Ground Zero: Backlit zine #0 issue out now!

Friends, Romans, THKD readers,

Roughly 5 months ago, Brandon Duncan (whom you may know from The Sequence of Prime) contacted me with an idea; let’s start a new online metal zine. Typically I prefer to work alone, but Brandon’s enthusiasm is contagious and I’m proud to call him my friend, so there was absolutely no way I could refuse. Brandon gathered an ace design team while I hand-picked some of my favorite writers from internet metal land with the express purpose of creating something new and unique, to drag the old school metal zine into the future, come Hell or high water with an emphasis on good old-fashioned writing and design.

After 5 months of hard work, I’m proud to present to all of you the fruits of our labors in the form of Backlit #0; fifteen pages of mind-melting music, art and literature.

Backlit / 0
Inaugural Issue
Now available at
Cover Art by Dan Harding


Raping Angels in America #1 / Joshua Haun
Angry Old Men / Jordan Campbell
Helpless Child / Dan Obstkrieg
Fucking The Future / Joshua Haun
Libations in the Labyrinth Vol. 1 / Dan Obstkrieg
Words That Wound / Dan Obstkrieg
Doomsday Device / Joshua Haun

Interview With Jester King Brewery / The Dragon of M87
Interview With Ashencult / Jordan Campbell

Art & Fiction:
Succubus in the Attic / Nikki Guerlain
Dan Harding: The Fine Art of Horror / Brandon Duncan


Joshua Haun
Brandon Duncan

Contributing Writers:
Joshua Haun
Jordan Campbell
Danhammer Obstkrieg
The Dragon of M87

Copy Editor:
Danhammer Obstkrieg

Brandon Duncan
Philip Tyson
Spencer Walker

I hope that you will all enjoy reading the first issue of Backlit as much as we enjoyed crafting it. This is only the beginning!

Ace Frehley ist Krieg.

Fuck Paul and Gene.  Ace Frehley should’ve been writing entire KISS albums.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a KISS fan, but part of being a KISS fan is admitting that there are some horrifically shitty songs in their catalogue and that Paul and Gene are responsible for those shitty songs.  This wouldn’t have happened if Frehley had been in charge.  Don’t believe me?  Just take a listen to his 1978 solo album.  That year all four members of KISS released solo albums, of which Ace’s was the best selling and had the highest charting single.  Granted, that single was a cover of Hello’s “New York Groove”, but make no mistake, the Frehley originals gracing the album are no slouches either.  Just listen to “Snowblind” “Ozone” and “Rip it Out” and try to convince me that Frehley wasn’t the most gifted songwriter in KISS.

The few KISS songs that are credited to Ace, such as “Parasite” “Cold Gin” and “Shock Me” are among the best in the band’s catalogue, but it is on the solo album that Frehley steps out from behind the shadows of the Simmons/Stanley musical dictatorship and really shines as a player and songwriter.  The main riff from the aforementioned “Snowblind” (which could have been a Black Sabbath song and ironically shares a title with a song from that band’s fourth album) alone is worth the price of admission, but the album as a whole is about a hundred times more enjoyable front-to-back than just about any of the early classic KISS albums, giving even their rough ‘n’ raw debut a run for its money.

It isn’t just the songs or the makeup or smoking guitar solos that make Ace Frehley great or that made millions of young men and boys paint their faces and pick up guitars both real and imaginary. Ace embodies an idea, the idea that a regular schmuck can can become an icon, a superhero.  According to Wikipedia, some of the jobs held by Frehley prior to joining KISS included furniture deliverer, mail carrier and cab driver.  From cab driver to motherfucking ROCK GOD.  It’s the kind of story we all dreamed of as kids.  It will never happen to most of us, but at least there was a time when mere mortals could live vicariously through men like Ace.

