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Codex Obscurum – Issue Four

March 22, 2014 –

codex_obscurum-issue_four

Many of us old school death metal fans watched the rise of zine Codex Obscurum with growing interest because it, like Glorious Times and Underground Never Dies!, represents an attempt to look back at the underground and figure out what made it as powerful as it was. Part of the answer is selectivity, which is a gentle person’s form of “elitism,” meaning that one selects quality over quantity and vigorously promotes and defends the quality. This is what zines did, what radio shows did, and what labels did, back in the day, by choosing some bands over others. The vague smell of blood in the air is the shadow of long-forgotten predation and natural selection that also shaped us as humans, which means not so much “survival of the fittest” but that all who make a meaningful contribution get kicked upstairs and everyone else is forgotten.

Codex Obscurum represents the best kind of selectivity because it targets bands of note but does so broadly, thus you avoid both the “hey kids, everything’s great!” attitude of the commercial providers and the narrow perceptual slot of the kvlt vndergrovnd. This issue advertises swamp death metal band Autopsy, second-wave crust band Doom, cavernous old school death metal band Blaspherian, multifaceted heavy metal/folk band Primordial, melodic drone metal band Sacriphyx, abrasive occult death metal band Father Befouled, Icelandic modern black metal act Svartidaudi, and several more. While not everyone may like (or admit to liking…) these acts, the spread makes it clear that both broad-minded attention to music itself and a high level of standards apply here. This explains why the editors of such a zine might want to go underground and stay there, where they are not beholden to the ugly cycle of advertising revenues and thus being asked to pimp the latest platter of re-heated Carpenters tunes spray-painted with the vaguest appearance of “metal.” Indeed, Codex Obscurum is funded entirely by user purchase price, which is why for $5 or so this arrives at your door with no ads.

For the uninitiated, this zine presents the old school zine style in every detail, which is both practical and a nice atmospheric touch. The hand-numbered issues, the xeroxed pages complete with copy artifacts, occasional typos and sometimes surly answers to perfectly reasonable questions by bands who clearly have done too much press lately, all factor in to the appeal. Use of cardstock for the cover gives this issue a more permanent feel than older photocopied heap zines had, which shows a positive advance of technology. Similarly, quite a few of these interviews seem to have occurred through email, and the use of office software to lay out the zine makes it more readable. The rest is pure old school, from the writing style which is both personal and projected into the mind of an idealized metalhead, looking for that nearly indefinable quality that makes a metal band distinguish itself as a classic in the making rather than news of the week.

The primary content for Codex Obscurum is provided by its abundant interviews, which are conducted in a familiar yet inquisitive style, like the best of Joan Didion-influenced hip journalism before it forgot the word “investigative” in its title. These questions aren’t all softballs like you would expect in a mainstream magazine, but sometimes force bands to confront their own internal struggles for self-definition. To their credit, most of the bands here rise to the occasion and reveal their thinking and intentions in the actions they have taken. The Doom interview is particularly revelatory as the interviewer walks the band through the past and makes connections to consistent patterns across their career. The Autopsy interview makes for a stunning read since it is Eric Cutler giving a candid and somewhat aggressive portrayal of where the band is and how past events shaped their present outlook. The Svartidaudi interview goes in-depth into how this band is struggling to find its own voice while under onslaught from the many trends of current black metal, despite being inspired by the best of the past (which is different from being inspired by the past alone). One oddity that would be called a “quirk” in any less just-the-music-ma’am magazine is the lengthy interview with the creator of the RPG Cave Evil, which accompanies the amazing artwork from that game with a nearly existential exploration of the purpose of RPGs themselves.

Profanatica “Thy Kingdom Cum” (Hell’s Headbangers)
Disingenuous.
You cannot defile nuns
While wearing sweatpants.

