Goblet of Shock

Posted: April 6, 2016 in Goblet of Shock, Michael Aronovitz, music, Uncategorized

Serious commentary on horror and how it relates to new bands that matter.

Cold Snap

The Seductive Call of the Vampire

 

Murder. Burglary. Extortion. Corruption. Misogyny. Rape. Is this our world?

Some would have us think so. We are then forced to ask how we might gain the courage to get up and go to work every morning, and unfortunately we have gained personal assurance through desensitization, slowly buying in over the years, ingesting snake oil and false sacraments without even bothering anymore to crane back our heads for a view of the shifty covered wagon or the false foundation of the soothsayer’s pulpit. We have been so bombarded, overwhelmed, and saturated with terror-snippets that we have surrendered to a numb sort of acceptance, letting it all wash over us to the point that we have adopted compartmentalization and regression as if standard procedure. And the grifter, no the pusher here is a blood-sucking vampire, smiling brilliantly, looking dashing and lovely, feeding us horror in digestible portions and inflicting this disease soft-sold as vaccine.

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You know the drill. This evil vampire (sounds just like “Evil Empire, no?) has been operating thus for decades and decades, drawing us in with their loyal thugs, male or female and often prior models, who would bank on our affinity for physical beauty and the mistaken idea that this element directly relates to truth or intelligence. The fashionista then stands in front of a dark tenement and tells us “A neighborhood is in shock” because of a recent murder when the neighbors were never actually interviewed, and that “The public perception is…” when no one being referred to was ever polled, I know…small white lies, even maybe just a tiny dose of “harmless” hyperbole, but they set the stage for more damaging deceit. We are inundated with news story after news story detailing various flavors of violence, ninety eight percent of them in urban areas populated by minorities. This accomplishes two things. It lets those of us not living in the ghetto thank goodness that it always happens “over there,” and it initiates within the inner city community a mentality that crime is a way to get your fifteen minutes.

It also breeds racism, and while one could stanchly argue that the news is “reflecting the truth” since many urban areas that are populated by a high percentage of minorities have the grossest levels of poverty and reactive crime, I would humbly suggest that The Vampire, sorry…the “news,” is purposefully not showing the inner-city single mother of four working three jobs to put food on the table, the 140,000 urban high school students who in any given week decided not to fight, to do their homework, to learn something new, to help a friend, to accomplish a goal, or to master a skill. It is not showing enough marching bands and school choirs and small successful businesses and those feeding the homeless and others chipping in to grow neighborhood gardens. Instead it glorifies the ignorant actions of the few, absolutely inundating us with road rage, bar fights, gang violence, teen violence, domestic violence, and mob violence.

The scary thing is that The Vampire here isn’t just sitting back gaining ratings, using the old newspaper maxim, “If it bleeds, it reads.” This is not some passive, philosophical, or cerebral atrocity. News that glorifies bloodshed and sections off terror invents teeming pockets, mini-volcanoes, and time bombs. The poison incubates, waiting for an outlet. And all the while The Vampire gets stronger, richer, more daring and arrogant.

In an attempt to bolster viewership, one of the three major news stations operating in my local area recently resorted to the oldest scam in the book of political dirty tricks, by launching an ad campaign about the show that is an out and out lie. A few weeks ago they billed themselves as “Optimistic News” in a twenty second (or so) spot featuring the various anchors smiling in still shots. Since then, they have been running similar ads with quick clips of some of their more goofy feature segments that only air sporadically or late at night, tagging the Good Question segment, “Original Reporting, ”where the anchor, a past beauty pageant winner, holds up a sandwich and asks “Why do they call this a hoagie?” Next, under the heading of Meaningful Stories, they show the recent clip of a guy turning in to police 15,000 dollars he found in the street, and the ad’s finale claims the station makes us “Feel great about living here,” followed by the station’s ex-NFL cheerleader who does the silly human interest spots occasionally, in this case, up in the cab of a crane tower acting girlishly frightened, silly, and “cute.”

But if the station is offering “optimistic news,” that is “original,” “meaningful,” and “makes us feel great about living here,” why did the 5 PM broadcast just this past Monday, March 28th contain a segment on the Washington shooter, someone else who tried to break into the white house, Terror in Brussels showing relatives of victims going to church to weep, the continuing search for the terrorist in a hat, the police carrying out further raids, a warning for dog owners on the main line to look out for a torturing dog-napper, a hazing scandal at a local high school through which a football player was violated with a broomstick, a city hall meeting talking about gun violence in the city – specifying minorities in low income communities no less, the Cubs/Mariner Spring Training game interrupted by swarms of bees, a Georgia governor who will veto a bill that would allow shop owners to discriminate against gays, then the violent protests and backlash, and finally a “Health Watch” segment claiming cancer patients live longer at home with a series of clips showing the most decrepit, sick, and elderly they could find. The only “news” that was not absolutely horrifying came in the form of the “filler weather” where we were told in a thousand different ways it was windy, the mayor visiting a learning center to help with universal preparation of reading for children, and two spots detailing the “Final 4” in March Madness.

Nine segments of terror. Then basically weather and sports. All while they smile and claim “optimism” with their Hollywood grins. This is not just location or situation-specific however, and here it would be prudent here to go national and pinpoint The Today Show as the most self-indulgent, condescending, and brazen of the elitist, mind-numbing collections of shysters, force-feeding us bad comedy and a simultaneous illusion of serious news with an undercurrent inferring they have the bottom line on the pulse of cultural tendency.

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On February 14th, 2014 at the Olympics in Sochi, Matt Lauer and meteorologist Al Roker did a bit where they were going to “try out the luge,” and within the first minute we were bombarded with a litany of poorly masked gay jokes: “Whoo…that’s not the handle…Passion lives here…I would be riding on top…How many curves do you want to hit…I was on top.” And I was not only offended because of the cheap pot-shots at homosexuality. I was infuriated because I was subjected to these as if it was even the slightest bit appropriate coming from “journalists” who call themselves “serious” the moment they come off the sled.

And the “serious interviews” are often disgraceful. After force-feeding us these slapstick routines, the anchors try to sell the idea in their very next breaths that “responsible reporting” involves one on one with Ray Rice (December 2, 2104), and Joyce Mitchell (September 11, 2015). The same physical space, filming style, and format is also used for interviews with doctors, scholars, and politicians, and while it should be clear that this blasphemous merging of clientele not only dummies down America, but subtly advances The Today Show’s campaign of selling more through the thrift of one conduit, they continue this disreputable sort of programming by manipulating our sense of what is important. For clearly, wife-beaters and criminal seamstresses who plan to kill their husbands after aiding in prison breaks do not deserve the air time. And worse, neither of these embarrassing interviews were even advertised as being factual. They were “sold” as “emotional” and “intimate,” offering the very worst in sensationalist gossip under the transparent disguise of journalistic empathy.

I think the one that got me the most however, was the New Year’s Eve coverage, 2015, when they featured Meghan Trainor’s hit, It’s All About the Bass, along with “serious commentary” about the way society has lately gained a new appreciation for “booty.” I want to personally thank The Today Show for finally giving me permission to like ass. The reason that this is not a joke, and in fact quite dangerous, is that many of the cast of The Today Show have infiltrated serious national news at 6:30, and deductive reasoning would indicate that if they are “selling” instead of “telling” with a dig in the ribs to each other and a laugh up their sleeves at the viewer, they are not in the business of exposing truth.

They are committed to making monsters, because it guarantees viewership.      

Volcanoes.

Dynamite ready to explode.

