Horror punk

Skeletons – Wednesday 13

Release Year: 2008

Rating: 6.5/10

Wednesday 13 has built his musical career on b-horror and things that go bump in the night. Though he started with b-horror roots, as he continued releasing albums he’s branched out into more traditional rock and even metal, which is the sound of 13’s third album Skeletons. Wednesday 13 turns to his usual themes of horror, the supernatural, and fiendish ghouls, but with less punk rock and more hard rock. But will the rocker’s reliance on the same ol’ same ol’ make for a tiring album?

Wednesday 13 is up to the same spooky tricks on this album. Plenty of the songs like “Gimme Gimme Bloodshed” and “All American Massacre” make the same references to horror movies and creatures that go bump in the night as his previous efforts. The latter track even seems to be inspired by Texas Chainsaw Massacre since the horror weapon pops up several times in the lyrics. The strong opening track “Scream Baby Scream” begins with weird spacey sound followed by heart pounding percussion as 13 sings about ghouls and creeps. After the first verse, the song gets more intense as the guitars amp up and 13 lets out a vicious howl. This track is definitely in line with his horrorpunk past and is something you would expect from the rocker.

Almost the entire album continues in this fashion though the music seems more rock and metal inspired than punk. “Not Another Teenage Anthem” finds 13 singing about teenage rebellion even though he pretends that’s not what it’s about, the gruesome “Put Your Deathmask On” steps inside the mind of a serial killer, and “With Friends like These” finds 13 at his snarkiest as he tears apart people he thought he could rely on, but turned out to be assholes. The music is pretty similar for all the songs: grinding guitars, heart racing pace, and aggressive delivery. Granted, these are all things that make a Wednesday 13 album, but everything about it is only okay here. Very few of the songs stand out. Most of them aren’t bad, just not very memorable. When the rocker does finally change pace the results aren’t so great.

Wednesday 13 slows things down with “Skeletons” and “My Demise.” Though he tries to open himself up with these personal tracks, they don’t sound very good. There’s nothing wrong with the somber, slow tone of the title track. He even shakes things up by adding a jangly piano before switching to gritty guitars. But it gets awkward when 13 starts actually singing. His voice was not made for sincere crooning. It sounds like he’s doing a bad impression of Peter Murphy. It all sounds like a half-hearted attempt at a ballad. It’s so cringe worthy. We run into the same problem on the latter track. This one seems more western inspired with the soft acoustic music and odd wailing sounds in the background. But again 13 tries singing and it doesn’t work. Plenty of artists get by without actually having a good voice, but singing in this style just doesn’t suit Wednesday 13. His regular vocal style is just fine; it’s unbearable to hear him try on these two songs.

There are a handful of pretty good songs on the album, but not enough to make it worth sitting through the whole thing. Aside from the opening track, “No Rabbit in the Hat” is a strong cut which kicks off with fast, hard hitting music that gets your blooding boiling. There are more references to supernatural creatures along with nods to a love of violence. Savvy listeners will pick up the “And I’ve got an addiction/To ammunition, yeah,yeah,” which sounds similar to another line from “Gimme Gimme Bloodshed: “Now I, have a confession/A love affair with smith and wesson.” Not only are the two lines identical, but the latter pops up again in the Murderdolls song “Bored ‘Til Death.” The recycled lyric doesn’t make the song any better or worse; he just likes to sing about guns.

Another memorable song is “From Here to the Hearse.” Just like his best stuff, this one is spooky, b-horror vibes all the way. The music even sounds like it comes from a cheesy horror movie. The tables are turned here as 13 is hunted down by a loved one who wants to murder him. It’s filled with plenty of violence, gruesome imagery, and corny lyrical wordplay we expect from the best Wednesday 13 songs. It may not stray far from his comfort zone, but at least he does it well here. Though the other songs are bearable, they don’t stay with you once the album is done like these tracks.

Skeletons isn’t terrible, but unlike his debut there’s nothing really memorable about it. There are a handful of tracks that really grab your attention; everything else is just okay. It could be because it’s similar to what he’s already done. Or that the more rock oriented music can be standard and generic at times. Usually his songs about the supernatural and all things creepy are really fun even when they’re cheesy. But here it gets tiring and dull by the fourth track. It’s the same thing we’ve heard before, which seems to be a bit of an issue with most of his albums. Maybe some people don’t mind that, but other listeners may want something fresh from the rocker. It’s not a bad record, just pretty damn forgettable.

