Talk about your Slipknots and Five-Fingered Death Punches.
Enjoy your Metallicas, Black Sabbaths, and Mercyful Fates.
Here are the top ten heavy, heavy metal albums of all time.
…in no particular order.
Five seconds in, one becomes aware Seasons in the Abyss is no ordinary collection of songs. Beginning with the insanely fast ‘War Ensemble’, Slayer’s (somehow most mainstream) album sets a tone both vicious and unholy…which is, after all, their signature achievement. From thumping ‘Skeletons of Society’ to Ed Gein horror tribute ‘Dead Skin Mask’, lyrically Seasons knows no boundaries. Why should it? This is Slayer we’re talking about, unrivaled in the metal realm. And of course, perhaps no metal album ends on so dark a note as the title track, song number ten, ‘Seasons in the Abyss.’ Go ahead, read the lyrics to your children when you tuck them into bed at night.
What happens when you pair guitar god Dimebag Darrell with the guttural roars of Phil Anselmo, mix everything in a big bowl of rage, and punch the planet in the face? Vulgar Display of Power, that’s what. Have you ever listened to ‘F**cking Hostile’ on repeat for an hour? Have you ever chanted, “Re-spect! Walk! What did you say?” Then you understand this album’s power. It takes no breaks until the very end, at which point Pantera shows their dynamic range with the heartbreaking song ‘Hollow.’ If you’re about to get into a fistfight, this is your album.
There are some who say Carcass’s best album is too melodic, too modern, and a betrayal of the band’s grindcore roots. F**k that. There’s melodic, and then’s there’s guitarist Bill Steer, who gallops and solos with the best in the business. Consider the thudding, heart-rattling song ‘Embodiment’ and lightning-fast title track ‘Heartwork.’ Oh sure, there’s lovely guitar work in ‘No Love Lost’ (and in every other song on the album) but the heavy never lets up. One of the last great metal albums to feature (not just include) truly transcendent solos, Heartwork easily ranks up there with the best of the heavy, heavy best.
Well…at least no one will confuse this album with melodic. What Swedish death medal gods Entombed lacked in subtlety, they more than made up for with raw power, chuggy guitars, and a crunchy, deadly sound like no other. No Entombed album demonstrates this better than Clandestine. From ridiculously thumpy ‘Sinners Bleed’ to double bass drum-fest ‘Crawl,’ the fury never lets up. Few metal albums in the history of music have zero ‘meh’ tracks, but this is one. ‘Living Dead’ all the way to ‘Through the Colonnades’ = death metal perfection.
Ok fine. You want to slow it down a little? I give you October Rust. Sometimes sarcastic, often self-deprecating, and always melancholic Type O Negative delivers their most classic tracklist ever. It never seems to matter that Type O’s songs are far longer in duration than other black/death metal bands. Peter Steele’s vocals and the band’s deep, dark guitars weave in and out of sadness and madness for every one of October Rust’s 14 (well…13 really) songs. Consider anthemic ‘Wolf Moon’ and misery-fest ‘I Love You to Death.’ It’s pretty much an entire album of ‘just got rejected by your lover’ songs.
And it’s f**king perfect.
There are many, many good Danzig albums. But none quite as thunderously good as How the Gods Kill. Dark Elvis magician Glenn Danzig puts on his most forceful vocal performance ever (Heart of the Devil, anyone?) while perfecting ten songs to frighten your neighbors, scare your children, and sing along to (Anything, Dirty Black Summer, Do you Wear the Mark, anyone??) This is Danzig with their best lineup (Christ, Von, Biscuits) and at their most cohesive. Every riff just clicks, resulting in one of the best dark metal albums ever made.
Tampa metal gods have changed lineups many times. But in the meantime they released some truly epic albums (Altars of Madness, Gateways to Annihilation.) Among these, one stands out as the cream of the dark crop. Covenant, with its blasphemous, occult-loving lyrics and shreddy guitar work, sits among the pantheon of great metal albums. Even if you can’t understand David Vincent’s vocal work (just google ‘Vengeance is Mine‘ for a sample) or duplicate Trey Azagthoth’s otherworldly ‘Eddie Van Halen of death metal‘ riff work, it matters none. And talk about ending with a bang. ‘God of Emptiness’ goes places and hits beats no other band has achieved.