The sizeable block of reviews at the back of Codex Obscurum show where this zine is determined to keep its hand in the current music industry. Any band that is roughly connected to old school death metal and black metal, with a wide spread because of open-mindedness, qualifies for inclusion here. These reviews take a conversational outlook which seems too removed from the music at first except when you realize that it’s gonzo journalism of the first order. When writing about metal, don’t pretend you are not a metalhead; it’s a lie. Further, think of what you like and then extrapolate to what others like. It helps them shop for music. It also avoids troubling pretense and complications as reviewers try to get more “in depth” and end up producing thousand-word inspections that result in no clear conclusions. Here, the conclusions are clear — in fact, one section even puts them in Haiku form — and give roughly the kind of synopsis one would get from an experienced record store owner, label head or producer, issuing forth a rough summary of the band, its importance and its staying power and audience, in about a sentence each.

For the past several issues, Codex Obscurum has reserved its final pages for experimental content. In this case, it is facially an inspection of why a famous metal musician flaked on an interview… and beneath the waves, a deft revelation of the disintegration of the underground into warring self-interested parties while no one keeps their eye on the wheel or the road. That leaves the future of the genre up in the air, since everyone is too busy cashing in to steer, and the results are about as you might expect: all the has-beens in warmed over hardcore, emo and indie rock bands have rushed through the breach and set up shop making parasitic versions of the older material, except nowhere near as good. Codex Obscurum shows a good way to reclaim the past of the underground for the future, namely to start paying attention to the steering again and to be unafraid to be selective and to not give reasons why some bands simply suck. Just be honest. The editors and writers here have given it their best shot and it makes for not only informative and entertaining reading, but a glimpse into the old days without the smarmy fug of solicitous nostalgia for marketing purposes that normally hangs around such ventures.

Codex Obscurum zine releases issue #4

February 9, 2014 –

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The recent revival in non-ultra-niche zines for underground metal continues with the success of Codex Obscurum, an old-school style zine that takes advantage of modern technology. Our previous coverage of Codex Obscurum chronicles its development from the early days to mastery of aesthetic and content.

When the underground was new, zines were the way to find information for metalheads in a world that refused to air, play, show or print information about such a tiny and unprofitable genre. With the rise of niche marketing, glossy zines have taken over much of the underground, driving most xeroxed print zines into ultra-niches where they cover topics specific to about 500 people each. Codex Obscurum resurrects the general-purpose underground metal print zine in about 50 xeroxed pages of interviews, reviews, features and reports.

Issue #4 of Codex Obscurum is now available for pre-order at the Codex Obscurum fulfillment site. The zine costs $3 + shipping and handling and will hit the mails at the end of this month. This issue features interviews with Blaspherian, Autopsy and Primordial, a selection which reveals the breadth of coverage that Codex Obscurum delivers.

Codex Obscurum – Issue Three

December 31, 2013 –

codex_obscurum-issue_3

The third edition of contemporary old school print zine Codex Obscurum brings vast improvements to this already-promising zine. Under the guidance of editor Kevin Ord, Codex Obscurum has improved its readability, positioned its content for an in-depth view of the metal scene, become more consistent about its most important sections and added experimental content that expands what we think of metal zines.

The first thing a reader will notice is that readability is improved. This refers to the visual appearance of the text and how easy it is on our eyes. Since the 1980s, computer and printer technology for the average person have improved (all of this cool stuff was available then, you just couldn’t afford it). As a result, backgrounds and gradients are more likely to be used, as are complex fonts. The problem with that is that when the result is put out through a Xerox-like format, these fancy things can blur together or create contrast differences that apply torque to human optic nerves. This time around, the Codex Obscurum guys dialed back the fonts and went for more computer-y fonts on lighter backgrounds. Their best format remains the one they used for the Summoning, Disma and Nocturnal Deathstrike Records interviews, which is a white page with a border of hand-drawn art. Of course, this is the most expensive to create because it requires a human artist, but I wish the whole zine could be this way. It’s a killer look that is both like the old school and takes advantage of newer layout abilities. I also don’t mind if the whole zine is in Times New Roman and a good sans-serif font. That being said, however, readability is massively improved here and layouts mentioned above are positively gorgeous. It reminds me of the best of the 1980s zines that always seemed like little art books.

