New Autumns Eyes Album Coming This Halloween

Get stoked for a killer fall-themed metal experience!

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autumns-eyes-3I always love it when my favorite things collide, and that’s what happens whenever Autumns Eyes releases a new album, combining horror, a fall atmosphere, and metal together as one!

At the crossroad between a hallowed holiday and the cusp of a dead cold winter is where you’ll find Autumns Eyes mastermind Daniel Mitchell. After many seasons of seclusion and intermittently hitting the studio, the recording process has finally wrapped up for the new album titled Ending Life Slowly.

Mitchell is no stranger to the darker side of creativity, and crafts music free of constraints or label interference. Ending Life Slowly strikes a balance between somber reflections on mortality and full-force screaming metal, with cover art to reflect the album’s dreary nature crafted by Indonesian artist Sorrow Grips (Gojira).

Due out on October 31st, Ending Life Slowly serves as the first full-length album from Autumns Eyes since the 2012 release of Please Deceive Me. Halloween and the death of Fall is a perfect time to be reminded that sometimes life ends far too slowly.

Mitchell had this to say about the impending album release:

“Living in New England has always made it easy to draw from the month of October for creative inspiration, with life breathing its flaming colors into all the surrounding trees. Unfortunately, these themes can only be revisited every so often before it becomes repetitive. That’s why I reached into the month of November for inspiration. A time when Fall is still thriving, but where color has faded and the trees are bare as skeletons.

“While a walk through the woods here in October can be a relaxing activity, doing the same in November carries an overwhelming sense of dread. You’re surrounded by death, and the trees no longer sway and breathe with the air. They’re cold, stiff, bare, and knock together like bones breaking in the sky.

autumns-eyes-1“This atmosphere is what fueled the writing process for Ending Life Slowly, with death and decay surrounding every element of each track. It’s a cliche topic to write about in heavy metal music, but my approach here was focused more on the immense weight death can hold over one’s shoulders. To sit an truly contemplate what it means for all things to come to an end was a sobering experience to say the least.

“I always look at music as sonic therapy, but this was the one time where music couldn’t offer any kind of solace. It just reminded me that life can either go by too fast, or it can end too slowly.”

Check out the album’s artwork and track listing:

  • 1. Death of October
  • 2. Break the Skin
  • 3. Your Last Day
  • 4. Moments Into Memories
  • 5. The Honest Liars
  • 6. Couldn’t Hold On
  • 7. Far Away From Fading
  • 8. Internal Arson
  • 9. Open Your Eyes, Not Your Wrists
  • 10. Under the Skin of the Sun

 

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A Whirlwind Tour of Horror Roleplaying

From investigative mythos madness to hilarious cartoon parodies, there’s a whole lot of tabletop RPGs out there for the horror fan!

October is prime time to put that dungeon-delving 5th edition campaign on hold and temporarily put away that shiny new copy of Starfinder to dust off all the horror RPG manuals!

While there are plenty of the usual suspects everyone knows about — like Call Of Cthluhu or Vampire: The Masquerade — horror gaming has a lot more to offer than just those staple entries.

Those settings and adventures that are well known tend to get rehashed, again and again, to the point where they lose any purpose. I mean, how many times has Expedition To Castle Ravenloft been printed in new editions and formats at this point? How many editions of Call Of Cthulhu have re-tread that introductory Haunted House adventure?

Instead of giving you the same thing yet again, I’m going to take you on a tour of some more offbeat horror offerings ranging from toddlers facing the monster under the bed to geriatric cosmic horror and beyond!

Trail Of Cthulhu

trailAlthough very much in the same vein as Call Of Cthulhu, the Trail system goes in a different direction, simplifying the rules and focusing solidly on the investigative aspects.

The biggest change is that investigative skills never fail. The players always find the clue, the question is just how much info they really get from finding the clue.

The tone and descriptions change quite a bit here as well, with many varied (and in my opinion, much better) explanations as to what any given mythos entity might really be.

