Thursday, December 31, 2009

Chas. Balun (R.I.P.)

It is with a heavy heart that I announce the passing of legendary gorehound historian and cult illustrator Charlie "Chas." Balun (1948-2009). Long before the advent of the internet and every chump on the block fancying themself an "expert/critic" with unlimited information at their fingertips, Mr. Balun fought the good fight for HORROR! He championed the most obscure flicks and waved a black flag in the struggle for uncompromising creative autonomy! He also cut through industry bullshit with his machete-sharp wit and unbridled enthusiasm. I first met him way back in 1988 at Fantacon in upstate New York where his massive presence and hilarious slideshow of gore made a lasting impression. Years later, in 2000, I interviewed Chas. for Destroying Angels #3 and he declared our epic conversation his "definitive interview!" More recently he was looking forward to taking part in my 2008 Entartete Kunts exhibit but had to gracefully bow out at the last minute due to escalating health problems. He had been quietly struggling with cancer for several years and finally let go on Friday December 18, 2009. To honor his legacy I've dug up the original cut & pasted pages of our interview to share with you here. Pull out a good Fulci flick this weekend (or better yet, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which Chas. often boasted seeing 25 times!). Rest in Pieces, Blood Brother.

Click the images below and they should fill your screen at a legible size:

"Here's blood in your eye!"

Monday, December 28, 2009

Best Shows of 2009!

On the heels of my Best of 2009 list comes another wildly opinionated recap! I should start keeping notes because I rarely remember this stuff unless someone took pictures or I wrote it on a calendar. There were lots of shows, but these are the ones that still shine long after my ears have stopped ringing:

January 27, 2009
(Neumos- Seattle, Washington)
No stage banter, no requests and no jokes. We got there early for the sound check and I'm not ashamed to admit that I nearly wept tears of joy as they roared into 'Winter'. THE POWER REMAINS!!!!

Front row for Amebix!
Thanks to the dude in the balcony who caught my giddy excitement on camera.

Flyer art by Reuben Storey!

Midnight/General Surgery/Engorged/Funerot
May 14, 2009

(Cherry Lofts- Olympia, Washington)
This show was in some filthy warehouse with a fridge that you could put your BYOB in so it would stay cold while you got your thrash on. And we did. Teeth were chipped and people bled. When I'm sitting on a rocking chair telling my grandchildren what Metal was, I'll remember this night.

But can you do the Milano mosh?

May 23, 2009

(Satyricon- Portland, Oregon)
While everyone who could afford airfare was shooting their wad with Bolt Thrower at MDF, I was enjoying this surprise performance of the year just a few minutes from home. I went down to this local black metal fest just to have a drink with a friend but ended up riveted by Inquisition's masterful hypnotic attack and bullfrog conjurations! Satanic Brilliance!

Rob Fornicator crawled around the stage like a giant tarantula on Sparks to get these killer photos!

June 5, 2009

(Hawthorne Theater- Portland Oregon)
As a teenager in 1986 Age of Quarrel was sacred scripture. It was the kind of record that improved my posture and made me see the world a bit more clearly. I was fortunate enough to catch the Cro-Mags at The Ritz in New York City back in the day. It was an incredibly violent event and I still sometimes measure shows against the intensity of that night. Trouble is, it was a release party for the second album and vocalist John "Bloodclot" Joseph had already left the band. Sure, Harley Flanagan did a great job holding down the bass and vocal duties but something was missing. On this night, two decades later, I finally had the pleasure of witnessing Bloodclot rip through the classics with Mackie on drums and members of Leeway and Sick Of It All backing him up. It was not only amazing to hear but also refreshing to discover that ol' "Mighty Whitey" is a very humble and sincere guy. Wiser, it would seem, for surviving some very HARD TIMES indeed. Bloodclot is the real deal and this show RULED!

"What goes around comes back around..."

July 1, 2009

(Satyricon- Portland, Oregon)
I'll admit, I was a little worried when Bobby came rooster-strutting on stage with saucer eyes and ill-fitting bellbottoms. Will he remember the words? Will he have a heart attack? Will I have to see him naked? Turns out I needn't have worried. He delivered all the aces like the motherfucking aristocrat that he is and by the time he dry-humped his way into '20 Buck Spin' I realized I was witnessing history.

I don't know who took this photo but it sums things up perfectly. Be forewarned!

Michael Hurley
July 11, 2009

(Mississippi Records- Portland, Oregon)
Michael Hurley is a national treasure. He was first recorded for the Folkways label by Frederic Ramsey Jr. more than 45 years ago on the very same equipment used to record Leadbelly's final sessions. Wikipedia states that he was born in 1941 but this date may not be entirely accurate and when the man enters a room you get the feeling that an ageless troubadour has just arrived by steam locomotive to deliver some cryptic message to the modern world. So imagine our surprise when my good friend Eric Issacson arranged a special performance for my daughter's 12th birthday! It says a lot about Hurley's character that he would happily drive all the way from Astoria to play a free show for less than a dozen pre-teen kids in a private room covered in black plastic. Why the black plastic? Because we knew once his performance was over the place would erupt into a riot of root beer, ice cream cake and silly string. My daughter has had a lot of fun birthday parties over the years, but this afternoon was the stuff of legend!

Lebenden Toten/D-Clone
October 10, 2009

(18th Street House- Distortland, Oregon)
Just when I think the shambling reanimated corpse of punk rock has taken a terminal shot to the head and finally dropped to the cold ground forever, some black-clad figure hands me a flyer for the next Lebenden Toten appearance. Night of the show I drag my geriatric bones through a gauntlet of bullet belts, suffering all manner of loathsome glances for failing to wear the appropriate uniform, and plant myself in some dimly lit corner with a flask of bourbon until Lebenden Toten rise from the grave with a painful squeal of headsplitting feedback and whirling chainsaw distortion. The next 15 minutes are a beer-soaked WAR! The cult is alive. Punk is UNDEAD...

The guy that hands out the Lebenden Toten flyers.

The Process Church Of The Final Judgment Sabbath Assembly
November 1, 2009
(Mississippi Studios- Portland, Oregon)
Feral House founder Adam Parfrey organized this special event in conjunction with the release of the new book Love, Sex, Fear, Death by former Process Church member Timothy Wyllie. Like most occultniks, I first read about the Process Church of the Final Judgment years ago in Parfrey's seminal anthology Apocalypse Culture and later in the great zine EsoTerra. It had always been shrouded in satanic mystery and solemn black-robed secrecy but tonight the curtain would be pulled back to reveal the wild-haired Wizard of Oz! Parfrey and friends recreated a gnostic ritual with the audience acting as somewhat uncertain participants but the real highlight was the Process Church Sabbath Assembly performing renditions of original Process gospel! I was swept away by the heady psychedelia and beautiful female harmonies courtesy of Jex Thoth and some other painfully attractive young woman. Once they left the stage I was a bit less interested in the rest of the proceedings but Wyllie proved to be a real fun and approachable character (let's call him "Wyllie Coyote"), not at all what I expected from some former 60's cult member who paints rainbows and communicates telepathically with dolphins.

Arik Roper's Process Church poster art!

Christian Mistress/Pierced Arrows
December 3, 2009
(The Brotherhood- Olympia, Washington)
My lady picked me up from work at 8:30pm and by 10:30pm we were shoving our way through a crowded bar in another state as my favorite NWONWHM (New Wave Of Northwest Heavy Metal- duh!) warriors charged into their first song! They finished the set with a new song I had never heard before and all I can say is they'll be in the running for best LP of 2010. Next up was Pierced Arrows who did what they do best. The show was free, the drinks were strong and a general wang dang doodle was had by all.

Two sexy mistresses!

December 5, 2009
(Satyricon- Portland, Oregon)
The last time I saw my favorite southern-fried nihilists was almost 10 years ago on the Confederacy of Ruined Lives tour and I sorta expected them to stumble around on stage like middle-aged dope casualties. Instead, this was a triumphant return to form for the good ol' boys that penned such ballads as 'Sister Fucker' and 'White Nigger' (they played 'em both)! You either like this stuff or you don't. I happen to LOVE it! Old southern folk will tell you how the most tragic blues song can somehow make you feel really good, and I can't help thinking about this paradoxical effect every time I mainline Eyehategod's misery hymns. Take as needed for pain!

~Dennis Dread

Friday, December 25, 2009

BEST of 2009!

As the year draws to a close I've been waxing nostalgic and blasting some of my favorite releases of 2009. Which was a fortunate coincidence since my comrades at Left Hand Path recently asked me to write a Top 10 list! Well, mine is obviously not the carefully crafted list of a knowledgeable music journalist and if you're expecting a totally METAL list you'll probably be disappointed. But I'm as self-absorbed and obsessed with lists as the next asshole on the internet so here are a few of the things I enjoyed immensely in 2009:

While not officially on "the list", I did enjoy immensely this Merry Christmas eyewear that Todd DePalma sent all the way from China. "Death might be your Santa Claus!"

Christian Mistress
Demo cassette
"A simple ritual to unleash the soul..." Here is a band so unassuming and sincere they've sprouted virtually unnoticed in the nethershadows of the Northwest- with absolutely no hype and no gimmicks- like a glorious magical mushroom in a compost heap of musical dung! Double lead guitar harmonies, rock steady percussion and a strong female throat conjure the ancient headbanging spirit of Acid, Merciful Fate, Thin Lizzy and Sin After Sin-era Judas Priest. Aside from boasting four of the most unforgettable songs of the year, this modest demo gracefully heralds the arrival of the Mistress without spiraling into a tedious exercise in self-indulgent wankery. Pop this in the tape deck next time you head out to the highway. I guarantee you'll be flipping the bitch until you arrive at your destination. ROCK HARD, RIDE FREE!

You could weave a magic carpet with all those greasy manes! Photo by Christina Gemora.


Seven Chalices
(Norma Evangelium Diaboli/Ajna Offensive/Dauthus)
What can I say about this filthy abomination that hasn't already been boldly declared by the International Bestial Legions? Bolt Thrower's In Battle There Is No Law for the fire & brimstone set, these pestilent hymns writhe and unfurl from the vinyl grooves like some prodigious tentacled monstrosity summoned from putrid leviathan depths! Wait, that's just Ketola's cover art. Ketola has achieved a towering masterpiece of art & design with 'Seven Chalices'. Hands down the best album cover art and packaging of 2009, this savage gesamtkunstwerk is like some sort of personal Necronomicon defaced and defiled with atavistic sigils worthy of Austin Osman Spare and Virgil Finlay. I bought the LP just to have the larger booklet of artwork but really this is something of a concept album that flows much better as one relentless and monumental destruction ritual (so I bought the CD too!). Tietanblood has distilled everything I love about occult Death Metal without any of the boring pretense and false brutality typical of the genre. I like this record so much I drew their logo on the new Darkthrone cover. But you'll have to wait until 2010 for that one. Hail Teitanblood!

The Devils Blood
The Time Of No Time Evermore
(Van Records)
The ambitious debut DLP from Dutch occult-rockers The Devil's Blood arrived on these shores mere days before the end of the year to secure a place of honor among the finest of 2009! Not as immediately enchanting as the brilliant Come, Reap EP (with Roky Erickson tribute!), this strange and poisonous flower is no less intoxicating and once the smoke clears it will stand as a more enduring and fascinating specimen. The Devil's Blood became unlikely (and uncooperative) media darlings in 2009 so I imagine the backlash has already begun and most of the world has probably moved on to the next big trend by now. With any luck, that leaves only the truest disciples to revel in their Satanic Majesties' Steeleye Span meets Iron Maiden harmonies and creepy Goblin-esque experimentalism. May their carnal incantations pull the non-believers into a lake of burning fire FOREVER! This album is perfect for long moonlit jogs through the cemetery and probably the ideal soundtrack for snorting powders in a basement full of blacklight posters. In fact, you'll need a blacklight decoder ring to read the fucking lyrics on this one. I've got enough problems without going blind reading the oxidized-blood-stain font that is frustratingly camouflaged by the bruised-purple booklet pages. Still, Erik Danielsson's vintage design aesthetic is vastly more appropriate than any of their previous packaging, especially the unfortunate graphics that accompanied the EP, as are his musical contributions to one of the album's most potent hymns. The "diehard" version comes in a beautiful sturdy black binder with gold embossed cover, CD, poster, booklet and embroidered patch! In this case, the presentation is as magnificent as the music waiting within...

Lifecode of Decadence
(Nuclear War Now!)
The latest offence from Villains is nothing short of a FULL METAL masterpiece! A considerable step up from 2006's Drenched In The Poisons (which ain't no easy task), Lifecode blasts, shreds and fucks like a beast! Villains is to modern music what Bill Lustig's Maniac was to 80's horror flicks. In a word: POLARIZING. Metal was never meant to be lukewarm, palatable or popular. It is a fist in the face of all that is sacred! And when metal itself becomes the hollow idol we must return to the trenches for new viral strains that will subvert, deconstruct and totally raze the temple to the ground! Like a fast fuck in some peeling red bathroom, Villains get in and get out without throwing every trick on the goddamn table like a masturbating chimp at the Extreme Metal Circus (the only reason Mitochondrion's Archaeaeon didn't make my list this year is that the fucking thing is ENDLESS- even great music has a saturation point and you gotta know when to fold). Lifecode is kinky, violent, uncompromising, and ultimately one of the most satisfying 37 minutes of 2009. If you can't dig Villains you can't dig real metal, motherfucker. CRAWL TO THE CAVE!

Villains portrait by Pat Delaney, a man of distinguished taste who not only shares my deep reverence for John Brannon but also exposed me to the magic of Death (see below)!

Abner Jay
True Story of Abner Jay
(Mississippi Records)
I don't know what it says about me or the state of the world but some of my favorite releases of 2009 were recorded a loooong time ago. Like this perfectly soulful middle finger of a release by Portland's own Mississippi Records. The one-man-band known as Abner Jay gets down to business with porch slouch stompers such as 'I'm So Depressed', 'Cocaine', 'Vietnam', and 'The Reason Young People Use Drugs', testifying like a hellbound beast of burden with a mouthful of marbles and an ass flask full o' fuck-you. If you think Hellhammer was primitive, consider the fact that Abner Jay was the child of Georgia sharecroppers circa 1930 and made music with an electric banjo and a ham bone! A HAM BONE! These so-black-they're-blue folk ballads (FYI = that's NOT metal), recorded during the 60's & 70's, have been lovingly dusted off and re-mastered for limited vinyl release but it hardly matters since his records are impossible to find and you've never heard these songs before anyway. You like fishing? Women? Whiskey? You'll LOVE the punk-as-fuck TRUE story of Abner Jay (R.I.P.)!

Bobby BeauSoleil
The Lucifer Rising Suite
(Ajna Offensive)
I'm admittedly biased here but, for me, this was the most highly anticipated release of 2009. Four LP's of Bobby's evocative music, the complete Lucifer Rising compositions in chronological order, encased in a beautiful box that sits on the shelf like a jeweled throne. If I never draw another album cover in my life, I'll look back on this project with the satisfied smile of a soldier who returns home from war with an extra limb. FREE BOBBY NOW!

For The Whole World To See
(Drag City)
No, not THAT Death. This jagged Motor City rock was originally recorded in 1975 (before the Bad Brains were even a gleam in Jah's eyes) but languished in obscurity until 2009 when it was finally excavated by Drag City for, well, the whole world to see. I usually don't like angular stop/start tempos and spastic time changes but there's a lot to love about this odd rocker. What's that dude doing in the band photo on the back cover? Rolling a "stick of grass"? Consulting a Magic 8-Ball? Catching a salamander? Songs like 'You're a Prisoner' are damn near perfect in every way but the boys really bring it on home during the soaring final moments of 'Politicians In My Eyes' when they lock into a Parlimentary groove that would've fit perfectly on The Warriors soundtrack. This is the moment at 3am when I realize my eyes are closed and I've traded my drawing pen for an air guitar. Can you count, suckers? I say the future is OURS if you can count!

The Warwolves/Dishammer
Split 7"
(Parasitic Records)
Someone got 'em wet and fed 'em after midnight! Portland's Warwolves have multiplied into an unholy trinity since the one-man demo tracks I heard a few years ago and their primitive heathen attack has become more hateful and lo-fi than ever. 'Cult of The Ancient Dead' opens with a brief atmospheric intro before unleashing Blasphemy riffs that sound like a screeching biker gang pile-up on the highway to hell. 'Vengeance Riders of Doom' gets the Christ-killing party started with grinding guitar and wolf-vomit reverb ala Von and the ancient South American kult. The whole thing sounds like it was recorded 20,000 leagues under the sea using barnacled conch shells for amplifiers. On the flip side, Dishammer wear their crossover ancestry like a crusty badge of (dis)honor and resurrect the perverse spirit of thrash from the days before critical acceptance and hipster infiltration! Dopi of Machetazo and Deadmask (who's Under Luciferian Wings was one of my favorite EP's of 2008) has returned from the grave to hail the gods rock 'n' roll with equal parts Discharge, Motorhead and Bathory worship. 'Winter Calling' actually comes off sounding like Abigail/Barbatos with more guttural vocals (which is another way of saying it sounds like NME with better musicianship). I'd love to see them perform this live with the whiskey and blood flowing freely!

(Profound Lore)
Possibly the most hyped underground release of 2009, but every time I blast this mechanized assault I am consumed by fever dreams of giant robots endlessly terrorizing some medieval village with molotov cocktails filled with angry hornets! Portal stomps and buzzes in strange symbolic circles, never really getting anywhere with their Metal of Death, but somehow remaining brutally entertaining while I'm barreling down the road on some liquor store mission. I hear they deliver a fantastic theatrical live show and I'm excited to witness that at Maryland Death Fest next year. But it will take more than a cuckoo clock hat to make me forgive their uninspired choice of cover art! This unfocused and hastily thrown together piece of qabalah-crap poses a decent case for illegal downloading. Why clutter the shelf with one more uninspired piece of cardboard when you can have the whole juggernaught tucked neatly and invisibly in an iPod the size of a razor blade? Wership (sic)!

Hellbent For Cooking: The Heavy Metal Cookbook
Annick Giroux
(Bazillion Points Books)
When I was 23 years old, the "World Wide Web" was still a science-fiction conspiracy theory and I definitely wasn't HALF as creative or well-adjusted as the young author of Hellbent For Cooking. Annick, the Morbid Chef, has delivered an idea so simple it's almost stunning that nobody thought of it sooner: a hilarious and fully functional cookbook by and for headbangers! This is exactly what Heavy Metal needs (and Hollywood for that matter). Bold ideas! Passionate delivery! Fearless charting of terra incognita! Annick's friendly enthusiasm is infectious and it's hard not to drool all over these glossy pages. In fact, Annick's easy smile is the perfect antidote for all the scowling Gas Masks and English Dogs that stumble around Portland these days looking for an angry fix of attention. The recipes she's assembled look mostly delicious (even if there's a disproportionate sampling of meat dishes) but this book is really worth the cover price for Julien Nagawika's satirical cartoons which are liberally sprinkled (the correct term is "dash") throughout and which perfectly deconstruct the contents with the scratchy precision of a young Robert Crumb weaned on 'Violence & Force'. Fun reading and, presumably, some damn fine eating too. HAIL & GRILL!!!!

The best SHOWS of 2009 are coming soon...
~Dennis Dread

Friday, December 11, 2009


Welcome back, Seeker of the Perverse! I have a real treat for you this week so pour a chalice of bourbon and prepare yourself for Gross Anatomy part 10! This time we unveil one of my new drawings for the upcoming Darkthrone LP, entitled Circle The Wagons! I had a great time conjuring that ol' Ancient Spirit and I'm delighted to share the process with you here. Ok, let's run to the hills!

BRAINSTORM: This time I wanted to get up close and personal with Mr. Max Necro. I summoned his defiant graveyard expression (and stench) with a series of rapid fire pencil sketches until I arrived at a design that brought him screaming to life. Turns out the stench was just me.

SCRIBBLE: You wouldn't guess by looking at the scribble presented here but this stark full-frontal grimace with war paint had the powerful symmetry that I was seeking and contains details that are further developed on the album cover.

"For now we see through a glass, darkly." This studio shot gives an idea of the scale. We spent hours and hours staring each other down with the turntable blasting away into the night...

EXTREME CLOSE UP FOR EXTREME TIMES! Here is the completed drawing at 13" x 13". UUGGHHHH!!!! This will soon appear as the back cover of the LP and in the CD booklet. Keep your eyes peeled for the full cover art unveiling and for Circle The Wagons, available soon from the mighty Peaceville Records (independent & underground for 22 years) !