Interview with Enforcer Vocalist/Guitarist Olof Wikstrand By Jesse Striewski/Photo By Brooke Striewski

While I’ve said this many times already in the past, allow me to go completely ‘fan boy’ here again for just a second; I cannot stress it enough how Sweden’s Enforcer are the real deal, and possibly the best, true heavy metal band to emerge in the past two decades. It was an absolute blast to finally catch them live and review one of their shows for Rewind It Magazine back in 2019 (see attached photo above), and even more of a thrill meeting frontman Olof Wikstrand (among others) shortly after the show. It was just as much of an honor getting a chance to pick Wikstrand’s brain recently about the band’s latest release, Live By Fire II, which was actually recorded on the same 2019 North American tour in Mexico City.

One of the first things I asked him about was why the band choose Mexico City to record a live album, and he explained; “I think Mexico City is one of the greatest places in the entire world to play traditional metal. It has a great scene for it, and the people are incredibly enthusiastic about music in general, so I’m very grateful to go there as an artist. We also had the full lineup for it – we’ve been touring a little bit with session musicians lately – so this was a good chance to capture a show that we had the entire lineup of the band together for once. We also had good ticket sales for this one, so we knew that it was going to be something special.”

He continued; “Another reason was we had a good venue that we could set up exactly how we wanted, both in terms of sound, as well as stage. And we had a full headline slot to preform, so we could basically do anything we wanted with this show, and it was a great opportunity not to miss. I think we decided that same week that we were going to record the show, and we flew in our Swedish light guy about five days prior, just to do the show. So it was a spontaneous decision, but it worked out really well. When you get so much back from the audience and you really get the energy flowing, it makes you play so much better. I think we did a pretty good show, I think it was the second out of fifty-eight shows that we did in North America in 2019.”

Something about Enforcer’s style, and Wikstrand’s songwriting, has always struck me as uniquely authentic. So I wanted to know just where some of that inspiration came from. He told me; “I’ve been into heavy metal for the majority of my life. I think when I was like three or four I started to get into The Rolling Stones because of my dad. And then a year or two after I was introduced to Metallica by an older cousin, and that must have been around ’91 because it was right around the time of The Black Album. My parents come from a very musical background, so I had the interest for music already, and when that interest met with heavy metal, I thought that that was the coolest thing in the universe; it was like this mixture had set something special on fire.

He explained a bit further; “It started with a little bit of a thrash wave in the beginning (Megadeth, Slayer, etc…), and then I got more into death metal for awhile, and then I wandered out into Scandinavian black metal when I was a mid-teenager, before going back to thrash, heavy metal and classic rock more recently. So it’s been a lot of different phases throughout my entire life, and I’d say that I’m inspired by pretty much everything that’s ever touched me musically.”

I was curious what some of the tracks Wikstrand enjoyed performing live the most were. He stated; “I think the best songs to perform live are the ones where you get the most instant feedback from the crowd. Usually songs like “Destroyer,” “From Beyond,” or “Die For the Devil” create so much movement from the crowd, and you can feel so much energy coming back from them to you on stage.” I was also wondering if there were any forgotten songs in the band’s catalog that the band might consider resurrecting someday. He said; “I used to really liked “Roll the Dice” from our second album – that’s one that I would personally like to get back. But it’s also a little hard to bring them back if the crowd doesn’t want to hear them. So if it’s songs that haven’t really made an impact on people, then it’s hard to play them live because it will kind of kill the vibe. I think the track list that we have right now is the product of years of trial and error to find the right songs that work the best live.”

I couldn’t help but notice how the piano-driven ballad “Regrets” from their last studio album, Zenith, had not made it into said live sets, and inquired why this was. He replied; “We tried to it with the piano backtracked first, but it didn’t really feel genuine. Then we tried to do a guitar version in place of the piano, but it didn’t feel the same, really. So we have not yet been able to find a way to perform that live in a genuine way. We might still play it in the future , but it also depends on the demand of the song. And with a song seemingly so deep, I wanted to know if there was any meaning behind the lyrics. He stated; “The lyrics weren’t really inspired by anything in particular, but the original idea was to make it as dark as possible, with the thought of the love for something being beyond reach.”

With concerts slowly creeping in again, yet still up in the air for nearly any band on the planet, I of course had to ask what the band’s future live agenda looked like. He informed me; “We’ve had a European tour scheduled that has moved forward twice now. I think I’m in a state where I don’t want to book anything right now because it just feels so frustrating to keep having to move it forward and forward. I guess we have to wait this out and keep trying to come up with other creative ways of putting exposure towards the band. I think this year has shown that you don’t necessarily have to be touring on such a high level to create exposure for your band, and you can do that on social media instead. But we’ve had great responses from almost everything we’ve been doing on social media, and the contact with the fans has been the greatest thing. That’s something we’re definitely going to focus on in the future.”

But that has not slowed down Wikstrand’s creativity much. As far as the band’s future goes, he assured me; “I’ve been writing songs, and I think I’ve been more creative these last twelve months than I’ve been in the past twelve years. So it’s been very nice to have all the pressure off of touring/playing live and that whole aspect of the band, and hopefully we can actually get into the studio soon and record the follow up to Zenith. We have focus on growth almost everyday with every step we do as a band, and I hope to be able to keep taking this concept to the next level and get the music out there. That’s the only focus that I have, and it’s always been.”

Album Review: Gilby Clarke – The Gospel Truth (Golden Robot Records)

By: Jesse Striewski

It’s been well over a decade since the last time former Guns N’ Roses guitarist Gilby Clarke released a solo album. Yet even with all the time that has passed, he still maintains his usual cool, with The Gospel Truth further cementing his rock star status, and proving some things are worth the wait.

I’ve got to admit, the first single, “Rock N Roll is Getting Louder,” came off as a bit weak to me; but once you really dive into the album, there’s plenty to unfold. The title track opens the record on a somewhat funky note, and is quickly followed by blues-laden tracks in the form of “Wayfarer” and “Tightwad.” But the two standout moments come in the form of a couple of diamonds in the rough; both “The Ending” and “Rusted N Busted” are undeniably catchy numbers worth blasting.

I’ve long since lauded Guns N’ Roses as one of the first bands to really introduce me to harder rock, and I can still remember Clarke being in the band as though it were yesterday, and where I was when I first heard his debut solo album Pawnshop Guitars. And while he may have already been a force to be reckoned with back then, it’s great to see just how much he has grown as a musician since the early ’90s.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Interview with Actress Julie Piekarski By Jesse Striewski

For the rest of my days, I will most likely always associate the girls from The Facts of Life with the ones in my own life at the time. Growing up in the ’80s with three older sisters and countless cousins – all around the same age as the girls on the show – it was impossible for me not to make some sort of connection whenever the show was on in our household.

Recently, I was able to chat with one of the original stars of the show, Julie Piekarski, who, after a successful first season, found her role of Sue Ann Weaver (among others) drastically cut down by the following season, before ultimately exiting the show all together. Piekarski continued acting through out much of the ’80s, appearing on such popular shows at the time as Quincy, M.E. and Three’s Company before finally stepping away from acting by the end of the decade to focus on motherhood. But in recent years, Piekarski has stepped back into acting again, and I was able to discuss both her past and present career highlights over the course of our conversation.