In 2014 I put together my own four episode, police task force campaign inspired by the first season of True Detective using this ruleset’s offbeat interpretation of Yig (complete with opening video / music sequence like a TV show). It was easily the best game our group ever played.

There aren’t a ton of print scenarios you’ll find in stores for Trail, but what its lacking in quantity is made up in quality with the nearly 400 page mega adventure Eternal Lies. If you don’t mind PDFs, there are a ton of digital scenarios for this system available through the publisher and at sites like DriveThruRPG or Paizo.

GURPS Horror

gurps_horrorThere have been a handful of different iterations of this particular tome throughout the years in different editions of GURPS, but I’m a fan of the 1990 release.

It’s kind of amazing to look back at this one and see what they list under recommended reading and viewing for books and horror movies, as its quite different from what you’ll see in similar sections of newer RPG manuals.

Despite the artwork being sort of silly throughout, there are some solid tips in here for running a horror campaign, and it features a really comprehensive overview of all things horror related.

From multiple iterations of the werewolf myth, to mad science, to non-horror hoax fakeouts, to 1920’s home brew hooch gone terribly wrong, and even onto cosmic Lovecraftian horror, really no stone is left unturned here. If you want a great idea spring board for a scary campaign, you can’t go wrong with GURPS Horror.

Little Fears / WOD Innocents

littlefearFor all the horror games available out there, not many are willing to tread into territory focused on bad things happening directly to children, or of having players take on the role of vulnerable kids.

Although there have since been a few attempts at this same idea by various publishers, Little Fears is probably the original and most influential role playing game to have players take on the role of kids in a world where nightmare creatures are real.

Its a very, very different experience than your typical sword and sorcery game, or even a modern horror storytelling campaign.

Around the time that the World Of Darkness was being rebooted from its ’90s angsty goth roots and updated in the ’04 – ’09 era with games like Promethean or Vampire: The Requiem, there was another take on this same idea with World Of Darkness: Innocents. If you dig the White Wolf style, you should check that one out, as it doesn’t tend to go for such astronomical used prices as the original Little Fears.

Slasher

slasherThis innovative World Of Darkness entry is really quite different in that it has YOU playing the slasher villains!

A scorned nurse angel of death, a calculating intelligent killer like Hannibal Lector, an unstoppable killing force bent on revenge, any slasher you can imagine can be built with these rules and put together into a coterie of malignant evil.

The cover and title are a little misleading though, because the description and front artwork give the impression this is a standalone World Of Darkness title like Vampire or Changeling. Its actually a (much larger than normal) source book for Hunter, and requires that base book to use.

Shadow of the Demon Lord

shadIf you’ve done Warhammer to death or want something a little newer that is superbly dark and horror-focused without leaving fantasy behind, Shadow Of The Demon Lord should be on your must-have list.

This one is very much inspired by the fantasy post-apocalypse world of Grim Dawn, and it offers a killer combo of Warhammer, D&D, and Call Of Cthulhu.

Corruption and insanity are built directly into the rules, rather than being tacked on extras in a supplement, as its assumed your characters will have to do something awful or immoral at some point in order to survive.

I remember some years back picking up the Dragon Age tabletop RPG box set that billed itself as “dark fantasy roleplaying,” but being disappointed that it really didn’t fit the bill as advertised. Shadow Of The Demon Lord meanwhile brings the darkness, and in spades! I covered this one in a lot more detail earlier this summer right here.

Dark Heresy / Black Crusade

blackcrusadeThere’s a whole lot of horror in the Warhammer universe, with that franchise often given as the baseline example of what is meant by the term “grimdark.”

Although they no longer have the license, for several years Fantasy Flight put out a stellar line of Warhammer 40,000 games and accessories, and they didn’t skimp on the horror, either mundane or supernatural.

While in Dark Heresy you can play as agents of the Inquisition rooting out heretics and battling the forces of Chaos, the unexpected Black Crusade line of games had you playing as the bad guys.

