Peter Scartabello: Music of the Weird

Alex's Evil Tracks


Image result for Peter ScartabelloRhode Island-based composer Peter Scartabello began writing music and playing drums at the age of 9, working his scores out on his older brother’s four-track player. He used an old Macintosh computer to translate the sounds in his head to traditional notation. When in high school, he wrote songs for and played in a doom metal band, and between 1990 and 1991 went on to study composition and music theory at Manhattanville College in New York, as well as playing percussion with the Manhattanville Symphony Orchestra. After returning home he attended one year at Rhode Island College, then  finished off his bachelor’s degree in classical composition at State University of New York’s Purchase College. His first major work was entitled Drochthamion Demonica, written for synthesizer and orchestra. In 1991, he completed Two Symphonic Poems for orchestra. In that same year, he studied percussion with George Goneconto at Rhode Island College.


Scartabello has written scores and soundtracks in many different modes and genres, but seems to inevitably find his way back to the weird and horrific. To stay clear of the cliches that bedevil horror soundtracks, and to avoid an obvious match of music to onscreen action (called”Mickey Mouse-ing” in the industry), Scartabello dabbles with nonstandard instrumentation. For example, he used the sounds of different metals scraping together for the Bunnyman films by Carl Lindberg, about a chainsaw murderer who dresses in a bunny costume.

Scartabello currently lives in North Kingstown, Rhode Island and teaches percussion, piano and composition at the Knapp School of Music in Peace Dale, Rhode Island.

Alex S. Johnson: You’ve scored the Bunnyman movie series and set pieces by such authors as Lord Dunsany, H.P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith to music. How long have you been a fan of weird fiction and horror tales?

Clark Ashton Smith

Peter Scartabello: I discovered Lovecraft when I was about 14 or 15, so for about 30 years.

 ASJ: What considerations do you make when creating sound settings for weird poetry or tales?
 PS: I think the main consideration, and what I’ve gleaned from HPL, Machen, CAS, Poe, et al., is how vitally important atmosphere is. So my main objective is to always try and capture the atmosphere; then everything else kind of falls into place.
ASJ: What elements make a piece of music scary? Are there certain tones, modes, scales or intervals that are especially good for evoking dread?
PS: I don’t always go for scary. I prefer more of an other-worldly, cosmic horror kind of feeling. What I love most about weird fiction is when I am transported to a place that is strange and beautiful. Scary is boring to me. Without getting too technical, in my music I often set up a scaffolding based on a scale, so indeed as you said, the intervals are important to creating a certain sound. But music is so subjective, and over the years I’ve realized that what people feel from my music is so different than what I feel. That is not a bad thing to me, but exciting and interesting. The music I write is often very complex and I feel that sometimes the only way people can grasp it is to hone in on one aspect of it and run w it, but it is my hope that they will delve deeper and become more active in their listening. Because I really think the point of art is to share your experiences.
ASJ: Who are your influences as a composer?
PS: My influences as a composer are so voluminous and varied. But if I had to narrow it down to few that changed the trajectory of my work I would say, the Polish composer Andrzej Panufnik, the Italian composer Giacinto Scelsi, Finnish composer Aarre Merikanto, Xenakis, Roger Reynolds and the early composers, Gesualdo, Marenzio, De Lassus etc…. 
ASJ: You work in both heavy metal and classical modes. What do you see as the connection points between these two genres?
PS: That’s a difficult question. Heavy Metal is more of a nostalgic thing for me. It represents perhaps why I got into music in the first place. I love the early NWOBHM bands like Maiden especially, but now I am drawn to the more progressive bands like Deathspell Omega and Gorguts. But I think perhaps the essence of the metal connection is it is very Romantic in its over-the-top expression. I’ve always been a Fantasy and Science-fiction fan, so those elements have always found their home in heavy metal. There is also the aspect of non-commercial consideration that I love. When I grew up w MTV and pop music Heavy Metal was  breath of fresh air. Hearing bands like Maiden, Slayer, Queensryche, Morbid Angel, Death was so refreshing in many ways.
ASJ: Who are your favorite horror authors/directors, and why?
PS: Favorite horror authors is another tough question, but of course HPL, Poe, Machen, Le Fanu, M R James, for the atmosphere as I said before. For directors, I like [Dario] Argento because of his stylized approach. I like a lot of the 70s Italian directors. But horror movies are a completely different animal for me, and I have yet to see a director capture what the horror writers that I mentioned have done. I go for the fun campy stuff mostly, like [Don] Coscarelli’s Phantasm and [John] Carpenter’s great work. Movies are more visceral in nature, disturbing in a different way.
ASJ: What sides of your work do you think aren’t paid enough attention to?
I think in general people are more visually oriented so I would say the music in general. It’s a strange climate right now in the music world, exciting in that artists have the freedom to a lot on their own without a record label; but it’s also a double edged sword, because how do you market yourself and how do you prevent people from stealing your music or just getting it for free? I don’t care all that much that I end up on torrent sites, I think it’s cool when I see my album on a Russian doom metal torrent site, because ultimately I want my music to be heard, but that’s why I got into film music, I can make money and survive with that.
ASJ: What are your current projects, and what can we look for soon from you?
Currently I am finishing up a single song Sky Shadow Obelisk EP and am scoring the 3rd Bunnyman film, Bunnyman: Suffer the Children. And over the Summer I will be recording a guitar and electronics  piece I wrote for the Guitarist Phil Mazza called “Traversing Aggripa’s Magic Square.” So, lots of irons in the fire, so to speak.