codex_obscurum-issue_one codex_obscurum codex_obscurum-issue_two

In terms of content, Codex Obscurum was never a slouch. Previous issues included high profile acts like Incantation, Skepticism, Morpheus Descends and Rozz Williams. Issue #3 has chats with Saint Vitus, Mortuary Drape, Disma and Summoning among others, raising the Codex Obscurum profile even further. The zine has also stabilized its organization so that the vital content is present and in the roughly expected proportions. There are more record reviews and a solid block of interviews framed by show reports and features. In particular, having a big block of record reviews at the end is useful for the person who picks up a zine to figure out “what’s happening” in the metal world and might have a few minutes to scan for something fun to buy at the end of a long work-week. This “feels” more solid as a zine since the relevant content keeps coming and there’s no filler, with firm boundaries between sections such that none of them seem to be second-class citizens. In addition, Codex Obscurum has added experimental content in the form of stories and reflections. While some of this was indicated in the past, such as the surreal and passionate tribute to Slayer‘s Jeff Hanneman from the second issue, here there’s a crossover more like a bleed-in from a literary zine or chapbook. The result helps the end of the zine not trail off, but offer solid content of variegated types consistently throughout.

The result of all of the above is that the third issue of Codex Obscurum shows this zine picking up where the past left off, and going further. Not only that but it does so with high quality and in a way that gives this zine its own personality and brand. I’m looking forward to seeing more from Codex Obscurum as it races forward into the future …of the past.

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Profile: Codex Obscurum editor Kevin Ord

December 3, 2013 –

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Photo: Aaron Pepelis.

There’s a seismic disturbance in the metal world. As the power of the internet winds up, the flood of information has increased to the point where people are searching for ways to reduce the data overload. As a result, they’re turning back toward zines, reviews and edited sites and away from crowd-sourced data and social media.

On the forefront of this change is Codex Obscurum, a formerly small but rising zine from the eastern coast of the United States. Staffed by volunteers, run on a non-profit basis, and dedicated to old school underground metal as well as contemporary developments, Codex Obscurum has won over its share of devotees.

We were fortunate to be able to catch a few words with Editor Kevin Ord, who has taken over the helm. He gave us the lowdown on changes at the zine and its future direction, as well as (at our interviewer’s insistence) some speculation on why zines are surging forward as the rest of media swarms and retreats in confusion.

Can you tell us a little about yourself, and how you got involved in underground metal?

I’m from Worcester, Massachusetts. I have a wife and three cats and I’m a paint contractor during the day and zine publisher at night. Like most kids in the 80s I got into metal through other kids in school with bands like Slayer and Metallica. I can pretty much thank Headbangers Ball for introducing me to underground metal. It was appointment television on Saturday nights. I also remember getting a copy of Pit Magazine in the early 90s and being obsessed with hearing what all of the bands in there sounded like. I was already a huge fan of horror movies so the art grabbed me right away.

I like to be able to hold something physical. I think a lot of people do. I want something that a kid might find in a shoebox in 10 years and say “I remember this; I’m going to reread it.”

What made you want to work with underground zines? Have you been a zine reader for long?

I wanted to work on an underground zine because I was sick of just bitching about stuff on the internet. I wanted to actually create something instead of always just tearing stuff apart. I’ve bought zines randomly for at least the last 20 years. Reading the Slayer Diaries book definitely motivated me to make Codex Obscurum better.

To you, what defines an excellent zine? Were there any favorites of yours from the past that you still turn to as examples of underground metal zine greatness?

I think variety defines an excellent zine. We have 12 different writers for Codex Obscurum and I think that variety of opinions and tastes makes it something everyone can learn something new from. I find out about things from my own zine I didn’t know about just because we have so many writers from different backgrounds. I still turn to the Slayer Diaries like I said. He had the advantage of being in the right time and place. But I think it’s an excellent record of a specific time in metal. Maybe one day Codex will also be a good record of metal in 2013. Who knows?

Are there advantages to the zine format that newfangled ways like Twitter and blogs do not offer?

