Album Review: Rob Zombie – The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy (Nuclear Blast)

By: Jesse Striewski

When Rob Zombie first dropped the single/video for “The Triumph of King Freak (A Crypt of Preservation and Superstition)” last year just before Halloween, I wasn’t expecting to feel like that 14-year-old kid just getting into albums like Astro Creep: 2000 all over again. But that’s exactly what happened when I finally sat down to listen to his latest solo album (his seventh overall), even if said initial single didn’t peak my interest all that much at the time.

The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy plays just like one of those old White Zombie records, with seventeen (usually) equally long-titled tracks that range from odd samples, instrumentals, ’70s acid trips, and menacing metal riffs. One thing’s for certain, there’s definitely no shortage of eclectic sounds to be found from start to finish.

Tracks like “The Ballad of Sleazy Rider,” “The Eternal Struggles of the Howling Man,” and “The Satanic Rites of Blacula” are all straight-forward, disco rock hybrids, while “Get Loose,” “Boom-Boom-Boom,” and “Shake Your Ass and Smoke Your Grass” are near tailored made stripper tunes. But the true highlight comes in the form of the doom-y single “Crow Killer Blues;” not only does it feature an appropriately bleak music video, it also contains some of the best work from (former Marilyn Manson) guitarist John 5 to boot.

There’s no doubt that Rob Zombie’s warped world is not for everyone. But even the most casual of listeners may be able to appreciate what he’s put together here, which is easily some of his best work in years.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Jackyl at Bruce Rossmeyer’s Destination Daytona in Ormond Beach, FL on 3/13/21 By Jesse Striewski/Photos By Brooke Striewski

Last night, heavy metal southern rockers Jackyl raised some much-needed hell at Bruce Rossmeyer’s Destination Daytona in Ormond Beach, the first time the band had shared the stage together in well over half a year according to lead singer/madman Jesse James Dupree. And judging by the size – and enthusiasm – of the rowdy crowd on hand, they were definitely more than welcomed to do so.

Tampa rockers Stonegrey opened the festivities with their ’90s-tinged styles and sounds. As soon as the band took stage, it was apparent everyone in the audience was in for a good time, as the the band’s lead singer almost immediately produced a bull horn. Covers and original tracks (and hopefully I get all of the titles correct here) like Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Saturday Night Special,” “What Are we Fighting For?,” “Walk Away,” Led Zeppelin’s “Dazed and Confused,” and “Take Me Down” were just some of the notable songs the band had to offer.

The mighty Jackyl (which, in addition to Dupree, also consists of original members/brothers Jeff and Chris Worley on guitar and drums, and former Brother Cane bassist Roman Glick) quickly took stage afterwards (as they have many times before for Bike Week) with relentless energy, opening with “Blast Off” and breaking out such fan favorites as “Down on Me” early on in their set. Not long after, the band brought out and honored a 97-year-old World War II vet on stage, which quickly prompted chants of “USA!” from the patriotic crowd. A couple more tracks in the form of “Push Comes to Shove” (from the extremely underrated album of the same name) and “Just Because I’m Drunk” followed before the music was paused once more for a brief contest that saw a Harley wheeled out on stage, and one lucky contestant walk off the stage with a trip to Sturgis.

Once the band got back to business, it was an onslaught of fan favorites (along with a quick verse of AC/DC’s “Back in Black” thrown in there for good measure) from the band’s 1992 self-titled debut album, including “I Stand Alone” (famously remembered for its music video which saw the group performing in front of a Georgia Kmart), “When Will It Rain,” “Dirty Little Mind,” “Redneck Punk,” and “She Loves My Cock” (the very song that saw said first album removed from Kmart stores nationwide, and caused Jackyl to shoot said video outside of one in response).

And finally, frontman Dupree brought out his trademark chainsaw to do some damage on a wooden stool for their performance of “The Lumberjack.” After thoroughly dismantling it with his saw, Dupree continued to set it on fire, before finally smashing what was left of it on stage. The band then went out with one last literal “bang,” as Dupree picked up a custom built mic stand with a shotgun attached to it, and fired off a round above the audience. At that point, it seemed like the only fitting ending to an already wild show.

Book Review: Do What You Want: The Story of Bad Religion By Bad Religion with Jim Ruland (Hachette Books)

By: Jesse Striewski

Alright, so I might be a little late reviewing this one (about half a year, give or take). But to be fair, book reviews take way more time than say, an album or concert review does. But I digress, this still semi-new biography on legendary punks Bad Religion is worth every page turn.

I was initially weary as far as what to anticipate here to be honest, half expecting this to be just another excuse for someone’s ‘timely’ political agenda to get across (which eventually does become the case about three quarters of the way in, unfortunately). But once I dove in, more than anything I realized this was a well-thought out, meticulous history lesson on the band that completely changed the punk landscape in California back in the early ’80s.

Along with the help of current and former members, author Ruland digs deep into every detail about the band starting from their humble beginnings, all the way up until now. Even more forgotten (and dare I say, mysterious) eras in the band’s timeline, such as the fallout that came after the 1983 Into the Unknown album, and how the band eventually put themselves back together, are finally given the light of the day.

Chances are if you were a suburban misfit during the ’90s like myself, punk music such as Bad Religion’s played a decent role in your growth. And if you’re lucky enough to have retained some brain cells, too, you can hopefully appreciate learning a thing or two about a band like Bad Religion’s backstory.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Jasmine Cain and Afterlife at Dirty Harry’s Pub in Daytona Beach, FL on 3/6/21 By Jesse Striewski

The 80th Annual Bike Week officially kicked off in Daytona last week, and so did the many live shows it brings along with it every year. Although I made it out to Dirty Harry’s Pub & Package this past Saturday, March 6, I must come clean before I get started on my ‘official’ critique of the show; I might have been there past the barricades the whole night, but not only did I not have my main photographer (who also happens to be my lovely wife, Brooke), but I was also lacking a professional camera on hand with me. Hence the reason for just one (very mediocre) live shot here in place of a full photo gallery.

But as the old saying goes, the show must go on (in this case, with or without good pics), so I’ll do my best to describe Saturday night’s show in full detail. Local rocker Jasmine Cain is someone I’ve been following for some time now, but had still not had a chance to see live yet. After finally witnessing one of her sets firsthand, I can finally see what all the fuss is about.

Cain actually opened her set with a number of originals (one that sticks out specifically was “1995”) before going into a host of covers. Some not-so-surprising, like Heart’s “Barricuda” or Pat Benetar’s “Heartbreaker.” But it’s when Cain dug a little deeper that things really got interesting. Cain and her band then took on the likes of Ozzy Osbourne’s “Bark at the Moon,” Megadeth’s “Symphony of Destruction,” White Zombie’s “Thunder Kiss ’65,” Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” and Skid Row’s “Monkey Business,” and with total ease. Cain even ended her shift on a high note by jumping off the stage and briefly crowd surfing.

By the time Afterlife took the stage, the temperature outside had clearly dropped, and rain began to steadily creep in. However, the well-intoxicated crowd did not seem to mind one bit by this point. Before I analyze the band’s set, I will weigh the pros; the musicians were all extremely talented (especially their lead guitarist with his noticeable handicap) at what they did, and the songs they played were nearly identical to the originals. But it was the majority of the songs/bands they chose to cover that I just don’t care for much (and to be fair, I understand having to ‘play for your crowd’). Most of the material the group entertained were the type of overplayed rock songs I tend to immediately change the channel as soon as they come across the radio. And their singer may have been good at handling the likes of Godsmack or Alice In Chains (which each appeared to be his specialties), but a lot of the material from time to time seemed out of his vocal range.

And I would honestly be completely content if I never had to hear another cover band take on such forgettable tracks as Nickelback’s “Figured You Out” or Limp Bizkit’s “Break Stuff” ever again, but that’s just what Afterlife offered. And not only that, they also committed one of the biggest ‘no-no’s’ in my book of rock; performing some of the same songs as the other band on the bill. This was not only done once or twice, but THREE times when they covered the same tracks by Ozzy Osbourne, White Zombie, and Megadeth that Cain previously had. Maybe the conversation of who was playing what that night never took place, but it probably should have.

The crowd of course didn’t mind at all though, as long as they were given more of what they are used to. It seemed like the later the night went on (Afterlife actually played two full sets), the more unbearable the attendees became (there were even several drunken patrons who saw me on the other side of the barricade that actually asked if I could get them on the stage, or if I would relay a ‘song request’ to the band, as if that were how it actually works!). But the biggest shocker of them all came at the very last song of the night; a rendition of Drowning Pool’s “Bodies” caused the audience to rage in such a frenzy, said barricades were dangerously close to being knocked down by, well, bodies. I don’t think I was ever more relieved for a show to be over by that point, and left grateful to still be in one piece.

Interview with Actress Khrystyne Haje By Jesse Striewski

For several weeks, actress Khrystyne Haje and I had been playing a game of back-and-forth before our schedules finally aligned right for a phone conversation. And as soon as I got her on the phone, I knew it was worth the wait. Almost instantly, it felt as though I had been transported back to being that same 9-year-old kid who would tune in every week to watch her play Simone Foster on Head of the Class (one of my personal favorite TV shows at the time, which originally aired from 1986 to 1991) and developed one of my very first, and very real (albeit innocent) celebrity crushes. Since the show, Haje has gone on to do numerous acting, voiceover, and various humanitarian work. But with Head of the Class about to turn thirty-five this year, I focused heavily on the show that originally put her on the map.

Early on in our conversation, Haje gave me some insight into just what it was like growing up and simultaneously going to high school in real life, while also doing so on the small screen. She explained; “It was such a life-changer when I got the role! I had been working as an actress prior, and was an emancipated minor, so I was one of the only people on the show going to ‘real’ high school (at North Hollywood High), and what I called ‘fantasy school’ (laughs). It has just created so many opportunities for me since though, and what I consider some life-long friendships.”

Although I may have never been part of an honors class like the students on the show, I always admired the sense of camaraderie that the characters seemed to share together, something Haje informed me still exists with many of her former cast mates to this day; “Kimberly Russell (Sarah on the show) is still one of my best friends in the world. I was also super close with Dan Schneider (Dennis) – we actually met at a call back, and became friends instantly. Dan Frischman (Arvid) and I are forever friends; I lived in New York for a couple of years, and he moved there not long after I first did, so that was really fun having him there. Lara Piper (who joined the cast later as Viki) and I are still close as well. And Tony O’Dell (Alan)…I used to stop doing my homework to watch him on the show Otherworld, so when I saw him at the very first table read, I just couldn’t believe it! (laughs). But I still probably talk to him and Kimberly the most, a couple of times a month, if not more.”

Knowing that previously-mentioned former co-star O’Dell had recently appeared on the hit Netflix series Cobra Kai, I was curious to hear Haje’s thoughts on The Karate Kid revival show. She reveled; “Even though it was ‘super secret’ at the time, I was SO excited when he went to film Cobra Kai! And because of Tony, I actually got to meet the Cobra Kai guys back in the day! It was so fun randomly getting to hang out with William Zapka or Martin Kove back then, and I’m so happy for all of them right now!”

Of course I had to ask what it was like working with such a legend as Howard Hesseman as well; “I was a BIG fan of WKRP in Cincinnati! And at one of my final call backs, I actually got to read with Howard, and was just so starstruck! But I thought, ‘well, even if I don’t get the role, at least I got to read with Dr. Johnny Fever!’ (laughs). I always admired Howard’s work though, and he became just such a mentor to us all. He’s not only a gifted actor, but he’s also a great comedic actor, and was a great example to me as well. He was really invested in the character he played, and it was an honor to get to work with him.”

Towards the end of the show’s run, Hesseman left to be replaced by Scottish comedian Billy Connolly. I asked Haje what it was like still being on the show after such a drastic change, and she told me; “Billy just showed up with a huge heart, ready for the adventure. It was different, because his approach was different. And there were definitely some shifts as far as the writing went – at the time, it seemed like the writers were leaning on his stand up comedy skills, as they should have. I was personally grateful to get the opportunity to work with Billy and see what that was like. He was just so kind, and already had had such huge life experiences, with so many stories to tell about all of his U.K. adventures that were so different from anything else to any of us at the time!”