There’s a ton of storytelling potential there for disgusting Chaos cultists who worship the lord of plague Nurgle, or time-warped Chaos Space Marines who want vengeance on the Emperor, to just regular old downtrodden citizens of the Imperium who are tired of being stepped on and are willing to make a deal with the devil to improve their lives.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer

buffyMy wife and her extended family are all big fans of the show (they hate the movie, obviously) but honestly I’m not too big on it, as I didn’t grow up with it and never got attached. Just to round all the bases of fandoms hating me, I should probably point out here that I don’t like Dr. Who either. Come at me, bro.

So what’s this game doing here? Simply put, the rules are fucking inspired. This has got to be, hands down, the absolute best RPG system for any modern day game I’ve ever come across.

It’s essentially the World Of Darkness d10 system, except that there are no dice pools. Absolutely every action is handled with one single d10 roll, and the target number is always the same, so you always know immediately whether you failed or succeeded, and to what degree you succeeded.

If you have a group of newbies, or a group that isn’t interested in a rules-heavy game, you should be using this system. When we play Call Of Cthulhu, we ditch that game’s clunky d100 system and use this rule set instead. Seriously, this is some elegant game design, even if you don’t care about the series its attached to. Who would have guessed you needed to head to Sunnydale to find the best RPG system?

Ten Candles

There’s no question Ten Candles is one of the most interesting examples of style-meets-substance on the RPG front in years. The title is literal — you play by the light of ten tea light candles, and when then last one burns out, the game is over.

Even more deadly than a typical Call Of Cthulhu campaign, it is assumed there will be no survivors at all by the game’s end. The developers describe it as “a game about being pushed to the brink of madness and despair, searching for hope in a hopeless world, and trying to do something meaningful with your final few hours left.”

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Pathfinder APs

path1I’ve been following Pathfinder for a lot of years now, even before the end of Paizo’s run with the Dragon and Dungeon magazines.

I have very fond (and amused) memories of asking a game store owner if he had gotten the next issue of Rise Of The Runelords and being met with a blank stare and a “are you sure that’s a real game?” Now no game store in their right mind would even think of not carrying all things Paizo.

Along the way the game (and its fanbase) has changed quite a bit, and I’ll be honest here — it’s no longer my go-to system.

There was a time though, when Paizo was delivering surprise after surprise and constantly kept the fans always wanting to know what was coming next. Carrion Crown had to be one of the most unexpected adventure paths to arrive, covering a different horror trope in each volume, from a House On Haunted Hill scenario in the first adventure,  to Frankenstein’s Monster (in full D&D golem glory) in the second, werewolves in the third, and so on.

path2Even more unexpected was the Cthulhu mythos scenario from fourth adventure Wake Of The Watcher, providing stats and backgrounds for various cosmic horror monsters. I read that issue over and over to get Paizo’s unique take on the darkness between the stars and all those things man was not meant to know.

That adventure would go on to inspire its own full Lovecraftian adventure path called Strange Aeons years later, which kicks off with the classic scenario of the investigators not knowing who they are or why they are in an asylum.

Although the Strange Aeons path is really more combat-focused than this sort of game should be, if you want a King In Yellow campaign for D&D rather than Call Of Cthulhu, do yourself a favor and pick up these adventures.

Horror Rules

horrorrulesI grabbed this one on a whim while perusing cheap used RPG books on Amazon and I’m glad I did.

It doesn’t take itself too seriously, and this is a fun little system for some one-shot horror games with a good dosage of comedy, utilizing some interesting and unique ideas. The art isn’t great, but it more than makes up for that with heart and some wink-wink, nudge-nudge action at the reader.

I think what most sticks with me is that the publisher is called Crucifiction Games. I still can’t figure out if that’s supposed to be a dig at Christianity (as in the crucifixion was fiction), or if this game is by a Christian company that didn’t realize the combination of words looks really bad for them. Either way, I sort of love it.

Tooniversal Tour Guide

tooniversalHold up now, what the heck is TOON doing here? Horror isn’t always candles in the dark or people going mad when they realize their existence is utterly pointless.

Sometimes, its hilarious comedy instead (you really wanna tell me Tucker And Dale Versus Evil or Dead And Breakfast aren’t horror movies?).