You can read Codex Obscurum on the toilet a lot easier. I like to be able to hold something physical. I think a lot of people do. I want something that a kid might find in a shoebox in 10 years and say “I remember this; I’m going to reread it.” Stuff like blogs just seem so disposable.

What has changed in the three issues of Codex Obscurum? Have you and your team altered your approach based on this learning?

Our original editor had a substance abuse problem that we weren’t aware was as bad as it was. So he is now in treatment and will not be returning to the zine. So Steve and I have taken over formatting and printing Codex Obscurum. We got a lot of feedback on issue #1 and #2 and changed the zine a lot based on this feedback. The top priority was making the zine a lot more legible and easier to read. I think we achieved that with issue #3. I also wanted to make the zine less random and more focused on music. We tried to pack as much music content into #3 as possible. Getting support from artists like Mark Riddick and podcasts like Hellcast has also motivated us to make the zine better.

The top priority was making the zine a lot more legible and easier to read. I think we achieved that with issue #3. I also wanted to make the zine less random and more focused on music.

What’s the best way for someone to get ahold of Issue #3 of Codex Obscurum? What about for them to support the zine in intangible ways?

If someone wants to get ahold of the zine they can go to codexobscurum.bigcartel.com. The zine is $3 + S/h. If someone wants to submit their album or demo for review the can contact me at codexobscurumzine@gmail.com. If someone wants to support the zine just tell a friend. We like it to be done DIY.

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Underground Never Dies! LP details released

October 14, 2013 –

andres_padilla-underground_never_dies-boxsetThe forthcoming release of Underground Never Dies! on Doomentia Records will be accompanied in its first pressing by a unique LP which features classic tracks from back in the early days of the death metal underground.

Thanks to author Andrés Padilla, editor of Grinder Magazine (CL), the world can now see what’s on the LP. But first, information about the LP itself. There will be several batches, as follows:

  • Box set
    • Limited to 150 copies
    • Massive box with custom padding for:
    • Underground Never Dies! book
    • LP on colored vinyl
    • MC
    • CD
    • A1 poster
  • 500 x vinyl
    • 150 on black/white HALF/HALF effect
    • 350 on black
  • 500 x CD
  • 200 x MC
  • 500 x Underground Never Dies! book

This means that 500 LPs will go out with the book, and another 500 LPs, 500 CDs and 200 MCs will be available for underground maniacs. There’s going to be a run on these at your local distros, especially the padded box set which is “massive” in form and content if early reports are right.

Next, what’s on it? Here’s a complete tracklist:

     
SIDE A
INCUBUS Engulfed in Unspeakable Horrors 5:19
SLAUGHTER LORD Taste Of Blood 3:13
MUTILATED Hysterical Corpse Dislocation 3:05
DR. SHRINKER Cerebral Seizure 3:06
AFTERMATH When You Will Die 3:52
EXMORTIS Beyond The Realm Of Madness 3:24
Total Running Time Aprox. 21:30
 
SIDE B
NECROVORE Mutilated Death 4:25
INVOCATOR The Persistence from Memorial Chasm 4:14
SADISM Psychomental Storm 2:57
ARMOROS Euphoria 3:23
POISON Black Death 3:14
MENTAL DECAY The Final Scar 3:27
Total Running Time Aprox. 21:98
 
Bonus Tracks for CD/MC:
PHANTASM (US) A Souls Nightmare 8:12
FATAL (US) Malevolence 2:44
FUNERAL NATION (US) Sign Of Baphomet 4:03
VIBRION (ARG) Massive Frustration 2:56
INSANITY (US) Fire Death Fate 2:51
DEATH YELL (CHI) Untited Track – Unreleased 3:17
CORPSE GRINDER (CHI) Concentrator Camps 3:53
NECRO BUTCHER (BRA) Christ Psychic Butchery 1:53
INNER SANCTUM (URG) Deathless Prophet 3:37
MACERATION (DK) The Forgotten 2:40
BLOODSOAKED (MX) Emptiness 3:01

Underground Never Dies! metal fanzine book nears release

October 9, 2013 –

underground_never_dies-andres_padilla-cover

“Underground Never Dies!” chronicles the underground metal explosion of the mid-1980s through early 1990s when a decentralized volunteer force created a parallel music industry for music that had no commercial appeal, but a fervent sense of truth and opposition to some aspects of post-modern civilization.

