Heavy Metal and Punk’s Material Culture

Film still from The Crimson Ghost, 1945

Film still from The Crimson Ghost, 1945

They’ve done an excellent job over at Boing Boing with a post compiling The Best Heavy Metal Movie Posters. The librarian in me was ecstatic to see material culture of this kind get featured. Highlighted are some very cool posters from which famous bands appropriated some imagery; i.e. The Misfits and Black Sabbath.

Of note, was the movie poster for The Crimson Ghost, a 1946 horror movie that was directed by Fred C. Bannon and William Witney. In particular is the poster which features it’s main villain as a skeleton robed madman–exactly the image that Danzig and the Misfits appropriated for all their merchandising needs.

The film centers around an obscure villain who has stolen an atomic death ray type of machine that can short circuit anything electronic, ensuring a healthy dose of havoc in its wake.

The Crimson Ghost, movie poster, 1945

The Crimson Ghost, movie poster, 1945

Another film mentioned in relation to bands was the Italian-French horror movie and name inspiration for Ozzy Osbourne’s Black Sabbath. Released in 1963, Black Sabbath was most famous for Boris Karloff as it’s main commentator. He introduces a trilogy of tales, The Telephone, The Wurdalak, and The Drop of Water, all staring an international cast of actors and actresses.

Black Sabbath, movie poster,

Black Sabbath, movie poster, 1963

In addition to the  posters mentioned above was the movie poster for Mark of the Devil, 1970. I especially liked the line it that read, “The Vomit bag and the price of admission will enable you to see….Mark of the Devil!” You can see the horror’s strong influence on Metal here folks. They go on to add text that says, “Due to the horrifying scenes, no one is admitted without a vomit bag“…
Seductive imagery of naked women on stakes looking like witches add to the sexual horror inducing hilarity of this genre. I couldn’t help but this amusing.

Mark of the Devil, movie poster, 1970

Mark of the Devil, movie poster, 1970

As a librarian, I think it would be a dream job to be in charge of a poster collection that included anything obscure and offbeat like these posters. Often times people forget the value of material culture and it’s influence on other genres of creativity. Ironically, with the advent of technology, imagery that was once seen glossing the covers of album records, CDs’ and posters have given way to something less creative and I can’t help get nostalgic for the lost medium.

In any case, I think I found a new hobby.


amebixIn keeping with how I seem to be late with all things music, I’ve only now discovered the 80’s band Amebix. Considered to be the father of crust/punk music, I was intrigued to learn about them as my exposure to crust/punk has been limited. With all the research I’ve been doing, I’m glad I stumbled upon this gem.

And all I can say is “Where have you been all my life?” I must have been living under  a rock to not have heard of this seminal band.

You can hear their 1985 album entitled, Arise!, (my favorite), below:

They remind me of a couple of things or I should say other bands have totally reminded me of them. The album begins with a beautiful instrumental composition that evokes the right atmospheric doom and gloom for the songs to follow.  Their second title track, “Axeman” has a chorus that totally reminds me of the Neurosis/Jarboe song, “Within” in which you hear Jarboe ominously singing, He is Coming, not unlike Amebix’s, He is coming, SLAUGHTER. I love every second of this album. Can you tell???


amebix2Another particular favorite song of mine is the video below for “Drink and Be Merry“–which screams Joy Division. The way that lead singer, Rob Miller sings, has such a tonal depression that’s completely comparable to Ian Curtis. it’s amazing I didn’t discover this song during my goth days! Add the bass and drums and you can see the post-punk influence of their times. What I found most appealing about Amebix is that they don’t exactly fit one style. I guess this harkens to the fact that they were considered to be a very innovative and transitional band. Rob’s vocals have often been likened to Motorhead’s Lemmy with it’s trashy scratchiness. You’ll definitely hear what I mean with the chorus from “Drink and Be Merry”.


And here’s the live version of Drink and Be Merry from a 2009 show: