Man, I gotta say that I’m finding it harder and harder to read a paper, get on the old interweb, or basically just stick my head out of the front door. It seems everywhere I’m looking it’s nothing but bad news, bad behavior, and bad executive orders. Or worse. Acquaintances, friends, and family are espousing from their collective high horses(or couches) their rather one-sided, jaded, and backwards views on things like equal rights, immigration, BLM, big government, socialism, ISIL, refugees, and pretty much anything else Breitbart, FOX News, or Tomi Lahren tells them is bad(real bad, man. Real bad.) I thought the fear-mongering was bad back in 2002. This makes 2002 seem like a utopian time in American society. Despite great tragedy and loss, we at least came together as a nation and found some sort of collective ground(or at least a collective grief?) You’d think with all of the current Obama bashing and Trump dry-humping going on that Barack had instituted a “Fetal Feast Friday” on the White House lawn, or had gone past one million served on his death panels(remember those? How quaint those times were, huh?)
Most of the folks that I see jumping on this “wall” and “muslim ban” bandwagon actually did pretty well over the last four years. I can’t quite see where they’re coming from in regards to how bad Obama mucked things up. I’m not saying the guy deserves a “World’s Greatest President” mug to drink out of in the mornings. But Christ, there were no illegal wars on his watch. The economy began breathing again. David Bowie released two amazing albums before he left us…on Obama’s watch no less. There wasn’t much he could do anyways, you know with a congress that shot him down at every turn…
But hey, all of this is the reason I’ve been avoiding the bright lights of social media and alternative facts. I find myself so looking forward to weekends nowadays. Not just because, well, it’s the weekend. But because I don’t have to hear the stupid say stupid things while we whistle as we work. No FOX News bloviating throughout the breakroom. No discussions of Sharia Law from people that can’t even spell “Sharia”, let alone know what it is. No yammering about how some asshole thrice married with lots of shady business and bankruptcies under his belt will make America great again. No, the weekend is when I can shut the blinds, unplug from the hate machine and get lost in something far more soothing. Something far more relaxing. Something like the story of Space Shuttle Ambition’s flight to Mars in order to begin the colonization of the Red Planet, only to have the entire crew disappear a mere 18 days after their successful landing on September 6th, 1987.
Now that’s something I can get lost in.
That story is of course not true, but on Slasher Film Festival Strategy’s 2013 release Crimson Throne that’s exactly the story we’re being told. Christopher Ashley, aka Slasher Film Festival Strategy, has a way of telling unique sci-fi/horror tales through his ample supply of synth equipment, new and old. On his 2014 release Wet Leather, Ashley tells the tale of a mental patient wrongly institutionalized and then released 22 years later in order to wreak havoc on the town that put him away. 2015 saw the excellent Psychic Shield, a tale about a religious cult of flesh-eating witches and how those that escaped use their “psychic shield” to protect themselves from the witches and attempt to destroy the cult. Ashley grew up on horror films, hardcore punk, and a southern upbringing, which all play into his music as SFFS. When you listen to his scores you know the guy is a student of those old, sleazy films.
I had the great pleasure of interviewing Ashley earlier in 2016 and from our interaction I got the feeling he’s a pretty upstanding guy. He runs his own label(Foreign Sound Records) where he releases his SFFS albums, as well as other like-minded bands in the sleazy synth, hardcore, grindcore, and pretty much all those things that go bump in the night. At that time I hadn’t yet gotten acquainted with Crimson Throne all that much. Since then I was able to get a super rare copy of the ‘Haunt Love’ edition of the album and have played it ad nauseum. Each of Ashley’s records have a certain mood they hit. Wet Leather was ultra sleazy, sickly synth. Something Abel Ferrara or late-era Fulci might’ve poured over one of their exploitative slash fests. Psychic Shield is this mix of late-60s and early 70s Italio horror sounds. Very restrained; almost classicist compositions given life through trusty analog equipment. With Crimson Throne there’s a real mid-80s vibe here. It puts me in mind of Romero’s Day of the Dead at times, with it’s strutty rhythms and boxy synth sounds. But then you’re treated to some quasi-ambient textures that completely throw you through a loop. There’s certainly a lost in space vibe here. Very spatial and galactic at times.
Title track “Crimson Throne” has that synsonic drum strut that puts me in mind of opening credit crawls, while “Terraformer” has a techno vibe with the drum programming and drone-y synth swaths. “Frozen Alter” is very much in the Dawn of the Dead vein. “Doom is on the way” is what this track is relaying. “The Cavern” and “First Death” waver and hover in the air like some death-enchanted specter.
As you follow along with Crimson Throne you really do get the vibe of a soundtrack. I’d love to see Christopher Ashley get the chance to do some scoring for films, but I’d hate to see him pulled away from creating his own musical worlds. He has a real knack for the musical narrative. “Thermal Event”, “Cosmic Burial”, and “Surface” have come to us with a fully formed story to tell. “Day 18” gives us the fate of those Space Shuttle Ambition astronauts. It’s the story’s tragic epilogue. A robotic voice tells us it’s most likely dead and that this is a distress call.
I’m thankful for Slasher Film Festival strategy in these wary times. I’m most appreciative for these albums and the escapism they provide. I’d much rather be a stranded astronaut on the Red Planet than read more about President Bannon…err, I mean Trump.
That’s far scarier.