"Oculus Infernus" (KOCH; 2003)

Reviewed by Snidermann

Dee Snider and Twisted Sister literally wrote the book on mid-80s metal with their release of 1984's classic "Stay Hungry." Since then, Dee has done various projects and, in my opinion, they have been very well done.

In the early 2000s, Dee Snider went to a Trans Siberian Orchestra Christmas concert (on a personal note, I absolutely love TSO, those of you who are not familiar with TSO, check out their story online) and he thought I "Why can't I do the same concept with a Halloween story?"

So, in 2003, Dee Snider created Van Helsing’s Curse and the recording "Oculus Infernum." He put together a five-piece rock band, a six-piece choir and a six-piece string section. What came out of that was "Oculus Infernum" a twisted, dark story about a young boy orphaned after an evil entity murders his family. The young boy comes in contact with a descendant of Abraham Van Helsing (a fictional character from Bram Stoker's classic horror novel, "Dracula").

I have yet to figure out all the nuances of this recording but I can tell you it's dark, it's distorted, it's twisted ... and it's extremely fun. This is metal music with tongue-in-cheek aspect that is really fun and I frankly can't wait to listen to the damn thing again!

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"Oculus Infernus" (KOCH; 2003)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

As if the fact that he once had his teeth ground to sharp points wasn't scary enough, Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider conceived of this rock'n'roll Halloween album that combines a horror story with some of the world's most popular horror music with a heavy dose of rock thrown in. The result is a CD that plays best during the Halloween season but that still rocks through the rest of the year.

"Oculus Infernum" is narrated throughout by Snider, who proved to the world that he's more than a wild rock band frontman when he starred in the film "Strangeland," which he also wrote. Snider's unique voice fits "Oculus Infernum" perfectly, giving the CD the perfect balance of menace and metal. And, by taking classic horror film soundtracks (such as "The Exorcist" and "The Omen") and horror-themed classical pieces (like "Night on Bald Mountain" and "In the Hall of the Mountain King"), and converting them to a simmering hard rock sound, "Oculus Infernum" becomes a sinister soundtrack for All Hallow's Eve.

Joining Snider is a cast of impressive musicians, including "heavy metal violinist" Mark Wood, whose work fits like the proverbial glove with Snider's project. 

Due to its narrative nature, Van Helsing's Curse isn't the kind of CD you can play over and over again. Snider's spoken word narration doesn't lend itself to oft-repeated listening. Still, it's the kind of CD that you'll be pleased to pull out once or twice a year (say, at Halloween time) and that may very well wind up becoming a perennial classic.

Performing on "Oculus Infernum" are: Dee Snider - narration; Joe Franco - drums and sound design; Jake Richards - guitars and keyboards; Mark Wood - lead violin and string ensembles; Greg Smith - bass; Schuyler Deale - bass; Nick Cipriano - keyboards and background vocals; Jane Mangini - piano; Sophia Ramos - vocals; Cheryl Smith - background vocals; Tommy Farise - background vocals; Dana Franco - children's vocals; Brian Grosz - voice of the Entity; Bob Brockman - trumpet; Kevin Osborne - trombone, baritone trombone; Paul Riggio - French horn; Barbara Hill - French horn.

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Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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