Rich Howells

VIDEO PREMIERE: Horror metal band First Jason ponders ‘The Price of Peace’ in apocalyptic times

VIDEO PREMIERE: Horror metal band First Jason ponders ‘The Price of Peace’ in apocalyptic times
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“Make that wound ooze more,” someone says as a hulking bare-chested man has the giant scar across his stomach painted over.

In tranquil Dalton, Pennsylvania, a family home sits behind a few others lost in the trees, not even visible from the main road. There is a little red wagon in the yard and a kid’s clubhouse with a slide in the front yard, but on closer inspection, there are also various skulls strewn about the driveway leading up to a sign that reads “Devil’s Castle.” Halloween is still two months away on this warm August day, so these aren’t just festive decorations – they’re a way of life for horror fans Gene and Amanda Altieri.

Every wall inside their house is covered with posters, personalized autographs, and memorabilia from horror films both popular and obscure, so it’s the perfect temporary headquarters for Camp Rattler, a local production company whose focus on the weird, obscure, and the macabre makes them the obvious choice to bring the music of First Jason to life.

Vocalist Ari Lehman emerges from the side porch with his shirtless bandmates to get covered in dirt, makeup, and fake blood for the video shoot. It’s not as elaborate as the prosthetics he wore to play a young Jason Voorhees in the original “Friday the 13th” movie, but it is certainly continuing the story of that ill-fated child in a unique way.

His Chicago-based heavy metal band has recorded entire albums about the vengeful serial killer, though the song they are playing over and over again today, “The Price of Peace,” is a bit different and one he is particularly proud of.

“It’s got a hard edge to it. It’s kind of like us almost returning to our original formula, like ‘Jason Never Dies,’ which has most of our biggest hits where we’re on a little more hardcore than a heavy metal sound. Maybe even a little bit of a nu metal sound in there, admittedly, because I’ve been very impressed by bands like Nonpoint, Ice Nine Kills, who I did a collaboration with, and just looking at different sounds that are out there,” Lehman told NEPA Scene just before the shoot began.

“Also, the subject matter of the song, which talks about the times we’re in. It asks the question, ‘Is this the price of peace that we have to pay?’ And it says the only way to pay the price is to sacrifice your pride, so it’s a philosophical song, which kind of reveals a lot about me. ‘Lord of the Lake’ was more heavy metal and it was more very Jason-oriented. ‘Kill for Mother,’ ‘Voorhees Is the Name,’ always putting my own message in there about being self-aware and challenging yourself and realizing that everything that you can achieve is present within you right now, and in a way, that’s why Jason kills, is the ignorance of that. That’s kind of my unique philosophical standpoint.”

Soon to be released on autographed vinyl, the song was written during quarantine, so the apocalyptic dress and themes of this video, premiering exclusively today on NEPA Scene, fit with the times.

“I’m so happy that the words reached a lot of people. I don’t know exactly specifically what they mean, and that’s the best thing about any philosophical statement is that it’s open to interpretation.”

Lehman met the Camp Rattler crew at their inaugural Darkenheavy Campfest at Mountain Sky in Jermyn in 2019, where First Jason played a headlining set.

“We had so much fun doing that. It was just an absolutely memorable experience. There was so many people and so many metal bands coming together, so I frankly was very impressed with James Callahan and his whole team,” he recalled.

“He’s a shamanic type of an individual who is certainly a renaissance man who inspires me, kind of like [makeup artist] Tom Savini did when I was on the set of ‘Friday the 13th.’ So we put out this song and we had been talking about doing a music video since the event. He heard the song and he was so kind as to call me and say, ‘Hey Ari, that’s the song. We love your music, but this song, ‘The Price of Peace,’ we really feel that it’s kind of reaching a new level with you,’ and I feel the same way too. It’s something that everyone is really happy to be making a video for right now.”

