Van Helsing's Curse

Oculus Infernum

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Think of Dee Snider, and you immediately think of "We're Not Gonna Take It," "I Wanna Rock," and other fun, infectious pop-metal hits that Twisted Sister provided in the '80s. Much of Twisted Sister's '80s output wasn't pure heavy metal in the strict sense; pop-metal was basically a poppy approach to hard rock, and Twisted Sister usually inspired comparisons to Quiet Riot, Bon Jovi, Warrant, Poison, and Def Leppard rather than fantasy metal artists like Candlemass, Ronnie James Dio, King Diamond, and Queensrÿche. Snider, however, shows headbangers a different side of his artistry on this 2003 release, a conceptual fantasy metal offering that may be to Snider what Operation: Mindcrime was to Queensrÿche. But while Operation: Mindcrime dealt with political intrigue and espionage, Oculus Infernum is consistently horror-themed; this CD, like Alice Cooper's Welcome to My Nightmare, is essentially a horror movie set to music -- and on his Van Helsing's Curse project, Snider brings elements of progressive rock, Euro-classical, and European church music to a metal foundation. The material is as ambitious as it is ominous and foreboding; Snider oversees a full-fledged orchestra as well as a vocal choir, and during the course of the album, he references everyone from Black Sabbath to Ludwig van Beethoven, Frédéric Chopin, Igor Stravinsky, and Niccolò Paganini. It should be noted that Snider doesn't sing lead on this release; the choir sings, but Snider is strictly a narrator and tells the album's story in true horror movie fashion. Of course, an album this ambitious and conceptual runs the risk of being called pretentious. But if Oculus Infernum is campy, it's also entertaining and highly musical -- Snider brings a strong sense of craftsmanship to this CD, which will come as an interesting surprise to those who still associate the veteran headbanger with Twisted Sister.

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