Celebrate Lupercalia with Wormwood and Rue and Heretical Sexts

I’m delighted to announce that my micro-publishing imprint, Heretical Sexts, has teamed with Wormwood and Rue to produce a very limited enamel pin and mini-zine set to celebrate the Ancient Roman holiday of Lupercalia. Pin and zine sets are available to order in the Wormwood and Rue store.

Celebrated on the 15th of February, Lupercalia is thought by some historians to be the origin of Valentine’s Day (which itself is a Catholic feast day for multiple Saint Valentines, but that’s a whole ‘nother zine). My handmade, fully illustrated mini zine explores some of the ways we can take a page from the Ancient Romans to spice up our own romantic celebrations.

Carisa Swenson, the artist behind Wormwood and Rue, has created a black and gold enamel badge bearing the image of a fascinum, a winged penis amulet that represented everything from victory in war to good luck to protection against the evil eye. That’s some pretty intense juju for a winged penis!

For a limited time, orders will be shipped with a button showing my illustration of the god Faunus, an Ancient Roman nature spirit.

Order your pin and zine set at the Wormwood and Rue shop!

Morbid Fantasies: A Reader’s Guide to the Gothic – Limited Art Book

morbidfantasies-coverNewly available from Heretical Sexts is the limited edition art book, Morbid Fantasies: A Reader’s Guide to the Gothic. This edition is strictly limited to 10 hardcover and 50 softcover copies.

Morbid Fantasies is a richly illustrated reader’s guide to Gothic literature, guiding fans both old and new through the ever-changing landscape of this most ghoulish of genres. In its pages, scholar Jack Shear covers the history, key themes, and major books in the Gothic movement from its inception through the current day. It’s a love letter to this often misunderstood and under-appreciated form of entertainment, hand-bound and designed by Tenebrous Kate with featured illustrations by Dana Glover, Becky Munich, and Carisa Swenson.

Below are sample pages from the book.

UPDATE 3:12pm 10/20/16 – Hardcovers sold out within 30 minutes. Thank you for the support! Softcovers are still available but are going fast.

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Around the Web: Historical Heroine, German Decadent Black Metal, and Unfortunate Bigfoot Comics

It’s been another eventful month in the Empire as I march towards the Fall season. I’m putting the finishing touches on a new, limited edition, handmade book to be released by my Heretical Sexts imprint titled Morbid Fantasies: A Reader’s Guide to the Gothic. Not only is it a great primer in the genre, but it also features beautiful illustrations by several incredible artists. I’m hoping to have that out in October so stay tuned for more info!

Cover art by Becky Munich
Cover art by Becky Munich

Speaking of artistic endeavors, I’ve got work in the upcoming Occult Activity Book Vol. 2, created by S. Elizabeth and Becky Munich. I was working with ideas of occult couples, so I have two coloring pages featuring esoteric love matches, plus a papercraft Gilles de Rais. Look for his partner Joan of Arc to be offered free on this blog once the book is released. The first edition sold out super-quickly, so don’t miss your opportunity to own volume two. Pre-order your copy here!


On Slutist, I did something a bit different in August and talked about Artemisia Gentileschi, the Baroque-era Italian painter who overcame personal trauma to become a respected artist in her own right. Read her story here.


Did you know that Rob Zombie co-wrote a Bigfoot comic that’s full of implied rape? I personally prefer ecologically conscious Bigfoot over weird rapist Bigfoot, but hey, to each their own. Read my thoughts on this crazy disaster-mess on Nine Circles.


Decadent German black metal band Imperium Dekadenz draws inspiration from Tinto Brass’ Caligula, among other sources. Their lush, melodramatic, melodic record is a shoo-in for my best of 2016 list. Read my thoughts on their latest, Dis Manibvs, on Nine Circles.


Another historically-grounded metal album that moved me recently was Wrekmeister Harmonies’ Light Falls. It’s an emotionally harrowing journey inspired by Primo Levi’s holocaust memoir If This Is A Man as well as by band-leader JR Robinson’s strained relationship with his son. Not an easy listen, but a deeply rewarding one. Read my thoughts here.

