There’s a niche of bands which embody the spirit of a very select catalogue of scuzzy and sleazy horror films from the 70s and 80s. They’re not just inspired by horror movies, they truly love the source material and capture something of how and when these flicks were made. Bands like scuzzy splatter aficionados Impetigo, basement-dwelling brutalists Mortician, sludgy gurgle grinders Bile, and the criminally unknown and underappreciated Frightmare. The music is savage, raw and disgusting – but a lot more than just gratuitous extremity. Apart from the aforementioned bands, I’ve struggled to find any others that combine that raw production, unrelenting brutality, blood-curdling atmosphere, and a unique and innovative approach to metal that reflects a deeper understanding and appreciation of the best horror. So when I came across a band called Video Nasties with album artwork that called to mind a Fulci film, my hopes were high.
However, on first listen, I didn’t take to Dominion at all. It sounded boosted and polished while I was looking for something primitive and raw. I thought it was merely melodic death metal crossed with punk, but the more I listened the more I noticed that there was something about it: an unmistakeable melancholy. A hollow feeling at the heart of all of the gore and perversion. Turns out this isn’t your usual horror-worshipping death metal at all. Video Nasties take Heartwork Carcass, Entombed death ‘n’ roll and increase the punk energy, but there’s something deeper and more intriguing going on.
From opener Stay Gold you can hear that there’s more to this than just shock tactics. The trailer highlights ‘love twisted into the malignant shape of evil’ before things get underway, all riffs and kicks. Not merely an ode to the joys of golden showers, its comparison to Catholic ritual and its thread of bitter doubt sets fetish and kink against emotional emptiness: ‘Is this not love that we share?’
Vocals are delivered as either measured shrieks or snarling rasps, vicious and precise and set against a melodic rot ‘n’ roll swagger. Alongside the razor sharp riffing and staccato palm muted attack there’s plenty of room set aside for sneer and swing, while there’s a unique creeping urgency to the leads. As the album develops there’s the kernel of a slowly blossoming sense of dread and foreboding – a thread that grows and carries throughout the duration.
Helvetica is a bitter and twisted blast of thrashing punk, with forlorn melodies and ascending/descending riffs. A weave of arresting imagery and engaging metaphor, the lyrics are clever and ironic, using horror and gore seemingly as a means to reveal and revel in tales of broken relationships, sexual depravity, and the hollow drudge of existence. Whether the intent is to create something rotten and sleazy or something much deeper, it’s very rare to find death metal lyrics that are any good let alone clever, creative, and meaningful.
The band are big fans of John Carpenter’s films and music. It’s obvious from Transvoltum which starts with its Prince of Darkness sample, but Video Nasties make efforts to reproduce the sounds and atmospheres of Carpenter’s scores within their song writing. Not that you’ll hear anything like those instantly recognisable horror themes, just that the songs are saturated in that sense of atmosphere, while still leaving plenty of room for straightforward melody.
Video Nasties take Heartwork Carcass, Entombed death ‘n’ roll and increase the punk energy, but there’s something deeper and more intriguing going on…
Video Nasties claim a strong influence from post-punk, and while you’re not going to hear John McGeoch, there are a fair few moments on Dominion where the band have incorporated the style. It’s an interesting twist and takes it out of predictable metal territory. The opening riff of BDSM love affair Red Of Night is a good example. A pretty blatant post-punk style riff and then thrashing metal madness henceforth.
Despite its rotten core, the production and playing on Dominion are undeniably slick and shining. It sounds big and arranged and polished. That quality is what put me off at first and despite many subsequent listens, still acts as something of a barrier for me. I feel like this album should dwell in the murk, the audio equivalent to VHS, but it’s more like watching The New York Ripper on Blu Ray. Saying that, Video Nasties are doing a lot more than just thrash and slash, and I think there’s a lot of latent elements that are going to show in later releases. I can hear something a lot more experimental and atmospheric clawing under the floorboards, trying to get out.
The album closes with They Rise, a depraved denouement of rotten romance and perverse passions. The final looping sample, ‘let the dead bury the dead’ takes on multiple meanings, showing that the movie samples on Dominion aren’t just the standard cool-sounding clips to play between songs. They’re used to create an atmosphere but have also been selected so that they become contextual choice taking on a new significance and becoming a reflection of the lyrical themes. The songs are less about murderous rampage and more about the bitter pain of failed relationships or the feeling of emptiness left in the aftermath of a satisfied kink.
Whether you’re just looking for some ripping modern metal that’s a bit different, or you’re interested in bands that are blazing their own trail, Video Nasties are very much worth your time. I’m sure that like the best horror films, the more you experience Dominion the more you will notice the wealth of unique ideas, cleverness of execution, and the deeper meaning in the details. It’s a cool mix, like death metal thrash crossover, a simultaneously good and bad time, a sad party rager, or a mad night and the inevitable comedown happening both at once.
Scribed by: Josuph Price