Bow to me faithfully, indeed…
Old school death metal.
Easily Sepultura’s best and most brutal offering.
Here, just listen to THIS.
And go here for a tracklist.
Is it cheating to include a compilation album on this list? Maybe.
Is naming a live album really fair? Probably not.
Say what you will about Glen Benton, Deicide’s lead-singer and all-around weird guy, the band on stage has power, presence, speed, and a lust for long, brutal shows. Plenty of compilation albums (and arguably most live albums) miss the mark in one way or another. Not so, ‘When Satan Lives.’ It’s seventeen songs, all terrifyingly fast, sharp, and well-recorded. Standout tracks ‘Children of the Underworld’ and ‘Dead by Dawn’ stand tall, but really every single f**king song is better than good.
This is how you do death metal. And how you do live albums. Listen up, modern bands. Do it like this.
Speaking of unfair, it’s probably blasphemous to include not one, but two Slayer albums on this list. Especially when there are so many other crushingly good heavy metal albums out there.
I’m just going to link these three songs right here.
And let them prove my point for me.
Short, powerful, and relentless, Reign in Blood can’t not be on this list.
I want YOU to fill out this section for me:
Thanks for stopping by.
Author, artist, and metalhead
Let’s just go ahead and get this out there.
I hate social media.
There. I said it.
I hate it with a deep and abiding passion.
It‘s a lot more complicated.
I mean, a LOT.
As of right this moment, I would consider myself extremely active on social media. Twitter, Facebook, Facebook Business, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest…the list goes on. I’m active on each and every one, and I’m on them almost every single day. Yes, I know what you’re thinking — I literally just said I hate social media.
So why then, all the sites? Why do it if it’s so antithetical to happiness?
It turns out I’m an author. And an artist. Virtually all my wares appear online in one form or another. And to be honest, I’m not famous enough for these things to sell themselves. Without daily, active, highly-engaged social media marketing, I’d most likely have to give up the dream and go back to working a 9–5 office job. Which, to be fair, is just as terrifying as toiling away on social media. I figure at least when I’m clicking, posting, and responding online, I’m doing so in a tank top and shorts, in my bed, far from the horrors of corporate office life.
So what’s the trouble with social media, aside from the vast time-suck?
For starters, let’s list a few:
- You don’t know most of the people to whom you’re talking. They could be anyone, and they could be anywhere. What’s in a profile pic these days? Not much. Unless you’ve actually met the flesh and blood human on the other end of your latest tweet, you don’t know them. At all. More importantly, you don’t know what they want. And in many cases, you don’t even know whether or not they’re real. The person who just followed you might not be a person at all. Think about it…
- The endless cycle of reciprocation. While not as much of a problem on Facebook, when one uses Twitter and Instagram to pitch art and books, one must be prepared to give far more than one receives. These days, I spend as much time retweeting and liking fellow artists’ posts as I do creating my own, whether or not I like approve of what these people are saying. If I didn’t do this, the reciprocation cycle would end and my audience would shrink. This is how it works. It’s a shark tank out there, and if you don’t feed the sharks, they’ll turn right around and eat you
- Creepers, stalkers, and people who think every social media site is for dating. Yes, I’m a guy. And yes, I’m fully aware I don’t suffer nearly the amount of harassment as the ladies. Even so…every day, every week, every month, I deal with followers who aren’t at all interested in my paintings or my books. These ladies are after validation, compliments, idle flirting, and romance. An innocuous like on one of my posts becomes a “Hey, nice painting” in my inbox. And then the “Hey, nice painting” becomes something entirely unsettling. And then it becomes a dance between me not wanting to be rude to a fellow human and me having to say “Please go away and look for love from someone else.”