If you haven’t played the overlooked TOON, its literally Saturday morning cartoons — Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Marvin the Martian, the whole bit — translated into a tabletop RPG, and it’s awesome.

The Tooniversal Tour Guide was a supplement meant to expand the game’s range out into unexpected places, letting you play different kinds of cartoon stories involving ’50s monsters, Mad Max style car battles, or supernatural themed toons like the Real Ghostbusters.

If you look carefully on the cover, in the left corner you may see a purple tentacled thing hailing from the Crawl of Catchoolu segment, which has your cartoon investigators facing off against the Elderly Ones. Yeah, you read that correctly. It’s a good time, and something to try out if you need a humorous roleplaying night that isn’t Paranoia

Many More!

kuroI’ve got a pretty extensive collection of RPGs (the word “vast” might not be uncalled for), from seriously old school unknown gems from the ’80s to the latest 2017 releases, but there are a few horror entries I haven’t had the pleasure of picking up yet.

Of those I haven’t played, there are probably three I’ve most had my eye on and want to pick up next.

chillFirst up is the hard-to-find Japanese horror game Kuro from Cubicle 7. This indie developer has put together some amazing tabletop RPGs like The One Ring (easily the best Lord Of The Rings roleplaying game ever) and World War Cthulhu, so I’m confident that one will be worth the buy eventually.

Going back further to the golden era of tabletop gaming, I sadly missed out both on Chill, and on the constantly praised Unknown Armies.

Anybody had any experience with those systems? Let me know what you thought and if it’s worthwhile to lay down the cash to pick ’em up used these days!

unknown

Coming of age… and killing demonic clowns

Finally saw IT! Sadly, it will be my last theater movie for a long time…

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The smash success of fall blockbuster It was the last movie I’m going to get to see at the theater for quite some time (so please, please don’t spoil Star Wars for me before it comes to VOD). After a year and a half of sitting at movies with us without complaint, our little angel Gannicus decided to finally trade in his halo and become a monster.

He adorably tried to sing along to Beauty And The Beast, stared in slack-jawed wonder while shrieking “woah!” at Rogue One, and even quietly watched all the action in Logan, but sadly with It we got a dose of terrible toddler syndrome, and the age of getting to sit peacefully in the auditorium to catch a flick are over.

This change in behavior with the onset of age was a surprisingly on-point metaphor for the movie itself, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

So what did I like about it? Pretty much everything, and even some things I didn’t think would work. Normally I’m not a fan of comic relief in movies, but It is surprisingly hilarious with the quips the kids from the Loser’s Club would throw out at each other. These interactions frequently felt like what a group of kids out of earshot of any adults would say or do.

My favorite movie line now is probably “You punched me in the face, made me walk through shitty water, dragged me to a crackhouse, and now I’ve got to kill this fucking clown.”

What didn’t I like? Really only two things: the decidedly un-scary Pennywise (Skarsgard was just a high pitched, whiny dancing clown… not a menacing evil from beyond time and space), and his teethCGI teeth.

When he was standing still in the sewer the teeth had a killer look, but as soon as they chomped down, the illusion was shattered. CGI gets used heavily in the ending sequence as well, and it just didn’t need to be.

I just can’t stress this enough… if you are making a horror movie, then the only words that should even be in your lexicon should be “practical effects.” If you’re thinking of using a computer to whip up something scary, you’ve already failed.

Here’s the thing though, and this wasn’t apparent right of the bat… It isn’t actually a horror movie. It belongs solidly in the same category as Goonies, Super 8, or Stranger Things, and not in the same category as Baskin or The Void.

No one was more surprised by this fact than me, but trust me, the movie is still completely worth seeing, and actually works better for focusing on the coming-of-age kid adventure aspects than on the killer clown aspects.

It’s been a lot of years since I saw the Tim Curry TV mini-series or read the book, so I can’t recall if its actually more prevalent here or if I’ve just noticed it more now, but this version of the story seems to be making the point that Pennywise was just a metaphor. I don’t actually think there was meant to be a literal monster at all.

it_2017_2_758_426_81_s_c1“It” was the kid’s transitioning into adulthood while learning to overcome their “demons,” whether it was a rapey dad, an overbearing mom, a brother gone missing who will never be found, the prejudice of a town that doesn’t tolerate your skin color or your parent’s education decisions, and so on.