Aside from Head of the Class, Haje has also made appearances on such other iconic shows as the ’80s juggernaut Growing Pains, and the quirky, oft-forgotten Parker Lewis Can’t Lose. I asked Haje how these experiences were in comparison to working on Head of the Class, and she explained; “When your job is to make somebody laugh, you only have good days! Growing Pains was a similar style to Head of the Class, in that it was a five camera sitcom. And I knew the kids, we kind of all grew up together at Warner Bros., so the environment was very familiar, and very family-esque. Parker Lewis on the other hand was a single-camera show, so it was shot very differently, and the approach was different and ahead of it’s time. But I was already a big fan of the show, so it just felt surreal to drop in and get to be on it, and to be able to maneuver those different techniques and skills, too.”

There’s also been some talk of a Head of the Class reboot, which of course I had to inquire about. Haje informed me; “I have heard about a reboot! It looks like HBO Max, who’s airing the original series, is also working on a reboot, and they want to flip the script a little bit. So I think they want to have a young, female teacher, with possibly younger, middle school-aged students – though I’m not entirely sure. But they definitely have – let’s call it a re-imagination – of Head of the Class brewing, and it would be fun if they had us guest star in some way! I think that fans of the original always love to see what the original cast is doing, but we really have no idea right now what they’re looking to do exactly at this point. We all loved that show so much though, so it’d be fun to revisit that world officially. It’s going to be great no matter what though!”

Film Review: Willy’s Wonderland (Saturn Films/Landmark Studio Group/Landafar Entertainment/JD Entertainment)

By: Jesse Striewski

This Nicolas Cage-driven horror/comedy hybrid romp, directed by Kevin Lewis, ranges from being part harmless homage to such goofy ’80s guilty pleasures as Killer Klowns From Outer Space, to part demented (and ridiculous) Toy Story-induced nightmare.

Cage stars as a silent drifter (literally – he utters zero dialogue throughout the entire film) who gets roped into a diabolical scam by small town locals when his vehicle is abruptly disabled while passing through the middle of nowhere. He ends up in an old, rundown, Chuck E. Cheese-type joint called Willy’s Wonderland (suspiciously similar to Five Nights at Freddy’s, too), where he must fight for his life against maniacal machines that come to life. Lucky for him, there’s also a group of local teens (lead by talented newcomer Emily Tosta) who know the real secrets of Willy‘s, and are hell-bent on taking it down once and for all. This of course leads to some very surreal, A Nightmare on Elm Street-esque moments that range from legitimately creepy, to over-the-top, cringe-worthy deaths.

Character actress Beth Grant (who you may recognize from such films as Rain Man or Child’s Play 2) pulls a worthy performance as the town sheriff, and Killer Klowns… alumni Grant Cramer even makes a brief cameo. And even the soundtrack features some impressive work by Emoi (watch for the mesmerizing scene where the film’s theme song is played during an epic battle between Cage and a pinball machine).

But for every time I found myself getting completely lost in the film, something overly juvenile or absurd would usually come along and instantly snap me back into reality. I really wanted to like the film, and for the most part I suppose I did. But perhaps just a little more effort in the dialogue and acting departments would have put it that much more over the edge. If you’re simply looking for mindless entertainment though, then Willy’s Wonderland is hands down the place to go.

Rating: 2.5/5 Stars

Album Review: Alice Cooper – Detroit Stories (earMUSIC)

By: Jesse Striewski

Alice Cooper has become far more than just an average rock musician at this point; he’s a flat out institution, as American as beer or baseball. And on his twenty-first studio effort, he knocks it out of the park once more, surpassing his last outing, 2017’s Paranormal album, by a longshot.

Detroit Stories starts off strong with a cover of The Velvet Underground’s “Rock and Roll,” and doesn’t let up once from there. Tracks such as “Go Man Go,” “Drunk and in Love,” “I Hate You,” and the single “Social Debris” all showcase Cooper’s love for versatility, stretching from everything from rock, blues, jazz, and punk across fifteen total numbers.

There’s a decent amount of Detroit-based covers as well, including The MC5’s “Sister Anne” and Bob Seger’s “East Side Story.” But hands down the best tracks here come in the form of the ones with a bit of a message behind them; “Hanging On By a Thread (Don’t Give Up),” “Wonderful World,” and “Shut Up and Rock” all offer a slice of real insight into Cooper’s true feelings towards the outside world, but without ever getting preachy (something he has always strayed far away from).

