“Patience… that it had, in abundance. Watching. Wanting. Waiting for the time. Then it would feed. Then they would know suffering. The thought made it smile. Nothing else could.” So begins the 2003 Halloween concept album Oculus Infernum, the first and so far only album from the group Van Helsing’s Curse.
Van Helsing’s Curse is a project group founded by Twisted Sister front man Dee Snider. Inspired by the heavy metal classical Christmas music produced by Trans-Siberian Orchestra (itself a group made by members of the heavy metal band Savatage), Snider wondered why no metal group had done an entire album dedicated to Halloween, and set out to do just that. Van Helsing’s Curse is made up of a five-person rock band, a six-person string orchestra, and a six-member Latin choir. With Oculus Infernum, the group sets out to turn classical music into a Halloween tale with rocking music, haunting overtones, and all the subtlety one expects from the lead singer of Twisted Sister.
Which is to say, it’s cheese in its most glorious form.
The album tells a simple story of a monster (presumably a vampire, given the inclusion of Van Helsing, but it’s never spelled out) terrorizing a town, and the efforts to curtail the threat. This story is told through Dee Snider’s narration at the opening of each track; this is the only use of English in the album, with all vocals during the songs themselves being in Latin.
The songs themselves are medleys of some of the more haunting pieces of classical music, rearranged to blend them together, stir in the Latin chanting, and a healthy dose of metal. Classical works included in the arrangements include “In the Hall of the Mountain King”, “Mars, the Bringer of War”, “Deus Irae”, and “Tubular Bells” (in the track “Tubular Hell”, which is probably the track with the most mainstream appeal.) Snider also re-purposes the non-vocal portion of the song “Black Sabbath” (by the band of the same name) for one track. The arrangements work well for establishing the moods Snider is going for throughout the story, no mean feat considering there is only a short narrative blip before each track. More importantly, the songs are all very listenable, and make a great background to any Halloween activity.
The album was remastered and re-released in 2008 (the new cover is pictured at right). The remastered version adds two more tracks, both cover songs and unconnected to the main album. Sadly for those who bought the original version, neither bonus track is available for individual purchase, making it necessary to find a cheap used copy of the new disc. The first is a hard rock version of the theme from the Halloween series of horror movies. It’s a cool update to the original piece (despite not having seen the movie, I have heard the theme elsewhere; it’s a popular piece for websites’ Halloween jukeboxes). The second bonus track is a cover of Gerald McMann’s “Cry Little Sister” (the original of which is from The Lost Boys soundtrack). Dee Snider’s voice isn’t as suited for powerful singing as McMann’s is, but he still turns in an enjoyable, if slightly inferior, rendition.
Although not for everyone, Oculus Infernum is a great album for the right buyer. If you like heavy metal and hair metal, especially the works of Twisted Sister; if you like Trans-Siberian Orchestra; or if you want a hard rock album for your Halloween party, this album comes highly recommended.