lucian when he speaks of love lost and the Lycan plight.  Once upon a time, these A-list actors wouldn’t have been up for a vampire vehicle, but the cast’s class makes up for any of the series’ short comings.

Unfortunately, pretty boy Scott Speedman is not so pretty at all.  He’s bland, grungy, and his hair is always in his dang face.  Judging by Speedman’s phoned in portrayal, any it boy of the moment could have sufficed as the human caught between the Death Dealers and the Lycans.  He’s given more time to show his worth in Underworld: Evolution, but I enjoy the scenes where hybrid Michael is wolfed out and growling instead of talking.  That’s bad, isn’t it?  The secondary vampires Kraven (Shane Brolly, ChromiumBlue.com) and Erika (Sophia Myles, Tristan and Isolde) are far more interesting.  Rather than looking solely for love and survival, they’re lustful, manipulative, and desperate to come out on top.  The unrated extended cut DVD of Underworld smartly restores deleted scenes of this plotting would be vampire couple.

Upon seeing Underworld for the first time, I quite enjoyed it.  Yes, it puts effects over drama, but it’s a new notch in the vampire film’s lore.  Some people who don’t like the same old vamps (though I don’t know why) take to this franchise as the wicked, badass alternative to the ethereal Interview with the Vampire and old options like Dark Shadows or a choose your Dracula.  I must admit, though, I think I prefer Underworld: Evolution. Its action is bigger and more complex, yet on a seemingly smaller, personal scale. The natural and daylight locations go a long way in simply being able to see all that’s going on.  More time, development, and appreciation of the past is allowed to germ along with the characters.  It’s as if the first film’s fast, modern pace was only to get the fans in the door for the serious, meaty follow-ups.

And oh yes, you knew there would be follow ups!  I think it was an odd choice for the Underworld team to spend the third film solely in the past with Rise of the Lycans.  Are these Rad! Black Leather! Beckinsale is Hawt! Fans going to show up for a medieval wolf fest-especially after Underworld: Evolution sets up so many contemporary possibilities?  It’s certainly nice to get the full-length back-story of which we’ve seen so many tantalizing glimpses, but Rise of the Lycans is not perfect by any means.  Fortunately, die-hard fans will be pleased to know a fourth installment is in the works.

Underworld enthusiasts can spring for the fancier DVD editions for all the bells and whistles, too.  Underworld’s 2 disc unrated extended cut set comes with a mini comic book and production booklets, in addition to commentaries, outtakes, production design features, stunts, music, and more.  Aired on television as a tie-in, the documentary Fangs vs. Fiction spends more time on Underworld then it does proper vampire history, myth, and lore, but it’s enjoyable nonetheless.  The standard widescreen DVD for Underworld: Evolution has plenty of treats, too, including more commentaries, visual behind the scenes, and music videos.  Collectors can spring for the combo sets and blu-ray editions, but standard copies and video on demand options are available for the latent Lycan and vampire fan.

Back in the day, you had to choose which side of the horror genre you were on- be it vampires or werewolves.  My mom prefers tormented vampire Barnabas Collins to my brooding wolf favorite Quentin.  Wiseman and his team, however, have made their Underworld franchise a delight for both sides of the moonlight.  Though the third prequel film Rise of the Lycans favors its titular wolves, vampire and werewolf fans alike can take pleasure in Underworld and Underworld: Evolution.  Though rated R for gore and violence, teens can enjoy Underworld.  The unrated version and Underworld: Evolution do, however, step up the sex and nudity, so young and budding macabre tweens should probably be kept to an edited television airing.  It used to be a little touch and go when confessing to liking vampires and werewolves, but the slick, sexy, action-packed Underworld franchise has made leather clad vamps and lonely Lycans fun for the masses.