Transylvania 90210: Songs of Death, Dying, and the Dead – Wednesday 13

Release Year: 2005

Rating: 7/10

It’s been ten years since Wednesday 13 brought his love of horror movies to the music world. He’s been in multiple bands, including the Murderdolls, but is best known for his solo material. While he just released his eight studio album a few months ago, let’s take a look at his solo debut. His music explores themes of the supernatural, ghouls, zombies, and other horrific creatures. And while he makes it work for a lot of the songs, some of them have the tendency to come off as cheesy, sort of like the movies he loves.

Right from the instrumental intro track “Post Mortum Boredom,” which sounds like it was ripped from an old horror movie, you know you’re in for some horror-punk goodness. “Look What the Bats Dragged In” has a gritty hard rock vibe along with a mix of 80s hair metal, particularly when it comes to the guitar solo. This has all the markings of a Wednesday 13 song: loud music, lots of howls, and lyrics that talk about the dead and dying. While it’s not his strongest track it’s still a good representation of the album. “I Walked with a Zombie” is one of the more well known songs and has a bit of a different vibe. It sounds more like a pop-punk song with the various melodies and a clapping beat. There’s even a part where Wednesday sings “Whoa oh oh oh oh” like he’s in Poison. That’s not to say it makes the song bad; it’s definitely catchy and energetic.

Bad Things” takes influence from 80s glam metal as the singer wishes the most horrible things to happen to his enemy, while “House by the Cemetery” has more of a straight forward heavy metal sound. It mixes schlocky horror sounds like creepy laughter and creaking doors with aggressive and brutal riffs. These two songs are where Wednesday 13 shines. He perfectly mixes his horror-punk vibe in a way that doesn’t sound like he’s trying too hard. The same can’t be said about the track “Haunt Me.” It starts off on a promising note with the creepy carnival music and maniacal laughing. 13 sings in a hushed voice bringing a different style to his vocals that hasn’t been heard before. But the lyrics are too cheesy for their own good. It’s a love song that’s about meeting up on Halloween and being “scared to death.” It tries too hard to bring a creepy element to a love song.

The title track has the same problem. The opening verse sounds like it was written by a 15 year old goth “poet:” “My room came alive, my dog just died, stacked 13 pennies in his eyes/I stared at the wall, it stared back at me/Started to breath and then it started to bleed.” The creepy intent is there, but it doesn’t succeed. Again, it sounds like he’s trying too hard to be disturbing and depressing. Aside from that, the song is pretty weak in general. The lyrics are boring, the music is too slow, and it dulls you before the track is over.

One of the best songs on the LP is “Rot for Me.” Here, 13 returns to the hard rock sound that’s so infectious it lures you in. The way he snarls at the beginning of the hook is viscous, like he’s a dog ready to attack. It’s oddly catchy with its simple, repetitive riff of “Rot for me/my darling.” “I Want You Dead” is another strong track with an “I-hate-you-so-much-I-want-you-to-die” message. This track is full of high energy and speeding guitars that have a punk rock feel. “Buried by Christmas” is a curious entry. As I mentioned on a previous playlist, it’s a great Christmas song, but why does it have to be included on the album? It should’ve been released as a single or b-side. The way it is now it interrupts the flow of the record, unless you’re one of those people who like listening to Christmas songs all year round. Weirdo.

“Elect Death for President” mixes things up a bit in terms of music. It begins with a shuffling vibe similar to Rob Zombie’s “House of 1000 Corpses” before moving into a jazz sound that really throws you off. While it’s confusing at first, especially when the horns come in later, it oddly works with the song. The downside is the chorus, which sounds very similar to “Bad Things.” Though it’s one of the better songs on the album, it crosses the cheesy line once too many times. “The Ghost of Vincent Price” would make any classic horror fan proud. Featuring a creepy theremin, which was a staple in horror music, the singer makes several reference to the later actor’s movies, including House on Haunted Hill and House of Wax. While it’s far from the best track on the record, it’s still better than the closing track “A Bullet Named Christ,” which tries too hard to be gloomy and depressing.

The album was actually better than I thought. There are some strong tracks that will feed your wild, heavy metal side. There are even moments when 13 mixes his horror references with his music delightfully. But there are other times when it comes off as cheesy, forced, and over the top. Maybe this is the point, he is a fan of cheesy b-movies after all, but there are times when it’s too much to handle. Wednesday 13 has fine tuned his craft over the years, but his first solo outing predicted a promising career for the ghoul master.