Esotericism and Metal in the Black Ivory Tower


I’m a voracious reader. In addition to the scores of blogs I follow in my personal and professional lives, I’m juggling four or five books at any given time. I’d estimate that over the course of a month, I read the writing of around a hundred authors. As a person who believes that language can be evocative as well as informative, I find myself sifting through articles, eager for an elegant turn of phrase or a taste of dry wit. There are go-to film writers who deliver confident, textured writing that entertains beyond the scope of its subject matter,* but I find myself looking for music writers with the same panache. The difficulty of writing about music is summed up in an old chestnut of dubious origin, but as I read more underground music criticism on a regular basis, I can’t help but pine for strong, personal voices. To my obsessive reader’s eye, a troubling majority of writers on the kinds of music I enjoy** (various forms of metal, neofolk, industrial, and so on) are concerned with the niceties of genre classification and the relative production values between records to the exclusion of honing their craft as authors. This kind of writing is undeniably helpful when it comes to making purchasing decisions, but it’s often a joyless thing to read–more on a par with Consumer Reports than anything one would pick up for pleasure. I believe that sophisticated language takes on additional importance when an author chooses to write about underground and extreme forms of music, since the reasonable assumption should be that the piece of writing in question will be most readers’ first exposure to the music being reviewed.

*If you don’t read House of Self-Indulgence (Yum-Yum), Mondo Heather (Heather Drain), and Acidemic (Erich Kuersten), you are missing out on truly unique perspectives from people who are masters of their craft.

**The #NotAllWriters rule applies, guys. I’m not being shady towards people I know.

One of the luxuries afforded to independent publishers who don’t make their livings from their writing is the fact that they can develop aggressively non-commercial voices and perspectives. I’m keenly aware that my blogging and zine pursuits don’t have to line up with popular opinions or trends, and it’s creatively freeing for me. I find myself struck with delight in those all too rare moments when I find a kindred spirit in some far-flung corner of the world, madly writing away about some arcane topic and feeding his or her soul in the process.


Through the vagaries of fate,*** I recently came across writing so absolutely unique within the metal world that I was fascinated at first read. Black Ivory Tower, published in blog and zine form, is dedicated to the most obscure forms of metal and underground music imaginable. To put this in perspective: perhaps the most well-known band reviewed in BIT is Peste Noire, the French “National Satanist Black Metal” outfit.**** One will not find a gentle guide through the wilderness of these recordings in BIT. Instead, the reader is overwhelmed by a wall of elaborately structured, deeply intellectual, and frequently caustic prose. This is writing that meets the arcane and aggressive music it discusses head-on, without apologies.

***OK, actually Twitter.

****Note to my regular readers: as an added encouragement to seek out Peste Noire’s music, be aware that band leader Famine describes their output as “fantastique, grotesque, archaeofuturist black metal,” which makes me a little swoony even just typing those words.

The person with this startlingly refreshing voice is Degtyarov, a writer who embodies the unrepentantly esoteric nature of the true underground. While his writing on the topic of National Socialist Black Metal (NSBM) bands like Russia’s Moloth has rubbed some the wrong way, there’s more than mere provocation to his work. The current resurgence of political correctness has made it all too easy for even the most amateur authors to hammer on hot buttons, but Degtyarov’s best work captures the bleak outlook of the frustrated Romantic.