Why the death of Guitar Hero means more crappy music. (a satire)

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past week or so, you know that Activision, the video game developer that gave the world such brilliant button-mashing fare as Fishing Derby and Popeye 2, has decided to put an end to what is arguably their fattest cash cow, the Guitar Hero series. I can’t believe how fucking inconsiderate the folks at Activision are for doing this. Did they ever stop for one second to think about the ill effects this will have on music listeners?!

Think about it. Millions of utterly shitty rock and metal bands have sprung up in the past 5 years, but if it wasn’t for Guitar Hero, the number of crappy bands coming out of the woodwork would probably be at least double, if not quadruple or worse.

You see, keeping kids pacified with fake plastic instruments keeps them from forming real bands. This is a good thing. Kids have shitty taste, so the ones that pick up real instruments are 99% likely to form shitty bands. How else do we explain metalcore, deathcore, crabcore, slam and djent? What else could possibly account for the popularity of bands like Waking the Cadaver, Oceano, As I Lay Dying, All That Remains, All That Remains of My Mother’s Uncle’s Brother’s Cousin’s Former Roomate Who Lays Dying, etc? By keeping today’s teenagers glued to the tube, Activision was helping to keep even worse sub genres and bands from happening. God only knows what other abominations against music might have sprung up over the past half decade, if not for Guitar Hero keeping youths safely away from Guitar Center.

The loss of Guitar Hero means more and more kids will start taking their misguided rock ‘n’ roll dreams and delusions of talent out of the living room and onto the stage. In turn, more embarrassing sub genres will be created. Record labels will sniff yet another flavor-of-the-week bandwagon to jump on, causing them to spring enormous dollar sign-shaped boners and start a signing frenzy, filling the shelves of the last few existing record stores with utter tripe to the point of bursting.

However, that record label wood will soon go flaccid, because no one actually buys music anymore. Those same kids responsible for this shitty music are also thieves who only listen to whatever they can get their grubby little paws on for free, effectively shooting themselves in the foot and crushing their own perverse fantasies of rock stardom. You can’t get rich and famous if all your peers are sharing your album on Soulseek or whatever the fuck it is these delinquents use to kill the music industry these days, instead of going out and buying it.

Critics and journalists like myself are going to have it rough. My inbox is already brimming with digital promos from bottom-of-the-barrel bands on a daily basis as it is. I can’t begin to imagine the shitfest it’s going to turn into now that Guitar Hero isn’t around to stop more turd records from being recorded and released. Isn’t it bad enough that I’m already getting a dozen press releases a day about Winds of Plague and some fucking band called The Browning?!  The last time I checked, The Browning was something that happened in my pants when one of the local burger joints gave me food poisoning.  It’s hard enough to find good bands to write about, but with Guitar Hero gone, the vast ocean of awful bands is about to become an entire universe of craptacularness.

At the end of the day, the people who really lose out are older rock and metal fans.  As the bad music begins to propagate, there will be no escape.  You’ll hear it in movies, on the radio, live at the local enormodome and on MTV at 4:00am when they actually play music (do they even do that anymore?!).  Older fans will have no choice but to stay in their homes, rocking themselves in the corner and listening to their vinyl copies of Rust in Peace on repeat.  Yes, the dude with the graying beard and the sleeveless Saxon shirt he’s been wearing since 1982 will be reduced to a pathetic shell of his former self, a shut-in traumatized by the musical crapocalypse that Guitar Hero‘s demise will ultimately bring about.

As you can see, the cancellation of the Guitar Hero series is not only a blow to the gaming industry, it is also the death knell for rock/metal as we know it.  We can only hope that something else comes along that will distract children and teenagers from taking an interest in music.  Maybe pogs are due for a comeback?

[NOTE: I shouldn’t even have to reiterate this, but above piece is meant strictly as satire and is not meant to be taken seriously in any way, shape or form.]

Wrnlrd – Death Drive (FSS, 2010)

There is a tradition throughout popular culture of romanticizing the car crash. David Cronenberg’s controversial 1996 film Crash (based on JG Ballard‘s novel) centered around a group of people who became sexually aroused by automobile accidents. Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof tells the tale of a stunt man who kills women by crashing his car into them. KISS immortalized a fan who died while driving to a concert with “Detroit Rock City”. The 1960s were rife with songs detailing crash-related teenage tragedies, such as “Dead Man’s Curve” (Jan and Dean) and “Last Kiss” (Wayne Cochran, later covered by Pearl Jam). Like birth, sex and death, the auto wreck is a jarring, traumatic, life-altering/threatening event.

It is no surprise then, that after roughly fifty years floating around in our collective consciousness, this phenomenon of car crash as fetish object would find its way from the mainstream down into the depths of the metal underground. Virginia-based black metal practitioner Wrnlrd’s Death Drive is the latest, not to mention one of the more intriguing takes on the mythology surrounding shattered glass and twisted metal on the open road.

Before we get fully into Death Drive, it should be noted that Wrnlrd has provided listeners with an accompanying “operator’s guide”, which can be viewed HERE. This guide is a carefully crafted supplement to the ep, containing graphics, lyrics and various notes/anecdotes from Wrnlrd, as well as the other musicians that helped him bring Death Drive into being. Therein, Wrnlrd defines the death drive by referencing “The Freudian impulse towards self-destruction and death” and “the seminal American pop music motif of the automobile crash as a ritual of escape from impending adulthood – a tragedy that looms as the end result of the adolescent’s blossoming sex drive”, echoing the concepts of the aforementioned Crash, “Dead Man’s Curve” etc. The guide may not be essential to your enjoyment of Death Drive, but it is for the purposes of understanding the EP’s intent.

At last, we come to the music itself. Death Drive‘s sound is best described as sludge-laden black metal with a predilection for experimentation. The atmosphere is pitch-black and eerie, with the super-saturated distortion of the guitars dominating the mix, while vocals, percussion and electronics/noise churn and bubble just under the surface. The type of driving Wrnlrd evokes isn’t that of speeding down a main thoroughfare. This is music for driving down a dusty, dead-end road in the middle of the night with the headlights off, possibly with a body in the trunk.

Death Drive sounds like a home recording, but that’s no bad thing. Although it might be the product of digital equipment, it is in no way clinical. There are layers upon layers of filth such as “Grave Dowser” and the title track to be sifted through here, with the one exception being “Luster” a piano and sound effects track that serves as a respite from the suffocating mire that is the rest of the ep. It must be said that the undeniable highlight of Death Drive has to be “Midnight Ride” which features the inimitable vocals of Integrity’s Dwid Hellion. Here Hellion’s trademark hellfire ‘n’ brimstone roar is altered and obscured by the malformed sounds that surround it, shedding a very different light on one of extreme music’s most distinctive vocalists.

At only five tracks and less than twenty minutes of music, it probably goes without saying that Death Drive is best experienced as a whole, especially given the conceptual nature of the piece. There is a gripping, cinematic flow to the ep that draws you in and holds you there, leaving you mesmerized and craving more when it’s all over.  Indeed, if there is any fault to be found with Death Drive, it’s that the thing is too damn short. This is a concept that begs for further exploration. Here’s to hoping that there’s a Death Drive 2 lurking in Wrnlrd’s future.

Beware the Misfits

In honor of Halloween, I thought I would take a moment to divert from the regularly scheduled THKD programming.  Do not attempt to adjust your monitor.  I control the horizontal.  I control the vertical.  Now that I have your undivided attention, I want to take a moment to a talk a little about a band known as the Misfits.

For me, the Misfits are synonymous with the Halloween season and are one of my all-time favorite bands.  My reputation as a Glenn Danzig fanboy is well documented.  But what might not be so well-documented is that the Misfits represent my favorite phase of the man’s career.  Like many folks from my generation, I was introduced to them thanks to Metallica’s “Last Caress/Green Hell” cover.  That was a great version, but nothing compared to when I heard the Misfits playing their own songs for the first time. Mind officially blown.  It was as if someone combined everything I loved about music into one band, and then added a visual and lyrical aesthetic that represented everything I loved about vintage horror and science fiction films.  I remember buying Collection I and listening to it over and over and over again in junior high (especially “Where Eagles Dare”!).  Back then, information on the Misfits was scarce (at least in the Midwest), and since Danzig famously hated talking about the band at that time (no doubt due to the legal bullshit going on between him and Only), I could only speculate about the band’s origins.  I was so fucking excited to find a Misfits shirt (XL and baggy as all hell on my tall scrawny frame, just how I liked it) at my local record store, before the band’s “Crimson Ghost” logo became ubiquitous.  I wore that thing until it disintegrated.

Very few bands are perfect.  The Misfits were one of them.  I’m not talking about the Jerry Only-fronted abomination that parades around today calling itself the Misfits.  I’m talking about the band as it existed from 1977 to 1983.  From songs to style to imagery, the Misfits had it all, an often duplicated but never equalled head-on collision of punk rock filth, ’50s rock catchiness and melody, gothic atmosphere and too much horror business.  Glenn Danzig’s lyrics were a heady blend of twisted pop culture references, nihilism and misogyny.  His backing band, consisting of bassist Jerry Only, a range of guitarists that included Only’s brother Doyle, Bobby Steele and Franche Coma, and a revolving door of drummers that put Spinal Tap to shame, created a sound that was unlike anything I’ve heard before or since.  The fact that stories of alleged grave-robbing and excessive violence (the song “London Dungeon” was supposedly the result of Danzig and Steele spending the night in an English jail after a punch up with some skinheads) were part of the Misfits mythos made them even more intriguing, if such a thing were possible.

The Misfits took the innocence of 1950s rock ‘n’ roll and forever corrupted it.  They bathed Elvis Presley in the blood, brains and skull fragments of the Kennedy assassination. Punk rock was founded on speeding up and ripping off Chuck Berry and Scotty Moore riffs, but the Misfits brought a darkness and foreboding to the style in the same way that Black Sabbath brought it to the blues in the early ’70s.  They were also better song-writers than any other punk band ever, writing some of the flat-out catchiest choruses ever put to tape (“I ain’t no goddamn son of a bitch, you better think about it baby!”, “Sweet lovely death, I am waiting for your breath…”, etc.).  But the band’s real area of expertise is what I refer to as “the whoah-whoah part”.  The whoah-whoah part crops up in numerous Misfits songs (“Mephisto Waltz”, “I Turned into a Martian”, “Astro Zombies” and “Some Kinda Hate” to name just a few.) and is the single most infectious aspect of the band’s playbook.  The level of craftsmanship the Misfits displayed was so far ahead of the curve in every aspect; it’s a fucking travesty that they continue to be left out of the punk rock history books.

The Misfits might not get the respect they deserve, but that’s beside the point.  The fact that they have influenced everything from thrash to black metal to gothic rock to doom says a lot more about the band than some jag-off rock critic who refuses to acknowledge their greatness.  For me personally, a lot of bands have come and gone over the years, but the Misfits sound just as exciting, vital and visceral today as they did when I heard them for the first time in 7th grade.  They are total fucking anarchy by way of an alien invasion/zombie outbreak, lead by the reanimated corpses of Vampira and Marilyn Monroe.  They are the soundtrack to an Autumn filled with “brown leaf vertigo / where skeletal life is known”.  They are the Misfits.  Beware.

I Dream of Burzum.

A few months back, just before Belus was released, I dreamt of helping Varg Vikernes escape from prison.

Of course the really odd thing about this is that Vikernes was already out at the time I had this dream. I suppose it was brought on by all the research and re-reading of old articles I was doing in preparation for my review of Belus. Anyway, the dream went a little something like this…

It was nighttime, middle of winter (of course). The Norwegian prison didn’t even look like a prison, more like a huge, gothic mansion. I was dressed in black commando gear, like Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2. I walked right in past the armed guards, and there was Vikernes standing there as if he had been expecting me. If anything, it appeared as though he lived a pretty normal life in the mansion and was just under house arrest, rather than being in a real prison. Even though I had blown right past the guards to get in, we still had to sneak out the back way.

We got into an old, beat up Volkswagen Beetle (presumably I had driven this to the prison) and sped away.

Of course it wasn’t long before the police were on our trail.  This is where things get really weird.  The police wore uniforms and drove in cars that were clearly US Highway Patrol.  I’m guessing this is because my subconscious has absolutely no frame of reference for what a Norwegian policeman looks like.  Anyway, we somehow managed to evade them in spite of the poorly chosen escape vehicle and pulled into the safety of a large tunnel.

We got out of the car and made a campfire in the tunnel.  This is also strange because I don’t know the first thing about camping, making fires, or the outdoors in general.  We sat around it in silence, watching it slowly burn down to nothing more than embers.  Varg abruptly got up and told me that he had to go the rest of the way alone.  I went over to the car, pulled out a black duffle bag and handed it to him.  I bid him good luck and he began to walk into the darkness of the tunnel.

And that’s when I woke up.  The dream was obviously quite vivid, although I don’t remember much, if any conversation between the two of us.  In retrospect it seems like most of the dream played out like a silent film.

I’ve been listening to Burzum for a long time, not to mention reading about Varg’s exploits.  Is he really so deeply ingrained in my psyche that he’s showing up in my dreams?  What does the fact that I had no problem assisting a convicted murderer and arsonist escape from prison say about me as a person?

I’ve always thought of dreams as just your subconsciousness’ way of randomly re-playing skewed versions of whatever happens to be floating around up there at the time.  I don’t really put much stock in the idea that they mean anything, but I would love to read some interpretations of this one.  Does anyone else out there ever have “metal dreams” and care to share them?

New faux-Misfits songs: Pretty much the worst thing I’ve ever heard.

Jerry Only should really be ashamed of himself at this point.  When he (along with brother/guitarist Doyle) originally resurrected the Misfits name back in 1997 with the American Psycho album, I had some pretty high hopes, in spite of my undying allegiance to original Misfits singer Glenn Danzig.  Michael Graves was a solid new vocalist, and the songs were catchy and heavy.  Even if they didn’t touch the heights of classic Misfits material, at least they weren’t dragging the name through the mud, and I came to think of the “nu-Misfits” as an entirely separate band, allowing myself to enjoy them without worrying too much about the legacy factor.

Now fast-forward to the present day.  What now records and tours the globe under the Misfits banner can only be called a joke and at this point it has become impossible to ignore.  Jerry Only, who technically speaking is not even an original member of the band himself, is parading around with Dez Cadena (ex-Black Flag guitar/vocals) and Robo (also ex-Black Flag and one of approximately 5 million drummers from the Misfits’ original 1977-1983 heyday) as what basically amounts to a glorified cover band.  Now, to make matters worse, they are releasing new material in the form of the positively dreadful “Land of the Dead” single.  Featuring two songs (“Land of the Dead” and “Twilight of the Dead”) penned by this wannabe Misfits lineup, the single is a dazzling display of poor production, worse musicianship and totally uncreative songwriting.  Only’s vocals are atrocious, and the songs themselves are about as limp as a male porn stud’s dong after a 12 girl orgy scene.

Speaking of dongs, at this point Only might as well whip his out and piss on the Misfits’ legacy, because that is exactly what he’s doing with these two tracks worth of total embarrassment.  Don’t believe me?  Go to the band’s myspace page and listen for yourself.

The real, original ’77-’83 incarnation of the Misfits has been and will continue to be one of my all-time favorite bands.  But this is seriously a piss-poor attempt to keep the cash-cow that comes along with the band’s name afloat and should not be supported by anyone that considers themselves a true fan.  Go out and buy Static Age or Walk Among Us if you want to hear what the lords of horror punk are supposed to sound like, because you won’t find it on Land of the Dead.  In fact, the only redeeming quality of this release is the illustration by acclaimed comic artist Arthur Suydam (cover art for Marvel Zombies).

In defense of KISS.

It seems like a lot of people I know don’t like KISS.  Because of this, I can’t help but suspect that I may be surrounded by communist subversives.  Of course it could be that I grew up with KISS (and Gene Simmons in particular) as a household name, being introduced to them by my uncle at a very young age.  Or it could be that most people I know for some reason don’t think that the following things are awesome: blood, fire, makeup, battle-axe shaped bass guitars and catchier-than-herpes nuggets of 3 minute, 3 chord pop rock.

I’m guessing it has something to do with the later.  KISS are not a heavy metal band, or even a hard rock band.  KISS is a pop band.  A mindless sugar-rush of sweet, tasty choruses and juvenile lyrics wrapped in the aforementioned fire, blood and makeup.  Once you have that in mind, it might make it easier to appreciate them for what they really are.  “Calling Dr. Love”, “God of Thunder” and “Deuce” aren’t fucking high art or rocket science, they are the musical equivalent of a bag of Halloween candy.  Anyone assessing KISS based on any other criteria needs to get it the fuck together.

(above: “God of Thunder” my favorite KISS song and the closest they ever got to heavy metal in my opinion)

And although KISS might not be a heavy metal band by any stretch of the imagination, they are arguably the second most important band to influence heavy metal after Black Sabbath.  Their theatricality/imagery, catchiness and swagger, (not to mention the invention of what would later come to be known as corpsepaint) had wide-ranging and lasting effects on everyone from GWAR to the late Dimebag Darrell to the black metal scene in its entirety.  Bands ranging from White Zombie (“God of Thunder”) to the Melvins (“Goin’ Blind”) to Nirvana (“Do You Love Me”) and beyond have all seen fit to cover tunes penned by the grease-paint adorned quartet.  And let us not forget about the monumentally  atrocious Kiss My Ass tribute album, featuring such artists as Garth Brooks (or is that Chris Gaines) and uh… The Gin Blossoms.

(above: “I Was Made for Lovin’ You” aka KISS’ “disco song” and also one of their most successful hits.  Hey, I dislike disco as much as the next metalhead (except for the Bee Gees, those dudes were hella sick), but try to tell me this isn’t a catchy lil’ fucker of a song.)

Of course along with KISS’ imagery came accusations of satanism and other such nonsense.  According to some members of the god squad, KISS was an acronym for Knights In Satan’s Service.  I’m not quite sure how anyone could listen to “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” or “Hard Luck Woman” and get satanism out of it.  Or maybe anyone that wears face paint is automatically a satanist in the eyes of jesus freaks.  Watch out for Bozo kids, he’s going to see that you roast in the fiery pits of hell!  But I digress, the “controversy” brought on in typical fashion by the lord’s most ignorant followers only helped make KISS that much more appealing to rebellious youth, even if they were really singing about sex instead of satan.  Come to think of it, that was probably even more appealing.

So maybe now those of you that have previously scoffed at my enjoyment of KISS have a better understanding of my reasons for being a fan.  Sure, they have made numerous missteps, such as taking the makeup off, firing Peter Criss and Ace Frehley and releasing tons of clunkers in the song department (I cannot comment on their latest album as yet), not to mention basically becoming nothing more than money-grubbing media/merchandising whores.  But again, KISS is a pop band, so things like artistic integrity and cred should be viewed as non-issues.  Fun haters be damned, I’ll be cranking “Cold Gin” while you’re bitching about what a terrible band KISS is for all of the wrong reasons.  KISS my ass, indeed.