The Deep, Dark Heavy Metal Roots of Occult Horror Comic New Canaan

A little more than two years after dropping the brilliant and disquieting 2015 Canaan Cult Revival anthology, writer/podcaster extraordinaire Christian Sager and hellscape-summoning artist Kelly Williams — who some may recall recently teamed with Exhumed/Gruesome/Expulsion thrasher Matt Harvey for Howl — are back in their old monstrous-yet-beguiling stomping grounds for New Canaan, a series which “uses Satanic Panic hysteria as a starting point for exploring the abuse of authority in church, the government and the family.”

If that sounds like fertile ground for a bit of the ol’ heavy metal aesthetic to germinate, well…

“We’re both fans of metal, so the art direction was influenced by gig poster illustrators like Florian Bertmer and Seldon Hunt,” Sager confirms. “Add some Jack Kirby and symbolism from medieval grimoires and you get New Canaan. Our soundtrack for the story includes a variety of metal, from the heavy, doom, drone, black and experimental sub-genres.”

Sager and Williams are making the first chapter of the comic available throughout December, one page per day, here. The dynamic duo also kindly agreed to whip up an exclusive New Canaan playlist for Decibel readers, which includes bits on how members of High on Fire, Electric Wizard, Lungfish, and…Creedence Clearwater Revival inspired these characters who populate this particular locale right next door to hell.

1. Earth​ ​— ”Crooked​ ​Axis​ ​For​ ​String​ ​Quartet”

Great horror films from the 1970s influenced the creation of New Canaan. Like The
Exorcist or Suspiria, I wanted a haunting theme song to permeate the story. I listen to
Earth on constant rotation while writing, so this track from Pentastar: In the Style of
Demons is my go to when getting into this occult world.

2. Electric​ ​Wizard​ ​— ​“Black​ ​Mass”

Several of the characters in NEW CANAAN are visually based on musicians, including
Liz Buckingham from Electric Wizard. “Alia” is a recovering victim of demon possession who wants to help children who face similar dreadful challenges.

3. High​ ​On​ ​Fire​ ​–— ​“Blessed​ ​Black​ ​Wings”

Another character named “Des” is based on Matt Pike from High On Fire and Sleep.
Estranged from his exorcist father, Des explores the fringe of America’s occult history to learn more about his family. A former soldier, he struggles with alcoholism, drifting from one town to another.

4. Thrones​ ​— ​“Ephraim”

Joe Preston/Thrones played bass on the previous High On Fire track and also inspired
another New Canaan character. “Joe Gibbs” is an obsessed book thief whose occult
library lives in his 1971 GMC Vandura. Also inspired by Daniel Higgs from Lungfish,
Gibbs is a knowledgeable asset other exorcists turn to for assistance.

5. Creedence​ ​Clearwater​ ​Revival​ ​— ”I​ ​Put​ ​A​ ​Spell​ ​On​ ​You”

It may be the least metal band in the New Canaan playlist, but CCR’s swamp rock inspired our previous anthology Canaan Cult Revival. John Fogerty also influenced the creation of character “Frank Delaney,” an older exorcist who works as a therapist for victims of demon possession. There’s a little Steve McQueen in Frank, too, so he drives a 1968 Ford Mustang Fastback.