Before she was even on The Facts of Life, Piekarski first made her mark as a member of The New Mickey Mouse Club in 1977. One of the first things I wanted to know was just how a girl from St. Louis made it to Disneyland exactly. She explained; “Well, you have to remember, this was back long before we had American Idol, and Disney was going on it’s first “nationwide search” for kids to be the next group of Mouseketeers. My mentor/dance instructor, who I’m still friends with to this day, had heard about this, and sent in a resume and pictures. And they replied back and said, ‘come to Chicago’ – the closest to St. Louis they came – for an audition. So we went, and honestly we were just hoping for a guest spot at best. We came back home, and two weeks later got a call saying they had a couple of things they’d like to film me doing. And they filmed me in front of like a green screen pretending to talk to Mickey. And two weeks after that, I got a call that pretty much changed my life. Working with Disney at thirteen years old was an incredible childhood, and a dream come true.”

In between The New Mickey Mouse Club and The Facts of Life, Piekarski appeared on an episode of the hit sitcom Diff’rent Strokes in 1979 with her future Facts… co-stars. I was curious how much she knew at the time that the appearance was going to lead to it’s own spin-off, and she informed me; “We had already been picked to be on The Facts of Life, and they made that sort of ‘transitional’ episode to kind of get Mrs. Garret (the late Charlotte Rae) off Diff’rent Strokes and segue her onto the new show, which is something I think they still do to this day. But they did that to ‘introduce’ us, and get us to crossover to The Facts of Life, and that was so fun because it was great to work with all the girls for the first time, and I had also known Kim (Fields) before that as well.”

I also wanted to know what it was like working with the likes of the late Gary Coleman and Dana Plato on the set of Diff’rent Strokes, to which she replied; “Dana Plato I didn’t really know that well personally, but on the show, she was really sweet, and it was kind of like just being with any one of the girls since we were all together. And Gary Coleman…well here’s the thing, you did kind of forget how old he was because of his size, and he could be a bit of a, what’s the word I’m looking for…stinker? (Laughs). I remember us girls were in like little runner shorts on the set, and every once in awhile you’d feel the slightest tickle right above the back of your knee, and you’d say, ‘Was that you Gary?!’ And he’d just look up at you and say that famous line, ‘What you talking bout?'” (Laughs).

Regarding her time on The Facts of Life (which also began in late 1979), Piekarki noted; “I loved being on the show, and Charlotte Rae was just like our mother hen who looked out for all of us, and wanted the show to mean something. We also got to do outside things like charity work, where we’d all show up for baseball games and events like that. And although it may have been PR work, when we got to go out and do things with the public, I thoroughly enjoyed that, because I felt like I was using this great gift that I was given to help others. It was just such a wonderful experience.”

But after just one full season on the show, the writers removed or reduced several characters from the show, with Piekarski’s being one of them. When asked how she dealt with this and if she harbored any resentment at the time, she stated; “When they went to cut the cast, it wasn’t like a major, devastating shock, because life does go on. But it was a bit of a surprise, considering in a lot of those early episodes, Sue Ann did have a lot of, if not major, at least secondary parts in there. But I guess the writers just felt they only wanted to develop certain characters, which is interesting considering when you look at a show like, say Friends, and how many characters that had. I’m sure that I was upset, but in the meantime, I had done other things, like a pilot for a show that didn’t get picked up called The Best of Times, which also had Crispin Clover and Nicolas Cage in it before they were known! But it was never like, ‘oh, I’ll never watch The Facts of Life again!’ I’m sure I watched it from time to time. But at the same time, I was still living my life and moving on.”

Piekarski and many of her former co-stars did return to the show from time to time in guest roles, including the 1986 ‘reunion’ episode, “The Little Chill.” But notably missing from any of these shows is the presence of Molly Ringwald, who after appearing in the first season of The Facts of Life, went on to star in such blockbusters as Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Pretty in Pink. Regarding Ringwald’s absence, she said; “It’s interesting, and this would only be based on and what I’ve heard and speculation over the years, but I would imagine it’s because she was pursing that path of movies, and I think at that time TV was considered a little less-than. But now a days, it’d be no big deal, and all of that has changed!” With the late Cloris Leachman also passing away earlier this year, I was also curious what it was like spending time with her during that reunion episode. She informed me; “I can’t really say that we got to send too much time together during our downtime. But when we were together, she was always kind, friendly, and encouraging.”

