Album Review: Queensryche – Digital Noise Alliance (Century Media Records)

By: Jesse Striewski

Quite a bit has changed in the Queensryche camp since 2019’s The Verdict album; drummer Casey Grillo is now a full time member of the band, and guitarist Mike Stone has since returned after a decade-plus absence. Still intact though is that signature sound the group created well over four decades ago.

Here the guys unleash yet another round of thought-provoking progressive metal true to form. Opener “In Extremis” gives listeners an immediate look at what’s to come from the twelve track album. “Chapters,” Nocturnal Light,” and “Out of the Black” are by far some of the stronger tracks found here, with the single “Behind the Walls” standing out as an instant classic. There’s also a seven minute masterpiece in the form of “Tormentum” that’s undeniably perfect.

“Hold On” is likely to become a staple in the band’s live sets, but is weak in comparison to the previously mentioned other numbers, though does contain a music video that makes interesting social commentary on the digital age (hence the album title). Surprisingly, the band end things with a cover of Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell,” a curious yet admirable choice to close things out with.

If you’ve already been bit by the Queensryche bug, this shouldn’t be hard for you to get into; even purists who still can’t get past the fact that Geoff Tate is no longer fronting the band might be able to find something worthwhile that’s assembled here.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Film Review: Hocus Pocus 2 (Walt Disney Pictures)

By: Jesse Striewski

The original Hocus Pocus from 1993 was an innocent enough family film from Disney; while not a “hit” at the time, over the years it has since grown to cult status thanks to repeated showings during the Halloween season and seeping its way into pop culture via costumes and various other merchandise and yearly decorations.

Nearly three full decades later, Disney finally had enough foresight to realize the time was right to reunite Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy as the Sanderson sisters from the first film for another round of Halloween mischief. If you’ve already seen the original film, then it should come as no surprise just how the three witches appear in Salem again. And just like the first film, they’re put in plenty of familiar fish-out-of-water scenarios with amusing results (the Walgreens scene is fairly ingenious, albeit a shameless cross-promotion all the same).

Gone though are the rest of the old cast and characters (aside from Doug Jones, who also returns as the zombie Billy), an unfortunate missed opportunity, as well as director Kenny Ortega’s presence. The effects this time around are also noticeably lazier, and of course, you can’t make a Disney film in 2022 without at least some underlying message of “equality” (though thankfully not overly in-your-face as some others). Overall though, the young newcommers are definitely admirable with what material they have to work with here.

All in all, Hocus Pocus 2 is a fairly harmless adventure, sure to please all the little ghouls and goblins in your haunted house this Halloween.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Album Review: Darkthrone – Astral Fortress (Peaceville Records)

By: Jesse Striewski

I’m not as privy when it comes to black metal these days as I might have once been, but Darkthrone is one band I still hold appreciation for no matter how distant from the genre I may have become. At this point, core members Fenriz and Nocturno Culto have become the Lennon and McCartney of the extreme metal genre.

Astral Fortress, the band’s twentieth full-length album (released just one year since their previous outing, Eternal Hails), finds the group hard at work conjuring more sinister numbers that sound as though they came straight from hell. No time is wasted right off the bat, as the band unleash the nearly eight-minute long “Caravan of Broken Ghosts.” And although only seven tracks total, the length of many songs makes it feel even longer, with “The Sea Beneath the Seas of Seas” clocking in at over ten minutes long. Other titles like “Kevorkian Times” and “Eon 2” are more straight forward and direct to the point.

I usually have to be in the right mood to listen to black metal, but once I do I usually find myself totally immersed in the isolated nature of it all. Darkthrone are a force to be reckoned with, and a perfect starting point for anyone just now getting into extreme metal.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Ray Parker Jr. at Epcot’s Eat to the Beat Concert Series in Orlando, FL on 10/21/22 By Jesse Striewski/Photos By Brooke Striewski

2022 has been an unprecedented year of eclectic live events of all sorts for Rewind It Magazine, thanks largely in part to the various concerts held at Epcot in Orlando, FL, the most recent of them being Ray Parker Jr. at the park’s latest Eat to the Beat concert series on Friday, October 21.