This really comes into focus in the ending fight scene. Unknowable evil entities from the angles between realities (“Todash Space” in King’s mythos) aren’t defeated by failing to be afraid of them. That’s nonsense. They wouldn’t care in the slightest about how children feel about them, and they wouldn’t utterly fail to kill a small group of children after wiping out large portions of the town in every previous cycle of waking.

It seems more likely that the kids just concocted this idea about bad things happening due to one particular evil entity at specific intervals to handle the sad reality of life. It was their way of coping with the realization that missing children will be forgotten about – literally postered over in one scene of the movie – after enough time passes and another child goes missing.

stephen-kings-it-sink-scene-2017-987362Another dead giveaway is the blood soaked bathroom scene (which was harrowing, by the way), arriving after they took the time to show Beverly secretly buying tampons earlier in the film. This one really struck a chord with me because we’d recently seen some really unpleasant (and not particularly well done) bloody period “horror” in the abysmal Excision.

Rather than a killer clown trying to scare a little girl, this scene was clearly about Beverly going through puberty and experiencing menstruation for the first time. Her pedo dad, who only saw her for what she could offer him, didn’t see the blood at all, but her close friends immediately recognized the problem.

I’m wondering how much of that was left over from first director Cary Fukunaga’s original vision for the film, which reportedly diverged from the source material and focused on the plight of the kids as they grew up more than on the clown.

Either way, whether you choose to see the movie as a straightforward telling of a monster that wakes up every 27 years or a metaphor for something else, It was a surprisingly strong flick, especially for a King adaptation. Can’t wait to see what’s done with the second one coming in 2019, and hopefully by then little Gannicus will be able to sit still at the movies again!

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Rendered mute by the terror of… a baby?

People are dumb.

So this is a rarity, but this post has nothing to do with writing, heavy metal, video games, or horror movies. You might get a kick out if it though if you enjoy any of those things…

I had the most bizarre experience walking with my 1 year old son Gannicus Picard down to the gas station. We’re in line and I’m holding him on one arm and my reusable bag full of drinks in the other, when I notice he’s started spitting up some rather foul smelling something or other. It’s some gross white gunk that’s unpleasant, but not exactly The Exorcist level crazy, either. Not all that unusual for a baby, though, right?

I look at the lady at the register and ask “Hey, you got any napkins or paper towels or something?” and she stares at me, slack jawed, apparently unable to speak. She’s looking at me as though I’ve sprouted a second head. I ask again, and she remains open mouthed and utterly silent.

There’s a woman behind me who looks very mom-ish with a huge purse, so I turn and say “You got any wipes or something I can use?” and she’s staring at me, again utterly silent, as though I’ve not only sprouted a second head, but both of them are prophesying in tongues about the end times.

At this point I’m getting pretty pissed off, because both of these people can clearly see and hear me, but they are both just refusing to respond in any way, so I leave my spot in line and storm off to the counter to find some napkins… but there aren’t any.

There is a kid wiping down the counter with a rag though, who is somehow also fucking staring slack jawed and silent at me, as though I’ve sprouted two heads, one of them is prophesying in tongues, and the other one is shouting the contents of his browser history to his parents. Seriously, this kid looks TERRIFIED. I literally grab the rag out of his hand with a disgusted snort, wipe Gannicus and I off, and then hand it back to him. He says NOTHING during this encounter.

I go back up to the woman at the register, who finally finds her voice to ask about Gannicus as she rings me up… and the total for my soda and three beers somehow ends up $6.66, which makes her eyes go wide as saucers and renders her silent again, as I’m certain she now believes either my son or I are the Antichrist. All I can do is roll my eyes and toss a wad of bills at her before walking out.

Somehow a baby spitting up managed to render three separate human beings deaf, mute, and utterly terrified. I don’t think any of my horror stories have even managed that feat yet!