With over 500 pages of interviews, photos, excerpts from period fanzines and artwork, “Underground Never Dies!” addresses the complex interweaving of bands, fans, zines, promoters, artists and labels that fostered the underground metal movement and allowed it to expand with maximum flexibility.

Written by Grinder Magazine Editor Andrés Padilla, the book includes fanzines from around the world as well as an extensive selection of underground flyers, so it will be not only a narrative of the history of underground metal, but also a massive and interesting menu of diverse viewpoints for devotees of underground metal genres such as death metal, black metal, grindcore and doom metal.

Doomentia Press will publish and distribute “Underground Never Dies!” which will include a compilation 12″ LP featuring historically important bands exhumed from the 80s, such as Slaughter Lord (Australia), Mutilated (France), Incubus (Florida, USA), Poison (Germany), Exmortis (USA), Fatal (USA), Armoros (Canada), Mental Decay (Denmark), Funeral Nation (USA) and Insanity (USA) among others. Presented in gatefold format, and limited to the first 500 copies of the book, the LP will be followed by CD and tape versions of the same material with added bonus tracks.

Cover art by Mark Riddick accompanies introductions by Ian Christe (Bazillion Points), Chris Reifert (Autopsy), Erik Danielsson (Watain) and Alan Moses (Glorious Times). This celebration of the underground will attempt to make sense of the fertile but chaotic years of its origins.

andres_padilla-underground_never_dies!

See also:

Axiom of the Elite — Issue Number 2

October 2, 2013 –

axiom_of_the_elite-issue_number_twoThis professional zine comes from New Zealand and has two really unique features: first, it exclusively focuses on local bands, regardless of genre within the metal-punk spectrum, and second, it aims for an elegant and professional presentation that radiates distant analysis more than organic enmeshment.

Axiom of the Elite thus more resembles a specialized trade publication or end-of-year report, with consistent use of fonts, highly readable pages, and consistent information. The writing is accurate and in depth with a breadth of vocabulary, and addresses all the questions an aspiring metalhead could have. In voice, it’s more literary magazine than gutter rock publication.

While the writing voice is more “chatty” than an American or central European publication, those who have read British or Australian zines will recognize this use of familiar social tokens as a kind of contexting. It works quite well here, where reading is like a formal presentation of data in an informal setting, and thus puts the mind in decision-making mode immediately. This works in favor of the bands covered, who are presented as contenders from the beginning.

Issue #2 of Axiom of the Elite picks up where last year’s first issue left off, but swaps the CD compilation for a download code for band tracks online. If the zine editors want to keep costs and postage low, this is an essential move, although these compilations seem to be something you’d want on the wall, from the sound of things.

Seeing heavy metal, crust punk and underground metal all presented in the same zine might seem a bit odd at first but it helps feather the presentation by allowing some levity and diversity where otherwise, especially in the context of the professional/arch layout and language, might be a bit overbearing. Even better, this zine comes with a clear mission statement:

• To promote NZMetal bands who have had little to no exposure internationally.
• To input my own personal and anecdotal reflections on the bands (this includes from recordings through to live shows) and their impact upon the local scene as a whole.
• To display the NZMetal scene as what it really is. As not one purely consisted of ‘bogans’ and Nu-Metal but one of genuine hard-working bands filled with a variety of Underground Metal genres.

These lines are relevant for anyone who has tried to defend metal as “art” and not simply a pacifier-cum-adornment for clueless teenagers and burnouts. Even more, it shows the role zines have always had, which is to concentrate information but also to allow powerful personalities to shape the Underground socially and thus inject more clarity of idea.

One other thing that other zine editors might take away from Axiom of the Elite is that its layout, like that of an annual report or professional trade magazine, is consistent. The first page of each band report is black, with the logo up top and a picture; from then on, the content is black-on-white text for enhanced readability. The editors don’t mock around with fonts and ornamentation, which makes the zine easier to read.