Peter Scartabello Official

Film and TV pro Official



The Clown Oroborus by Alex S. Johnson

The Clown Oroborus by Alex S. Johnson

Reginald Snubb was a man in his late forties, bald except for two cottony puffs of hair that simply resisted the barber’s scissors–sheered, they would grow back in a fortnight, bigger and puffier than before. Other than that, and his prominent round nose, the roseate color of which appeared evidence of secret tippling, and a burgeoning double chin, he was reasonably good-looking, one might say well-preserved for his age. Even so, he was ashamed of his appearance, did most of his business by phone or email, and spent his time immersed between the covers of his favorite books. He loved books as much as he hated clowns. And he really loved books.

Clowns were a different matter altogether. There was something uncanny about them; they, in fact, anything to do with the circus arts, sent a bolt of terror up his spine. When McDonalds ads appeared on TV or before YouTube videos, he would switch channels, avert his eyes, try to focus on things that made him feel at home. Things that didn’t seem to jeer and leer at him through the screen. There were certain segments of town he avoided, and one block in particular–hell, one neighborhood–he took pains to circumvent. A dull pain would begin to throb at his temples when he got within five miles of the place, and flashbacks of harlequins in whiteface, mimes and figures on stilts shot through his mind with strobing intensity. He seemed to feel a ghostly kid-gloved hand close over his as he gripped the steering wheel tightly, trying not to steer off the road as he blurred his vision to ignore the looming billboard for the latest scary clown movie the studios kept churning out; and sometimes, when he was very tired and driving at night, he would see a pale face in the rear view mirror that simply wasn’t supposed to be there.

Snubb knew his fears were irrational, and that the effort to avoid clowns was limiting his lifestyle. Not only that, as a businessman he couldn’t afford to kick the clown dollar out of bed. A carnival was coming to town, and Snubb’s acreage was ideal real estate on which to erect tents, rides, a funhouse and all that kind of thing. Inevitably he’d get a call from the property manager, and if the carny credit was anywhere decent–better if they had the cash on hand–he would pretty much have to welcome the greasepainted mob to his turf.

Sitting with his shrink, Snubb explored different methods for overcoming his phobia. Finally, Dr. Strudel suggested aversion therapy–confronting his fears directly. The therapy might involve, for example, draping his study with circus posters, pictures of clowns, rubbing cotton candy into the doors and window frames, saturating his senses with the sights, the smells and–but he drew the line at whatever clowns might taste like.

“You’ve got to get beyond this,” Dr. Strudel said, scribbling furiously in a pink leather bound notebook. He peered over his half-glasses at Snubb, who was curled up on the couch in a fetal position. “It’s not healthy for a grown man. And no, I’m not suggesting you go out and lick a clown, for heaven’s sake’s. Be reasonable. Have some peanuts lying around, this kind of thing. Those little aluminum foil packets. So salty and tasty…”

“Maybe I could start by reading a book on the subject,” Snubb said. And thought: He’s right…those peanuts are delicious. The best thing about airplane food.

“Well sure, if you want to use the slow immersion approach.” Dr. Strudel scribbled some more in his notebook and drew his fingers through his Groucho-esque mustache. “But didn’t you get a call from your property manager today, something about a carnival coming to town?”

“I did?”

Dr. Strudel coughed and mumbled something into his dictaphone. “You should check your messages more often. You can use my cell if you like.”

“That won’t be necessary,” said Snubb, his face draining of all its color. How did Strudel know these things? Had he babbled under hypnosis? Was the doc connected to some kind of… Snubb stopped the thought before it could unspool whatever paranoid delusion prompted it. Just as he tried to chop off the thought that succeeded that one before it had a chance to bloom. This notion, however, flooded his brain anyway.

Is it just my imagination, or does Strudel have an abnormally large shoe size? And why didn’t I notice that before? Does he have a cold, or is his…bulbous nose, which looks like one of those artificial cherries now…“I’ll go down to Barney’s Books today,” he said, abruptly unfolding his lanky body from the couch and rising. Just before he closed the door, he seemed to glimpse a child’s balloon scudding against the window glass on the third floor office, a pair of kohl-haloed eyes…

But books–now those were safe. He loved books. Books of all kinds. If he came upon something upsetting, he could simply close them. And so what if a book happened to contain clowns? Was even devoted to the subject? Snubb had gotten through Rabelais without incident, and the classical French author was all about the carnivalesque.

