It seems obvious, said out loud: black metal music and horror literature go hand in hand. Common interests abound, from death, blood and darkness to Satanism, the subversion of Christianity and the destruction of social norms. Despite the increasingly popular Venn diagram, there are relatively few crossovers in any media. The documentary Until the light takes us and feature film Chaos Lords are the clearest examples of films, with some arguments to be made for films like The witch, Antichristand even Haxane. In print, the landscape is even more restricted – which is where small, hyper-indie press Castaigne Publishing and their recent black metal horror anthologies come in.
In the shadow of the horns and In the Crypts of Rays are frontal additions to the black metal canon, with no bones about it. Emerging quickly – volume one was released in October 2021 and volume two in May 2022 – and taking no prisoners, these anthologies stand out even within today’s indie horror community. The tables of contents are dotted with rising stars of gorehound literati, such as Joe Koch and fellow writer-editor Sam Richard of Weirdpunk Books; the stories it contains are as conflicting, ugly, transcendent, boundary-pushing and sometimes blind as the scene they explore. Horror as a literary and film genre has undergone questioning, backlash, and continuous expansion since its inception, remaining equally reviled and loved by fans, critics, creators, and culture alike. Likewise, black metal grew in resistance to both its wraparound societies and the genre norms of the heavy metal umbrella.
The commitment to the underground is one of the particular characteristics of black metal, and Castaigne’s anthologies are no exception. The two books were both released in limited print runs, with no e-book availability, and unavailable for purchase anywhere other than the publisher’s online store; In the shadow of the horns is sold out and a limited stock of In the Crypts of Rays remains (though there’s also a “cvlt” edition that comes with a split vinyl and an assortment of additional goodies). These intentional restrictions might limit eyes on each book, but the publishers consider it a feature, not a bug – sonically, black metal isn’t for everyone, and in terms of literature, even aficionados of black metal. horror could look askance at some of the material. in Castaigne’s anthologies. Experimental forms and extreme narratives abound; the archetypes of black metal appear one by one. The Satan of bands like Kafirun and Lathspell figures prominently, multifaceted and arrestingly in C. Bridh Blanchard’s “For this Divinity” and Joe Koch’s gendered ode to Luciferianism “Leviathan’s Knot.” Mythical stories and atmospheric landscapes reminiscent of the Carpathian forest and Fluisteraars come to life in Sam Richard’s “Taken by the Mountains” and the opening volley of In the Crypts of Rays, “The Charge” by Solomon Forse. For fans of the visual, comics also rub shoulders with short fiction, black and white art providing corpse painting for interior art.
Horror and black metal both operate beyond pallor, a position that sometimes produces mixed results at best and homophobia, misogyny and white supremacy at worst. Nevertheless, both subcultures have followers, critics and creators who are not, say, always the target audience. Each book is framed by an introduction, and while none seem overly interested in questioning how black metal works these days, perhaps that’s for the better: the impact is all the more profound and unsettling. when stories like Koch’s two forays into genderfuckery and Katie Steinrick’s Land of Grotesque Erotica. The inclusion of trans authors, female authors, and authors of color paints a blood red sign for fanatics to avoid. Additionally, the boundless imagination and unexpected perspectives exhibited in Castaigne’s anthologies reflect the explosion of groundbreaking black metal acts currently underway; these books pair well with artists like Blackbraid, Ethereal Credence, and Yovel. It’s obvious that the contributors to each book know their stuff, straddling the sometimes awkward lines of their genres to deliver stories that, for all their outlandish characters and outlandish plots, are written from deep hearts, quick brains, and minds. a wicked sense of humor. Gore or glorious, cosmic or comedic, the manifold appeal and multicultural occurrence of black metal is on full display in these anthologies.
We spoke briefly with Evan Dean Shelton and Edwin Callihan, co-editors and editors at Castaigne.
Hello, Evan and Edwin! Tell us a bit about yourself and how Castaigne Editions came into being.
DHS: Hi! I am Evan Dean Shelton. I am a storyteller, an occult practitioner, an adventurer, an outlaw and a jester. Castaigne Publishing started because we saw so many people publishing idiot-themed horror anthologies that we said, “We could do this.”