Plainly, the media created the chaotic and ludicrous political climate for the upcoming presidential election, and Megyn Kelly is as much to blame as the one she accused of calling women “fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals,” because by asking that question (which no doubt needed to be asked, no one would deny this) she quite conveniently put herself in the limelight of her own asinine media hype, similar to her compatriot Chris Wallace, who in a later debate seemingly screwed the same candidate to the wall with graphics proving his economic platforms were flawed. Wallace here, quite shamefully, attempted to make Fox News seem “credible,” like they have always been our “watchdog” exposing the truth, while he and his team and all the other “news” agencies across the country invented this particular candidate to begin with. So why would Wallace mess with his precious creation? Ratings. And to his fiendish delight, the normal rules don’t apply. The Vampire can draw blood from both sides, always winning, never questioned, like that “friend” who gets two other friends fighting, laughing all the way home where he puts the scuffles on You Tube, suddenly becoming a “player,” soon invited to swagger on up to the popular table in the school lunch room.

On CBS Sunday Morning, 4/3/2016, Megyn Kelly (to her obvious delight) was questioned about her recent starring role in making the news become news. Of course, she was first asked what she thought about this idea, and she oh-so-amicably “yuck-yucked” it off, making it seem like it wasn’t her bold intention to raise her visibility to begin with. It’s a shifty child’s trick: willingly confront the violation up front (she may as well have brought it up herself) to be automatically excused through what appears to be transparent and trustworthy self-analysis. Still, there is no honesty here. Again, it is the news setting all the rules, play-acting impartiality, yet imposing ownership of all the boundaries. The bully’s blood brother cannot be the mediator in a dispute with a victim, yet we keep allowing the liars and instigators to define fair and foul, mark off the playing field, and referee the event featuring their own star players. In the case of this CBS weekend news program and Megyn Kelly there were two winners: the CBS news and Megyn Kelly. Then they would inadvertently ask us to thank them for letting us in on the process.

The crucial thing The Vampire seems to forget about is that the monster doesn’t just fade out with the show’s closing credits. For this beast is addicted to the compartments too, the pockets, volcanoes, and time bombs, all ready to explode unless we continue to question these things and support art forms that come from a place of aesthetic truth rather than hype.

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The metal band from Croatia “Cold Snap” illustrates the idea that we must be aware of fiends who rise to power through media terror, first banking on prejudices and fear, next ruling with an iron fist that would crush more than spirits. Cold Snap is Jan Kerekes on vocals, Leo Friscic on guitar, Zoran Ernoic on bass, and Dennis Roskaric on drums, and continuing the theme that I have observed of other bands under the Eclipse label, the rhythm section here is outstanding. Both songs off their album World War III titled “Silent Killer” and “Rise Again” contain superior riff and break-based instrumentation that remains an absolute joy to observe, be it exemplified by the pattern built off of the bass introduction played with a severed hand in “Silent Killers” or the glorious atonal lead atop the razor-sharp syncopation bending meter this way and that in “Rise Again.” Clearly, any potential fan giving this project a test drive will note that in terms of their compulsories, these guys have aced them, meeting and surpassing standards in the industry for modern hard music in the sense that Roskaric is an absolute beast, and Ernoic is just as innovative and technically proficient as is Friscic.

And the music rocks.

Every song on the World War III album stands on its own for its own reasons, but for the purposes of this particular argument, I want to employ a model of cause and effect in specific relation to the thematic thread initiated by “Silent Killers” and realized in “Rise Again.” The former seems to play heavily on an allusion to films that would highlight the “mad scientist” motif, like Frankenstein (1931), Re-Animator, (1985), and a slew of others, but the point here is not gore, props, and splatter (though the video is riddled with horrific images of blood, bugs, potions, beakers, hairy waste being pulled from the throat, gas masks, needles with green fluid, bloody pulp, bloody throats, bloody mouths, and bloody instruments). The issue Cold Snap is bringing to light in a theater of wonderful melodramatic exaggeration, is that there are those who would try to control us, now our superiors, once our brethren, no more clearly indicated than at the 1:22 mark in the performance when the “Mad Professor” character draws up his hands with the rest of the band and brings them down in rhythm.