As the Underground experiences a revival, and the old ways of zines, radio and vinyls are brought back because the newer ways present too much information and thus submerge us in unnecessary possibilities (a process called entropy), zines like Axiom of the Elite emerge in a tastemaking and organizational role and we the fans are better off for it.

Features the following bands of various metal genres from New Zealand, each of which contributed a track to a digital compilation which can be unlocked with the download codes in each zine. You can also stream tracks from these bands at the zine’s website, listed below:

  • Arc of Ascent (Crushing Stoner Doom Metal)
  • Bloodfvkk (Reckless Grind Metal)
  • Boltcutter (Dystopian Crust Punk)
  • Brutal Supremacy (Barbaric Death Metal)
  • Carnal (Pulverising Brutal Death Metal)
  • Filthy Lucifer (Feral Crust Black Metal)
  • Horrendous Disfigurement (Defiling Death Metal)
  • Malevolence (Legendary Death/Grind Metal)
  • Orgiastic Rebirth (Ugly, Filthy Brutal Death Metal)
  • Red Dawn (Ripping Power/Heavy Metal)
  • Stormforge (Thunderous Power/Heavy Metal)
  • Trepanation (Apocalyptic War/Grind Metal)

Contact
deusintroclades@gmail.com
http://axiomoftheelite.bandcamp.com/

Interview with Andrés Padilla (Underground Never Dies)

September 11, 2013 –

andrés padilla-underground_never_diesRecently the word got out about a new book that’s going to explain the metal underground. This book, called Underground Never Dies, is edited by Andrés Padilla, the longstanding publisher and chief writer of Grinder Magazine.

Like several underground books before it, Underground Never Dies does not attempt to summarize the underground from a single point of view. Rather, it lets many different voices speak and, like harmonization in song, a truth emerges.

Cover art by Mark Riddick graces the entrance to this all-star production of underground metal analysis and opinion. In these pages, you will find people that you know of, or will want to know of, who helped build the underground into what it is.

We were lucky to get a chat in with Andrés as he prepares to launch this challenging work. Thanks to Andrés Padilla, Grinder Magazine and Doomentia Records for helping us secure this interview.

Click here for the full interview.

Interview: Andrew DiMatteo, Editor of Codex Obscurum zine

April 9, 2013 –

codex-obscurum-zineSince the introduction of Codex Obscurum, a new printed zine of the style common from 1980s-2000s, interest has risen in this ancient but effective form of metal journalism.

After the punks (and really, convergence of technological ripeness) introduced D.I.Y. record labels, fanzines and shows, the 1980s brought us some of the first fanzines which were generally xeroxed paste-ups of hand-drawn illustrations and typed text. What made them great was the content: new bands no one had heard of, described in detail, and interviews with the bands people wanted to know more about. They were news and quality control in one.

With the dawn of the internet age, zines seemed destined for an early death. But as publishing information got easier, the quality of the information decreased because people were posting just about anything and the audience treated it all as having that standard. In the current day and age, a zine suggests an edited, deliberate and thoughtful publication, and it has more cachet than a blog or Facebook post.

We were fortunate locate Codex Obscurum editor Andrew Bastard and get in a few questions about the latest old school zine to hit metal:

What did you like about classic xeroxed zines, and what advantages do you think they have over glossy magazines?

I’m not going to sit here and say I don’t like glossy magazines; I had a subcription to Metal Maniacs from approximately 1995-2001. I still have boxes of them somewhere and love to flip through them on the shitter. I also have a bunch of old xerox zines in a three-ring binder that I still read to this day. There is some magic behind a xerox zine though that glossy color zines just lack…the fact that you know someone sat there and put the zine together by hand, a true labor of love.

Has the internet changed how music is sold, listened to and discovered? How does this affect classic-style zines like Codex Obscurum?

Absolutely. Music almost isn’t sold any more aside from vinyl collectors and hardcore music owners. I can’t remember the last time I bought a CD online; I’ll buy from distros at shows/fests here and there but for the most part, I’m in the business of discovering older demo bands that you can’t purchase anymore so I download 80-90% of what I listen to these days. A lot of those blog sites are down these days too so even that has become difficult.

On the flip side, the internet has made listening to new music so easy. Full albums are up on YouTube, along with sites like Bandcamp and Spotify. The net’s been an awesome resource for new bands to get heard.

What inspired you to take on this somewhat anachronistic format, and what advantages do you think it offers over other formats?

I’ve wanted to do this for years ever since I first started working at a Kinkos while in college; I had the resources to do it cheap; I just needed the time to make it actually happen and I guess I finally found that time. I’ve always loved the old style of doing shit, being it releasing demos on cassette, tape trading, zines etc. so this was only natural. This is my way of contributing to the scene while at the same time keeping the old school fires burning. It’s so easy to tell which n00bs are in this scene to stay and which ones are in a “phase” and will be gone soon: the fakes don’t care about the zine; the true lifers love it and are ordering it via snail mail from all corners of the globe.

What zines influenced you back in the day? Did you also read glossy magazines? Did the two complement each other?

I’m only 30 so I missed out on a lot of the classics that I later obtained through trades, eBay, etc. I always had Metal Maniacs around the house but I also loved to read S.O.D., Unrestrained, etc. and some of the shithead, xerox style zines that inspired Codex Obscurum are Slayer (duh!), Pagan Pages, The Grimoire, Mutilating Process, Worm Gear, Metal Forces, etc. I dont know they they complemented, per se; I just liked reading about bands that I liked and discovering new bands through writers that I shared similar interests with. I gotta give a shout-out to Nathan T. Birk, particularly his Apocalyptic Raids column. He knew how to keep it old school even in the newer glossy mags. 90% of the bands he wrote about that I had never heard of, I’d find myself enjoying not to mention he just had a great writing style.

We’ve gone — over the span of only a dozen years — from a time in which information scarcity was a big deal for underground metal, to a time in which information overload (and a thousand times more bands). How do you think this has affected the underground?

I don’t even know how to answer this; I will say I hate the popularity of metal these days. It’s the biggest trend going and we’re flooded with mediocre bands copycatting Anthrax with flip brim PBR hats on and cut off blue denim shorts and Vans sneakers that think they are doing the scene a favor when in reality they are just wearing on those of us that have been involved our entire lives. It’s really frustrating but all you can do is bask in the fact that this is, indeed a trend for them and they’ll give up and move on to something else soon enough and this metal pop diva faux show will all end.

How will people get ahold of this zine? Rumor is it that you’re charging very little over postage costs — do you hope to make money on this? What will keep you going forward, pay your writers, etc.?

On the Codex Obscurum Facebook page you’ll find a Big Cartel link to order online. I also accept snail mail cash or money orders; all that info is also in the “about” section of the FB page. $2 an issue covers what it costs for me to print these things, and shipping costs are as low as I can get them. I’m not looking to make a dime on these although I think I will make a little money on the side in the end which will probably go towards stickers or t-shirts or something. None of the contributors get paid; we’re all doing this out of our love of the old school art.

Why do you think metal is important?

Metal is the only form of music, in my opinion, that truly shapes the lives of its fans. You don’t see any other music genre that has such heart felt, loyal followers that leave and breathe and bleed for it like you see in the metal community. I guess that’s what makes it “important” to me: you don’t just listen to metal, you are metal. And metal is you.

What function did print zines serve in the original underground? Do they serve the same function now?

Back in the day (BITD) print zines served a much more legitimate function than they do now. Before we had the internet, zines were how you found new bands and how you learned about said bands and the doctrines that these bands prescribed. BITD you had word of mouth, tape trading, snail mail letters and shows; those were your only means of discovering new bands and learning what those bands were all about.

Nowadays you’ve got the net which makes it so much easier but not nearly as much fun. A zine in this day in age is honestly kind of pointless. I could just take all of the info that I put into Codex Obscurum and post in on my facebook wall, or on a blog or whatever and the readers would get the exact same information, faster and far more conveniently but it all harkens back to keeping the flames of old burning and like I said before, it’s fun.

I love physically holding a zine in my hands, and being able to fold it up and throw it in my back pocket and whip it out whenever I’ve got some down time and read a piece or two and then put it away. That’s why record collecting is so big these days and the advent of these die hard releases where you get all these extra goodies: people like to hold and possess the things they love and always have it on hand somewhere to go back to and reference whenever they like.

Can you tell us about yourself, and your past. What other projects have you had? How did you know/meet your staff? Who are they?

This could take forever but I’ll keep is short and sweet and try not to self promote too much .. I currently play in two bands, the first band basically rips off Motorhead, Discharge, Venom and Celtic Frost; we call that band PanzerBastard. The other band is an old school, shithead black/death metal band called Deathgod Messiah…paint, spikes, bullets and Satan. Total South American ‘fago blasphemy…prior to these two, I played in Horn of Valere, an epic, melodic fantasy based black metal band out of Providence, RI.

I currently live in Boston, MA (Jamaica Plain, represent!). I also have a solo project that I haven’t touched in years called Shayol Ghul, also fantasy based. I’m a huge fantasy sci-fi nerd and I mean that in the truest sense, not just one of these Game of Throne over-nighters (was reading that series in detention in high school in 1996). Look at my book shelf and you’ll see what I mean…

My ‘staff’ are just a bunch of local metalheads that for the most part, I’ve known for years just from being around the scene and going to shows etc. most are involved in their own bands; eventually I’ll probably run a feature in the zine showcasing the contributing members personal bands.

Would you give us a little run-down on issue #1 — what’s in it, how many pages, what type of content, etc.?

The first issue of Codex Obscurum is thirty 8.5″ x 11″ pages, double sided and folded in half, that ends up being 60 readable pages packed with text and pictures. The content is primarily band interviews and reviews but there are a few small personal bits in there; rants on this and that and a big written piece remembering Rozz Williams (Christian Death) because the zine came out the day of his suicide (April 1st). This issue has interviews with Hellbastard, Varg Vikernes, Steve Zing (Danzig/Samhain), Vasaeleth, Guttural Secrete, Skepticism, High Spirits and a few more.

Any plans yet for issue #2? Is Codex Obscurum going to be a “regular thing”?

Issue #2 is already underway. We had so much material for issue #1 that it didn’t all fit so we’ve already got a headstart on #2. It should be out in June, maybe July. I’m shooting for a new issue every 2-3 months. I’m going to keep doing it for as long as I can and for as long as my ‘staff’ remain enthusiastic about doing it! and of course for as long as the readers continue to read the damn thing — no readers = no zine so please support us! Thank you.

$3 plus shipping

Non-profit old school metal zine Codex Obscurum launches

March 27, 2013 –

codex-obscurum-zineCodex Obscurum fills a void left open when the old school fled to the basement in advance of encroaching hardcore hybrids like metalcore and nu-metal: the print zine that exists to promote a community against impossible odds.

For those who weren’t there, back in the “old days” (like, 20 years ago), zines were the most common means of spreading information. You couldn’t buy death metal in regular record stores, society hated it and often tried to ban it, and most people regarded metalheads as declasse outcastes who should be viewed with suspicion.

Enter the zines. For the price of postage, sometimes plus a little more for printing costs, although most were paid for (unknowingly) by corporate stooge employers, you would get fifty pages of xeroxed hand-drawn mayhem delivered to your door, including interviews and reviews of your favorite bands, and the all-important advertising by mail-order distros that you otherwise did not know existed.

Codex Obscurum fills this void with its release this week. To get a copy, you “mail-order them, old school style. No profit, you’ll just be paying for postage costs.” The publishers describe it as “a New England based old-school print zine dedicated to music, art, and all things dark.” And it looks traditional: fifty xeroxed pages of wisdom, chaos and brilliance.

To order, send $3 plus shipping via BigCartel.

Direct all further questions to the staff through their Facebook page.