San Diego's Dark Metal Scene
Jay Allen Sanford 1.29.07
"Some rock and roll groups stand in a circle and drink cups of blood. Some get on their knees and pray to the devil. Rock and roll hypnotizes us and controls our senses ."
Little Richard , quoted in 1974
Where does one go to compare notes with other locals on things like mosh pit etiquette, antagonizing mall security guards, cool covens and all-black wardrobes? What website offers the most synonyms, rhymes and allegorical references for words like death, hate, pain, murder and mutilation? Which places in town do the best tattoos of pentagrams, rotting corpses, porn stars and Ozzy logos? And how do you track down retail sources for Satanic Bibles, spiked dog collars, strategically torn fishnet stockings, bovine nose rings, fingerless leather gloves and reptile jewelry? Welcome to the quandary endured by those who consider themselves part of San Diego 's "Dark Metal" scene.
The L.A. band Slayer, formed in 1982, was among the first groups to forge this permutation of heavy metal music, characterized by fast strumming, hyperactive guitar solos, distorted tones, chromatic note progressions, fractured rhythms and guttural, barely coherent vocals. Mid-eighties headbangers like Sodom, Sepultura, Entombed and Morbid Angel willingly encouraged the term "death metal" in reference to their music, more than appropriate considering the atmosphere created by bloody album graphics, nihilist themes and lyrical obsessions with death and Apocalypticism. Glorifying Satan became the main motif and marketing axis for groups like Venom, Hellhammer, Mercyful Fate, King Diamond and Danzig, amusing rock critics and horrifying PMRC-minded parents.
These bands all have one thing in common - placing morbid narrative ideals and grotesque imagery far above musical form. Followers of these bands differ as to what constitutes "Death" metal compared to subgenres dubbed "Black," "Thrash," "Hardcore," "Grindcore" or "Speed" metal but, for the purposes of this article, the term dark metal is used to apply to bands whose music is loud, fast, aggressive and thematically focused on pain, death and/or occultism.
"The Devil diddled my mom, and I don't care.
Satan whizzed in her mouth but she swallowed and wouldn't share."
Lyric from "I Saw Mommy Ripped By Satan's Claws," by Bloodbat
North County record collector Ivan Torres founded and played guitar with one of the area's earliest dark metal groups, Bloodbat, from 1987 through the band's breakup in 1994. "Our bass player was a member of this Satanic cult called Rainbow, so a lot of times we'd have actual factual animal-sacrificing devil worshippers in the audience! Sometimes we'd do covers of King Diamond stuff but we were so sloppy nobody recognized the covers. The most common thing people would say to us after our set was 'I can't tell your songs apart, they all sound the same.' Instead of being insulted, we told ourselves 'Cool, we have a consistent theme.our own sound!' We didn't want to be compared with anyone, not even ourselves."
"We used to play the old downtown Soma building," says Torres, "and we'd project black and white horror movies on the walls around us while we played. Like, 8 millimeter loops of giant spiders and 'Night Of The Living Dead' stuff, way before Rob Zombie or Marilyn Manson came along. We weren't playing for laughs.we were seriously into serial killers and building replicas of torture devices to use onstage. I found a box of 16 millimeter 'educational' films at a county auction, and one of them was that bloody driver's ed movie they used to show to scare the kids.with car accidents and ripped up bodies, brains on the pavement, that kind of thing. Girls in the audience would be screaming and covering their eyes and crying, but those were the same girls who were first in line trying to get backstage and get closer to sick fucks like us."
Torres still follows the scene and says he has fond memories of Blue Meannie Records in El Cajon when they were providing fans with face-to-face time with acts like Cannibal Corpse and Dark Funeral. "Dark metal started underground, and the real sincere stuff is still on indie labels or self-released," he says. "I'd rather go see any of the local metal bands than sellouts from the mainstream who try to imitate [dark metal]. Bands like Pantera and Anal Cunt are for rich suburban kids who desperately want to pretend they're 'alienated,' when really they're just looking for something guaranteed to piss their parents off. Some kids think all you have to do is gross out your audience and you're playing in the devil's league."