Two hours later, Snubb gingerly removed the volume from the medium-sized paper bag with the Barney’s Books logo stamped across it, turned on his study lamp, adjusted his reading glasses and began to peruse A General History of Clowns (Cherrynose Press, 2012).

The frontispiece depicted a fearsome-looking member of the tribe in full regalia, apparently boxing with an animated cabbage, along with this caption: “Joseph Grimaldi (18 December 1778 – 31 May 1837) an English actor, comedian and dancer, who became the most popular English entertainer of the Regency era, chiefly for his portrayal of the harlequinade role of Clown. Grimaldi’s whiteface make-up design were, and still are, used by other types of clowns.”

Fingers of cold fear traveled along his arms. He could swear he’d seen that face before. But where? He dropped the book on his desk, face-down, and thumbed his cell phone, scrolling through his messages.

Sure enough, there was one new message: 12:15 pm, Bartlett Properties.

Snubb decided to listen later. Although he knew this wasn’t brave of him, and certainly went against both the letter and spirit of Dr. Strudel’s counsel, he simply couldn’t stand to hear the saved call. Feeling like the lowliest form of a coward, he turned the book over and flipped to the first page of the text proper. And read this:

“Reginald Snubb was a man in his late forties, bald except for two cottony puffs of hair that simply resisted the barber’s scissors–sheered, they would grow back in a fortnight, bigger and puffier than before.”

Snubb refused to read of whatever horrors followed. There were a few possibilities: either he had become locked into a Julio Cortazar pastiche, his fate destined to match that of a character in one of the South American master’s fictional puzzle boxes, or he was going quietly insane, like some armchair-bound scholar in a Poe story. He glanced around him, but the study looked the same as it always had: muted brown wood, framed photos of ancestors who bore the same genetic curse he did–which comforted him and made him feel less like a freak–an enameled purple box he never opened which held family heirlooms, a hole punch, a stapler and a pencil holder, among other standard office supplies on his desk.

At least his immediate environment remained stable.

He wracked his brain for a solution to the dilemma he found himself caught in. It was as though the universe was pressing him to take on his darkest terrors head-on. He’d thought reading about clowns was the safe thing, but it turned out to be the exact opposite. He’d thought putting off the message was a prudent decision, given his state of mind. Now, though, his choices had shrunk, atrophied as surely and inexorably as his hair follicles–except for those pesky cotton puffs.

Snubb picked up the cell.

He found the message from Bartlett Properties, held the phone to his ear, took a deep breath and pressed “play.”

At first, nothing; then, the crackle of static, through which he faintly discerned the wheezing, underwater warble of a calliope. The honk of a bicycle horn, loud enough to nearly make him drop the phone. And a sly, insinuating voice.

His own.

“There’s no point in hiding from your legacy, Snubb. You know what they say in our profession–once a clown, always a clown. In your case, clowning comes naturally. You might say it’s in your blood.”

No! This was madness. There had to be some rational explanation. Snubb tried to rise from his chair, but an invisible hand–the same kid-gloved fingers that had closed on his while he drove around the dreaded downtown neighborhood–settled on his shoulder and pressed down.

“Take a look in the mirror, Snubb. A nice, long look. Don’t worry, I’ll be here to help you adjust. I’ve always been here. I’m you.”

Clutching the cell to his ear, Snubb walked out of his office, down a hallway that scrolled with circling spotlights of green, blue and red, as the calliope music rose, as his size 14 men’s shoes closed the distance between himself and the mirror at the end, right next to the kitchen.

He gazed for a while at his reflection. The cherry red nose, the furry orange eyebrows, the pink tufts that jutted from behind his ears. He looked down at his shoes, and the reflection seemed to wink at him.

So there was no Dr. Strudel after all–it was a ridiculous name to begin with. No property manager, no acreage to rent. The book was real enough, but then, any clown with a credit card could buy the ubiquitous history and take it home with them. In the end, it was just him–Snubbsy the Clown, a carny in denial.

The sheer absurdity of it all came at last into blinding focus, and as he began to laugh, he heard a chorus from the kitchen, and his study, and his living room, a chorus of echoes from his carnival fraternity.

Snubbsy laughed until the tears ran down his cheeks and smeared the greasepaint he applied every morning with automatic precision.



Evil Tracks: Karyn Crisis’ Gospel of the Witches

Alex's Evil Tracks


Karyn Crisis first came to fame as the frontwoman for the progressive/hardcore/death metal band Crisis. Her fiery lyrics, dynamic performances and vocal fluency–from a lilting soprano to the scariest growl in metal–won her international acclaim. After several albums and side projects, Crisis the band called it quits, but Karyn continued her musical and spiritual journey. In 2009, Karyn moved to San Francisco and married Davide Tiso of Ephel Duath. There in the California Bay Area she began to explore her psychic abilities and mediumship, and has become a well-respected lecturer and healer. In 2014, she joined forces with Tiso, Ross Dolan  Mike Hill and Charlie Schmid of Vaura, to form Gospel of the Witches; the band recorded 13 songs which compose the band’s debut album, Salem’s Wounds.



Alex S. Johnson: Hello again, Karyn. I’m delighted to have the opportunity once more to interview you. I’m curious if there was a crisis, so to speak, or a tipping point in your life that led you down the road to Gospel of the Witches and mediumship?

Karyn Crisis: I have been aware of the spirit world since I was a child: both “ghosts” and astral people as well as higher Spirit Guides of various types. Much of my life I found the “ghosts” annoying and worrying, because many of them were in bad moods or were territorial. In contrast the Guides were helpful and encouraged me to dream big with my music and art and also gave me information to heal damage done to me by the American Medical Association.

I almost died when I was younger, so my psychic perceptions naturally increased after that. At the end of 2005 when I left my band Crisis, I asked the Universe to teach me what these experiences were all about and what was my role in them. So from that point on, I began a journey that connected me with healing abilities, understanding of my psychic senses, and then training how to organize my life as a Medium. The “ghosts” were just trying to haunt me into myself, to make me aware of my ability to communicate with them and also to help them. In 2008 when I went to Tuscany, Italy, everything was taken up a notch when I “met” the spirit of an Ancient Teacher of the Old Ways named Aradia. From that point on, long story short, Gospel Of The Witches came into focus, my professional life began as a platform Medium, and many pieces of my life made sense to me finally.

Musically, artistically, I put a tremendous amount of intention into everything I do. Whether or not the expression seems sophisticated or not, there is a great amount of sensation imbued in every action. It’s most important to me how things “feel” along the way rather than how they are observed from the outside. In magical practices, physical objects are representatives of everything under the surface, if you will; everything that energetically takes place behind an action.



AJ: What part does ritual and magic play in your life, if any; if so, do you design your own rituals?

KC: Magic is the art of moving energy, simply put. I already was well acquainted with my own personal “magic” through art and music, if you will, through my voice. After 2008 I began learning magical practices and old rituals. I learned the system behind them (the Natural Laws of Energy which are largely misunderstood), which means that I know how to use “magic” without any tools. However, I also learned the importance of ritual, what it represents, and the wonderful resonance of ancient lineage that it reawakens. My daily life is magic and ritual, though I am not attached to robotic rituals. I use a system, and that system is expressed many ways.

Artistically, naturally I have always thought of my work as a ritual before I knew anything about organized rituals. I consider every word or brush stroke important. With words especially, I’ve always thought about word choices as important, the pitch they reach to have meaning, a color expresses emotion in action…

AJ: Tell me about the very evocative initiation imagery in “The Ascent” video, if you would.

KC: The video for “The Ascent” is inspired by a story Davide help me translate from Italian author Carlo Napolitano. The story is about a man seeking the Great Mysteries in Italy and what happens to him along the way deep in the forests. Essentially, he becomes like the Hanged Man of the Tarot, an “upside down” perspective put upon him turns his world upside down.

I took the idea further, that this action is like a ritual, a rite of passage for any seeker of any path. So in the video you see me in the forest, guided by a Spirit Guide, taken into this ritual by several druids, “turned upside down” if you will, introduced to the Feminine Mysteries, and am transformed.

AJ: A long time ago I dubbed you “The Exorsister” in an article. It seems somehow prophetic now. By exorcising personal demons, do you think you cleared the way for mediumship?

KC: As I mentioned the Mediumship was always there. However, it was unorganized and I didn’t know the rules: I was just born into it. I didn’t have time to “think” or ruminate about whether the Spirit world existed-it was always as real as the physical world, and much harder to ignore. However, there definitely had to been some healing and learning and changing on my end to find my way to being trained under an NSAC Certified Spiritualist Minister and tested in public myself. In order to keep good quality “spirit company,” there are techniques than need to be used to keep that vibration (that channel) bright and high-quality. Part of me was already there, but daily life Karyn certainly faced much darkness and despair…I had to learn a certain amount of control over that to be able to open up responsibly to Mediumship. My personal demons were just my own thoughts; they weren’t people, so-to-speak, but my thoughts did keep me, at times, from embracing who I am and what my individual circumstances are and how that can be a positive thing!

AJ: Having covered the metal world for a long time, I’ve seen a lot of the pitfalls and dangers. How have you been able to steer clear of them–or have you?

KC: Without you mentioning which pitfalls and dangers you mean, it’s difficult to comment. For me, the pitfalls and dangers would be worrying too much about what other people think once my work is released out into the world, putting too, much weight on financial success as my worth. If you mean in terms of partying and self-destruction, those are not pitfalls that were ever tempting to me. The real danger in my opinion is letting all the “stuff” around music kill the creativity. Music is a really difficult world. Just because you have creativity bursting from you doesn’t mean you will be able to find the outlet, whether the outlet is a band, playing live, releasing an album.

People are really flakey. People have bad intentions. People use each other. In the music world, there are many of these people. However, there are long-lasting, wonderful experiences to be had from music. While the business world is really destructive–I think of it as a giant bulldozer flattening entire cities, the cities being musicians and their hope and hard work–musicians and music fans are truly amazing people. The longest lasting friendships I have are all with people I met while touring.



AJ: What current projects are you most excited about?

KC: I’m about to go to Italy to complete research on the ancient Medicine women who were there, who became targeted as “witches” during the Inquisition that lasted 700 years in Europe. I’ve made a short film about it you can watch here

I’ll be traveling and meeting with practitioners, historians, locals, and authors to recover their stories beyond the myths, the folk stories and rumors, beyond the religious and military’s anti-healer campaign. I will start in the north, where the Inquisition began and go deep into the forests to see what secrets they hide, then onward to the remains of a temple for the Goddess Diana where people left clay figures for healing requests. There I will bury prayer requests of friends. Then I will travel south to Benevento, an important pagan crossroads in Italy, and the home of the Janara.

I’m also working on the next Gospel Of The Witches album.

AJ: Fantastic!

KC: Thank you for your time and support over all these years, Alex!

AJ: Thank you, my friend. Good catching up, and I look forward to the results of your trip and the new Witches album.


crisis1How to contact and learn more about Karyn Crisis and Gospel Witches:

Gospel Witches Official

Gospel Witches Facebook

Karyn Crisis on Metal Archives

Karyn Crisis Official







Hekseri: Witching Metal by Alex S. Johnson

Alex's Evil Tracks

Recently I sat down for a virtual chat with Larissa Glasser and Iron Megiddo (Megan Lowe), the co-founders of the black/dark/thrash/occult metal band Hekseri. The Boston, MA-based unit plays in an aggressively stripped-down style that should appeal to fans of bands like Mayhem, Venom and Sodom. In addition to playing in Hekseri, Ms. Glasser is the librarian for Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum and writes science fiction and horror. Megiddo currently resides in Bergen, Norway.

terror trax

Larissa Glasser

Alex S. Johnson: What were you doing before you met Megan?

Larissa Glasser: I was playing in a band and Meggido (Lowe) came in to work with us, and her playing style was much better aligned to the kind of metal I wanted to be playing, plus I could see she really knew her way around the fretboard so I realized, “I need to form a band with this person.” My own main influence is of course Venom.

AJ: I gather the kind of metal you wanted to be playing was less Iron Maiden and more down and dirty thrash?

LG: Actually my old band before Hekseri was more death metal, but it was losing me because the drummer was trying to tell me how and what to play on bass. When Meggido and I started Hekseri, at least I had some creative input. We both liked thrash and black metal. Our sound developed into Witching Metal over time.

Witching Metal is what Hekseri practices in response to the bullshit subjugation and scapegoating of women throughout history. Metal already thrives on rebellion, but we wanted to clearly define where we stand with our material–there are still issues of sexism and misogyny to be confronted in society and because the witch instills such fear and awe, especially today, I think it’s a powerful identity. We also mix our many literary and metallic influences into the Hekseri cauldron, so that is something else we offer. Keep in mind–the witch is also a healer. We certainly aren’t the only practitioners.

AJ: Could you tell me about your work as a writer of speculative fiction, and how that ties in with the music and lyrics of Hekseri?

LG: Writing metal lyrics is for me a lot like telling a story, being descriptive (especially with violence), actions and reactions with narrative cause and effect. As with SF/Horror writing, you try to be evocative and stir up an emotional reaction in the reader/listener. I based the lyrics for “Awakened to Wrath” and “Kingwrecker” completely on the Beowulf battles with Grendel and Grendel’s mother. So yes, horror fiction can also taps into legends and myth. Otherwise I’ll just go into Deicide/Sarcofago mode and write a metal screed against religion. Depends on how pissed off (inspired) I get at a given time. Meggido writes most Hekseri material, and she and I have collaborated on a few songs.

Iron Megiddo

AJ: You have a very gritty, old school black metal vocal style. What are some of your vocal influences?

Megiddo: In terms of influences, I definitely don’t consciously think about trying to sound like anyone in particular. I’ve noticed maybe that certain things sound like certain vocalists at times, but other than that I am sure it is all sub-or unconscious. I let my own convictions, feelings, impressions and dreams just possess me and whatever sounds come out, come out. In the context of Hekseri, I think that was still developing and with Witchblood my ability to “channel” has grown so much more. My favorite musician of all time must be Quorthon though, and I have perhaps been unconsciously affected by Proscriptor from Absu…

AJ: What do you love about Quorthon/Bathory?

Many things. I like the way he progressed throughout Bathory… not that he evolved for progression’s sake, but it was an authentic progression. First the visceral, more raw and primitive black thrash which eventually became black metal on Under the Sign of the Black Mark, then the so-called Viking metal which first began to arise with Blood Fire Death but really didn’t become full-fledged until Blood on Ice and Hammerheart, Twillight of the Gods. Quorthon was a musician who poured out what was in his soul, the most honest musician in heavy music that I can think of. Really, it just resonates with me, from the raw and primitive to the Viking metal that was more about him digging into his roots as a Scandinavian than about some cartoonish representation of vikings, which I think today’s Viking metal is about (which I do not listen to–the only Viking metal for me is Bathory). The musicians and groups which managed to get into the heart of what this is such as Mayhemic Truth/Morrigan (DE) and Stormheit (FI) that somehow have that Bathory “feel” and a bit of the sound though are authentic with their own vision, such as Stormheit’s very Finnish national romantic poetry as song lyrics on Chronicon Finlandae, this is closer to what Bathory was at the heart of the “Viking” era more so than things like Amon Amarth or whatever goes for “Viking” metal these days.

AJ:  Let’s get down to Hekseri. how did the band come about? and what was the intent of the project?

M: The intent of the project was to play heavy metal. It took form as we went along

AJ: were there major bands that inspired the journey?

YouTube Link

M: I remember the guitar that I had at the time, a Jackson Randy Rhoads soloist, I played a lot of Iron Maiden and a lot of riff based heavy metal with intricate solos. It wasn’t long after we started that the style of writing I had made it clear that we would be in a much more raw direction…also thanks to Larissa in part for inspiring that turn of direction and helping to influence my getting more into Venom and such things that are a lot less “refined.” I got more in touch with my Slayer side and we went with the faster the better, the more disgusting the better. But before we started up I was shooting for something more melodic. Speed and a dirty sound fit the attitude much better… I think we were and are angry people, ha ha. The world we live in is pretty ridiculous, or the modern society rather. When you just want to create and do something with your dreams and you have to work some soul numbing job and you see the idiocy that reigns.. when you are young, it pisses you off, just the way things are accepted to be. Perhaps it was an immature rage in my case in some ways, but it fueled the music and let’s face it, society is still fucked in countless ways.

Hekseri Offical Site

Hekseri in Decibel Magazine

More Hekseri Music








Children of the Grave by Alex S. Johnson

Children of the Grave by Alex S. Johnson


They tramped back from tomorrow into today, born aloft drops from a blinding sun, on rifle-cracks of wind, in the pits of black stars.

They came from cracked temples where sacrifice never slept, where green, mossy things little different from rocks formed long steps that writhed at night and died by day. They were the tomb-children, the beings of dark fancy evoked by witch-candle. Their eyes crawled with scorpion ghosts and they lived inside the cells of men, citizens of present time, flesh slowly unwound like a shroud.

By the churchyard they gathered, among the toppled granite crosses, faces stained with holy light. The priest who kept watch fingered his rosary and gazed up at the body of the Savior, who seemed powerless to do more than watch.

Once potential, hosts of golden wonders, deprived of air and succor, food and care, the bodies of the children faded away; but not their spirits. These took longer to disappear, to scorch emblems into walls and fences and even beneath the curious, quaint faces of the villagers, whom time had forgotten, who moved in a shrouded dream, scratched like the emulsion of black and white movies.

They drifted down from space in ships like glass coffins, wielding signs of peace in one hand and destruction in the other.

Deep in the earth, their shadows echoed with them, the bones waiting, quiescent, for a chance to hatch. And surfacing, ripening in the moist night air.

And they gave the bones blood. Not theirs, of course, since every final drop had been purged from their bodies; as they churned and chafed in shackles, crying out to no avail. Because their hurt went unheeded, crafted by the adults in whose power they remained locked.

The crimson nourishment they gave came from their hosts: the fiends of their fathers, the madcap jesters who amused themselves by crippling children. Those who had forged their death like pyramids, laying on brick upon another until the kids were lost, smashed under rock. Blind and dead, but their eyes still burned, and sometimes, late at night, the villagers saw them, peering out through the trees, or on the edge of the lake, or in subtler forms that flashed gently by as they tried to sleep. The bodies of the scorpions growing larger, until nothing could be seen of their once-innocent regard but cosmic blackness.

They left signs of their presence, diary entries of their wanderings discovered later in the crypts beneath the town, where shameful deeds had been done. Blood graffiti, cryptic feathers, semi-liquid offerings of flesh. They dropped hints, whispers in the ears of apple-cheeked old women, young, hearty men, hints of a coming nightmare. They wrote in curvilinear script, in hieroglyphs, in tongues of honeyed mist. Sometimes they chuckled from haybales as the harvest proceeded; sometimes they were only felt, as an absence, a sudden darkening, a sketch of terrible things that might yet be.

And the screams of the villagers rang among the hills, only to be stifled as the candles were snuffed, the mouths closed, the stitches lashed through the soft skin of eyelids. Their animals ran loose and free, especially the cats, who meowed in sympathy with the children. They understood the pain as only creatures with the wild in their veins could understand it. And they joined in the games, sometimes playful, sometimes cruel, the kids crafted from suffering and flesh and bodies and bone and hurt.

When they were done, giggling with glee that shaded into evil, they ascended once again, the tracks of the coffins etched briefly into the dark, as the wind shrieked and a storm gathered.

Only to be remembered as stories, legends, tales told by the fireside to the children of the grave.



The Girl in the Lake by Alex S. Johnson

The Girl in the Lake by Alex S. Johnson

Sam looked exactly–I mean, the resemblance was uncanny–like a little kid who’d woken up extra-early Christmas Day so he could get a sneak preview of the presents piled in front of the hearth. He was about to reach forward and touch the black streak on the pine’s bark when Jeremy cut in.

“Dude, maybe you should just take a picture or something. Shit looks toxic.”

Sam shrugged and withdrew his hand, wiping it off on the front of his t-shirt–made of hemp fiber, naturally–which was a blazing fluorescent green and featured a picture of a bear smoking a bong.

“I guess you’re right, Jer.” He shrugged off his small backpack, covered with patches from various jam bands, and set it on the ground in a bed of needles. “Then again, all this land is saturated with poison.”

Scott coughed. His dad was one of the biggest investors in Green Chemical, and besides, they were trespassing on private property. If his dad even suspected what he’d been up to, he’d wind up losing the last privileges he’d been able to hold on to, and spend every day till his 18th birthday locked in his room puzzling over the higher math. For some reason his dad and I got along fine, even though he liked to call me a “socialist wingnut.” But he hated Sam and Jeremy with a passion.

The sun was setting, shafts of amber light flickering through the pine forest. Beyond the clearing, Lake Soutaine cut a big bite out of the woods, a darker, evil shade of green. Two summers ago it had been pure blue, and not off limits. We used to go there all the time. There was even an ancient tire swing hanging over the water, but the rubber was flaked,  and covered with some kind of white fungus.

“You guys mind if I blaze one?” Sam asked. He passed his arm through the tire before anybody could stop him. “For old times?”

“Jesus, Sam…” Scott started. He slumped his shoulders with a defeated look. I could see in his eyes the flicker of rebellion begin to grow. “Yeah, it’s chill. Fuck it, you know? We’ve come this far.” Then he pulled his polo shirt over his head. Damn, he was cut.

“Don’t even think about it,” Scott added. I smiled. My friends could be dicks sometimes, but they were totally cool with my sexual preferences, and that pretty much trumped any of the crap they gave me. They were dicks to everyone, and to themselves. Sam retrieved a baggie from his pack and plucked a joint from the nest of sticky. “So you guys remember that little girl who disappeared a couple of years back?”

The air was growing cold, and I wished I’d brought my jacket. For some reason Scott was strutting around shirtless like the cock of the walk. I didn’t mind at all. Sam was oblivious as he flamed up the J and wrinkled his nose. It was some old school skunk. I could tell we were all getting a contact high. And just a bit of the paranoia. Which was perfect for Sam’s purposes.

I told you my friends were dicks.

“Let’s make a drum circle,” he suggested. Scott started to laugh, so hard he was choking and red in the face. “Are you fucking serious? Dude, you’re a walking cliche. Don’t we need a drum or two for that?”

“Figure of speech, dude.” Suddenly I think we all realized how long a day we’d had. It felt right to sit down, get comfortable and listen to a scary story. After all, the initial purpose of our expedition–Sam’s idea, of course–to investigate, document and blog about Green Chemical’s despoilment of nature, seemed more and more naive. Of course GC was taking a giant dump on the planet. That was a no-brainer.

“Her name was Tanya,” Sam began. “She was 11 years old when she went missing. You remember her mom going on TV and pleading with the kidnappers. But there was never a ransom note. The case is still open with the police, but most people think she’s dead.”

“Very sad,” I said. “She was a beautiful kid.”


“That she was,” Sam agreed. “But I have a theory. Tanya loved swimming in Lake Soutaine. The day she went missing, the last time she was seen…” Suddenly there was a plop and splash from the lake, as though an enormous fish had jumped. My blood turned to ice. This wasn’t fun any more.

“I think we should get the heck out of here,” said Scott, standing up.

“Oh come on, dude,” said Sam. “It’s just a story. Anyway, my theory is that Tanya drowned. She was a great swimmer, but something got her. Pulled her down. A week later, if you remember, the county closed off this section of the woods and all of Lake Soutaine. I don’t think that was a coincidence.”

“You’re freaking us all out,” said Scott. “Besides, I might as well face my punishment now. My dad’s going to love this–staying out all day on a weekend before finals, stumbling in reeking of weed.”

“No one’s stopping you, dude,” said Sam. “How about you guys?” I shrugged. “Even if I wanted to go, I couldn’t. Basically paralyzed with fear. Please continue.”

“That’s the spirit! All right. So Tanya drowns, and obviously, she dies. But she doesn’t die all the way. The chemicals somehow reanimate her, turn her into a zombie. And she’s…”

“You’ve been reading too much R.L. Stine,” said Jeremy, who up to this point had been silent, his eyes glassy.

“Right behind you.”

I couldn’t move. I felt like some kind of morbid looky-loo at the scene of a traffic accident. Of course there was nothing there. Sam was making this all up; he’d admitted as much.

Because if he wasn’t, then the little girl standing behind Jeremy, half her face rotted off, shiny with algae and glowing like a halogen lamp, wasn’t just some kind of hallucination from the angel dust I suspected the weed was laced with. If he was reporting the empirical facts, as I now believed he was, the blood spurting from Jeremy’s neck stump now was as real as the crater Tanya had scooped from Sam’s face, and the sparks–like a handful of glitter–drifting in the girl’s blind eyes as she turned towards me with a lipless grin.


April’s Demented Children by Alex S. Johnson

Come Out and Play

This month’s theme on is demented children. Creepy kids. Scary small ones. Terrifying tots.

How did this enduring horror trope come about? From Henry James to Shirley Jackson, Ramsey Campbell to Stephen King and beyond, hundreds of 80s midlist paperbacks–and that’s just the literary end of the seesaw–kids have been frightening us, haunting our imagination. Carrie. The Omen. The Exorcist. The Bad Seed. The Brood. Let the Right One In. Children of the Corn…the list goes on and on. And that’s not even touching the plethora of powder-faced ghosts with eyes like piss-holes in the snow, courtesy of J-Horror.

The Exorcist

Who will ever be able to forget, to scratch out the brain cells permanently burned with images of Linda Blair as 12-year-old Regan McNeil in The Exorcist, welts scrawling out the words “Help Me” on her skin, tumbling backwards down the stairs, her head twisting 180 degrees, as she suffers the agony of demonic possession? Never mind the scene with the crucifix. How about little Damien Thorne in The Omen, whose idea of good fun at a birthday party is watching his nanny hang herself from a window? And Michael Myers, standing in front of his house in a clown outfit, fresh from slaughtering his older sister in Halloween?

Childhood is supposed to be a golden time in our lives. A time of innocence and play. Exactly how did it become corrupted? What is the resonance in actual life of these abominations?

“Come and play with us”

The real horror, I suspect, lies in the way the evil of the adult world seeps into that golden realm. Try as we might to protect them from harm, children are victimized psychologically, sexually, physically and in other ways. The fallout from this trauma becomes compressed in narratives that detail our deepest fears. These children are aspects of ourselves, writ large. Because nobody escapes childhood unscathed. Even if we’re popular, well-liked, we see how bullies mistreat the weaker kids (Carrie, Christine, Evilspeak), and the subconscious projects means of, if not righting these wrongs, at least a good, satisfying round of havoc, blood, fire and the creative use of cutlery.


As with many aspects of life, denial of the problem is no solution. Children are our most vulnerable citizens, and it’s little wonder that they serve so often as the source of fear. As of 2015, statistics indicate that at least 1,500 children die of abuse yearly in the United States alone–a collective wound that festers and burns.

This assumes that all children come into this world a blank slate, and it is purely environment that shapes them. And that is much too simplistic. Part of the fun of child-themed horror–for after all, we are talking about entertainment, however dark its roots–comes from the recognition that kids aren’t innocent in a metaphysical sense. Rumors of demon broods are more factual than they appear.

Have you Seen this Baby?

Children arrive smeared with blood and mucus, chaotic blocks of potential awareness, maturity, intelligence and empathy. Playful mischief can and does register as cruelty. Witness your normal baby, the ultimate megalomaniac, demanding all to serve him, worse than any tyrant.

So, as Facebook relationship status has it, “it’s complicated.” Horror gives us a means to deal with our helplessness in the face of core human evils, gain some kind of catharsis and challenge the fears that might otherwise overwhelm us. We were all children once, and the choice is perennial: giving in to the dark side of adulthood or finding some means to free ourselves from the contagion.

April is the start of Spring; new life flourishes where the old dies. So let’s enjoy a month of enfants terribles, sanguinary small fry, knee high nemeses, miniature malefactors. The stories we tell about the younger versions of ourselves can be a source of healing and pleasure.

And now, without further ado: presents April’s Demented Children.