If Cooper has ever been your cup of tea, then Detroit Stories should be right up your alley. Whatever you do, don’t pass up this one.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Album Review: Moonspell – Hermitage (Napalm Records)

By: Jesse Striewski

Now and then, I tend to forget just how much I still need some melodic gothic/black/doom metal like Moonspell in my life from time to time…at least until they go ahead and release new material like this. On their latest studio effort (their twelfth overall), the band is indeed on top of their game once again.

Opening with a one-two punch with a couple of the album’s stronger tracks, “The Greater Good” and “Common Prayer,” Hermitage never really falters (although the two seven-minute numbers, “All or Nothing” and “Without Rule,” aren’t quite as epic as the band was probably going for). Other highlights include “Entitlement,” “The Hermit Saints,” and the title track. The tranquil instrumentals (and dare I say, borderline trippy?) “Solitarian” and “City Quitter (Outro)” are also worthy of mentions.

It’s clear the band’s sound has evolved at this point since their Wolfheart days (still a modern metal classic). If you’re anything like me, this will leave you wanting to revisit the band’s older music once you’ve finished listening, and now is as good a time as any to do so.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Interview with Quiet Riot/H&B Guitarist Alex Grossi By Jesse Striewski

When I spoke to Quiet Riot/Hookers & Blow guitarist Alex Grossi via phone from his Las Vegas home last week, one of the first things I mentioned was how our paths had already crossed previously back in 2006, when I saw him perform with Quiet Riot on a bill that also included Skid Row in Ormand Beach. To my surprise, he actually remembered the exact show; “Oh yeah, during one of those Bike Week events! I vividly remember going to a Waffle House afterwards with a bunch of bikers and meeting with some fans (laughs). That was a good show!”

While technically it was actually Biketoberfest and not Bike Week (though I won’t fault him for it too much, it does get confusing!), I was still impressed none-the-less for remembering, and knew it was primed to be a good conversation from then on out. So of course I tested his memory further and asked him to recall how exactly Hookers & Blow, his cover band he formed along with Guns N’ Roses keyboardist Dizzy Reed (one of two GN’R members Grossi has worked with extensively, the other being former drummer Steven Adler in Adler’s Appetite) around the same time he joined Quiet Riot (in 2004), originally came together. He tells me; “We met at a place on Sunset Blvd. that’s no longer there called the Cat Club. It was sort of like the local musicians watering hole, where they would have an open jam there every night. I approached him to see if he wanted to maybe do some cover gigs. We exchanged numbers, and a couple of days later he said, ‘yeah, let’s book some shows, but call the band Hookers & Blow.’ And I said, ‘sounds good to me,’ and we gave it a shot, and it sort of snowballed from there. Now seventeen years later we’re finally putting out a record (laughs).”

The band has seen it’s share of members come and go, and Grossi did his best to clarify; “We’ve had a bazillion guys in and out of the band over the years, but the ‘core’ as of right now is myself on guitar and Dizzy on vocals and keys, but we also have Mike Duda from W.A.S.P. on bass, and Johnny Kelly from Type O Negative/Danzig on drums. And as far as who also appears on the album, (late Quiet Riot drummer) Frankie Banali did a couple of songs, and so did Scott Griffin from L.A. Guns. And when it comes to the touring aspect, we’ve had everyone from Chip Z’Nuff from Enuff Z’ Nuff and Todd Kerns from Slash’s band play with us live. It’s been a rotating lineup, but like I said, the core is really myself, Dizzy, Duda, and Kelly, and also Dizzy’s wife, Nadja, on background vocals.”

Drummer Kelly has also been pulling double duty in Quiet Riot along with Grossi, taking over for the previously-mentioned late drummer Banali. I asked if this arrangement would be permanent or not, and he said; “When Frankie got sick, Johnny kind of fell into the spot. At first he was just keeping the seat warm, but now we need him to keep it warm for us every night. He’s been with Hookers & Blow for eight years now though, so it made sense for him to fill that (now unfortunately empty) seat for Quiet Riot. But he’s doing a great job, and he’s family, so I’m really glad it’s worked out the way it has.”