Although forever known for being the composer and performer of the hit 1984 single “Ghostbusters” (which served as the theme to the film of the same name), Parker has been churning out hits since the ’70s as founding member of funk/R&B outfit Raydio, as well as his collaborations with numerous artists like Stevie Wonder and Barry White.

Parker’s set that night appropriately featured hits throughout his career, opening with two tracks from his Raydio days, “Jack and Jill,” “You Can’t Change That,” and “A Woman Needs Love (Just Like you Do),” three tracks that I had previously forgotten even existed (the middle number being what I actually refer to as a ‘Walgreens’ song, which is what I called songs that used to play while I worked there years ago).

Parker than followed this up with his 1982 hit “The Other Woman” from the album of the same name before indulging in a brief guitar solo. After that, he went into “that song,” and fans in attendance clutching their Ghostbusters records were finally able to fully rejoice.

The song is truly timeless, stretching across multiple generations and living on nearly four decades after its original release. Hooky no doubt but still fun nonetheless, especially in a live setting, and I’m sure everyone who was there to hear it in person last weekend would surely agree.

Retrospective: 40 Years Since ‘Halloween III: Season of the Witch’ By Jesse Striewski

Unlike the majority of fans, my introduction to the Halloween franchise actually came long before I even knew the first thing about Michael Myers. I was rounding near ten years old, and my family had just finally upgraded to cable television for the first time ever when I was searching through the channels late one October evening to discover Halloween III: Season of the Witch.

It was probably playing on USA Network or one of those other channels like it at the time, and it was well into three quarters of the movie already. My very first impression of a Halloween movie actually had nothing to do with Michael Myers, but was of Tom Atkins stalking around a dark, desolate town, with a creepy synth-driven score from John Carpenter and Alan Howarth accentuating the overall eerie scene. I was hooked, and having no prior frame of reference, it did not matter to me who was or was not in the film, or the previous entries that came before it.

When Halloween III: Season of the Witch, directed by Tommy Lee Wallace, first dropped in theaters on October 22, 1982, it was meant to be the first of numerous anthology films centered around Halloween itself, rather than just a monster with a knife. But audiences were not quite prepared for such a drastic change at the time, despite the endless possibilities this concept could have brought (the film was a modest box office success, earning just over $14 million on a $2.5 million budget).

Atkins stars as Dr. Dan Challis, a middle -aged, divorced, drunken physician who gets drawn into a web of evil and destruction after a man dies on his watch at the hospital, clutching a mysterious Halloween mask manufactured by a company called Silver Shamrock. When the deceased man’s sexy young daughter (Stacey Nelkin) starts looking for answers, Challis is more than willing to assist her with the task (and then some).

A display of the fictional town portrayed in the film, Santa Mira, from Fantasm Orlando on 10/3/21 (photo by Brooke Striewski).

The two soon uncover that Silver Shamrock is the work of Conal Cochran (Daniel O’Herlihy), a Pagan warlock hell-bent on unleashing unspeakable evil across the world via the masks on Halloween night. It quickly becomes a race against time to prevent the madman from seeing his destructive plot through and causing harm to an untold number of innocent lives.

While it’s taken some time, Halloween III: Season of the Witch has finally reached a level of cult status it rightfully deserved. Last year at the Fantasm horror convention Orlando, FL, there was not only countless amounts of merchandise from the film for the eye to see, but I was lucky enough to meet Atkins himself (see photo below).

