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Sunday, 30 November 2003 19:00

When I first saw this one on the racks, I wasn’t too sure about just what I was looking at. My gut hunch told me that Van Helsing’s Curse and Oculus Infernum was probably a young heavy metal band looking to cash in on the spirit of the Halloween season to support their debut. Then I heard that Van Helsing’s Curse and Oculus Infernum were the season-inspired project of Dee Snider and decided to check it out. I’m damned glad that I did, too, because Oculus Infernum turned out to be one of my favorite rock albums of 2003.

Inspired by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s annual Christmas productions, Dee Snider decided that it was time that Halloween got its own tribute and put together Van Helsing’s Curse to make it happen. Tapping a host of New York City’s highly talented musicians to help him create his project, among them Joe Franco as drummer and producer, multi-talented Jake Richards on guitars and keyboards, and renowned rock violinist Mark Wood, Snider developed the story and provided narration to carry the tale of the Van Helsing clan’s eternal battle against the Oculus Infernum (“Eye Of Hell”).

Like the TSO, Snider chose to combine original and existing music for Oculus Infernum to create an atmosphere of fear, oppressive evil, and supernatural conflict. The themes are all familiar, from tried-and-true rock progressions to well-known classical excerpts from the 19th and 20th centuries. A sampling of adapted songs includes Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells” (The Exorcist), Jerry Goldsmith’s spooky “Ave Satani” (The Omen), Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” and the Sabs’ “Black
Sabbath." Creator Snider did a great job of weaving his piece together; the concise arrangements, Franco’s spooky production, and seamless flow of music and narration keeps the story moving briskly along with a finely honed sense of urgency and dread.

Entertaining and fun, Oculus Infernum is a great Halloween soundtrack and a rocking diversion when you get tired of listening to the same old sh*t – check it out. I can’t wait to hear what Van Helsing’s Curse will come up for next year!

Rating: 5/5

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