UPDATE: Someone made this comment on Facebook:

I feel like you’re leaving the part out where you were wearing a promo shirt from some black metal band from Norway that had an upside down burning cross on it or something.
So I just thought I’d address that, since yeah, me wearing a metal or video game band shirt would be within the realm of possibilities. In this case, it was a Great America Eclipse shirt.

 

The subject matter itself of course is harmless (unless you ascribe nefarious events to solar eclipses, which I suppose people who are afraid of the number 666 probably do…) although the shirt had a giant black image of the sun being blotted out that kind of looked like the logo to the Ring horror movies, so maybe that added to the Antichrist vibe for the horrified checker 🙂
A solar eclipse is seen from the beach of Ternate island

2017 Books You Should Be Checking Out

From horror to romance and sci-fi!

Now that Light Dawning fervor is dying down and work is underway on new material (stay tuned for info coming soon), let’s take a look at books from other authors you should be reading this year!

Grimdark Fantasy

darklandsM.L. Spencer’s Rhenwars series is getting a ton of praise lately, and the third and final book Darklands just came out earlier this summer.

Going a bit different direction is the highly-praised Kings Of The Wyld by Nicolas Eames, which interjects rock ‘n roll into the dark fantasy genre as a band of old mercenaries come back together for one last job.

If you like your fantasy to feature an orc invasion, don’t miss out on The Eighth God by Paul S. Lavender either!

 

Grimdark Sci-Fi

lucGrimdark is definitely focused on the fantasy lately, but don’t forget that it very much has roots in sci-fi, with the grand daddy of the genre of course being Warhammer 40,000.

Offering up a futuristic rendition of the dark fantasy style is C.T. Phipps and his space opera Lucifer’s Star.

 

 

 

Sci-Fi Romance

1861379684Now hold on a sec… romance you say? Yeah, it’s not my normal thing, but Wendie Nordgren’s Space Merchants series is actually some pretty legit action sci-fi that happens to have a lot of heavy breathing, beefcake princes, and will-they won’t-they going on.

Teagan starts from humble beginnings on earth but goes on to rule a galaxy-spanning empire. The Space Merchants series is now in its fifth iteration with the recently-released Spider Queen. The whole series just got some killer new covers as well.

 

How About Some Horror?

metalmagicBrian Barr has been pumping out some bizarre and wonderfully weird horror shorts this year, including the Three H trilogy (The Head, The House, and The Hell) along with some music themed stories, which of course always piques my interest.

This prolific author’s heavy metal / horror extravaganza Metal Magic is out now, with a punk themed follow-up also in the works and due out soon.

 

 

Speculative Fiction… With Dinosaur Races!

5120Vk0ivnLWe’ll cap this off with a fun anthology feature Stant Litore, a Facebook friend of mine since I read his biblical zombie epic Strangers In The Land a few years back.

The Jurassic Chronicles features 13 different authors all giving their take on everybody’s favorite extinct creatures brought to life!

Fantasy is missing the horror element

How often do eagles really swoop down and save you from certain doom?

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The epic MightyThorJrs blog was kind enough to host me for a new guest post, this time discussing the curious lack of horror in the fantasy genre. Some excerpts follow:

As much as I will always treasure those books and how they shaped my youth, that aspect of the genre doesn’t ring true for me. I can’t think of a single time that eagles ever swooped down – literally or metaphorically – to save me from certain doom. The local cleric has never brought a loved one back from the dead. Standing up for the oppressed very rarely results in recognition or reward, and can be actively dangerous.

When I was writing Light Dawning, I didn’t want to just surgically remove all those aspects of fantasy that felt like wish fulfillment or vicarious living through written characters – I wanted to viciously hack them apart, violently ripping them out with tooth and claw before throwing them into the uncaring fire. My take on the genre consists of forcibly colliding fantasy with an unpleasant dose of grim reality, then injecting some looming cosmic horror elements to take it all one step further into the abyss.

Check out the full article right here and be sure to check out the other recent posts there covering some killer new grimdark material!