Orwell taught us this lesson in Animal Farm (1945), when the downtrodden livestock rebelled and soon discovered they had become enslaved again by those who they had called their own. In “Silent Killers,” the band plays those manipulated by a false associate, one who has come from their ranks to control them on a private and rudimentary level. At the end of the video the band members finally revolt, committing “murder,” using the violence inflicted upon them to destroy their oppressor. In a sense (and isolated within itself) this is a stick-figure metaphor, the grotesque and gratuitous presentation leading us to treat it almost as we do fairy tales, chuckling at the seemingly simplistic overplay and deferring straight to the rather familiar thematic design of remaining aware of those in our personal lives who would manipulate us.

The real terror is when we connect this video to the live performance unleashed in “Rise Again,” same band members, but no longer locked in the basement. They have a bit of power now, spotlights, a stage, and a pulpit. The fiend they warn against here once again came from their ranks, as made clear by the lyrics, “What did you expect? From me – your closest friend, at the same time your enemy.” Of course, the one they “rise against” in this video cannot be the cartoonish mad scientist. They killed him. In effect, the guy in the lab coat was the slum lord and they were the poor. Now they are the middle class, and though their graphic of animated red lines marching across Europe actually represents places they have played on tour, the effect also comes off like “war-mapping,” possibly a mockery of the hostile take-overs so often executed by rich politicians who have masqueraded as one of their own, then using the media, propaganda, and fear to influence others to draw in behind.

In this clever paradigm, Cold Snap plays a “rock band” playing a show, and it is no coincidence that there is something hauntingly “military” about their presentation, all of them wearing shirts with a common chest-insignia, some of the jerseys sleeveless, giving the visual impression that they could just as easily be leaders of a rebel army at a political rally as they are musicians in a concert arena. The architects of this Cold Snap video even address the idea that the representative “Cold Snap” realizes that they can create their own version of grass-roots media hype, with cell phones, small camcorders, and homemade video clips, represented by the small guitar-cams affixed to the top of the instruments up near the tuning pegs, giving an “inside line” on the performance, yet presenting it as fish-bowled to let us know that the players themselves are well aware that once something is “documented” it can be misrepresented, misinterpreted, and used for an agenda.

 

And the band isn’t on this new pulpit in a vacuum. They have an audience now, mostly “shadowed-in” by a doubled camera effect, and the fact that the mass of supporters are superimposed suggests their ghost-like and transient quality, as followers of any kind can so easily turn, become violent protestors, an easy transition from mosh pit to mob. This is clarified in the latter part of the song during the “slow-down,” where Kerekes sings, “I have control of my life. You will never take it from me,” and a smiling fan gives back two middle fingers.

The message that Cold Snap quite bravely illustrates here by offering up themselves as characters playing a rock band, is that we must be careful with power, wary of those who oppress us and what we are “re-animated” into when we wear the colors of rebellion. Of course, the “Rise Again” video shows the triumph and courage of those with a voice who would have the gumption to speak out against the power structure. The genius of the video is that they do not show what they become when the unnamed dictator, the man originally from their middle class neighborhoods who became the rich elite and stormed the countryside, is defeated and it’s Cold Snap’s turn to rule (or enter some sort of power-position in the socio-economic hierarchy).

Will they spread wisdom or infection, creating scholars or monsters?

And what will they do when the cell phones, mini video recorders, and fish-bowled guitar cams illuminate a path to fame, fortune, and the dark and seductive call of The Vampire?

 

Michael Aronovitz has always loved hard rock music, and fronted a heavy metal band that played Philadelphia and New Jersey clubs in the mid 80’s. He is a Professor of English and currently co-hosts a radio talk show linking horror and new metal called “The Wikked Goblet of Horror” with DJ WikkedLiss on her station WCR247 WikkedChikRadio.

 

Aronovitz’s latest novel titled Phantom Effect was just released February 2nd, 2016 through Night Shade Books. http://tinyurl.com/jcg59wo

 

Past Publications:

Seven Deadly Pleasures (collection), 2009

The Voices in Our Heads (collection), 2014

Alice Walks (novel), 2013

The Witch of the Wood (novel), 2014

 

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