When asked why he thought the film has seen such a resurgence in popularity in recent times, Atkins simply said; “I don’t know why people love it so much, but it just seems to be becoming more popular every year!” His reply might have been modest, but I can easily point to the number of reasons why it’s not only my favorite Halloween film, but also one of my favorite horror movies of all time. Not only does it hold a special place for me for being my introduction to the series, it beautifully emobodied everything about the creepiest day of the year on a level that very few films in the genre have managed to capture before or since.

Actor Tom Atkins with (from left to right) Rewind It’s Jacob, Jesse, and Brooke Striewski at Fantasm Orlando on 10/3/21.

Film Review: Halloween Ends (Miramax/Blumhouse/Universal Pictures)

By: Jesse Striewski

So, Halloween finally ends, huh? For me, it was over twenty years ago when Michael Myers offed Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) in 2002’s Resurrection, but that’s just me. Last year’s atrocious Halloween Kills had to be my least favorite of all the films in the franchise (next to only the Rob Zombie entries), but what can really be said about this latest installment that hasn’t already been said, and without giving away too much?

On the surface, it could just be considered an experiment gone terribly, terribly wrong. But there’s much to unpack here. And in the five days since its release, audiences have almost universally panned the film for the direction it takes. It starts out a basic origin story, highlighting the torment and eventual descent into madness of the bullied Corey Cunnigham (Rohan Campbell). The problem that exists – other than the fact that this takes away from the Michael vs. Laurie showdown that everyone was hoping for – is who is this character, and why in the hell should we even care about him?

The ensuing love story aspect between Cunnigham and Laurie’s adorable granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) actually works in its own weird way, but feels better suited for another film entirely. But that aside, the rest of what is left is a heaping pile of metaphorical mess, clumped together by Director David Gordon Green’s would-be unique vision. Even the “kills” feel forced and largely unnecessary, if one can actually believe that.

Speaking of unnecessary, this entire newer trilogy that began in 2018 could have honestly just never happened and the world would not have missed a single beat. In fact, the best thing to even comes out of these films in my opinion has simply been the well-crafted John and Cody Carpenter (and Daniel Davies) composed music score, which was indeed the highlight of Ends (throwing in the Dead Kennedys’ “Halloween” during a party scene was a nice touch as well).

But you know where the music and storylines were even better? The original films. I’d much rather go back and re-watch Halloween III: Season of the Witch (my personal favorite, and yes that’s right, the one without Michael Myers) any day of the week. With that being said, keep an eye out for an upcoming 40th anniversary piece on the latter, dropping at the end of the week on Rewind It Magazine!

Rating: 1.5/5 Stars

Album Review: Skid Row – The Gang’s All Here (earMUSIC)

By: Jesse Striewski

It’s ironic how the same “fans” that continue to kick and scream for Skid Row to reunite with former frontman Sebastian Bach are also the same folks who can’t name a song of theirs past the three “hits” that still receive considerable mainstream radio airplay.

Sure, Bach’s era with the band was no doubt their peak, but they’ve long since moved on without him, going through a host of different singers in the meantime and avoiding opening up the door to that former toxic relationship again (regardless of which party was in the “wrong” is really besides the point; I know I’m personally not about to go back to one of my crazy ex’s if something were to ever happen to my wife and I). Besides, plenty of other band’s have had successful careers without the face originally at the forefront…Iron Maiden comes to mind.

But I digress; newcomer Erik Gronwall’s more than an admirable fit for the band on his debut album with them, The Gang’s All Here (their first release since both 2014’s United World Rebellion: Chapter Two EP, and the passing of former singer Johnny Solinger). The second “Hell Or High Water” hits the needle, I knew this was on a much different level from any of the work they’ve put out in more recent years with Solinger.

Ironically, the album’s first two singles, “Time Bomb” and “Tear it Down,” were my least favorite of the bunch. Numbers like “Resurrected,” “When the Lights Go Down,” and the epic seven minute power ballad “October’s Sky,” were reminiscent of 1991’s classic Slave to the Grind album, and far more interesting.

