Thundercat : Drunk

Driving home from picking up my son at school the other day we were listening to Flying Lotus’ Until The Quiet Comes. I looked over to my son and said “What I love about this music is that it’s a perfect mix of woozy trip hop, groovy hip hop, and complex jazz chord structures.” My son said “So, what’s for dinner?” Anyways, I bring this up because I’m listening to the new album by Stephen Bruner, aka Thundercat, called Drunk. If you’re at all familiar with Flying Lotus then you will be familiar with Thundercat. His cleanly soulful vocals and fluid, prodigious bass lines are all over Flying Lotus’ albums. He’s also played with artists as diverse as Suicidal Tendencies, Erykah Badu, Kendrick Lamar, Kamasi Washington, Childish Gambino, and too many more to list here. Drunk is Thundercat’s third album under his own name, and I think his best. While his previous records dabbled in soul, funk, jazz, and elements of hip hop throughout, Drunk comes together as a personal narrative about love and loneliness. It’s still all over the place, but there’s a focus here that makes the album that much more special.

Drunk plays like a creative mind stuck in the cycle of life, trying to dull the angst with video games, sex, music, and getting stoned. Bruner is spending time in Japan buying anime and Dragon Ball Z wrist slap bracelets, trying to get out of the “friend zone”, and leaving his wallet in the club. Thundercat is equal parts Parliament, Prince, Frank Zappa, Stevie Wonder and Steely Dan, with his own special brand of freakiness thrown in for good measure. The songs here are more fleshed out than previous records, with a focus on personal tales. But it’s still funky.

Songs on Drunk are short and sweet. Album opener “Rabbot Ho” is 38 seconds. The sound of crickets accompany a mean falsetto, keys and bass before we jump into “Captain Stupido”, a frantic mix of jazz chord progressions while Bruner sings “I feel weird, comb your beard brush your teeth”. It’s a bizarro world version of soul and funk. “Uh Uh” is a massive jazz fusion jam that is part Bela Fleck and the Flecktones and part Fishbone manic episode. “Bus In The Streets” sounds like something you would’ve heard on a Sesame Street segment. It’s a gleeful mix of childhood whimsy and 60s flower power, but with some serious bass playing. “A Fan’s Mail(Tron Song Suite II) is too smooth, even with the meowing at the beginning of the song. And that bass, man.

Musically there’s some serious sophistication. Sonically it’s tight and on-point with everything coming together perfectly. Then you listen a little closer to the lyrics and they bring things down to earth. You feel like you’re hearing thoughts coming from the mind of a shy, introverted dude. Someone who loves video games, hip hop, and fart jokes. That’s not a bad thing. It makes all the sophistication and prodigious playing seem more human.

“Lava Lamp” is a total love lorn slow jam, full of groove and melancholy. There’s also nods to sophisticated rock of the 70s. “Show You The Way” lays on the Steely Dan vibes pretty thick, complete with vocals by Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins. “Walk On By” features Kendrick Lamar, another artist that seems to be leading the charge for a new wave of important, forward-thinking artists. “Jameel’s Space Ride” sounds like a chip tune jingle that covers police brutality and aliens in just over a minute.

I could spend a few more paragraphs going over all the territory Thundercat covers on Drunk, but there is no point. You just need put Drunk in your ears and experience it for yourself. It’s a next-level kind of record.

8.3 out of 10

 

“I’d rather listen to Lizzy Borden, to be quite honest.”

Summer of 1987.

This was the summer where I discovered metal. Speed metal, that is. I’d done the classics by the time I’d hit the 7th grade. Made my way through the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, the Stones, and Hendrix. AC/DC were in my collection, as well as a good chunk of hair metal. Most of 7th grade was consumed by Poison, Cinderella, Motley Crue, Dokken and Great White. But when summer rolled around, my brother introduced me to speed metal. Speed, thrash, whatever you want to call it. Suicidal Tendencies, Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax, Slayer, Overkill, Metal Church,…my eyes and ears had been opened to the double kick drum, lightning fast guitar riffs, the pained howl vocals, and lyrics that ranged from drug addiction, politics, and devil worship; to teen angst, witchcraft, Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft. It was the perfect place to land before heading back into Warsaw Middle School to start my 8th grade year.

Like with anything, you’ve got your good and bad metal bands. Most of what I came across I liked. I wasn’t all that picky. One afternoon my mom took me to Butterfly Records in downtown Warsaw and I had some money burning a hole in my pocket so bought Fates Warning’s No Exit. To be honest, I’m not sure why I bought this album. I may have read a review in Metal Edge or Circus. Or quite possibly my older brother may have mentioned them. In order to one up said older brother I may have bought the album before he had a chance. So I left Butterfly Records with No Exit on cassette and headed off to a guitar lesson. On the ride home I popped the cassette tape into the cassette player of my mom and dad’s 1984 Honda Accord and was impressed. It had twin guitar attack, impressive drumming, and banshee-like vocals with doom-laden lyrics. What more could a 14 year old kid as for?

Fates Warning were an east coast metal band that formed in 1983 out of Connecticut. No Exit was the fourth album and their first with a line up change that included new singer Ray Alder. After experimenting with progressive rock tendencies the band really jumped head first into the progressive/art rock vibe on No Exit. There were acoustic interludes, lyrics about anarchy, death, silent cries, and even a whole side, 21 minute suite called “The Ivory Gate of Dreams”. When their next album dropped the next year in 1989 called Perfect Symmetry they had gone full progressive and were more in line with bands like Queensryche with that Q Prime management vibe; including heady music videos and more expensive hair products. But No Exit still possessed a sense of danger to it. There was still a darkness in the dissonant guitar lines and Alder’s operatic howls. They never hit the drug-fueled doldrums of say Megadeth, or the speed metal delights of Metallica or Slayer, or even the hardcore charms of Anthrax, but it was a great album for an 8th grader to shake his fist to quietly in his bedroom.

On a recent trip to Neat Neat Neat Records I found a super clean copy of No Exit for $10 and instantly nostalgia got the better of me. After about ten minutes of mulling around the store I made my way back to the “F” section of the metal albums and grabbed Fates Warning. I also snagged a copy of Fogg’s High Testament(we’ll talk about that one later.) Was it all warm fuzzies and harkening back to the heyday of my teen speed metal years? No, not really.

Sometimes nostalgia can give you a nice surprise. Recent purchases of albums like Cinderella’s Night Songs, Dokken’s Tooth and Nail, and even older grabs like Van Halen’s Fair Warning and Diver Down showed that I wasn’t all that bad at finding good music to listen to in my pre-teen and teen years. Sadly though, sometimes records don’t age all that well. No Exit, while still probably exactly as it was in 1988, just isn’t that memorable of a record. It’s a sort of paint-by-numbers affair as far as metal albums go.

So basically you’ve got your chugging metal riffs, the galloping metal riffs, and the occasional spritz of thrash thrown in with Fates Warning. Album opener “No Exit” is 41 seconds of sorrowful, dissonant guitars as singer Ray Alder basks in some serious doomy vocals. When I was a teenager it probably sounded a lot better. Now it just sounds out of tune(God, I’m old.) “Anarchy Divine” goes in hard with some decent thrash moments and some nice tempo changes. Alder, to me, sounds like a poor man’s Joey Belladonna. He hits those high notes well enough, but there’s no heft there. Even Geoff Tate had some color behind his wailing. “Silent Cries” hints at a more progressive sound the band would dig into with their next album, Perfect Symmetry. It’s not bad, but it just doesn’t go anywhere. There’s no “oomph”. “In A Word” is the obligatory acoustic number all metal bands felt they needed to include back in the 80s. I guess it’s supposed to show off the soulful side of the band. Meh. I’d rather listen to Lizzy Borden, to be quite honest. “Shades Of Heavenly Death” has some nice early Anthrax vibes, but man those vocals just kind of bring everything down. I just can’t get into that wailing. “The Ivory Gates of Dreams” is the nearly 22-minute opus and works the best here. Alder keeps his vocals controlled here, and the band does a nice job of tempo changes and mixing up the art rock vibe with straight up speed metal. This takes up all of side B and I could see what I saw in these guys in the first place.

By 1989 the rough edges that were present on No Exit were mostly shaved off. In their place was arty, Rush-inspired progressive rock. It was a little more Queensryche’s Operation: Mindcrime and less Mercyful Fate’s Melissa. Fates Warning is still a quality progressive rock band, but No Exit won’t be spun again any time soon. Sometimes the past just needs to stay in the past I suppose. Let those sleeping dogs lie. Or those old rock records continue to collect dust in my memory.

Memory Upgrade

So sometimes your memory betrays you. Okay, most of the time your memory betrays you. Like for example, how you may remember an argument with an old friend that caused a riff between the two of you. When you finally have that heart to heart and discuss things you realize you remembered things all wrong. That friend didn’t actually say what you thought they said. Or you watched a movie as a kid and you remembered it a certain way for 25 years. When you go back and watch that same movie as an adult you realized the ending in your head was all wrong. Even how you remember a person. My grandma died over 6 years ago. I think I remember how her voice sounded, and her laugh. But I don’t have anything to go on anymore. No old home movies or answering machine messages saved. I’m going on those pieces still lodged in my brain. A couple phone conversations just a few weeks before she died, and a visit to her house just a month before she was gone.

It’s all I got, so I have to run with it. Try to keep it fresh and glowing, like stoking embers in a fire. Once it’s out it’s out. No more kindling to throw on the fire.

There’s no lesson here I’m trying to teach. There’s no moral to any of this. I’m just thinking a lot about memories and the importance of making them. My oldest was home this past week for spring break. I took the last part of the week off so I could spend time with her. My wife had to work all week and the younger ones were still in school(they aren’t off until the first week of April.) When the oldest comes home on extended weekends she’s often either sleeping, hanging out with her old school friends, or with her mom on some shopping excursion. I’m here at home making sure she’s getting her favorite meals while she’s here. I’m keeping the gears running at the homestead. I’m not ever going on adventures with her. So this time I wanted to be able to do something with her, so she knows I care and that I actually do like to spend time with her.

Wednesday was taking her to the dentist and the eye doctor, then being at home waiting for the heating and cooling guys to put in our new water heater. Thursday wasn’t much, but then Friday my daughter and I spent the day in Fort Wayne shopping for books and music, eating quite well, and just enjoying time together. We hit three spots for books and came out of it with a stack for each of us. I wanted to hit up Neat Neat Neat Records as well as I haven’t been there in over two years. Hasn’t changed much, and I’d hoped for that. For lunch we ate at Bravas Burgers. Probably the best burger and fries I’ve had in a very long time. We will go back for sure. After a coffee refueling we hit the road and made it home by 5pm. Saturday was just hanging out at home mostly, which is what we all needed I think.

Today, my wife and mom are currently driving the oldest back to school while I’m home with the younger ones. Making dinner and keeping the gears turning at the homestead.

I look back at my life, even just the last 6 years, and there are these moments that stick out in my head. They’re good moments: family vacations down south, trips to record shops, Christmas eves with board games and snack-y foods, a Colorado wedding, school carnivals, and band concerts around the holidays. They’re not grand gestures like trips to Disney World or anything like that. They’re just these little moments that define such significant times in my mind. More than a grand gesture can do, the trips to the bookstore, or a cabin in the woods, or the cinema on a Sunday afternoon are what stick in our memories. More memories we make the easier it is to remember them all.

Anyways, that’s what going on in my head. We made some memories this week, and I’m happy about that.

Friday Rentals

All this talk of classic horror films from when I was a boy in short pants has me reminiscing about Friday nights of my youth. The Friday night video rental, to be exact. It was a semi-regular thing for my parents and I to go out after my dad got home from work and go grab a pizza at Pizza Hut, stuff ourselves, and then head to Video World and rent some movies for the weekend. Of course, I’d head straight to the back room(not THAT backroom, you perv) and start perusing the horror and sci fi. Video World had a back room dedicated to nothing but horror, sci fi, music docs, and weird odds and ends. That’s where I spent a good portion of my time. This was my formal education into the world of the undead, vampires, alien creatures, soulless slashers, and general weirdos that I’d carry around in my memories for years to come. At first it was an appreciation for being scared, but then it changed. It was the whole aesthetic that I loved: the effects, the music, the set designs, and yes even the stories that were attempted. Some were better than others(much better at times), but each movie carried with it something endearing, no matter how horrible the film was. If it was really bad it would sometimes transcend into something even greater than scares. The horror film that tried so hard but missed the mark would become something else: parody. Something so bad that it became a completely different genre. Even a lousy movie could make for fun viewing.

