Album Reviews: Weird Theater

  • A quick blink to the website from the italian horror-rockers makes quite clear that the band is gifted with an exquisite musical taste. This is testified by the pictures taken together with Alice Cooper, JJ Burnel (The Stranglers), Jaz Coleman (Killing Joke), Brian James (The Damned/Lords Of The New Church) and other dark-rock pioneers. And the quintet sounds exactly like a mixture of the above mentioned bands: the band's sound is not necessarily original but at least it is an exceptional fact to play like this nowadays. Together with a rich production, song titles such as "Frozen Nuns From Outer Space" and a lovely done booklet are the bottom line of a record that shows to the horror music community that there can be different idols apart from Misfits.
  • A self-proclaimed “undead rock” band outta Italy , The Mugshots are not afraid to show their roots. They open their latest CD with a symphonic piece called “Prelude to a Full Moon Rising” which with its soaring synthesizers and pounding tympani recalls a great Italian progressive rock band of years gone by, Goblin. The Mugshots mostly play melodic hard rock songs quite different from Goblin's instrumental soundtrack work. But one of the band's strong points is that they make effective use of keyboards, not just guitars, including a very Bach-like organ that recalls early horror film music. The album's second song, “Children of the Night,” (a reference to Lugosi's Drac of course) is the perfect example of this amalgamation of rock and soundtrack: rolling arpeggios of organ, icy big power chords on Henry Lee's guitar, and a powerful drum beat that keeps the song chugging along at a quick pace. “Last Words” is another fine horror charged song employing a carnivalesque keyboard riff and vocal effects reminiscent of Ministry that evolve into squeals and howls. Mickey Evil's vocals take command of every song, moving through complex arrangements of verses, choruses, bridges, and counter melodies. While he is technically a baritone, Mickey acts out his songs as much as he sings them, alternating among howls, growls, and inflections that sometimes evoke Alice Cooper and other times Jello Biafra. Mickey also provides all the lyrics which resonate with themes of angst, existential dread, and the need for escape from humanity. His lyric for “The Foul Stench of Humans” reflects this tone well as does “Morningside Graveyard” based upon imagery from the Phantasm movies. Which is not to say there isn't humor mixed with all this. There is clearly a glee in all the horror movie evil. And then there's “Frozen Nuns (From Outer Space).” Alien invader movie? Political diatribe against the Vatican ? Too much beer for breakfast? Hard to say. But the album relies on enough solid riffs and singable choruses to make it all seem to make sense.
  • Based out of Italy, The Mugshots deliver a solid album of tightly played horror punk, drawing on all the classic influences without directly imitating any of them. There's the aggressive B-movie ebullience of The Misfits on "The Foul Stench of Humans," the slower punk rock romance of The Damned on "One Day the Dead Will Walk (The Earth)," and even a hint of the twitchy weirdness of early Sex Gang Children on "Silent Oracle." What really sets this album apart from the crowd, though, is the manic keyboard playing of Eric Stayn. Sure, death rock rock bands have been using pipe organs for that extra dose of graveyard atmosphere since 45 Grave invented the genre, but Stayn takes it to the next level. "Children of the Night" has the expected spooky carnival organs, but the rapid technical playing on "Morningside Graveyard" is almost baroque, more Bach than Batcave, and the bouncing synthesizer melody on "Last Words" is positively prog rock gone death rock, like The Cramps teaming up with Emerson, Lake and Palmer. As nauseous as that sounds, it actually works, adding an unexpected new sound to the ossified tropes of the genre. While all of The Mugshots ' work is competently put together and should please fans of The Deep Eynde or even Bella Morte's more punk-inspired work, it's that extra touch of keyboards that makes this group stand out. .