Another standout moment on her resume was her appearance on a 1983 episode of Three’s Company, where she worked with the late John Ritter. Regarding the experience, she explained; “I was so excited that I actually got to work with John and Joyce (Dewitt)! John was such a sweet and kind gentleman, and so humble about giving suggestions. In a way, I was bummed that we did our scene so well and it was done in just a couple of takes…it was almost like I wished I had messed up more so that I would’ve been able to stay longer on the set! (Laughs). From what I could tell by just briefly stepping into it, they had created such a great ‘family,’ which is what you end up doing when you’re on a series with a long run. But John had such a great positive energy to him, and it was just a sheer gem working with him. I will always feel blessed for that.”

In more recent times, Piekarski has begun slowly but surely acting again after nearly three decades away to focus on her family. She informed me; “When I moved back to St. Louis to raise my family, I always knew in my heart that I would not step completely away from acting. And even when I was in St. Louis, I did different industrial film work and things like that. But once I had my kids, I wanted to be a full time mom, which I was blessed to be able to do. It just so happened that I went through some different things in my life, one of them being a divorce, which I never really imagined myself going through after thirty one years of marriage. But unfortunately it did happen, and my kids really convinced me to go pursue what I wanted to do. And I really felt this strong calling telling me to go back and see what’s out there for me, and things kind of slowly fell into place for me. I’ve actually had some scripts fall into my lap, and it looks like I may even be getting into the aspect of movie producing, which, I wasn’t really looking into doing. But again, doors keep opening, and I’m learning to kind of keeping my options open.”

For example, she was recently involved in a new series titled Pilot Season, which she explained; “They approached me and said they were trying something new. It was almost like doing that ‘cold’ reading with a group of people, but instead, they shot it, and made it like a pre-pilot. The episode was called “The Nuclear Option,” and it was crazy because I had never met any of these people, and they filmed us all by Zoom. So we were all on our own laptops, and then the way they edited it was really creative, editing in different backgrounds and scenes. It was a really unique experience.”

She continued; “Things have changed a lot since the way we did things back in my day. I still keep in touch with Kim, Lisa (Whelchel), and Mindy (Cohn) from The Facts of Life, and I was talking to one of them recently about how much things had changed since then. If you did TV, theater, movies, whatever it may have been, you never crossed over back then. But now that’s changed, and there are no boundaries. And now with things slowly kind of opening back up, I also have a new project coming up that I can’t share too much about right now, but I’m going to start filming it soon. I can say that it’s an eight episode show, and I know I’m involved with at least two episodes right now. I’m really excited about that!”

Reflecting on her career as a whole, Piekarski spoke candidly to me; “Now that I’m older and I’ve lived my life, I’m actually coming back into the industry, with a fresh perspective. I might get asked sometimes why I went down this path or that path. But there were a couple of times I turned down different roles because maybe they contained nudity. And what if say, my father, or my priest went to see it? I just couldn’t do it. You have to stay true to yourself. Education was always important to me, my values were always important to me, and I was always very grounded, with my faith being a huge factor. I think that’s really important for any young person no matter what industry, to just have a good identity of who they are and to not surround themselves with ‘yes people.’ But my favorite quote that I’ll never forget – my nun actually told me when I first came out to Hollywood – she said, ‘What you are is God’s gift to you, and what you make of yourself, is your gift to God.'” I couldn’t come up with a better way to end our conversation than that if I tried.

Album Review: Danz CM – The Absurdity of Human Existence (Channel 9 Records)

By: Shawn McKee

Like a young, earnest Trent Reznor, Danz utilizes technology to arrange, produce, and sometimes mix music all her own, while embodying an abundance of influences, to include Gary Numan, Thom Yorke, Blondie, Depeche Mode, Giorgio Moroder, Kraftwerk, and beyond. She also has a clear passion for film, pop culture, and science-fiction, notably reflected in most of her work. Her numerous music videos often reach cinematic heights, as seen in the grainy, glitchy magnum opus “Fuzz” from her debut album, “Davos.”

Danz CM reemerged last March with the release of a new album, citing the name change from Computer Magic as one of growth. The album title is anything but subtle and was purportedly conceived during a low point in the artist’s life. This is mostly the case with good music in general. “Absurdity” leads us on an introspective journey through uncertain times. There are a few standouts, with some minor lulls in an album that remains consistently fresh and unique. Danz CM delivers a symmetrical ten-song lineup at just under forty minutes, where no song sounds the same.

The opening track, “Idea of You” immediately launches into a thumping, electronic beat over layed with pulsating synth loops and distant guitar strumming. She sets the tone with, “I don’t want another… heartbreak on my record” and proceeds to pick up the pieces of a fractured relationship. The song’s arrangement is near perfection and offers an accessible sound that should pique the interest of any casual listener. The second track, “Domino” quietly delves into the struggles of love. Here, Danz displays a rarely heard vulnerability, further exploring themes of confusion and melancholy. The song deploys a litany of direct and indirect questions, such as, “How can I be so weak / How could you let me fall for you / How can I let you in, over again.” It’s an appropriate second track but far from an album favorite.

A cosmic slow burn follows of overlapping synth waves in the equally somber, “My Other Self.”The otherwise mellow song has a lot going for it, including disillusioned lyrics combined with a spacey sound. “You’re just a distraction… From myself,” repeats the chorus, as though the situation at hand has grown old. “Low” proceeds with some impressive electronic arrangements and keyboard layers wrapped in lyrics of paranoia and confusion, this time involving someone waiting for their lover to return. “You’re not the only one missing something…You’re not the only one.”

The album reaches a midway high point with the dance-oriented, Bjork-sounding “Don’t Stop,”where Danz channels her inner Debbie Harry. Her harmonized vocals are strong throughout the infectious tune. The isolating sadness of “Breaking Point” follows in a winding sonic fashion that recalls an 80s movie synth score. The Cars-sounding “Something More” picks things up again, with a cruising rock beat that’s fun and catchy. The lyrics convey a yearning beyond the ordinary while “working at a restaurant,” for little return. This seemingly harkens back to Danz’s own early days in NYC while attending college. I initially dismissed the song, only for it to grow on me later.

“I Don’t Need a Hero” is as a real standout and one of the best songs on the album. The rock-induced, synth-pounding ballet charges forward with industrial-sounding fervor. Danz takes no prisoners in her escape from the “monster” she’s left behind. “I don’t need a hero,” she says with a tone of finality, “It could never be somebody like you.” The song also represents her uncanny ability to layer catchy pop tunes with depth and emotion, a technique Kurt Cobain reportedly admired about The Pixies and wished to emulate.

The album winds down with the big band, disco-sounding “Not Gonna Stand By,” erupting in a plethora of strings, an intense, funky bass line, and fast, tight drums. Its undeniable groove is reminiscent of Abba, ELO, and KC and the Sunshine Band mixed into one. The lyrics and music present a more optimistic side of her existentialist journey. “I won’t hurt you, I won’t leave you, I won’t make you cry / But if you don’t let your guard down, I’m not gonna stand by.” Seems like a fair compromise to me. “Human Existence” is a touching and beautiful closer. Its simple, synth-driven aesthetic feels like something created at the edges of the earth… after the apocalypse. Powered by haunting lyrics and impressive vocals, the song offers hope amid a crumbling world. “Hold me…Hold me tightly.” It’s a fitting end to an enjoyable album that doesn’t outwardly hammer its appeal. It takes a few listens, like many albums, to draw you in. As a fan of electronic music in general, her music resonates with me. But I also believe that there’s a lot here to offer anyone who can appreciate it

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Film Review: Godzilla vs. Kong (Warner Bros. Pictures/Legendary Entertainment)

By: Jesse Striewski

It’s been nearly sixty years since the last time two of the silver screen’s greatest titans ever faced off against one another. Godzilla vs. Kong no doubt delivers on the over-the-top, larger than life, escapist entertainment in the best way possible.

A little Sc-Fi heavy at times, the plot focuses on a now-captive King Kong being released to more or less save humanity from a seemingly hostile Godzilla, who’s really just peeved by the creation of a Mechagodzilla by the evil Apex Cybernetics. Meanwhile, an Apex employee and conspiracy theorist named Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry) who is hell bent on exposing the truth, teams up with a couple of kids (one of them once again being Millie Bobby Brown of Stranger Things fame, joined this time by Julian Dennisen) to get the job done. This aspect gives the film a very real, ’80s-adventure feel to it in the same vein as E.T., where the kids must ultimately save the day from under the adults who only know about half of the actual story.

The other portion of the main storyline involves an expedition to “Hollow Earth” with Kong lead by a couple of doctors (portrayed by Alexander Skarsgard and Rebecca Hall) to find some magical “power source.” And if you think that all sounds somewhat nerdy, you’re absolutely right, though there is a somewhat touching relationship between Kong and a young girl (played by Kaylee Hottle) that helps add a much-needed dramatic element to the film.

In short, Godzilla vs. Kong is far from flawless. But as far as modern action films go (which I’m truthfully not too big on, especially the countless superhero flicks churned out these days), it’s at the head of it’s class. It is without a doubt the ideal type of flick to take the fam out to, sit in a dark theater, and just forget about the rest of the world for a night.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Album Review: The Offspring – Let the Bad Times Roll (Concord Records)

By: Jesse Striewski

Though I was excited to hear The Offspring were finally releasing their tenth studio album (and first since 2012), I was extremely disappointed by the recent shitty treatment of original bassist Greg K, who was ostracized by the rest of the band in 2019 for no better reason than just flat out greed. But when I heard the album’s infectious first single/title track, I knew they had yet again roped me in (but I’m still mad at them).

Aside from said hooky title track, there’s a number of other tunes that surprisingly hit the spot the way many of the band’s earlier tracks did, even if I don’t always see completely eye-to-eye with the lyrics/message. Perfect example; “This is Not Utopia.” It’s a hard-hitting, adrenaline-fueled punk anthem that nearly any old school fan would be able to appreciate. But lyric-wise, it’s another unfortunate example of the type of Anti-American sentiment you’re expected to have if you listen to this type of music (and sorry for having a differing opinion, but I am indeed one of those who feels you don’t have to ‘cancel’ everyone and everything you don’t fully agree with, and conform to what everyone else wants you to think these days).

But aside from all that, most of the twelve tracks found here do work in some way or another, with “Breaking These Bones,” “and “Army of One” being a couple of more standouts, with the latter being exceptionally well-written. There’s even a quasi-Beatles moment or two in the form of “Lullaby,” and a re-worked piano driven version of their hit “Gone Away.”

This will no doubt appeal to just about anyone who’s ever done time at a Warped Tour (sans those who still like to cry “sell-outs,” of course), and maybe even gain them a new fan or two. But you know what? No disrespect to the new guy, but c’mon, Offspring, where would your sound be today if not for Greg’s bass lines on such tracks as “Self Esteem,” “The Meaning of Life,” or (one of my personal favorites) “Kick Him When He’s Down?!” Along with frontman Dexter Holland, Greg was the second longest-tenured member of the band, and only other original member left (though guitarist Noodles was there fairly early on, too). Either way, not cool guys, not cool at all.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Album Review: Sweet Oblivion Feat. Geoff Tate – Relentless (Frontiers Music s.r.l.)

By: Jesse Striewski

Italian-based metal project Sweet Oblivion are back with their second full-length effort to feature original Queensryche vocalist Geoff Tate at the forefront, which proves to once again be a winning combonation.

My appreciation for Tate’s work in his former band has only grown over the years, and each track here sounds as though they could’ve come straight from a classic Queesryche record. I knew the second I heard the first single from Relentless, “Another Change,” that this would be a promising album.

“Once Again One Sin” is a fitting opening song, and is quickly followed by the strongest track on the album by far, “Strong Pressure.” Other highlights among the ten tracks here include “Wake up Call,” “Aria” (impressively sung by Tate completely in Italian), and the ballad “I’ll Be the One.”

It’s strange how new, unheard music can seem so familiar upon first listen, but that’s exactly the case here with Relentless; some of the lyrics manage to hit so close to home that they feel like they’ve actually been there with us all along. That is what makes for a good listening experience, which is precisely what Sweet Oblivion have provided listeners with here.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Retrospective: 35 Years Since ‘Critters’ Invaded Theaters By Jesse Striewski

The ’80s were no doubt full with an abundance of creature feature flicks to choose from. Being younger at the time, Freddy and Jason were usually off the table unfortunately while I was growing up (though I still managed to sneak them in whenever and wherever I got the chance to). But slightly tamer, more “family-friendly” horror/Sci-Fi films like Poltergeist (1982), Gremlins (1984), and Critters (1986) were still fair game in our household, and I can vividly remember watching many of these titles on a couch with my siblings (and/or the other kids in the neighborhood) and a tub of popcorn, often times in awe.

Critters was originally released in the U.S. by New Line Cinema on April 11, 1986, and almost instantly drew comparisons to the previously-mentioned Spielberg romp Gremlins (although Director/Writer Stephen Herek has maintained that he and co-screenwritter Dominco Muir had the script in the works long before either of them had ever heard of or seen Gremlins). The film stared veteran actress Dee Wallace as Helen Brown, who was already known for her appearances in a sleuth of horror films including The Hills Have Eyes (1977), The Howling (1981), and Cujo (1983). M. Emmet Walsh, Billy Green Bush, Scott Grimes, Nadine van der Velde, Don Keith Opper, Terrence Mann, and a young, then-unknown Billy Zane also rounded out the main cast.

The plot was simple enough; vicious creatures from another planet land in the middle of rural Kansas and wreak havoc on the Brown family farm. But two out-of-this-world bounty hunters (played by Mann, and eventually Opper as well in future installments) throw a monkey wrench in their gears, ultimately saving the day from the destructive vermin. In October of 2020, I interviewed Wallace on behalf of Rewind It Magazine, who declared of the film, “It was just such a simple, but harmlessly fun movie to be a part of. I enjoyed every minute of it.”

Multiple follow-ups continued the original series, with only Opper and Mann reprising their roles in all of the next three films (although Grimes did return as Brad Brown in the first sequel). 1988’s Critters 2: The Main Course (which was one of the first times I can recall ever seeing so much, ahem – female anatomy – on screen while watching it on cable TV at a friend’s house) was the last film of the series to be released theatrically after a disappointing $3 million box office return (the first entry had grossed over $13 million on a budget nearly equivalent to the sequel’s intake), but remains a cult/Easter classic among many to this day. The next two additions to the franchise, 1991’s Critters 3 (notable for starring a young Leonardo DiCaprio in his first film role) and 1992’s Critters 4 (which featured Brad Dourif and Angela Bassett), promptly received straight-to-video treatment, and saw the titular monsters taking on the big city, and outer space itself, respectively.

It would be nearly three decades until the franchise would be revived, with a reboot film titled Critters Attack!, and a web series Critters: A New Binge, both dropping in 2019. Wallace returned for the former (in a role that may or may not have been the same as her character Helen Brown from the original). Regarding her return to the series, Wallace told Rewind It Magazine in the same 2020 interview; “It was a lot of fun. My first question for them was, ‘Are you doing the critters CGI?,’ because if they were I wouldn’t have done it, and I think the fans would have been disappointed. But I read the script, and met with the director, and I got to go to Cape Town, South Africa, so how bad could it be?!”