This Friday night ritual continued on through high school. One of my best friends and I would crash at either my place or his, grab a Tombstone pepperoni pizza from the store along with a bag of Cheddar and Sour Cream Ruffles, hit Video World for the newest horror film(by this time we’d rent from either Video World or Video Plus), and spend Friday night distorting our minds(and our intestinal tract with that Tombstone Pizza.) Oh, and if you hadn’t guessed, we weren’t the partying types. Were we dorks? Nerds? I don’t think so. But we definitely weren’t “popular kid” material. Listening to Rush and Joe Satriani and pining over Daphne Zuniga didn’t win us any cool points, but we were cool with that.

I don’t think much has changed for me(except I make my own pizza nowadays.) The video store has turned into renting movies off of Amazon, and Fridays are also shared equally by watching movies and spinning records. If I’m going to waste time, I might as well waste on things I love to do, right? I do miss the video store, though. The strange cast of characters that haunted the aisles: whether it was parents and their kids looking for something to watch together, teens looking for something they shouldn’t watch, or the creepers disappearing into the “other” back room. And of course the folks working behind the counter, renting to the folks hungry for entertainment on a Friday evening. Spending their weekend making ours a little more interesting. I had much admiration for them. I was one of them, as I started working at Video World when I was 18 and worked their for nearly a year. A great year it was, too.

So here’s to Friday rentals and making the most of those little moments.

Who Goes There?

The first movie I watched that truly disturbed me to my core was John Carpenter’s The Thing. Sure, I’d seen films that made me jump and that had given me nightmares for a week straight. And yes, there were films that made me not want to go downstairs for fear of creature hands coming through the steps and pulling me underneath for a grotesque fate. Did Poltergeist make me fear clowns and looking under my bed? Absolutely. Friday The 13th cured me of ever wanting to be the outdoors-y type. Nightmare On Elm Street made sure I’d always try to wake up before I hit the ground in a bad dream where I was falling, for fear of never waking up. And The Food Of The Gods made me fear…well, giant worms? I don’t know, but I had nightmares for a week after my parents took me to see it at the drive-in when I was 3 years old. But the film that really grabbed me and viscerally messed with my head was The Thing.

I remember watching Howard Hawks’ The Thing From Another World on Nightmare Theater, a local Friday night “creature feature”- like show, as a little kid with my dad and not really thinking much of it. It was interesting, but for some reason I remember thinking James Arness’ “Thing” was a giant carrot. Maybe my dad told me that(he liked to mess with me as a kid…much like I like to mess with my own children.) I got to see a lot of great and not-so great horror flicks on Nightmare Theater, which I credit for my love of horror in general. But it wasn’t until I was 10 and we bought our first VCR that I truly began building up my horror knowledge. The first two movies we rented? Romero’s Creepshow and the Bob and Doug McKenzie flick Strange Brew. I was off to a great start.

Within that first year of renting movies from Video World The Thing came about 6 months into our Betamax journey. I’d heard things about the movie, mainly from my dad talking about it, and knew I wanted to see it. My parents weren’t super strict about what they let me watch growing up. There were some “off limits” films, for sure. Mainly movies with lots of sex and lots of bad language were gonna be on the “no way” list. I remember mom and dad usually watching those after I went to bed. I could hear Risky Business, Dressed To Kill, and Scarface through the wall as I tried going to bed. The TV was directly on the other side of the wall where my bed was. Horror movies, though, my parents were a little more lenient with my brother and I. I can remember mom and dad taking my brother and I to see the original Fright Night, Silver Bullet, and even Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge. I wasn’t even in middle school for any of those. We were just a horror film household I guess.

So The Thing. Both the original and Carpenter’s remake were based on the novella Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell(writing as Don A. Stuart.) Hawks’ version was more loosely based, where Carpenter took a more direct approach to the adaptation. I think, whether they were direct or not, there were nods to McCarthy-ism in the original as it was released around the time of the McCarthy trials and the Communist witch hunts in Hollywood. The idea of not knowing who you can trust among your peers felt very close to home to those working in the community at the time, as well as in the country as a whole. In 1982, Carpenter was coming off of a stream of classic films. Halloween(1978), The Fog(1980), and Escape From New York(1981), as well as a much-loved TV movie Elvis starring Kurt Russell in 1979. He proved he was capable of doing a hell of a lot with not much bank. He went from a $6 million dollar budget with Escape to $15 million for The Thing, and it showed. The movie’s special effects were unlike anything we’d seen before. Rob Bottin, then only in his early 20s, pretty much revolutionized special effects in film.

So for those that aren’t aware of The Thing, I’ll give you a synopsis(why aren’t you aware of this classic??): At an American research station in Antarctica, the crew is encountered with an alien life form that can take the shape of its victims, which causes the all-male crew to start wondering who’s really themselves and who’s actually the alien in disguise. How they come in contact with the alien I’ll leave that up for you to find out(if you haven’t seen it.) Like I said, the special effects in this film are impressive, even by today’s standards. CGI does some great things, but it doesn’t begin to compare to practical effects. Between Bottin’s special effects crew(and one memorable effect by effects wizard Stan Winston), this film was viscerally and stomach-churningly on-point.

The score was written by Ennio Morricone. Unlike most of Carpenter’s other films, he let someone else take the reigns this time around, and that person was the spaghetti western master himself. After recently picking up the Waxwork Records release of this stunning score, I have to say that I never noticed just how incredible it was. I think watching as a kid I was so engrossed with the film that the music just didn’t register with me. Even after watching it less than a year ago the music still didn’t register with me. I think more than anything after listening to it recently was that it sounds nothing like what I imagine Ennio Morricone and his scores to sound like. That’s probably due to my ignorance more than anything else.

Like I said before, I correlate Morricone to Eastwood and spaghetti westerns. On The Thing, Morricone goes for a much tenser vibe, complete with trickling strings and brasher symphonic sounds. At times it sounds more like Bernard Herrmann scoring Alfred Hitchcock, which for a film about isolation and paranoia you couldn’t ask for anything more. There’s also a real classic feel to the orchestral movements in this film, like you’re hearing pieces from a classic Universal monster film. You can almost see Dracula’s castle in the distance, or smell the electrified corpse of Frankenstein’s monster as its being lowered from the roof into the famous laboratory. There are also moments where Morricone seems to be pulling from Carpenter’s playbook here, with minimalist notes and quiet tension. “Humanity, Pt. 2” feels like something John Carpenter would’ve come up with, while “Eternity” sounds like it could’ve been used in Carpenter’s The Fog. “Humanity Pt.1” is all slow burn with lilting strings and piano. It puts me in mind of what Jeff Grace did years later in Ti West’s excellent The House Of The Devil.

All in all, this is a beautifully arranged piece of orchestral work.

So the film was universally panned when it came out in 1982. Carpenter was crushed as his great efforts were ignored and his classic science fiction film was downplayed as “excessive” and “a wretched excess”, “the quintessential moron movie of the 80s”. One reviewer states of John Carpenter, “Astonishingly, he blows it.” Of course, dear reader, none of these critics got it. In fact, hardly anyone did at the time. It was as if everyone in the cinematic-reviewing community felt as if John Carpenter had broken some cardinal rule when he mixed both science fiction and horror together in one film. Of course it had been done before. Anyone heard of Alien? Yeah, me too. Of course, science fiction and horror go hand in hand. Some of the most astonishing evils have come from science: the atomic bomb, chemical warfare, L. Ron Hubbard’s Dianetics. I’m all for science, folks. I’m just saying there’s a lot of scary stuff to come from scientific progress, as well some great stuff. But having said all that I don’t think John Carpenter was trying to say any great truths with The Thing. He just wanted to make a hard-boiled, bloody version of Ten Little Indians and he succeeded wonderfully. It was a film about a group of rough dudes stuck together in a place where there’s no escape, trying to figure out who’s who and what’s what. If the beast doesn’t get ’em inside, the sub-zero temps will get ’em on the outside. Even though it’s still basically a monster-in-disguise movie, there’s still plenty of “who can you trust when the enemy is hiding in plain sight” fodder that you can mull over and compare to the times we currently live in.

Everything about The Thing is perfect. From the casting to set design to the special effects to the frigid isolation. And of course the music. When Carpenter first asked Ennio Morricone to score his film, Morricone said “Regarding The Thing, by John Carpenter, I’ve asked him, as he was preparing some electronic music with an assistant to edit on the film, “Why did you call me, if you want to do it on your own?” He surprised me, he said – “I got married to your music. This is why I’ve called you.” I was quite amazed, he called me because he had my music at his wedding.” If I could tell John Carpenter why I spent so much time writing about and obsessing over a movie made 35 years ago, I guess I’d say it’s because it completely messed my prepubescent mind up.

But in the best way possible.

 

Causa Sui Revisited Part Three : Return To Sky

I’m not really sure how I revisit an album that came out less than a year ago, especially one that I loved right off the bat. But really, this is a series not of albums I’m going back to and seeing if they’re a better fit after some time has passed. No, these posts are for the benefit of you, dear reader. Yes, I’m writing these in the hopes of helping guide you on your journey to Causa Sui enlightenment. A psychedelic road map that will take you on an existential journey to find some serious space rock, brothers and sisters. I want to help you blow your mind in the best way possible. Causa Sui wants to blow your mind, and I’m here to help you find the right record to do that. Open that head of yours and let some light in.

So Summer Sessions seemed too daunting of a task you say? Information overload you say? And Pewt’r Sessions 3 was just a bit too much of a mind f*ck? Too heady and dark for your bright, sunny days? Well, that’s okay. You see, I’ve got something here that even the lightest and cheeriest of space travelers can get into. Return To Sky, Causa Sui’s newest album(released spring of 2016) feels like a wave of both 90s alternative rock and breezy early 70s pastoral Big Muff noise. It feels like what I’d call Causa Sui’s gateway album. It’s the one that pulls you into the Causa Sui universe and from there you begin exploring. It’s 5 songs -tightly wound and beautifully chaotic- headphone-ready and catchy as hell.

“Dust Meridian” blows out of the speakers like “Spoonman” on mescaline. It’s a heavy groove joyride that pulls in tribal beats, Sabbath riffs, and trippy Doors-like interludes thanks to Rasmus Rasmussen’s keys work. It’s a microcosm of classic and modern sounds coming together and working things out in the eye of the musical storm.

“The Source” is a mainline of chugging boogie and stoner rock abandon. Jonas Munk about blows this one through the roof with a megaton rock riff that would make Matt Pike cower in fear. There’s a great mix of mystical vibes and sludge-y doom in “The Source”. Causa Sui sort of throw all their strengths into this one and just go for it.

“Mondo Buzzo” is the sound of the natives getting restless. War drums are beaten seductively and with purpose. The slinky guitar riff is the warning shot across the bow, and the bass and keys press on like good soldiers. The song explodes into big riffs and Kyuss-like purpose.

Desert rock in the heart of Copenhagen, folks.

If you didn’t guess, Return To Sky is a rock and roll banshee. Causa Sui went into the studio to record an in-the-raw rock monster of an album. Little overdubs and big riffs. Where previous records sprinkled in dreamy atmospheres and psychedelic shadings, Return To Sky turned the amps up to 11 and laid down some serious grooves. There’s no pastoral wanderings or dreamy soundscapes. With this album it was all about the visceral push.

“Dawn Passage” does have a bit of a “break in the clouds” feel with phaser-effected guitars and a ride-driven drum part, but it doesn’t go all navel-gazing. Underneath the breezy disposition there’s still a kinetic flow. Munk, Kahr, Rasmussen, and Skott work together musically on a gut-level here. It’s an instinctual thing between these four.

“Return To Sky” sounds like some fuzz box version of the Midnight Cowboy theme. It’s got a bit of an open horizon vibe. It seems to capture this technicolor space where sky and earth meet, just before they explode into swaths of red, pink, and orange hues. Fear not, kiddos, this day doesn’t end before some serious guitar power pummels us into submission.

If you’re looking for an easy way into the Causa Sui world, this is it. Return To Sky puts you into the studio with the band. You can feel the electricity as the music is being pulled from some other plane and arrives in our world through buzzing amps and the joy of creativity. Raw power and seriously heavy melodies grab you and pull you in.

Nuff said. Put it in yer ears.

 

 

The Satanic Path Is The Right Path

The Satanic Path(1983) -courtesy of Gorgon Video

A young woman named Jamie, after just turning 18 years old decides to leave her cushy Midwestern upbringing after her mother dies from mysterious circumstances. She moves to Europe in order to search for her biological father whom she has never met. Her search leads her to a small village in the River Avon valley named Hedonshire where she encounters a mysterious and beautiful older woman called Zans who tells Jamie she knows the young woman’s father and that she can lead her to him, but for a price. That price? Jamie’s eternal soul? 

