Cthulhu in Metallica

Monday, May 1st, 2017 | Posted by Mick Gall

Hardwired to Self Destruct-small

That Cthulhu is a cultural force is a truth self evident to the readers of this blog, as evidenced by his numerous movies, RPGs and plush dolls. But his ubiquitousness can still surprise when he appears in unexpected media. The most recent creative force to sing (literally) Cthulhu’s praises: Metallica.

Metallica’s recent album Hardwired… to Self Destruct dropped November 18, and I was surprised to find one of their songs directly singing about great Cthulhu, and what exactly his rising means for humanity. The song “Dream No More” opens with singer James Hetfield declaring “He sleeps under black seas waiting / Lies dreaming in death”, followed by the litany of horrors that follows as “He wakes as the world dies screaming / all horrors arrive.”

That a metal band would sing about the end of humanity at the hands of an alien entity is not surprising; the genre has a long history of dabbling in the imagery of the occult, pseudo-satanic and even Lovecraftian. That Metallica would do it, however, is unusual. The band’s songs have catalog struggles and personal pains, exploring human themes like contemplating suicide (“Fade to Black” from 1984’s Ride the Lightning), drug abuse (“Master of Puppets,” 1986’s Master of Puppets), the horrors of war (“One” from 1988’s …And Justice for All) and the fear engendered by nightmares (“Enter Sandman” from 1991’s Metallica).

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What Black Sabbath Can Teach Us About Writing

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017 | Posted by Sean McLachlan


The world got some sad news last week — Black Sabbath just played their last concert.

OK, that’s small potatoes compared with all the other crap going on, but it was the end of an era. I bet I’m not alone among Black Gate readers and writers in being a Black Sabbath fan. Unfortunately I never got to see them in concert and now I never will.

They did teach me a lot about writing, though. As an author I get tips and inspiration from lots of different sources, not just other writers. Sure, I have a fondness for the great prolific authors and the literary giants, but I often learn more from the greats in different arts. Perhaps that’s because there’s a certain distance that allows you to see what they do more clearly. With other writers I tend to spend a lot of time looking at the nuts and bolts of their work, while with musicians and painters that’s not the case. I know very little about playing the guitar, and nothing about painting a landscape, so I focus more on the philosophy behind the work rather than the techniques of the work itself.

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Seeking Solace

Wednesday, November 16th, 2016 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

howard-zebras-smallWhen assembling the first round of Black Gate bloggers one of the few rules I laid down was that we keep our personal politics and religion out of our posts. John and I both wanted to create a safe and welcoming space where people of all stripes could come together to discuss the genres we love.

Over the last week I’ve never found that admonition more of a challenge. You see, I’ve been grieving. Not for any one person’s loss, or even because the side I backed lost, but because it feels to me that an ideal has vanished. That ideal may not have been flawless, but I shudder at the manner in which the leading proponent of a replacement movement conducts himself. And for the first time in my life I’m not just disheartened by an election result contrary to my own wishes, I’m a little frightened.

I believe I’m in the letter of my own law still because I’m not here to proselytize. The preceding paragraph is solely for context so you’ll understand what it is that’s upset me. If, like me, the depth of your own grief and your anger and fear surprise you, you’ve probably been wondering how to cope. I wish I could give you a good answer. I can tell you that one of the things I’ve done is distract myself with the genres I love. The other was to create some art. That is one (and not the only) way I mean to act.

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Goth Chick News: John Carpenter Rocks Out

Thursday, September 29th, 2016 | Posted by Sue Granquist


Though when we last encountered John Carpenter at the 2015 Wizard World Comic Con in Chicago, Black Gate photog Chris Z and I quietly wondered if the legendary horror master might be on his proverbial last legs. He didn’t look at all well when he finally appeared an hour late for his press call and after all, he is approaching his 70th birthday, which in Hollywood years is approximately 150.

However, recent events seem to indicate Carpenter may have been the temporary victim of an overindulgence of Chicago nightlife – on that day at least. Because though he may no longer be making feature-length films, his music career is giving fans quite a lot to enjoy.

As you well know, Carpenter scored most of his iconic movies. But earlier this year he released a second stand-alone, studio album entitled Lost Themes 2, a follow up to the 2015 Lost Themes, and this week we got to feast our eyeballs on the music video associated with the track “Utopian Façade.”

Arguably, the video which runs just over three minutes could be a Carpenter short which takes you into a virtual reality world populated by gnarly monsters and one very peculiar heroine who is sporting the contact lens I want for Christmas. Plus the man himself makes a cameo.

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Goth Chick News: Midnight Syndicate Releases Zombies!!! Board Game Soundtrack

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016 | Posted by Sue Granquist

zombies-official-board-game-soundtrack-midnight-syndicate-smallOh be still my little black heart…

Award-winning composers, dark music pioneers and my goth-boy-band crush, Midnight Syndicate has released the Zombies!!! Official Board Game Soundtrack. The new release features Midnight Syndicate’s signature, sultry blend of sound effects and instrumental music set in the modern day, post-zombie apocalypse world of the Zombies!!! board game.

Darkly brooding front man Edward Douglas explains;

We wanted to design a soundtrack that would not only heighten the Zombies!!! game play experience, but also appeal to all fans of zombies and our friends in the haunted attraction industry. I think we were able to achieve that.

Given the character and core elements of the game, I think we immediately felt this album should focus on having a more modern, aggressive sound. In order to achieve that, we brought in a lot of electronic and percussive instruments and kept the fundamental game scenarios firmly in mind, approaching it more as an actual soundtrack than as a collection of songs built around a particular theme or setting. While there are a few tracks that are more situation or location-specific, most are intended to evoke the general feel and atmosphere of the game world, allowing you to play along without interruption.

“The soundtrack is a perfect complement to the game,” added Twilight Creations co-founder, Kerry Breitenstein. “I couldn’t be more excited for the Zombies!!! fans to hear it, let alone the rest of the world!”

Picking up this album is a no-brainer… get it? Zombies? “No brainer”?

Never mind…

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Heavy Metal Lyrics, Sword & Sorcery Fantasy and Video Games: A Cultural Synergy by Dr. Fred Adams

Thursday, September 1st, 2016 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Fred_SpaceInvadersLast year, Dr Fred C. Adams, Ph.D., joined our parade of writers in the Discovering Robert E. Howard series with an entry on Esau Cairn, REH’s classic science fiction character. Dr. Adams is back for another guest post here at Black Gate. Put on your headphones and go!

The parallel (and almost simultaneous) ascensions of heavy metal music, video game technology (which later migrated to personal computers), and sword and sorcery fantasy to mass popularity from the early 1970s forward are not coincidental. Rather, they are synergistic. All three draw from the late 20th century youth culture’s fatalism and nihilism, honed to a fine edge in the fin de siècle era of the 1990s.

Consider the aesthetic of the Ur-arcade-video game of the 1980s, Space Invaders: ranks of grotesque aliens march across the screen as space ships fly overhead firing missiles. You, represented by a screen icon, scuttle back and forth, trapped in a small area firing and dodging missiles while trying to destroy the oncoming ranks of invaders before they reach you and symbolically stomp you into the earth.

The more you destroy, the more ranks appear, starting closer and advancing more quickly. You can forestall death for a time, but the denouement is inevitable. You will lose; the programming foreordains that you will die no matter how well or how long you fight. Other games of the era, like Missile Command, and Asteroids followed suit.

An occasional arcade game like Dragonquest allowed victory, but most reduced play to a life-and-death struggle the player will never win. The kill tally represents the only satisfaction—how many of them do I take with me? As the Time Traveler of Wells’ famous novel says of fighting an impossible number of Morlocks in the darkened forest, “I will make them pay for their meat.”

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The 2015 Nebula Award Winners

Monday, May 16th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Henry Lien and the Eunuchs of the Forbidden City perform the brilliant Radio SFWA at the 2016 Nebula Awards 2-small

Henry Lien and the Eunuchs of the Forbidden City
perform the brilliant “Radio SFWA” at the 2016 Nebula Awards

I attended the 2016 Nebula Awards banquet here in Chicago on Saturday night, and I thought that meant I’d be able to announce the winners in a timely fashion. Instead, I wasted my time hobnobbing with winners, nominees, and just all around cool people until very late in the evening, got home at 2:15 am, and fell asleep for roughly 24 hours. So I’ve been scooped by every website in the industry (and even some periodicals that only publish monthly).

Ah, that’s okay. For those loyal readers who steadfastly looked away when other sites reported the winners, and waited with confidence for the Black Gate report, thank you (both of you.)

The highlight of the weekend was the awards ceremony, hosted by the genuinely hilarious John Hodgman (from The Daily Show). And the surprise highlight of the ceremony was the opening number by Henry Lien and the Eunuchs of the Forbidden City, “Radio SFWA,” which I’ve been humming non-stop for the past two days. You don’t attend an SF conference expecting to hear live pop music, much less an 80s New Wave/Space Disco anthem that doubles as a recruitment tool for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, but that’s exactly what it was. I’m a 52 year-old guy who can’t dance, but at the end I was on my feet, pounding my hands together and ready to jump into the mosh pit.

Songwriter, lead singer and front man Henry Lien is some kind of genius. Listen to the whole thing here (be sure to read the hilariously brilliant lyrics by clicking “Show More”), and read the background here.

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More Metal on Metal: Swords of Steel II edited by D.M. Ritzlin

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_905944pvOdEQohFrom its emergence out of the hard rock genre, heavy metal has drawn from the inspiration of swords & sorcery. “The Wizard” is the second track on what is considered the first metal album, the eponymous Black Sabbath. Uriah Heep upped the ante with its albums Demons and Wizards and The Magician’s Birthday. Manowar’s epic song “Battle Hymns,” from the album of the same name, channeled all the blood and thunder of heroic fantasy into 6 minutes and 55 seconds. Behold:

Gone are the days, when freedom shone – now blood and steel meet bone
In the light of the battle’s way, the sands of time will shake
How proud our soldiers stand, with mace and chain in hand
Sound of charge into glory ride, over the top of their vanquished pride

Other bands have gone as far as spinning songs directly from actual stories and novels. The Sword, for example, has Game of Thrones-inspired “To Take the Black,” and Manilla Road drafted both the plot and title of of a Robert E. Howard story for their “Queen of the Black Coast.”

The point is, metal and S&S have been fist in glove for many a year now. They have the same penchant for extremes — the big gestures not the subtle, small ones. The idea that heavy metal musicians could turn their love for S&S into prose makes perfect sense.

And that’s exactly what D. M. Ritzlin has encouraged, starting with last year’s Swords of Steel, an anthology of heroic fantasy written by members of heavy metal bands. While I gave it a mixed review, I was utterly sold on the idea. The authors’ ardor was undeniable, even overwhelming weaknesses in some of the stories. Each story was illustrated with a work of hand-drawn lo-fi art that harks back to sketches on the backs of D&D character sheets and murals painted on the sides of vans. Flaws be damned, I enjoyed the book and was happy to learn that a second volume was being planned.

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Goth Chick News: The Exorcist Gives Us Ear Seizures…

Thursday, February 11th, 2016 | Posted by Sue Granquist

The Exorcist poster-smallWilliam Friedkin’s 1973 film The Exorcist was a landmark in horror cinema, a cultural phenomenon, and (if adjusting for inflation) the ninth highest-grossing film of all time. I remember hearing stories about it from relatives who described the mixture of fascination and revulsion with which the movie-going public met The Exorcist at the time.

I also remember skulking around the library in search of William Blatty’s novel, just to try and figure out what was so awesome about the story, but as I also kept getting caught it wasn’t until many years later that I both read and watched The Exorcist.

As you may or may not recall, the film makes minimal use of music — a stylistic choice which ran contrary to the norm of the 70’s when nearly every film regardless of genre, gave birth to a soundtrack album.

Of the little music used in the film, most famous is Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells,” which went on to become a smash so huge that it essentially birthed the Virgin empire.

Before Friedkin settled on Oldfield’s masterpiece, he had originally commissioned a score from Lalo Schifrin, who had famously done soundtrack work for Cool Hand Luke, Dirty Harry, and the instantly recognizable Mission Impossible TV show theme.

This score was used in an advanced trailer which has often been referred to as the “banned trailer.” As the stories go, this trailer literally made audiences sick when it was shown.

Check it out for yourself below.

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Experience the Creepy and Compelling Rhythms of De Staat’s “Witch Doctor”

Wednesday, November 11th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

I don’t usually share music videos here (I think the last time was due to some fascinating musical detective work on Star Trek by the CBC). But in the case of De Staat’s new video “Witch Doctor,” I’m compelled to do so. After watching it four times, I feel like I’ve been indoctrinated into a secret cult.

It’s one of the most effective music videos I’ve seen in years (and apparently done on a shoestring budget). As Black Gate author Jeremy Tolbert says, ” I can’t seem to stop watching it… It has this creepy, Constantine vibe – an evil necromancer or black magician controlling a cult or something.”

Check it out. Just don’t blame us if you find yourself penniless in Budapest with a shaved head when it’s all over.

[Caution – one brief occurrence of adult language.]

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