If you’ve ever tried to imagine what it would be like to see the sounds of Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride, Evoken, or even Pallbearer distilled and transmogrified into words, look no further than the haunting, ethereal, strangely uplifting stories and novellas of the brilliant Chad Lutzke — who Decibel is not all that surprised to subsequently learn is also a lifelong punk/metal/hardcore devotee.
“I’ve often wondered why I’m attracted to the darker genres — be it music, film, or literature,” Lutzke tells Decibel. “Maybe I like to push the cerebral limits with the aggressive, the mysterious…the what-ifs. Or maybe I just get bored with the norm, the predictability, happy endings and all that. Whatever the case, I’m not alone. Metalheads and horror fans are, more often than not, one and the same. Like cheese and crackers, bread and butter, cold and beer. As strange as it sounds, that darker side is sometimes comforting. Some of us like the rain, while others shut the shades and pretend it’s nicer out than it really is.”
Considering the obvious synergy here, we reached out to Lutzke for a metal-lit playlist. He hit us back with the following selection of deep cuts and left-fielders, the inspiration for which can be tracked back to literature.
1. Probot: “Silent Spring”
An album that didn’t make as much noise as it should have, particularly this song. In a nutshell, Probot is Dave Grohl’s solo project with guest singers. This song features D.R.I. vocalist Kurt Brecht. And other than Lemmy’s “Shake Your Blood,” it’s the best track on the album. The story goes — as told to me by Kurt before the album’s release — Grohl reached out, asked him to sing and Kurt complied with a lyrical onslaught based on Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. Kurt — being a earth-loving guy himself — sends a message to us all about living on a cleaner planet. An extra little bit of trivia, Dave and Kurt never did meet during the process. The song was sent to Brecht, he laid down a dirty rotten vocal track and sent it off.
2. The Accused: “Starved to Death”
I could take up all my time here frothing at the mouth about my love for this band — the shredding, comic-horror riffage, the glass- gargling vocals. There’s nothing else like it. Instead I implore you to seek them out on your own, and right here’s a good place to start. The lyrics in the song may not be as obvious in their inspiration as others listed, but this song shares the same love for Stephen King’s The Stand as Anthrax did a year before with Among the Living. Try not to sing along as Blaine Cook grunts the bridge, declaring “You won’t go to bed hungry/No, not tonight/The flesh is so tender you don’t even need a knife.” You can’t do it.
3. Black Sabbath: “Behind the Wall of Sleep”
The late 60s/early 70s really had those hippies loving their Sci-Fi. Drug inspired? Maybe. But Geezer Butler, Sabbath’s lyricist, is no stranger to breaking the spine of a book. It’s everywhere in their lyrics, including their take on H.P. Lovecraft’s “Beyond the Wall of Sleep” — though after revisiting the lyrics I suspect both the transcendental meditating trend of the times combined with a generous dose of opium helped Mr. Butler craft these otherwise nonsensical words. Note: This song is best with headphones on. Check out Osbourne’s voice and you’ll see.
4. Misfits: “Hollywood Babylon”
Metal? No, but come on. Glenn started his own subgenre here — and Metallica isn’t the only band that’s got something to say when it comes to Mr. Danzig’s influence on the metal world. Outside of Elvis, doo-wop, and atomic-age horror and Sci-Fi cinema, Glenn has a love for Marilyn Monroe and all things 1950s. So paying homage to a book written about early scandalous Hollywood seemed like an eventual given. Written by avant-garde filmmaker Kenneth Anger, Hollywood Babylon covered the murders, suicides, and extramarital affairs of those in the business. The book was banned for a decade after having only been released for ten days in the States.
5. AC/DC: “Who Made Who”
Everything about AC/DC is simplistic — image, riffage and lyrics alike. That doesn’t stop them from being universally revered. Metalheads love ’em, punks love ’em. I’ll bet even your Mom has belted out “Highway to Hell “more than once. But you’d never expect the boys to dip into a book for inspiration. If they’re not singing about women, they’re singing about rock and roll in general — and with about as much depth as a children’s nursery rhyme. Turns out Stephen King is among us who hold the band in high regard, stating they’re his favorite. So when asked to provide a soundtrack for his B-movie Maximum Overdrive, someone in that camp put pen to paper and wrote an accompanying song based on King’s short story “Trucks.” Now whether or not they really wrote the song before being asked or just dug the story that much, we don’t know. The chicken or the egg? Who made who, as they say.
6. sHeavy: “At the Mountains of Madness”
If you haven’t ever heard sHeavy before then I already know your first thought. Is that Ozzy? No, it isn’t. Your second thought might be one of disregard for an Ozzy clone. Hey, if you can pull off Ozzy this well then I say go for it. The world can never have enough Sabbath-y goodness. Lovecraft and King seem to be the predominant storytellers when it comes to literary influence and this one takes from H.P.’s novella of the same name. Apparently the topic of elder gods and losing one’s mind never gets old in the genre. Kinda like enjoying Sabbath copycats. Oh Lord, yeah!
7. Metal Church: “Of Unsound Mind”
You’d think the work of Edgar Allan Poe would find its way into more songs, considering his iconic status, the controversy surrounding his life — and death — and the stellar compositions he offered. But apparently the idea of going insane or succumbing to the Great Old Ones sends a bigger chill than being buried alive, a favorite fear of Poe’s which he wrote about often. This song is based on Poe’s most famous story, “The Tell Tale Heart,” particularly that of the helpless “antagonist” and his pesky vulture eye and the turmoil it caused the narrator. If you haven’t read Poe, at least treat yourself to this story of overwhelming guilt and paranoid delusion.
8. KISS: “100,000 Years”
Outside of AC/DC, this one here is the real shocker. Gene is a businessman, an entrepreneur with a wandering schmeckle. His thoughts are stuck on two things: Himself and women. So to hear that lyrics penned by him came from an experience with a book, well, it’s hard to picture. Gene claims influence for this song was found in the book One Hundred Thousand Years of Man’s Unknown History — a far-out, speculative history book on Earth’s past, complete with aliens. It kind of makes you wonder if Gene picked it up from a high school library. You know, while waiting for Christine What’s-her-name.