“Camp Rattler had worked with Ari in the past, so we were already chatty pals. In all honesty, we truly didn’t know what to make of Ari a few years ago. While planning Darkenheavy, Ari would call [assistant producer] Kristin [Rose Shimonis] and me at odd times and do this series of character voices and basically act like a kook, prior to our first face to face. Once we realized that this dude was just an eccentric, dramatic entertainer, it allowed for our conversations to wander elsewhere,” Callahan explained.

“Over the past couple years, my talks with Ari have traveled from metal and horror towards more global, spiritual, and esoteric topics. He remains one of my favorite new-ish conversational cronies.”

As his wife applies more makeup to the small cast, Gene Altieri, a horror fan “for as long as I can remember,” says he met Lehman a few times at various conventions, but he didn’t really get to know him until Darkenheavy, where his own wild band, Bad Luck 13 Riot Extravaganza, shared the stage with First Jason.

“He was a very entertaining fellow. Spending a couple of days with him really see him as a person, he’s a very interesting guy. He’s just 150 percent, and that’s why I became friends with him. Every band that played, he was right in front of the stage rocking out. He was really into just being there and having fun, and I respect that,” Altieri said.

Weathered banners with Jason’s iconic hockey mask adorn the trees leading up to the top of a grassy hill on on Altieri’s property where the band – Eddie Machete (guitar), Fabian Arroyo (drums), and Bass Amp (bass) – is set up to play. No one is actually plugged into anything, but they still give it their all as the dedicated camera crew (including Ninja Video Productions) descends upon their performance.

Despite shooting for hours, Lehman’s energy actually seems to increase in take after take, even as heavy smoke fills the air from controlled fires nearby. His passion for the material bleeds through everything he does because he is as much of a fan as everyone on set, including indie wrestler Megiddo, who drove to Northeastern Pennsylvania from Texas just to be an extra in the video. His dedication was rewarded when he was asked to don the mask and play Voorhees himself looming in the background.

And in his own way, Lehman has never stopped playing Jason, continuing his story through creative avenues that no movie studio would ever attempt to take.

“I think it’s a fantastic legacy. I love the fact that Jason doesn’t speak. I also love the fact that the character I played is always in the water and the image of the water, the whole mom story, the girl in the boat – there’s so much imagery associated with little Jason perhaps because it has that purity of not being a character with such a long screen presence that has some other storyline. It’s absolutely pure, and I hasten to add that if you were to take the number of individuals that I’ve scared and divide the seconds that I was on screen by that number, I think that I’ve scared more people in less time. It’s absolutely the fans, the way that they embrace Jason,” he emphasized with a smile.

“The making of the First Jason video was a scream. We had our ‘extended family’ out for the day, which is really what truly ‘creams my corn.’ Our collaborators are simply the best kind of humans,” Callahan said after a long day of filming.

“This video is Part 1 of an ongoing pilgrimage of lost souls towards what they feel will be the Promised Land. They all seek their ‘beloved’ Jason Voorhees. Ari Lehman and First Jason break new ground with ‘The Price of Peace.’ Catch the entire album at firstjason.com. To discover where all these tragic travelers finally end up, subscribe to Camp Rattler on YouTube for ‘Part 2: The Scapegoat’ by First Jason. The continuation is slated for summer 2022.”

“As James indicated, my initial contact with Ari often left me sort of confused as to what our first face-to-face meeting would entail. [Darkenheavy] was my first anything of this magnitude, and I was concerned my uncertainty would sour our relationship before it began,” Shimonis added.

“I was wrong. I have come to respect and genuinely like Ari. Now, having spent more time with Ari, Eddie Machete, Fabian, and Bass Amp, I am truly lucky to have had this opportunity. They are all remarkable musicians and an extraordinary group of gentlemen. The day of the shoot was the first time I stepped on a hot curling iron – shout-out to Gene for the burn cream that ultimately saved my day. It was hot and humid. The terrain worked against us at times. Suffice it to say, all things that would spoil moods. Each and every one on set was a trooper from start to finish. I always feel fortunate to work with my best friend/fiance, my friends, and our clients who often become friends.”

Photos by Jason Riedmiller Photography/NEPA Scene