I’m actually surprised by how much I truly liked The Gang’s All Here; if the guys keep this up, they might be able to continue putting out more solid releases like this with Gronwall at the helm, despite what the critics may say or want.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Film Review: Spirit Halloween: The Movie (Strikeback Studios/Hideout Pictures)

By: Jesse Striewski

On the surface, Spirit Halloween: The Movie appears to be not much more than one long promo ad for the annual store in which it takes its name from. But despite its obvious flaws and cheesy-ness, it actually works as family entertainment in the same vein as the Goosebumps films, with a nostalgic touch similar to Stranger Things thrown in for good measure as well.

The plot is far from groundbreaking; a trio of adolescent friends (played by newcommers Donavan Colan, Jaiden J. Smith, and Dylan Frankel) faced with the pressures of growing up and the societal norms that come along with it, decide to spend Halloween night in said novelty store. But of course the ghost of a crabby old landlord (Christopher Lloyd) cursed by a witch before his demise in the 1940’s, is haunting the joint and looking for a permanent new body to possess before it’s too late.

Former ’90s babe Rachel Leigh Cook co-stars as the mother of one of the young boys, and Marla Gibbs (best known from such ’70s and ’80s staples as The Jeffersons and 227) plays the strange but wise old grandmother of one of the other children, each bringing just a tad more talent to the mostly unknown cast.

Spirit Halloween (the store) has become a pop culture staple, and an annual tradition as common as the haunted house for many. All in all, the film is harmless (perhaps even a bit shameless, depending on your viewpoint) fun, and perfect fodder for the spooky season.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Album Review: DL Serios – Pecker (Ghoul Tone Records)

By: Jesse Striewski

Decades after originally fronting notorious underground south Florida punk outfit Dead Serios, lead vocalist DL Serios (a.k.a. band mastermind and artist extraordinaire Christopher Long) has emerged with his first solo record, Pecker. But was it worth the wait?

Based off its cover alone, Pecker is everything one might expect it to be; juvenile and ambitious, yet not to be taken too seriously. Lead off single/party anthem “Feeling Freakie” kicks things off on a high note, and features the adorable Katty Pleasant on co-vocals with a fun music video to go along with it. Other fast-paced Ramones-inspired numbers like “Piss Test” and my personal favorite, “Smile Sara, Smile,” are harmless little ditties worth cranking any time of the day.

But tracks like “Me-Me, No-No” and “Boom Chick a-Pop” are a bit too on the silly side to take all that serious. All in all, Pecker is eight straight-forward tracks that don’t pretend to be anything other than what they are, but it may just be a tad too far on the niche side to appeal to a much broader audience than it already has.

Rating: 2.5/5 Stars

Film Review: This is GWAR (Shudder)

By: Jesse Striewski

If any band deserves an in-depth, career-spanning documentary, it’s everyone’s favorite shock rockers/Scumdogs of the Universe, GWAR, and I was a bit surprised by just how invested in This is GWAR I found myself becoming while watching it.

Beginning with the band’s early roots as a collective art outfit founded by Hunter Jackson and the late Dave Brockie in the mid-80s, the film goes through the band’s evolution and entire history in great detail (the way a proper documentary should). Along the way there’s copious amounts of interesting tid bits and fascinating footage that should delight even the most casual fan.

The only real downside is the rapid pace that sometimes speeds through certain eras of the band faster than desired. Personally, I would’ve liked a tad more emphasis on the making of lesser-received albums such as Ragnarok or We Kill Everything. Still, aside from including interviews from several past and present members of the band, there’s a number of celebrities that lend their thoughts and help the story along as well, including Alex Winter, Thomas Lennon, and even “Weird Al” Yankovic himself.

It’s safe to say that my interest in GWAR was put firmly back in place since viewing the film, and I’ve found myself falling down a rabbit hole of sorts and revisiting a lot of the band’s music again; hopefully it will have the same effect on you as well.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars