A Journal Of The Dark Arts
RIYL: Chelsea Wolfe, Danzig, Death In June, Munly, Hank Williams, Nick Cave, Tom Waits, Swans, The Cramps, Mazzy Star, Jesus & Mary Chain
On Fear, the brand-new joint from Seattle’s King Dude, the King summons 13 tales of witches, demons, devils, fast cars, hard drinking, and bottle blondes. In the process, Fear provides a necessary and much appreciated revitalization of dark, spooky folk and rockabilly.
In theory, psychobilly/spookabilly should be the coolest thing ever: deranged, drug-addled surf, punk and outlaw country – obsessed with cheap horror and sci-fi movies and roots Americana. It should be dirty and possibly dangerous.
The problem with second and third wave psychobilly, which would be anyone who has ever fallen in love and been inspired by Songs The Lord Taught Us, is how utterly clean and controlled it is. The perfect example would be the first couple of Tiger Army records, which i legitimately like, but goddam, talk about squeaking! You can practically hear a mouse fart in the studio. They’ve got more post-production than a Hustler centerfold. Tiger Army took the template of b-grade horror and greaser rockabilly, and went all emo with it. And while, as an engineer, i can find no fault with how hard-thumpin’ their stand-up bass and drums sound, there is not one ounce of mania and/or psychosis, in the lot.
Rather than being inspired by a generation growing up watching weirdo, demented horror and SF, this is a generation inspired by a generation, watching those films. The simulacrum has absorbed another victim.
This process of codification and virtualization happens to nearly every genre (and in my personal opinion, is an unavoidable byproduct of how the human nervous system works), the contrast is exceedingly pronounced, in the case of psychobilly. Dare i call it a paradox? Even an oxymoron?
Thank all that is unholy, Fear peels back the layers of gloss and varnish like an autopsy, and manages to find the dark, mysterious heart of Gothic Americana. It will help you rediscover yr love for all those spooky roots records you know you adore, but haven’t pulled out in a while.
This resurrection is achieved by blending the traditional tools of the troubadour – guitar, words and voice, which are then adorned with buzzsaw post-rock guitars (“Miss September”), mournful fiddle (“Maria”), epic gospel organ (“Devil Eyes”) heavenly harmonies and horror movie special FX, like the creeping unease of album opener “Open The Door”, all of which combine to prevent this from being merely a campfire singalong or tent revival. This is no Defiance, OH record.
Along the lines of what i was talking about yesterday, with the Christians transforming the cunning folk into vile, nasty witches, all manner of natural spirits and pagan deities were absorbed under the blanket term ‘demons’.
Names have power – they occupy real estate in our heads. And if you consider spirits and godforms as symbols, archetypes; confluences of natural elements and energies and thoughts and ideas. When you investigate, you might begin to notice that all of these natural energies being vilified and actually demonized in our minds has some subliminal negative psychological impact.
This prejudice even extends into traditional occultism, which strongly advises against working with demons, ‘call up not what ya cannot cast down’ and blah blah blah. But there has been a tendency, in the last 2 decades of the 20th century to present, to begin to investigate these currents, as can be seen in the book from infamous ceremonial magician Lon Milo Duquette’s Low Magick: It’s All In Your Head … You Just Have No Idea How Big Your Head Is. He advises, rather than running from these demonic currents, we must understand them, work with them, and control them.
This is my own personal, and very simplified, theory of Christian evolution, which has been essentially a war between the head and the flesh, with anything of the Earth being dubbed as ‘demonic’. This thinking, this separation, has allowed us to fuck up nature beyond belief, to ignore our bodies, to continually repress and ignore women, and much more.
One of the unexpected side-effects of postmodern living is that we can no longer succumb to lazy binaries and dismissive labels. We can no longer pretend that everything Natural is evil. Nature can be cruel, and often uncaring, and we need to buck up and be brave and accept the fact that our petty mortal existence could snuff out at any moment. Stop making excuses, and pretending like it can’t happen. It can. It does. Chaos reigns.
Instead, we must look closely at all the devils and all the demons, and make up our own goddam minds about what we want and what we don’t. Racism? Sexism? Pedophilia? No good. Don’t want anything to do with them. But to think that fucking or taking a shit is the same as killing a child, yr not thinking clearly. And wildness? Passion? Virility? Vitality? Strength? I think we could all use more of these things in our lives.
By invoking the demonic forces, King Dude is acting the part of a militant Black Panther, reclaiming the N-word. He makes us ask: what kind of demon? Because here seems to be a person who is not only identifying as a devil or a demon, but also speaking to other devils, like a folk punk Screwtape Letters.
He is taking the word back to it’s roots, to an animistic world, crawling with spirits. We must remember that Socrates referred to his muse as his “daemon”. Rather than infernal and sadistic denizens of Hell, he is conjuring a cast of wild, weird and unpredictable spirits – i.e. anybody who has ever been moved by the revolutionary current of rock ‘n roll.
All of these points can be shortly summed up in the track “Demon Caller Number 9”, where he says:
Wait for a demon to call/you know we all talk to demons sometimes.
Have no fear for the devil my dear, you know we all need the devil sometimes.
or in the track “Bloody Mirror”, which is a battle cry for all of us fascinated by the dark side:
Look into the darkest part of yr mind/Tell the truth, do you like what you find?
Are you scared?
Yr looking in a bloody mirror
and lastly, and most poignantly, on the album closer “Watching Over You”, with the most moving infernal singalong you’ll ever hear.
So come on all you devils and demons, sing it with me! Be not afraid to call upon the Earth, and if it is something wretched and nasty, confine it within that little triangle, and know that it has no power over you.
King Dude is also the mastermind behind the goth couture clothing label Actual Pain, who specialize in making stylish occult garb. It seems that he’s on a mission to cherrypick the dark side of the underground, and making it presentable and relatable to the many. This is (un)holy work, and we applaud him for it.
Take this opportunity to fall in love with dark folk music, all over again. Don’t let them steal our soul. Don’t let them imprison our spirits. Don’t let them nullify our threat.