Ray Van Horn, Jr. is a veteran entertainment journalist whose writing and live photography has been featured in Blabbermouth.net, Dee Snider’s House of Hair Online, Fangoria.com, Horror News.net, About.com Heavy Metal, MetalManiacs, New Noise, Music Dish, AMP, Hails & Horns, Unrestrained,Noisecreep, Impose, Pit, The Big Takeover.com, Rough Edge.com, Pitriff and others. His blog The Metal Minute won a “Best Personal Blog” award in 2009 from Metal Hammer magazine and he wrote and produced his own hard rock e-zine, Retaliate.

He has contributed essays to UK author Neil Daniels’ Iron Maiden and ZZ Top biographies. Ray’s fiction has been published in various periodicals and anthologies, including his flash fiction piece “Off the Record” for Akashic Books’ “Mondays Are Murder” noir series. His recent short stories “Before the Ball” and “Widow” were featured in subsequent editions of Alex S. Johnson’s Axes of Evil anthologies. Ray wrote serialized original superhero fiction for Cyber Age Adventures and five of those stories appear in the anthology Playing Solitaire. He was the winner of Quantum Muse’s fiction contest in 1999.

Ray is a former NHL game analyst for The Hockey Nut and one-time host of the forum “Comic Books” at ReadWave. He has done beat reporting, photography and lifestyle articles for Metromix, an affiliate of The Baltimore Sun, Carroll Magazine, The Northern News and The Emmitsburg Dispatch.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Cool New Metal Releases For March

Earth - Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light 2
Southern Lord Records
Release Date: Out Now

The Deacon of Drone, Dylan Carlson, returns with the sleepwalking finale to his Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light couplet. This remarkably spooky and soothing installment is abetted by a screeching, wallowy cello courtesy of Lori Goldston. Peaceful in the opening number, "Sigil of Brass," expect Carlson, along with Goldston, Karl Blau and the mistress of skin shambling, Adrienne Davies to take you on another creep-along through a dark and dusty desert trail where even Duane Eddy might fear to tread. When it comes comes to this vibrating, somnambulist vibe, nobody can touch Dylan Carlson and Earth.

King Giant - Dismal Hollow
Path Less Traveled
Release Date: Out Now

Just when you think the entire sludge-doom sect has said all it has to say, up steps King Giant with a demonstrative command of the style, sounding like complete masters within only two albums. Myths and passed-about terror tales within the Appalachian Mountains are the reported inspiration behind Dismal Hollow. While the songs never get beyond mid-tempo, there is still a throbbing punch and a headbanging kick that transcends the implied glut and gloom King Giant overpowers their own amps with. Heavy, heavy, heavy stuff.

Cannibal Corpse - Torture
Metal Blade Records
Release Date: March 13th

As we are in the midst of a subcultural renaissance of zombie worship, it's no surprise Cannibal Corpse are thriving. Moreover, they're growing, at least in their song structure, if not their sicko splattercore lyrics. As indicated on their previous few albums, The Wretched Spawn, Kill and Evisceration Plague, there are only so many grinding triplicate speed zones they can extol in succession without stirring the sinewy stewpot at least a few times. Produced by Hate Eternal's Eric Rutan, Torture is one of Cannibal Corpse's most precise slabs of controlled mayhem in their considerable catalog. Don't let the sophomoric titles "Intestinal Crank," "Followed Home Then Killed" and "Torn Through" deceive you. Cannibal Corpse throws heaps of rock grooves into their blistering thrash on this one, freshening up as much as they slice 'em up. It shouldn't be any surprise Cannibal Corpse sounds so perfectly calibrated, but this band has truly refined their songwriting, even though they were bloody likely watching a marathon of Don't Let Him In, Cyrus: Mind of a Serial Killer and Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2 while penning Torture.

Exciter - Death Machine
Massacre Records
Release Date: Out Now

Also quite likely watching an equally set of gory films as Cannibal Corpse while working on their 2010 album, Death Machine, are legendary Canadian speed mongers, Exciter. Death Machine, being re-released for a second trip through Masscare Records, will still likely be doomed as far as mass market distribution due to this nervy, disgusto album cover that never would've flown back when they started in the eighties. The good news for their fans, however, is that Exciter is now probably the fastest they've ever been. Death Machine is ruthless, chunky and massive, even though it is all tone-drenched to the point of primitiveness. That seems to be Exciter's objective, though. The songs are beyond immature, the title-repeating choruses are laughable and at times monotonous, but Death Machine is still a riotous, dirty throwback to thrash's (and Exciter's) infancy years when Heavy Metal Maniac ruled the underground. For better or worse, this is how it all sounded when there was such a thing as Cryptic Slaughter, Dream Death, Carnivore and Cyclone alongside Exciter, Exodus and Overkill.

Sigh - In Somniphobia
Candlelight Records
Release Date: March 20th

Japanese black-death-proggers Sigh continue to astonish on their ninth soon-to-be masterpiece, In Somniphobia. While we wait to find out if Gonin-ish has anything left to offer the metal world following their spectacular Naishikyo-Sekai from 2005, Sigh (along with the mighty Boris) prove once again to be the elite metal lords of Japan. If you thought Sigh's genre-splicing Imaginary Soundscape was mind-melding, prepare yourselves. In Somniphobia summons the synthesizers and glam theatrics spread throughout Imaginary Soundscape's skull-crushing speed, but the velocity and the out-there possibilities are uncapped twofold this time around. You will find yourself dizzy from Sigh's courageous genre clashing of everything from fusion jazz to Gregorian chant to (say what?) dreamy waltzes and tangos. All part of the plan as Sigh whirls their listeners through a hellish audile examination of dementia and terrifying dreamscapes. As I've said in the past, Japan (and all of Asia, for that matter) represents the final frontier of metal excavation.

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