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Van Helsing’s Curse
Oculus Infernum
Koch/Music For Nations
6/22/2004 - Review by: Ken Pierce
Van Helsing’s Curse “Oculus Infernum” Koch Records 2003 Reviewed by: Ken Pierce

Track Listing
1. Patience
2. Tubular Hell
3. All Fall Down
4. Let Me Prey
5. The Child
6. The Tortured Soul
7. Revenge
8. War
9. Let The Pain Begin
10. The Curse
“Something Wicked This Way Comes”

Halloween 2003 saw the coming of Van Helsing’s Curse to the world of symphonic power rock (I will refer to them as “VHC” for the remainder of this writing. The best way to describe The VHC, is to think of them as a Halloween version of The Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO for short). Most of you are probably aware of or have heard of the TSO by now, this is a group that covers the Christmas Season (and does it amazingly well I might add).

The VHC have made it the time to address the long overdue Halloween Season. Granted, we have Alice Cooper, Misfits and other great performers that have a spookified theme to the shows, this however takes us on a different journey altogether. VHC is the brainchild of Dee Snider (Twisted Sister’s frontman) and Joe Franco (who many people will remember as Twisted Sister’s drummer for the “Love Is For Suckers” album as well as Widowmaker and the Good Rats if I can pull a reference from way back in time). Joining VHC is Mark Wood who also plays live with the TSO on lead violin. He is amazing, and does this group credit.

Dee is the narrator for the piece and does his best to make the skin crawl with the tale of evil that plagues a town and how they must defeat it lest they perish. After an intro narration the track Tubular Hell begins. It is a powerful piece and sets the tone for the rest of the CD quite well. This tune has roots in “Tubular Bells” by Mike Oldfield (“Exorcist” theme.

Among my favorite songs on the CD are “Tubular Hell” since I have always liked the Mike Oldfield tune. Another is “Let The Pain Begin”, which is a rendition of Black Sabbath 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 the group is trying to deliver.

According to the press release I received with the CD, the hope is to have the choir dressed as Druids, the strings sections dressed as Goths while the main musicians are dressed in garb as that of Anne Rice’s “Interview With The Vampire”. When I spoke to Mark at a recent TSO show he said expect a wild presentation when it is ready for the public. Dee hopes that this will become a regular Halloween tradition for people. As someone who has seen the TSO, and also is a big fan of Halloween, I cannot wait for this to happen.

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. Yet in the long run this is not bad. My main gripe is the packaging. I found this one lacking in that the booklet is rather limited. Now, with a good storyline there should be a full booklet that denotes the tale which Dee narrates. This was only two pages. I would think it best to have included the story that was told in greater detail including more pictures to get a better visual. Also pictures of the group dressed as Dee maintained they will be. This is still a unique item and a recommended purchase. Especially with those who want some creepy background music to get them into the Halloween spirit at any time during the year.

Rating: 8/10

VHC Performers:
Dee Snider – Narration
Joe Franco – Drums & Percussion
Jake Richards – Guitars & Keyboards
Mark Wood – Lead Violin
Greg Smith – Bass
Schuyler Deale – Bass
Nick Cipriano – Keyboards
Jane Mangini – Piano
Vocalists – Too numerous to list.

VanHelsing’s Curse:
Dee Snider:

--Ken Pierce 06.22.04

Oculus Infernum
Koch/Music For Nations
Ken Pierce6/22/2004


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