"Torn apart, upon a hook, limb from fucking bloody limb. Carbonized and oxidized, pancreatic ducts ripped out. Cleaned of all its organs, nephrons smother in their wake. Bludgeoned with a steak knife, prepare a tasty meal." Lyric from "Bludgeoned, Beaten, And Barbequed," by Cattle Decapitation
A press release for Cattle Decapitation says the band "brings forth the ideas of vegetarianism with the utmost brutal approach in expression, both musically and imagery.[their] sound will bring elements of older death/grind, inbred with utterly impossible low vocals, while being stabbed by immense drumming." The group is known for wearing masks made of beef jerky onstage, an apparent statement regarding the trivialization of animal remains for human consumption. Originally formed as a member-swapping side project of The Locust (drummer Dave Astor founded The Locust, and former Cattle Decapitation guitarist Gabe Serbian now plays drums in The Locust), their newly remastered "Human Jerky" CD is enhanced with bonus CD-Rom type content playable on any computer, such as live footage from the jerky mask shows, downloadable desktops and a link to the band's website. Song titles on Human Jerky include "Colon Blo," "Constipation Camp," "Roadkill Removal Technician" and "Parasitic Infestation (Extracted Pus Mistaken For Yogurt, And Gargled)."
Says Cattle vocalist Travis Ryan. "Being on Metal Blade Records allows us to reach a higher level of exposure and ability to play in places and in front of crowds that we wouldn't normally be able to, and that is something we need right now." The group's debut for Metal Blade, "To Serve Man," was named after a classic episode of "The Twilight Zone" TV series wherein nine-foot tall alien "Canamits" utilize an intergalactic cookbook to make lunchmeat out of human beings.
"Alive you are no more.
Let them see what my anger's for.
Temper's rise - No disguiseI've done my deed - I'll watch you bleed."
Lyric from "My Dying God," by Daemos
The four piece band Daemos has been playing San Diego venues since the early-90s, as well as landing slots opening for Judas Priest at L.A. 's House of Blues and for Testament at the Whisky A Go-Go. Guest appearances on local radio stations like KIOZ and San Francisco 's KSJO have elevated interest in the band's website, Daemos.com, which claims to receive over 275,000 hits yearly. The group theorizes that attaching themselves to projects with big-name headliners will reflect some of that fame back on them, which explains their repeated presence performing cover versions on "tribute albums" like "Megaded" (Megadeth songs - Daemos plays "Looking Down The Cross") and "SuperCharger Hell" (they do a cover of White Zombie's "SuperCharger Heaven"). "We're really combining two different worlds," according to bassist Jason St. Aubin. "Our music appeals to the new school crowd as well as diehard metalers."
Guitarist and vocalist Eric Nunes says "Basically my take on music is that any music style can be good if the musicians like what they are doing. That's not to say that everyone can play well. But those that can and stick to their heart are great in my book. One thing that really pisses me off is a band that is obviously writing and playing music to become rich and/or famous. It makes the rest of us look bad. Plus, if you try to play something that you don't like, it will never sound good.I'm all for having influences. That's great, but you need to grow away from those influences and let your own unique style come through. The record labels will come around once they see people digging your music. And at that point you can either tell them to fuck off or give you the freedom you deserve." Daemos has apparently said "fuck off" fairly often as they remain, after nearly a decade, unsigned.
"Raise the battle-axe unto the skulls, In the bliss of spilling blood on enemy soil. Towards the synagogue, with thirst for Semite blood, From a trail of churches burning. Under the Haunting Moon, with sword in hand I ride and I exalt the horns of battle towards the sky. I slay the souls of the Jesuit creed, and bathe in their curdled blood." Lyrics from "Raise The Horns Of Battle," by Crimson Moon
Crimson Moon is a recording unit only, comprised of two members and a drum machine. Bassist/vocalist/lyricist Scorpios and his bandmate Nocturnal Overlord (guitars, keyboards, drum programming) wear King Diamond/Kiss style Kabuki makeup - whiteface with black patches curling and dripping around their eyes and mouths to present a patina of WWF level ferocity. They first surfaced in San Diego in 1994 with a self titled demo release, followed by 1995's "Into the Nocturnal Forest" demo collection, earning both praise and notoriety for their straightforward and straight-faced obsession with all things occult.
