Artist: Van Helsing’s Curse
Title: “Oculus Infernum” (remaster)
Label: Fangoria Musick
Genre: Symphonic Horror Rock
I reviewed the initial release of Van Helsing’s Curse as one of my very first reviews several years ago and now that it has been re-issued on Fangoria Musick I felt that it was high time to revisit some of these thoughts. Read on Fiends and Fans of things that go bump in the night a dark and sinister adventure awaits you.
It was during the Halloween season of 2003 that we first saw the arrival of Van Helsing’s Curse join up to the world of Symphonic Power Rock and to understand them best you should think of The Trans-Siberian Orchestra with a devilishly devious Halloween twist. Because while the TSO brings you the spirit of Christmas and goodwill so do the members of the VHC make you aware that there is something out there, that you weren’t imagining the noise you heard in the middle of the night and that sometimes being afraid of the dark is the best idea you ever had. With all of the Christmas Carols that are available by the pound it was high time for the Feast Of Samhain to get its due and have a soundtrack of it’s own to help the ghouls and boys celebrate the day. The group has made it their business to address in Symphonic Rock fashion the long overlooked Halloween Season and while we have music like Alice Cooper, The Misfits and Wednesday 13 each delivering a spooky show it is clear that Van Helsing’s Curse will take us on a different journey altogether. The enterprise is the brainchild of Dee Snider (Twisted Sister’s notable front man) and Joe Franco (drummer for Twisted Sister, Widowmaker and the Good Rats) who together set out to do this holiday right. The pair are also joined by guitarist Al Pitrelli (Savatage, Megadeth, TSO) and violinist Mark Wood (TSO) who each help bring this material to life, or dare I say “back to life”, with their contributions.
Much like the premise of the TSO, there is an underlying story to the album, but the main difference is with the VHC we get Dee Snider as our narrator for the piece and he does his best to make your skin crawl with the tale of an evil that plagues a town and how they must defeat it lest they perish in cruel and unspeakable ways. After the intro narration, the track “Tubular Hell” begins and this powerful piece sets the tone for the rest of the CD quite well. It’s instantly recognizable as being similar to both Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells” (a song also known as The Exorcist theme) and a little bit of “In The Hall Of The Mountain King” by Grieg. Then there is “Let The Pain Begin” and this is a wonderful rendition of “Black Sabbath” but one that’s done with Operatic vocals and violins. “Let Me Prey” includes some of Carmina Burana by Orff and this is a dramatic piece that fits very well with the premise that the group is trying to deliver. While I quite enjoyed the CD, I did have some minor criticisms. It delivers the creepy and moody Halloween overtones with success, but I think one or two vocal numbers would have added to it a little more. I also had issue with Dee’s narration because while I liked it very much we don’t get the story presented in the all too limited booklet. With a storyline like this the buyer should have gotten a full booklet with the tale, images and illustrations to go along with it. I have to say that I loved the full musical score that was on the release and though I have yet to witness this in performance can say that if this is done with the level of quality as TSO then the audience shall be in for a truly twisted sack of Halloween goodies. This is a unique item and a recommended purchase and especially for those who want some creepy background music to get them into the Halloween spirit at any time during the year. “Something Wicked This Way Comes” – can you handle it?
The VHC Cast: Dee Snider (Narrator), Joe Franco (Drums & Percussion), Al Pitrelli (Guitars & Keyboards), Mark Wood (Lead Violin), Greg Smith (Bass), Schuyler Deale (Bass), Nick Cipriano (Keyboards), Jane Mangini (Piano), Derek Tailer (Bass), Doug Katsaros (Piano), Zak Soulam (Guitars), Vocalists (Michael Lanning, Tommy Farese, Sophia Ramos, Cheryl Smith).
Since its initial release on Koch Records, the album has been remastered and re-issued on Fangoria Musick and now comes with an additional two tracks, one of which is a vocal number. They work well within the context of the existing tunes and the first one is a stunning rendition of the “Halloween” theme and as any Horror fan will attest, this is music that has long sent cold shivers up their spines even in the apparent safety of the light. The second track is “Cry Little Sister” from the hit vampire film “Lost Boys” and it features Dee Snider on vocals. These additions have made it even more worthy of investigation by the curious. So take your first step down the cold damp stairs – there is nothing down there that is going to hurt you. Or is there?
The remastered version is only available via the Fangoria Musick link which is provided below.
2. Tubular Hell
3. All Fall Down
4. Let Me Prey
5. The Child
6. The Tortured Soul
9. Let The Pain Begin
10. The Curse
11. Halloween – bonus track
12. Cry Little Sister – bonus track