CD Reviews: First Jason - 'Heed My Warning' (Self Released)


For those people not familiar with the history of Chicago-based First Jason, let me make things (Camp) Crystal (Lake) clear...

The band's leader is none other than Ari Lehman, the very first actor to ever play the iconic Jason Voorhees in the Friday the 13th horror movie franchise. That decomposing teen crashing through the lake's waters to attack Adrienne King's character, Alice, in the finale of Sean S. Cunningham's original, and best, Friday the 13th from 1980? That's Ari.

 Wrapped in the now-legendary make-up of Tom Savini, Lehman's turn as the first Jason (hence the band name) has become one of the most memorable, and downright terrifying, moments in modern movie history. Now, that moment of murderous cinematic majesty has been recreated for the cover of First Jason's new album, 'Heed My Warning', the artwork - seriously, my favourite of the year thus far - updating the shocking event of 1980 to feature Ari Lehman as he is three and a half decades later.

What's that crazed weapon of choice that Lehman is clutching on said cover, you ask? Well, it's the Electric Machete Keytar, the instrument that Ari plays/attacks with, and no doubt invented. It's this instrumental - emphasis on the 'mental' - oddity that, ultimately, singles First Jason out from the undead horde of other bands swimming in horror rock waters.

Y'see, while Ari and band has always been a part of the whole horror metal/punk scene - and surely only the harshest critic would deny Lehman the opportunity to exploit a history with its spine in exploitation itself - the keytar, as metal and marauding as it appears, actually plants the band's music in a more retro field, much more progressive than its punkier/more metal contemporaries.

'Heed My Warning', the follow up to the much more straightahead and noisy 'Jason Is Watching', opens in such a fashion that I can think of nothing but a progressive-thinking '70s hard rock band with an evil, mysterious side. First track, 'Children of the Night', with its "Challenge everything you see" opening gambit, is certainly a more restrained, brooding introduction to the release's six tracks: the trademark horror-themed lyrics blending, disappearing almost, into the song's sonics. It's different, and less confrontational, without question.

It works, though: I mean, c'mon, how many more times can we hear a horror band thinking they can rip off every Misfits move and still get away with it?

First Jason, with 'Heed My Warning', has almost developed a brand of thinking man's horror-themed rock and, when you consider that Lehman was barely a teenager when he hopped aboard the horror express to lifelong notoriety, it's some achievement. The more blinkered of horror rock fans may well baulk at the sounds summoned up by the outfit (Lehman, on vocals as well as "keychete", joined on the recording by drummers Ryan Adomaitis and Amit Cleaver), the Electric Machete Keytar stabbing out a soundmix of distorted guitar and bass, but few could argue that Lehman is, once again, creating something memorable by borrowing from the past and updating with his own vision...just like Cunningham did in 1980.

 'Victim' does, lyrically, trawl through the horror staples archive, but, sonically, sounds like early KISS come chorus time. The title track rides along on a surprisingly melodic melody line, while 'Jason's Bride' provides the release with at least some of the more straightforward F13-themed tuneage that I imagined it would be littered with.

There's still room for more risk taking, however. 'Into The Storm' tells the tale of a US soldier falling in love with a Middle Eastern woman, the pair realising that to be together they must face death: it's a powerful theme to accompany a song of similar quality.

Ari doesn't stray that far from tried and trusted horror traits, though: final song, 'A Dream Within A Dream', uses as lyrics the writings of Edgar Allan Poe.

The shock ending to this review of First Jason's frighteningly good new album? Well, the fact that Ari Lehman and 'Heed My Warning' walk their own path should come as no surprise at all.