I also asked Grossi for some insight on how H&B chooses the songs for it’s sets, as well as for their upcoming full length album. He explained; “Well, when we initially got together we were only playing live shows, so we basically were sending master lists of the songs we all knew back and forth through emails to each other. And over the years we’ve since added and subtracted songs from the set. But as far as the record goes, I’d say it’s about fifty percent of our live set, and then the other half are songs we’ve always wanted to cover. For example, we cover Body Count’s “The Winner Loses,” and we’ve never played that live before. Then on the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got a track like David Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust,” which is literally the first song we’ve ever played together and have played at every single show since.” But Grossi maintains that H&B doesn’t indulge too much when it comes to playing their respective bands’ music in their sets; “We’ll throw in the occasional Guns N’ Roses deep cut, but for the most part we like to keep it completely separate from our day jobs (laughs).”

I was also curious if a cover of Led Zepplin’s “Trampled Under Foot,” which featured the late Banali on drums, was a personal favorite of Frankie’s. He tells me; “That was a really special track. He was given 3-6 months to live in April of 2019, and he recorded that track in November of that same year after about a dozen rounds of chemo, and he still did it all in one take. He was definitely amazing though, just a monster. But we learned that, and “No Quarter” specifically for him, cause Zepplin was obviously Frankie’s favorite band. “Trampled…” we actually played live for years before we recorded it. In 2013 we got hired to do a residency at the Whiskey A Go-Go for a month, and Frankie wanted to come down and play, and asked if we could put some Zepplin in the set. We did, and it just turned out great.”

Before our conversation ended, Grossi clarified that Quiet Riot will still go on, and confirmed some upcoming show dates with both them and H&B; “We’re still going full steam ahead, that’s what Frankie wanted. His wife has taken over as manager and is doing a great job, and it’s nice to be able to still carry on his legacy, and it’s like having him here still in a way. But both bands actually have shows booked for the year already; Quiet Riot has a show March 6 at the Landis Theater in Vineland, NJ. And Hookers & Blow actually have four shows in Texas the following week, in Austin, Dallas, Houston, and Eagles Pass. They’re reduced capacity shows of course, but thing’s are slowly opening up, and wherever it makes sense for us, we’re going to do some shows here and there.”

One final thing I wanted to ask Grossi, was his thoughts on the late, great guitar legend Eddie Van Halen’s recent passing. Grossi tells me; “I was such a HUGE fan of Eddie’s, but I never aspired to play like him, because I knew I never could! There was Eddie, and then there was everybody else. It’s almost surreal that he’s not here with us anymore.”

Retrospective: ‘My Bloody Valentine’ at 40 By Jesse Striewski

It’s not hard to find holiday-themed horror movies of one’s choice; Halloween, Christmas, and even New Year’s Eve have a number of options to choose from. But when it comes to Valentine’s Day, My Bloody Valentine has been the no go-to for more than four decades now.

Released by Paramount Pictures at the early stages of the ’80s slasher craze on February 11, 1981, the film takes place in the small fictional mining town called Valentine Bluffs (the film was actually shot in Canada), and centers around the return of the town Valentine’s Day Dance after a twenty-year absent. But former deranged resident and miner Harry Warden vowed revenge if the dance ever took place again, and wields it in grisly fashion with his pickaxe.

Written by John Beaird (with a story originally by Stephen Miller) and directed by George Mihalka, the film may not have featured the most original of concepts (one can even draw several comparisons between Valentine and Friday the 13th, released just one year prior). The film also received trouble from the MPAA, something Director Mihalka attributes to the death of John Lennon shortly before its release. In a 2020 interview with cheatsheet.com, he said; “I could understand the collective cultural despair at the time. Unfortunately, as is always the case, there was backlash, and this time it was against senseless violence.” But the film was still a modest success, grossing over $5 million dollars at the box office on a $2 million budget.

The legacy of My Bloody Valentine lives on to this day. Just two years after the film, a shoegaze band with the same name as the film popped up in Dublin, Ireland. And a remake, My Bloody Valentine 3D, appeared in 2009. There’s even countless screenings of the film worldwide every year. So whether you’re watching with your favorite guy or girl, or solo, grab a heart-shaped box of chocolates (and maybe a glass of wine), and settle in with one of the most essential Valentine’s Day films ever, My Bloody Valentine.