The Satanic Path works off the whole “Satanic Panic” fears of the 80s beautifully by incorporating the loss of innocence with also thea2059325644_10 liberating possibilities of “finding oneself” through spiritual, sexual, and even self-destructive means. The protagonist, the innocent and naive Jamie, knows there’s something dark and mysterious about her mother’s death and the man who is Jamie’s biological father whom her mother kept secret all these years. But after Jamie’s mother’s funeral Jamie comes across a letter hidden in a locked cedar chest in the basement of her grandmother’s home. A letter written to her mom by a man named Ezekiel. Ezekiel speaks of a forbidden love and of rituals, blood sacrifices, and wanting to see his daughter, whom Jamie realizes is her. The return address is Bristol, England, which is Jamie’s first stop on a journey for the truth. She finds the truth; as well as a coven of witches, Satanists, a demonic monastery, killer lesbians, a portal to an alternate universe, horny backpackers, a possessed church organ, dim-witted occultists, and a gateway to the “Dark Realm” where all of Jamie’s deepest, darkest desires come to life, but at a very steep price.

The Satanic Path was written and directed by Roberto Bava, the famous Italian B-movie director of such lurid(and at times X-rated) horror and occultist films The Dead In Your Bed(1965), Souls For Sale(1969), Bravo, My Dear(Fear Eater)(1973), and his game changing My Lesbian Summer(1976). The Satanic Path marked Bava’s return to the genre he helped to define after several softcore film adaptations of Shakespeare plays in the late 70s and early 80s and one catastrophic, orgy-filled production of A Midsummer’s Night Dream that played one time and one time only at the Herzog Theater near his home in Cologne, Germany.

The idea for The Satanic Path came to Bava after dropping his daughter off at her private school in the Swiss alps. He immediately returned to Cologne and spent the better part of September of 1981 writing. After securing funding from Spanish film producer Diego(Diablo) Garza and a small group of Italian investors filming began in the summer of 1982. Shot on location in both Columbus, Ohio, the River Avon Valley, and Zurich, Switzerland, the film was complete and edited within a mere 3 months.

The biggest change with The Satanic Path in regards to Bava’s previous work was with the film scoring. His brother-in-law, the famous German film composer Herman Wagner, had scored nearly every Bava picture since his 1959 debut Sisters, Lovers. With Path, Roberto Bava felt he needed to step away from the romantic, wind-swept drama of Wagner’s more traditional approach to scoring and he instead went with the mysterious Pentagram Home Video. He wanted the film to have a more modern feel, so the cold, detached sounds of analog synthesizers seemed to be the way to go. Pentagram Home Video would go onto to score the cult film Who’s Out There(1986) and most recently the short Slumber(2015). But with The Satanic Path, Pentagram Home Video would create a dark and foreboding aural companion to what might be Bava’s best work(it was his last as he died in 1985 at the age of 73 in a boating accident.)

PHV went about creating the musical pieces for The Satanic Path much like they created dark, dance floor ambient techno they used to perform in the dingy, smokey clubs of London in the late 70s and early 80s. Their approach is a minimal one, but one that pulls maximum reaction. With just simple synth lines and programmed beats, Pentagram Home Video can create a sense of dread and dark emotion. Pieces like “A Satanic Perspective On Youth Television”, “A Problem For The Occultist”, and “The Black Mass Part I/II/Leviathan” build upon Bava’s moody scenes, set designs, and help to fill the gaps that are apparent in Roberto’s sometimes thin script. PHV’s “The Parallel Realm” exquisitely captures the luridness and dark sexuality that surrounds Jamie’s quid pro quo near the end of the film. The music turns what could’ve been an exploitative scene of dark lust and sexual shock into something far deeper.

Overall, Pentagram Home Video helped turn Roberto Bava’s swan song of a film into something far richer, deeper, and compelling.

The Satanic Path will not make someone who’s not a fan of the genre a fan. It’s still lurid, exploitative, hedonistic, filled with sex and nudity, and can be quite shocking when it wants to be(Hell, what’s not to like about any of that?) If anything, it may have you searching for those old Pentagram Home Video soundtracks, as they’re absolutely stellar albums. The Satanic Path is one of the best. Look around, you may be able to find a copy…if you’re lucky.