For those who possess any love whatsoever for soundtracks from the dark side of cinema, it is difficult to fully relay how comprehensive and essential Blood on Black Wax truly is.
Co-authored by the great Rue Morgue Music Editor and “Listen to my Nightmare”/”Audio Drome” columnist Aaron Lupton — he also contributed to our 2015 Christopher Lee metal appreciation — and Jeff Szpirglas (“author of over 20 books…ranging from horror novels to nonfiction tomes about fear, flatulence, and the human brain”), this lush, enlightening, meticulously curated guide is a pure revelation that will have you running to the used stacks of your local flea market/record store in search of lost gems and forgotten sonic phantasms.
The chapter “Rock N’ Roll Nightmares” will no doubt be of particular interest to Decibel readers with its deep dive exploration of “metalsploitation,” appropriate reverence for Fastway’s 1986 Trick or Treat soundtrack, and other related phenomenon.
Below will find three teeny-tiny tantalizing appetizers that blew my mind as I gorged on this epic-beyond-belief, much-needed tome.
1. The band Headmistress from the 1984 horror flick Rocktober Blood has a delightfully insane back story.
“Let’s set up by this coffin. The kids love this death crap.”
So says not-so-intrepid MVTV journalist Rick Righteous as he and his cameraman prepare to shoot a live report from the Rocktober Blood ’84 tour — which just so happens to be the one year anniversary of the execution of metal frontman Billy “Eye” Harper “for the mass murder of twenty-five rock n’ rollers.” Of course, Eye’s backing band isn’t going to let a little thing like a pile of dead fans get in the way of the music, man, and they’re back under the moniker Headmistress.
You don’t have to be a Rick Righteous to suspect this might not turn out well for Rocktober Blood attendees. (In fact, it probably helps not to be — Righteous’ nose for news is currently occupied by blow and he’s oblivious to the highly telegraphed B-movie violence ahead. See 15:00 – 17:00 here.)
What’s considerably more layered and nuanced than the Rocktober Blood plot, however, is the tale of how the L.A.-based band Sorcery came to portray Headmistress in the film and contribute four songs to the soundtrack.
Take it away, Blood on Black Wax:
As the story goes, Sorcery was a theatrical hard rock band former in the late 70s that incorporated illusions into its stage show while two actors playing the roles of Merlin and Satan engaged in battle. In 1983 they were getting ready to appear on Dick Clark’s A Magical Musical Halloween TV special with INXS and Billy Joel when they were approached to write a soundtrack for the super-low-budget metalsploitation movie.
Adding to the bizarro charm of the whole endeavor “vocalist David Glen Eisley fell ill and was replaced with Nigel Benjamin from Mott the Hoople” (?!).
Check out the band shredding through the uber-80’s “Killer on the Loose” in the film below:
2. The eponymous band from Black Roses actually had a real pedigree—and a record out on Metal Blade.
Rather than attempt to distill the plot of this gloriously schlocky attempt to make Tipper Gore’s circa 88 fears come to life I’ll just leave the trailer right here:
Black Roses, the Blood on Black Wax authors note, “is chock full of crazy latex monster action, big hair, outrageous fashion, and, well, not exactly the most evil heavy metal music you’ve ever heard.”
The glam outfit formed to record songs under the moniker, however, was both fake and…totally for fucking real, boasting among its ranks Grammy nominated shredder Alex Masi (Dark Lord/Attack of the Neon Shark), Mick Sweda (King Kobra, Bulletboys), Chuck Wright (the ridiculously under-appreciated Giuffria, Quiet Riot, Sam Kinison’s Leader of the Banned), Carmine Appice (Vanilla Fudge, Rod Stewart, Blue Murder, Mart Friedman), and Marcie Free (Unruly Child, King Kobra).
It takes some serious chops and effort for a studio band not to be overshadowed by heavy-hitters such as Bang Tango, Lizzie Borden, and Hallow’s Eve, but Black Roses nonetheless manages to pull off some surprisingly lithe and effective hair metal on jams like “Soldiers of the Night”:
What’s more, the band also jumped from the blood-speckled silver screen to the roster of one of the greatest, most respected metal labels in existence.
From Blood on Black Wax:
Metal Blade Records got in on the action and released the Black Roses soundtrack using the same amazing artwork that graced the movie poster and VHS box (which used a raised 3-D pop up effect) in 1988. And don’t be swindled by incredibly pricey listings online; thanks to its major metal label release, Black Roses is a relatively easy find and should be possessing your turntable.
That means in 1988 Black Roses could technically describe themselves as labelmates with Armored Saint, Betsy, Fates Warning, D.R.I., and Cryptic Slaughter.
The threat was real!
3. The Shocker (1989) soundtrack took us to the rock supergroup mountaintop…then tossed us (and themselves) into the abyss.
Maybe it’s because I caught the flick during its theatrical run as a young teenager — its apparent target audience, despite the R-rating — but I’ve always had a soft spot for Wes Craven’s Shocker, the irrepressibly goofy 1989 follow-up to the director’s hyper serious, ultra bleak 1988 effort The Serpent and the Rainbow.
Thanks to an equally of-its-time music video that received what I recall to be fairly regular rotation on MTV, the soundtrack is mostly remembered for Megadeth’s snarling cover of Alice Cooper’s “No More Mr. Nice Guy”:
What gets overlooked, alas, is an improbably stellar contribution summoned into existence by the film’s executive producer/legendary music biz manager Shep Gordon and music supervisor/legendary producer Desmond Child (both of whom were instrumental in Cooper’s triumphant comeback album Trash, released the same year as Shocker.)
More Blood on Black Wax:
Child formed a hair metal supergroup called The Dudes of Wrath for the soundtrack, and their title song kicks off both the movie and the album. “Shocker” is an absolutely awesome, hammering heavy anthem featuring Paul Stanley and Child himself on vocals, former Diorites guitarist Vivian Campbell, Whitesnake’s Rudy Sarzo on bass, and Motley Crue’s Tommy Lee on drums.
Indulge the weirdly great, frothy amalgamation here:
The track is fun and deft enough to leave you wondering if perhaps — no disrespect to Iggy Pop, Megadeth, or Dangerous Toys intended — the Dudes perhaps should have recorded an entire album’s worth of this stuff.
Any such musings will be quickly and mercilessly dispelled, however, by the supergroup’s decidedly un-super second contribution to the soundtrack, “ShockDance,” a tedious misstep “featuring Cooper and actor Mitch Pileggi (Horace Pinker) rapping over a slowed-down version of the ‘Shocker’ riff.”
Sometimes, dead is better.