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Glimpses of his skill as a writer and editor***** are available in the blog, but Black Ivory Tower is best experienced in print form. I find reading print media to be far more relaxing and immersive than reading online: distractions are fewer, the physical experience is more comfortable, and it’s an altogether more natural way to absorb the written word. The traditionalist views and extreme erudition of BIT are inherently better suited to the printed page than to the virtual one, and as an editor, Degtyarov takes full advantage of the magazine medium to create a deliberate flow from article to article. Physically, the zine feels substantial–thoughtfully illustrated and printed in full color, it’s clearly a labor of love for its creator. There’s a sophistication and density to the second volume of BIT that’s unlike any metal zine I’ve ever read. Contributors to BIT 2, aptly subtitled “Time of Heroes,” take an intense, scholarly look at topics including Current 93 and Christianity, the Alpine mythology of Sturmpercht, and Colombian folk music. Articles in the zine are united by themes of cultural heritage and a yearning for a heroic past that perhaps never existed. This is a canny choice by Degtyarov in his role as editor, as it allows him to contextualize his own writing on the ultra-esoteric world of Siberian folk and metal music. In the hands of a lesser writer, this material would be no more than a novelty–trivia about a Western, urban form of music adapted by people from an “exotic” land. What Degtyarov does here is more than merely define the world of Siberian metal–he brings it and its creators to life for his readers. Take, for example, these passages from Taigafolk (available to read in full on the BIT blog):

The clouds press heavily on the trees, cloaking them in a sultry fog that permeates even the loneliest thickets of the immense boreal forest. The spruces that safeguard nature’s last remaining secrets reach into cold, unwelcoming soil, yet it is the only home that they have ever known, and ever will know. Set in motion only by an occasional breeze, these green giants stand side by side as the pillars of an immovable forest wall, unscathed by man. Their only fate is eternity; they shall remain loyal to the earth that nurtured them, until the end of time.

In art, and music in particular, one can already witness the casting off of falseness and Babylonian platitudes. Though commonly seen as a force of desecration, the black metal genre is ugly only in form, as its hideousness merely serves to hold up a mirror to the nauseating excesses of the era against which it revolts. Folk music, too, spearheads its own insurrection by attempting to purify itself of the grotesque musical mutations that together constitute the soundtrack of the 21st century.

Flutes, bells and additional guitars allow the melody come to fruition. They dance in harmony, paving the way for the drums and electric strings, which finally push the composition into a black metal orbit. These instruments, too, remain loyal to the leitmotif, with the solemn humming in the background persisting until the very end. Together, they establish the scene of Mother Earth, who can only stand idly by as a great evil pierces through her crust.

The structure of this article is such that, by the time Degtyarov gets around to describing the music, the reader is so completely captivated by atmosphere that they ache to know what the recording sounds like. His style of writing goes beyond music criticism for the sake of information and becomes an extraordinarily pleasurable and–yes–poetic reading experience. In the author’s deft hands, an LP produced in a small city on the Asian continent takes on a jewel-like significance: rare, beautiful, and representing so much more than its modest scale would suggest.

*****It should be noted that though the focus here is on BIT’s creator, the site and zine features multiple contributors


There are those who will dub the approach to music writing in BIT elitist, and that’s not an incorrect observation. I’d argue that a populist approach to esoteric art is by its nature inappropriate–if you’re turned off by the concept of high-minded writing about high-minded ideas, this isn’t a publication for you. The most unique artists in any medium know that they alienate vast portions of the world by honing the characteristics that define them. An egalitarian approach to reviewing music by a band that only releases thirty physical copies of their album would be beyond dissonant–it would be laughable.

I’ll confess that I read Degtyarov’s writing with a sense of envy on a number of levels. He’s an absolutely fearless writer, confronting topics I struggle to discuss in polite New York City 2016 society, but beyond that, he’s not a native English speaker. Hailing from the Netherlands, his writing process in the early days of BIT was to write an entire review in Dutch and translate it into English only after it was complete. One can witness the evolution of his writing over the four short years that BIT has been published; the work in volume 2 of the print zine is demonstrably more powerful than the angrier, more venomous content of volume 1. There’s an advancement to a higher plane of thought happening here that’s fascinating to witness.


It seems only fitting that this story ends with a bittersweet yearning for what could have been. The unfortunate truth is that Black Ivory Tower is not, at the time of this writing, an active publication. Degtyarov contributes to Nine Circles (my metal blog of choice and now home to my writing) and is the co-host of Heathen Harvest’s excellent podcast, A Forest Passage (HH is another site I’m privileged to write for). In my heart of hearts, though, I hope Degtyarov makes a triumphant return to the fortress of dark ideals he built with the Black Ivory Tower.

Around the Web: Imperial Decadence, Predictable Violence, Metal Comics & Occult Fun

2016 has certainly started with a bang, and February holds some really exciting developments that I’m looking forward to sharing. For those of you looking for a handy run-down of what I’ve been up to, you’re in luck!


January’s installment of Great Moments in Historical Sluttery, my monthly column at Slutist, is probably one of my favorites so far. Roman Empress Messalina is a fascinating figure whose scandalous reputation continues to titillate audiences looking for tales of sexy intrigue. Short of the whole “getting executed for treason” thing, it’s pretty amazing to think that one’s insatiable sexual appetites would continue to be a topic of conversation two thousand years after one’s death. May we all be lucky enough to be the namesake of a German strip club. Read the article here.


On a completely different but also-controversial note, I reviewed Feral House’s spicy new release, The White Nationalist Skinhead Movement: UK & USA 1979-1993 for Heathen Harvest. SPOILER: Many people are punched; little is ultimately accomplished. This was a challenging read from a very different perspective than the majority of writing on the subject, though its 600-plus-page run length makes it a book geared towards the VERY curious. Of all of the exhaustive details, I think my favorite anecdote was the fact that Ian Stewart of Skrewdriver was used as a bogeyman to convince his friends’ kids to behave themselves.


Because I have friends who humor me perhaps a bit too much, I have a new monthly column at Nine Circles where I discuss heavy metal comics. My first installment of Stygian Imagery talks about Glenn Danzig’s Satanika. It’s exactly the sort of comic book that you’d imagine Glenn Danzig would write, in that it is full of tits and gore.


Lastly, but absolutely not leastly, my Art Coven sisters Becky Munich and S. Elizabeth brought together amazing artists and authors for their just-released Occult Activity Book and invited me to participate. If you’ve ever wanted Elizabeth Bathory paper dolls and Suspiria color-in pages, then boy howdy it is your lucky day! I’ve got my filthy hands on a copy of this and it is a creepy, cheeky good time. Purchase your copy here!

New Zine: My Dream Date with a Villain Vol. 2


I’m delighted to let you guys know that the second volume of My Dream Date with a Villain is now available from my zine imprint, Heretical Sexts. Copies are available for purchase in the shop now. I’ve also added a bundle deal that gets you ALL four zines I’ve put out plus a pack of buttons for your bag/battle jacket/hoodie/what-have-you.

There are some prrrettty seriously talented folks who agreed to play along with the self-insert fan fiction theme, including:

Heather Drain‘s date with Radu Vladislav from the Subspecies movies

Dana Glover bringing more Mordor romance to the HS world with her comic about life with Sauron

-Newly-minted Heretical Sexts staffer Jack Shear “Getting Head from Red Skull” (that title, guys)

-My blood-drenched and also very sapphic affair with Carmilla Karnstein

…Plus so very much more, including a Russian demon, the worst Beach Boy ever, and a New Wave James Bond villain.

***Click here to visit the Heretical Sexts store***

New Zine: Forever Doomed

DoomCover-SCREENI’m excited to announce that my latest project is now available from Heretical Sexts. Forever Doomed is a collection of my essays and art that explore the theme of DOOM in movies, music, and literature. Most of the content has never been published before. Within these pages lurks:

-The heavy metal mid-life crisis in “Black Roses”[new essay]

-Adventures at Maryland Deathfest

-Erotic Rites of the Nazgûl [new comics]

-Dennis Wheatley: Unlikely Icon [new essay]

-Style lessons from “Curse of the Crimson Altar” [new essay]

-“Let Sleeping Corpses Lie”

Zines are available to purchase in the Heretical Sexts store.

Below is an art preview from Erotic Rites of the Nazgûl. Like any of my favorite ridiculous ideas, I took this one to its most ludicrous possible extension and I hope you dig it as much as I do.