Women and Children Last- Murderdolls

Release Year: 2010

Rating: 9/10

The second album from the Murderdolls took nearly ten years to complete, but it was fucking worth the wait. The band’s debut album was decent enough, but it was plagued with songs that sounded the same, music that never changed, and too many tracks. The guys must’ve sat down and pinpointed these issues because this release is far better than their first album. It’s energetic, intense, has better songwriting, and the songs fucking rock.

The band brings their a-game with the dark track “Chapel of Blood.” This has got to be one of my favorite songs, though it is hard to choose. It has an intense riff that’ll get you headbanging before Wednesday 13 gets to the chorus. This song is like a serial killer’s theme, so of course that means there is gruesome imagery. The opening line says it all: “Take my hand and you will never see the daylight again/come in, come in, into the blood red chapel of sin.” It sounds like some scary shit, but you’re too busy rocking out to be afraid.

A lot of the songs on the first album didn’t stand out and became pretty boring after the eleventh track, but all the songs here are awesome. With the exception of one, the songs are interesting, intense, energetic as hell and each have their own sound. As the album goes on the songs get better and better. “Drug Me to Hell” is another intense song that begins with a shuddering riff that sounds like a motor revving up. It’s a hard song that manages to be kind of catchy at least regarding the chorus. “My Dark Place Alone” has an amazing intense riff that gets you going wild. It’s aggressive in both sound and feel. The only song that feels like a throwaway is “Nothing’s Gonna be Alright.” It’s not horrible, it’s just not as energetic or interesting as the other songs. Though there are a lot of tracks here, the album never gets tiring.

A big difference on this album is their the band tone down their horror-punk image. The first album was riddled with references to Frankenstein, vampires, zombies, and necrophilia. They do keep the graphic and disturbing details in the songs, but they deal more with murder and death, rather than horror movie monsters. Honestly, it’s a breath of fresh air. The horror movie theme got a bit tiring before and led to some corny sounding songs. Also, the lyrics to those songs were very repetitive. And while they go back to this technique for the dark love song “Summertime Suicide,” their songwriting is improved overall. Yet, they still keep in the playful lyrics.

Wednesday 13 would often say things like “Old MacDonald had a farm/E-I-E-I Oh my god” on the previous release. At times it was cheesy, others it was really clever. While it doesn’t happen as much here, when it does it’s pure gold. The track “Bored Til Death” finds the singer screaming “I’m making a list/checking it twice/gonna find out/who’s naughty or nice.” My favorite one comes from the closing track “Hello, Goodbye, Die.” 13 re-invents classic cheers for his own twisted nightmare: “We can bring a firecracker, sismal bomb, homicide, homicide, rock, rock, rock.” Whenever I hear it, I think about the Bugs Bunny, Bugs Bunny Rah rah rah cheer from Looney Tunes. It’s great how the band manages to take these kid related cheers and make them so cryptic.

Another issue with the first album is the music never varied. That problem is fixed here with each song actually managing to stand out. The sound is more guitar focused since the solos are very intricate and more inspired by conventional rock. It’s one of the first things you notice besides the vocals. Songs now actually have different tempos to them as well. “Homicide Drive” is a slower paced song that trudges along, while “Rock n Roll is All I Got” is really fast and seems to take influence from punk rock. Some of the songs even have melody, which can make them catchy. You can hear melody in the guitars on the track “Nowhere.” It even sounds a bit upbeat compared to the rest of the work here. On this track the punk influence comes back, but it also mixes in elements of rock n roll. Because the music changes so much it keeps the album from getting stale.

Wednesday 13 has a unique voice to say the least, but his vocals weren’t that strong on the first release. Plus, he screamed so much that it just got old. Here, his vocals are on point. Yes, he still screams, but he does it to draw your attention to a certain line or to get the listener pumped up. He actually does a lot more singing here, which is a nice change from when we last heard him. Basically, his vocals are easier to swallow this time around making the album more pleasant to listen to, if you can call his music pleasant.

Overall, the album gets 9/10. This album is so much better than their debut. The songwriting is improved, the music actually varies, the songs never get boring and Wednesday 13 sounds his best here. All the songs fucking rock and will get you pumped because they’re so energetic. Though fans had to wait a long time for this release, it was well worth the wait. There’s no word on whether the band will be doing a new album, but let’s hope they do especially since this album was fantastic.