THIS : Hey. I am Edwin Callihan. I touch a bit of everything. I write comics and fiction, I paint, I draw, etc. I run an independent bookstore. I accumulate massive amounts of crap from books, zines, vhs, records, tapes, skulls and whatever else I see fit for my collection of macabre and weird.
The behemoth in the room: what led to an anthology at the crossroads of black metal and horror?
We are both black metal fans and artists, and horror writers. Both topics bounce around in our heads daily. It was our first idea, and when we talked about it, we realized how it covered a wide range of themes, from death and the devil… to nihilism, antinatalism, misanthropy, cosmic horror, occult horror… so many themes. This is fertile ground for growing horrors.
How were the tables of contents for each anthology developed? Did either or both of the books have a unifying theme or element beyond the great marriage of black metal horror?
The first book is thematically centered on Satan, the second book is death. For us, these are the fundamental ideas of black metal. These themes came together completely organically, after we chose the submissions. There are no coincidences. We put a lot of thought into the order of the stories in the table of contents, the same way we would for the songs on an album we’ve been working on. There’s a dynamic beat and a carefully curated trilogy at the end of each book that we hope will serve as a finishing touch for readers.
Horror and black metal are two genres that have seen many waves of backlash and expansion. Was the politics of these genres present in your mind when putting together the stories collected in these anthologies?
None of us are interested in politics, and we tend to avoid works that present themselves as “preachers”, but we’re sure some readers will find something to think about in these books. We just chose stories that we liked, that we felt were really nailed to the themes we were looking for.
Castaigne released both of these books in a limited run, with no ebooks available through the publisher’s store or booksellers – which is a little unusual in today’s media landscape of instant access and fleeting impact. What were your priorities and expectations with this style of publication?
Our expectations are lean and humble, haha. We’re just doing our thing, hoping to keep it in the dark, and help curate and print killer freelance work, to help amplify voices and do something different. We plan to grow and be able to offer more. Our approach is to keep things stripped down and as free from middlemen as possible. Castaigne is just the two of us and our printer, who is a local printer in Kentucky where Edwin lives. We make books and sell books. We will never be associated with Amazon or any of its affiliates. We do not print on demand, we do not put barcodes on our books. We are true independent publishers. Purveyors of graphic fantasy and nightmare. There are only the creators, us and you.
Do either of you make music in addition to writing and editing prose? If so, how does your musical practice influence your writing, and vice versa?
Evan is a member of black metal band Grave Gnosis and ritual noise band Bound For The Ground. Edwin is a member of black metal band TERROR NOSFERATU PROPAGANDA and dungeon synth band Shambler.
None of us finds a distinction between the art of storytelling with sound or with words. Each is largely informed by the other.
Outraged In the shadow of the horns and In the Crypts of Rayswhat is the most metallic book (black or otherwise) in Castaigne’s catalogue?
The hidden transmission: Grimoire I is a very black metal book, as it is a printed translation of planet earth’s only black metal fiction and horror podcast. It’s full of stories and illustrations and sigils and evil.
Talk about some of your favorite horror media and/or black metal bands and albums.
EPS: I love a podcast called The Wrong Station. Each story is unique and thought-provoking, and the lead narrator is phenomenal. There have been a few killer black metal albums released this year. At the top of the list for me are Watain, Lifvsleda and Acherontas. They are also three of my favorite black metal bands, so it checks out, haha. Lifvsleda is a new band but they are damn good, top status for me with only two albums and a few smaller releases. Its good.
THIS : I love horror magazines from the pulp era to the splatterpunk era like midnight graffiti and all the 90s zines. More contemporary; I really love authors like Curtis Lawson, Matt Cardin and John Wayne Comunale. As for black metal, Evilfeast, Necrostrigis, Crimson Moon. I am a simple man. I don’t venture much into what’s current.
Is there a third black metal horror book in sight? What’s next for Castaigne?
We don’t have a third black metal book planned, but who knows what the future holds… Then we have Containment Winnerby OF Cieri – a street grimoire obscured by graffiti of weird tales and beautiful artwork.