Scorpios is a well-read and fascinating character who writes lengthy, learned manifestos on lucid dreaming, medieval theology and astral projection which he posts on websites (www.geocities.com/kthuluproductions) and emails to fans by request. In songs like "The Stormbringer," Scorpios seems to be reading incantation spells direct from some arcane text, summoning "creatures of darkness and hatred" and intoning "For I have consumed the blood that lives forever more, the blood of the Draconis, I drink the blood, the hate of Kingu rages on, the furious tempest unleashes black storms and the chaos crawls beyond the stars, to unleash fury amongst the blackened earth." The end passage of "Raise The Horns Of Battle," after praising the destruction of churches and synagogues and the murder of Jews and Jesuits, includes conjurations to the unholy trinity of Lucifer, Beelzebuth and Astaroth, each ending with a cheeky "Amen."
Crimson Moon's 1996 debut CD "To Embrace The Vampyric Blood" (Abyss Productions) contained nine tracks and was recorded on a 4-track machine, as was a 1997 rehearsal performed with a third player on synthesizers, Khaija Ausar, which was later circulated as an "unofficial release" called "Under The Serpentine Spell." With no new material and no stage performances over the ensuing years, it seemed the group had disbanded, but Nocturnal Overlord says Crimson Moon has recorded an album archiving all the music they have done to date, including re-recordings of their demos plus three unreleased songs.
"My lyrics in Crimson Moon are occult based and not from a horror movie or fiction book," according to Scorpios. "It is not an image. It is what we do and we will not change this because it is getting too trendy or too hated, etc. We do this for ourselves." He says he rarely reads fiction and especially hates "vampire novels," but admits his lyrics are often inspired from arcane mythology. "I have studied the myths, magick and lore of not only Sumerian but Babylonian mythology as well. When I say study, I mean going further than just reading and practicing rituals from the Necronomicon. I have another ritual/acoustic project totally devoted to the Dieties of Sumeria/Babylonia called 'Akrabu.'"
He seems so sincere, it's simply buzzkill to point out that the "Necronomicon" is a fictional invention of 20th century gothic writer HP Lovecraft and texts purporting to have originated in this tome are of recent construct or from other sources entirely.
Discussing his views about Christianity versus Satanism on the San Diego Metal website (www.geocities.com/s_b_resistor/local.html), Scorpios said "They are actually very similar in many ways and they both need each other to exist! Satanism is not what I am into. I have studied much about it but it is basically a Judeo-Christian mutation of a religion. I prefer to go back much further in history to seek information." Scorpios is familiar with The Satanic Bible, written by Anton Szandor LaVey (who formed the Church of Satan in 1966), but doesn't align himself with the philosophies set forth in this notorious book which has sold more than 600,000 copies since it was first published by Avon Books in 1969.
"If you read Ragnar Redbeard's book 'Might is Right,' which came out much before LaVey was around, it is interesting to see how many of the same ideas LaVey had! I don't consider his form of Satanism to be.true Satanism. To me, true Satanism is a form of devil worship, not psychology. The Church of Satan is not much different than any other church, perhaps a bit more honest. They still feed off their followers' money." Scorpios wraps up his commentary with an unctuous grab for the wallets of his own followers - "May chaos reign.and contact Nocturnal Overlord for merchandise (shirts, long sleeves, cds stickers, new promo tape, etc.)."
After all, ancient scrolls, eyes of newt and faux Necronomicons don't come cheap!
"You are what you eat, you are what you shit, you are what you vomit."
Lyric from "Diarrhea Of the Mouth" by Cattle Decapitation