Critters have even found themselves as the punchline in random pop culture; the 1990 film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles features a scene where one of the turtles, Raphael, is seen walking out of a movie theater (with the film’s poster displayed in full view) and proclaiming in disgust, “Where do they come up with this stuff?!” The song used in the original film, “Power of the Night” by the fictional Johnny Steele (also played by Mann) has also taken on a small life of it’s own as well in some underground circuits and online (had it been released as an actual single at the time of it’s original release, it could’ve possibly even been a hit).

No matter where the franchise goes from here, there’s no denying the lasting impact this campy series has had on multiple generations of Sci-Fi/horror fans for well over three decades now. Thirty-five years on, the original still remains the perfect film for late night viewings as it ever has.

Album Review: The End Machine – Phase2 (Frontiers Music s.r.l.)

By: Jesse Striewski

Hard rock/heavy metal suergroup The End Machine, which features guitarist George Lynch (Dokken/Lynch Mob), bassist Jeff Pilson (Dokken), vocalist Robert Mason (Warrant/Lynch Mob), and newcomer Steve Brown on drums (in place of his recently retired father, Mick, also from Dokken) are back with the follow up to their 2018 debut. And this time the group has had a chance to perfect their sound just right.

Instrumental piece “The Rising” starts things off with a hauntingly familiar tone before breaking into the album’s first single (and without a doubt one of it’s strongest tracks), “Blood & Money.” From then on, there’s hints of multiple genres spread out along the way on the record’s twelve tracks; “Devil’s Playground” and “Born of Fire” contain some blues-ly riffs from Lynch, while “Prison or Paradise” and the album’s latest single, “Crack the Sky,” contain some borderline thrash elements.

But without a doubt the biggest highlights come in the form of the anthems “Shine Your Light,” and especially, “Dark Divide.” With their in-your-face, sing-along choruses, I found myself turning up the volume even louder, especially with the latter track, which no doubt features Mason screaming his heart out on possibly one of the strongest performances of his entire career.

Phase2 is hands down the album the rock community needed at this moment in time. Don’t pass this one up, it’s worth giving the time of day (and then some).

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Book Review: Nothin’ But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the ’80s Hard Rock Explosion By Tom Beaujour and Richard Bienstock (St. Martins Press)

By: Jesse Striewski

With renewed interest in the decade of decadence continually growing each year, there’s no shortage of various media information on ’80s hard rock (a.k.a. ‘hair’ or ‘glam’ rock) and heavy metal out there these days. But this new book by rock journalists Tom Beaujour and Richard Bienstock (with a brief forward by Slipknot frontman Corey Taylor) is truly the new bible on ’80s hard rock and heavy metal.

Largely tracing it’s roots back to the influence Van Halen had on the movement in the mid to late ’70s, here the two authors put together a collection of interviews that includes numerous musicians, producers, promoters, magazine editors, and the like, to help tell the tale of arguably one of rock’s greatest eras. Various key members of such staple acts as Motley Crue, Ratt, Guns N’ Roses, Quiet Riot, Dokken, L.A. Guns, W.A.S.P., Poison, Cinderella, and Warrant, – as well as numerous Rewind It Magazine interviewees from over the years – including Jay Jay French of Twisted Sister, Jack Russell of Great White, Brian Forsthye of Kix, and Rachel Bolan of Skid Row (among many others), are just some who help recall the foundation of the genre that changed it all in great detail.

The perspective is unique and fresh, despite some of the stories already found in other published works (many of those involved have previously published their own individual biographies). There’s even a brief but brilliant collection of many never-before-seen photos included as well. In short, Nothin’ But a Good Time is a rollercoaster ride of literature from start to finish, and one of the best of it’s kind currently available on the subject. It simply ‘don’t get better than this.’

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars