MISERY OBSCURA is a monolith of a photographic documentary covering three decades of time as seen from the unique perspective of Eerie Von, through his eyes and camera lens. To the fans, Eerie has been a relatively mysterious individual who stands at stage left, sometimes impending, largely staying to himself delivering a throbbing bottom end to what’s usually the best performance of the night. His presence upon first meeting is intense, as he's an incredibly charismatic individual. So as a fan, it’s a bit curious to read his words, being so candid as he begins the adventure as an enthusiastic 16 year-old fledgling photographer summoned by his high school fiends, the Misfits, to come shoot promotional images of the band.
The first of such, actually, for the band and Eerie. His stories about his early photo shoots with the Misfits convey a description of an evolution that both he, and the group of eager artists, might've been vaguely aware of, and the impact of the events that were transpiring around them. At the same time, he’s probably not so aware of the growing impact he'll have as an artist in his own right, proficient in a multi-media capacity.
Before actually reading the first word of MISERY OBSCURA I decided to open the book with my eyes closed and point to a random page to see where I’d land. There was a page of photographs that included a great happenstance live shot of the Misfits’ Doyle whipped around with an apparent expression of rage fighting to surface. It turns out he was checking the set list out as he played. The two-fold takeaway is: 1) pictures aren’t a reliable form of definitive information 2) that MISERY OBSCURA is going to be full of coolest shots of some of the most influential rock bands that most people probably haven’t seen yet. It turns out that it was the case. The stories that pair up with the photos grab your attention and challenge you to refrain from thumbing through to simply look at the pictures.
Through it all, we’re able to stand as silent witnesses, retrospectively. He caught it all while he was living it. Highly exclusive shots that include pivotal live performances of the Misfits and Samhain, the largest comprehensive collection of photos galvanizing his own first band, Rosemary’s Babies, the first ever Samhain stills taken in Glenn Danzig's apartment, shots from the first Danzig recording sessions, the list goes on. MISERY OBSCURA might be a proverbial view from the front row much of the time, but that's only from the point of view we’re used to, as fans. Through MISERY OBSCURA, Eerie allows full access with a complete dissection of the years on the road, backstage, and behind the scenes of a rich life and career that helped shape the history of modern popular music. How many people get similar opportunities to produce such raw and profound art in the moment that definitive cultural events are taking place?
In the 1980s, Satan seemed to be everywhere and it was impossible to escape his supposed influence. There were warnings everywhere about a widespread evil conspiracy to indoctrinate the vulnerable through the media. This has since become known as the “Satanic Panic,” and its aim was to convince us of devils “lurking behind the dials of our TVs and radios and the hellfire that awaited on book and video store shelves, it also created its own fascinating cultural legacy of Satan-battling VHS tapes, audio cassettes and literature”. This book is an in-depth exploration of how we were caught in a culture war during the decade. It features new essays and interviews by 20 writers who look at the ways the widespread fear of a Satanic conspiracy was both illuminated and propagated through almost every pop culture pathway in the 1980s (from heavy metal music to Dungeons & Dragons role playing games, Christian comics, direct-to-VHS scare films, pulp paperbacks, Saturday morning cartoons, TV talk shows and even home computers). We also have case studies on Thee Temple or Psychick Youth and Long Island “acid king” killer Ricky Kasso. We meet con artists, pranksters, martyrs and moralists and see how untold story of how the Satanic Panic was fought on the pop culture frontlines and the serious consequences it had for many involved. We become very aware of what happens when belief outweighs reason.
The writers include Adam Parfrey (Apocalypse Culture), Gavin Baddeley (The Gospel of Filth, Lucifer Rising: Sin, Devil Worship and Rock n’ Roll), Liisa Ladouceur (Encyclopedia Gothica), David Flint (SHEER FILTH!), Alexandra Heller-Nicholas (Rape Revenge Films: A Critical Study), Adrian Mack (The Georgia Straight), Forrest Jackson (Cosmic Suicide: The Tragedy and Transcendence of Heaven’s Gate), Alison Nastasi (Flavorwire), Leslie Hatton (Popshifter), David Canfield (Twitch), David Bertrand (Fangoria; Spectacular Optical), Alison Lang (Rue Morgue, Broken Pencil), Kevin L. Ferguson (Eighties People), Wm Conley (Deathwound), Kurt Halfyard (Twitch), Samm Deighan (Satanic Pandemonium), Stacey Rusnak (The Postnational Fantasy: Essays on Postcolonialism, Cosmopolitics and Science Fiction), Ralph Elawani (C’est complet au royaume des morts), Gil Nault (Liturgie apocryphe), one-man band John Schooley and Joshua Benjamin Graham, alongside co-editors Kier-La Janisse (House of Psychotic Women) and Paul Corupe (Canuxploitation). The book also features comic art by Rick Trembles (Motion Picture Purgatory) and original illustrations by Toronto artist Mike McDonnell.
This is a fascinating bit of pop-culture ephemera, especially for those of us who lived through this period. While it may have laid down roots in the late Sixties and Seventies, with the great successes of films like “Rosemary’s Baby” (1968) and “The Omen” (1976), or with the resurgence of interest in occult matters after the founding of Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan, the “Satanic Panic” remains a relic of the Eighties. “Satanic Panic” is an essential resource for understanding this momentary mass hysteria with its exploration of both the causes of the craze and the effects it had on Eighties society.
FOREWORD: MEETING SATAN AND HIS FAMILY
By Adam Parfrey
By Kier-La Janisse
“THE ONLY WORD IN THE WORLD IS MINE”: REMEMBERING ‘MICHELLE REMEMBERS’
By Alexandra Heller-Nicholas
THE UNHOLY PASSION: SEX AND GENDER ANXIETY IN RUSS MARTIN’S EROTIC HORROR PAPERBACKS
By Alison Nastasi
DICING WITH THE DEVIL: THE CRUSADE AGAINST GAMING
By Gavin Baddeley
20-SIDED SINS: HOW JACK T. CHICK WAS DRAWN INTO THE RPG WAR
By Paul Corupe
MASTERS OF THE IMAGINATION: FUNDAMENTALIST READINGS OF THE OCCULT IN CARTOONS OF THE 1980s
By Joshua Benjamin Graham
DEVIL ON THE LINE: TECHNOLOGY AND THE SATANIC FILM
By Kevin L. Ferguson
ALL HAIL THE ACID KING: THE RICKY KASSO CASE IN POPULAR CULTURE
By Leslie Hatton
“WHAT ABOUT THESE 10,000 SOULS, BUSTER?” GERALDO’S DEVIL WORSHIP SPECIAL
By Alison Lang
THE FILTHY 15: WHEN VENOM AND KING DIAMOND MET THE WASHINGTON WIVES
By Liisa Ladouceur
SCAPEGOAT OF A NATION: THE DEMONIZATION OF MTV AND THE MUSIC VIDEO
By Stacy Rusnak
TRICK OR TREAT: HEAVY METAL AND DEVIL WORSHIP IN ’80s CULT CINEMA
By Samm Deighan
STEALING THE DEVIL’S MUSIC: THE RISE OF CHRISTIAN METAL AND PUNK
By David Bertrand
THE TRACKING OF EVIL: HOME VIDEO AND THE PROLIFERATION OF SATANIC PANIC
By Wm. Conley
BEDEVILING BOB: PRANKING “TALK BACK WITH BOB LARSON”
By Forrest Jackson
CONFESSIONS OF A CREATURE FEATURE PREACHER: OR, HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING ABOUT SATANISM AND LOVE MIKE WARNKE
By David Canfield
BOUC EMISSAIRE: MANIFESTATIONS OF SATANIC ANXIETY IN QUEBEC
By Ralph Elawani and Gil Nault
THE DEVIL DOWN UNDER: SATANIC PANIC IN AUSTRALIA, FROM ROSALEEN NORTON TO ‘ALISON’S BIRTHDAY’
By Alexandra Heller-Nicholas
GUILTLESS: BRITAIN’S MORAL PANICS, SATANIC HYSTERIA AND THE STRANGE CASE OF GENESIS P-ORRIDGE
By David Flint
FALSE HISTORY SYNDROME: HBO’s ‘INDICTMENT: THE MCMARTIN TRIAL’
By Adrian Mack
END OF THE ’80s: PARANOIA AS COMIC CATHARSIS IN JOE DANTE’S ‘THE ‘BURBS’
By Kurt Halfyard
Size: 230mm x 180mm
Extent: 368 pages
Publication date: 13 August 2016
Market: Social & Cultural History / Popular Culture / Occult
Edition: Second Edition
Cover Price: $29.95
Mrparka’s Weekly Reviews Episode 120 (Audio Version)