- The personal toll. This one is the hardest. In building a social media empire, one must be very, very careful to keep internet life and real life separate. So far, I’ve done well, but likely not well enough. Even though in my heart I know my goals on social media are highly specific and definitely have an endgame, it’s not always an easy sell to the people I care about in real life. “Why are you online so often?” “Who was that woman you were friendly with on Twitter?” “Are you suuuure you’re only there to market?” — these are some pretty typical questions I’ve been asked. And no matter my answers, I have many times seen the doubt in the eyes of those close to me. It’s at times like these I wonder, “Is this really worth it? Am I selling out? Am I really shrugging off compliments, flirty women, and questionable content…and staying humble?”
Well? Am I?
At the end of each day, is being on social media purely as an artist, author, and purveyor of the occasional off-color meme worthwhile? Yes. Mostly. For every weirdo, creeper, latch-on lady, or inappropriate person, there are hundreds of legitimately cool people out there. Fantastic artists lie around every corner of Instagram. On Twitter exists a thriving culture of authors, philosophers, poets, and curators of excellent content. And on Facebook, well…there’s always cat videos.
But the dark side is real.
It’s expensive, not in terms of money, but in terms of personal welfare and the welfare of those closest to me.
And every day I wage a small war in my heart against it.
In a six-year career on social media, I’ve experienced some truly great things. Great personalities. Hilarious jokes. Wonderful ideas to expand and open the mind.
And of course, epic-level books sales (the whole point of it all.)
But I’ve also dealt with…
- Writers who claim to be best-selling authors, but who become furious when it’s pointed out they’ve published one brief book with no sales (and which contains giant grammatical chasms.) In other words, liars
- Social justice warriors invading my benevolent feed to loudly state the half-boob in one of my paintings makes me nothing more than a ‘sexist, chauvinist pig.) Does it? Asking for a friend…
- Woman posing as art collectors who buy no art, but who gradually increase the flirt level until I’m forced to block or ignore them
- Exes posing as other people
- People who think everything is a platform for their politics
- And the one author who tried to get me to support his book (which spoke of the ‘many virtues of pedophilia.’) Gross, dude. Get help
And so the battle inside me rages on. It’s sometimes small, sometimes massive, and yet I take some heart knowing I’m not the only one. I’m betting there are silent legions of fellow humans out there who feel the same, who struggle with wanting to look their friends in the eyes (as opposed to through a monitor) and who feel the pressure and desire to escape social media and never, ever come back.
I know you’re out there.
We’re not meant to be these distant creatures who create mere avatars for our real lives, and who so often toil alone behind our screens.
The image we present online — it’s false. We must never forget this. Even if we’re utterly honest while posting, we are not collections of memes, profile pictures, and likes. We’re still human behind it all.
At least, I hope we are.
More importantly, I hope you’re human, too…and not another latch-on creeper.
As I close out this collection of thoughts, one last bit of irony hits me. As soon as this is published, I’ll share it across every single one of my social media accounts.
…or maybe not.
J Edward Neill
Come see me here.
In a far and ancient land, Emperor Chakran dreams of conquest. His desire to resurrect the evil, world-ending Ur casts a dark shadow across an unsuspecting world.
But as his army butchers its way across the realm, leaving only a vast, storm-riddled graveyard in its wake, a small band of warriors rises up to oppose him…
Tyrants of the Dead
The Complete Collection
There’s a place I want to be.
Let me try that again. There’s a place I intend to go.
As I gaze from my office window on this cold, grey winter morning, I am compelled by what I feel. My door is shut. A melancholic soundtrack thrums against my walls. The sky is the color of slate, the clouds are seamless, the skeletal trees swaying, and the branches shivering in the wind. I am almost alone. If such a thing as genetic memory exists, this is the kind of day my ancestors must have walked beneath. My blood lived on the smallest island off the northeastern coast of Ireland, and I have to imagine this is what the sky looked like so much more often than here in north Georgia.
If I close my eyes, I can almost go there. Not northern Ireland. Out there. Beyond my window. Beneath the clouds.
I long for the rain. However strange it might sound, the clouds, the trees, the wind, and the rain shape my most powerful memories. Not only the memories of childhood, but all the way to this very morning. I remember an early spring day during the second grade. I walked home through a cornfield having forgotten my little blue umbrella. The sky looked the same as it does today, only gloomier. The rain made a mess of me, and I loved it. I remember my first season in Georgia. In the dead of summer, for what felt like a fortnight, the clouds never departed. Storms roamed the sky at all hours, and the rain tore the earth ragged. Back then, I lived virtually alone in my house. After breakfast each morn, I wandered into the forest beyond the backyard and didn’t return until the rain had soaked me to my bones. The streams in the forest were swollen. The trees wept. The world had no colors beyond green and brown and grey. I was utterly alone, and I loved it.
A large part of me never returned from the woods, the cornfield, or the myriad grey skies I walked beneath. When I dream, and especially when I’m awake, most of me is still out there, still shadowed by the trees, still alone, and still happy.
This is the place I long for. I’d give up almost everything to return to it. I’d forsake football, tv, video games, movies, computers, and cell phones for it. I’d trade in my truck for a dinghy. I’d turn over my neatly-trimmed lawn to the wilderness. I’d set aside dinners at fancy restaurants, slugs of ancient scotch, and long stretches of hot, sunny, beautiful Georgia weather. It’s not a specific location I desire, nor a vague, fantastical, unrealistic dream. The rain is a state of mind I need. I need it. I need the clouds. I need the thunder. SAD (seasonal affective disorder) isn’t something I suffer from. Give me long stretches of sunless sky, and you’ll see a happier J Edward than ever you knew. Actually, you probably won’t see me at all, but you can rest assured what my state of mind will be.
I know I’m not alone in this. Perhaps my waking dream is somewhat more all-consuming than yours, but no matter. Close your eyes and dwell in silence for a short while, and maybe you’ll see the forest, the house, the sandy shore, the mountains, or the people you wish you could return to. Where your desire lives is not nearly as important as how you intend to get back to it. It’s a feeling more than a place, an emotion more than a fixed point in time.
There’s a place I intend to go. Perhaps not today or tomorrow. I’ve a child to raise and bills to pay. I’ve resources to gather, plans to perfect, books to finish, and research to do. But no matter how long it takes, I’ll get there. It’s a bucket list of one. It’s more sacred to me than writing or possessions. Honestly, if I get where I want to be, I won’t need half of what I have now, and my writing will likely improve tenfold. Who needs entertainment when one has imagination? All I want to do is look out my window across a vast, grey, rainswept woodland, and then walk out my door.
Maybe next week we’ll get back to skulls, medieval warfare, and world-burning warlocks. For now I think I’ll kick back and look out the window for a while. Out there lies inspiration. Out there is the rain. It’s near. I can smell it.
When I was a kid, life wasn’t like it is now.
Everything was different. So very, very different.
It all started on Saturday morning. Or was it Sunday? Hell if I know.
Back then, I lived at my grandparents’ house. Joliet, Illinois. Corn capital of the world. I didn’t have any bills. I didn’t care about mortgages, cars, money, or girls. I didn’t care about anything, really. Well, I mean…other than my grandparents.
I was seven-years old. Life was good.
No, not just good. Life was f**king idyllic.
Back then, unlike now, I was happy as a clam to wake up at 5AM. Before sunrise? Yeah, I was up. Before everyone else in the entire city? Yep. You bet. It’s not like I had to commute to work. Or commute to anywhere. I had absolutely no plans for my life.
None. Zero. Zip.
What about school? Well, what about it? I didn’t dread school back then. I mean, we had hour-and-a-half recesses back then! And long lunches. And small classrooms. And kickball, lots of kickball.
And you know what?
The world felt right. Life was easy. My deepest worries were which brand of cereal I would eat, what kind of candy my grandma kept hidden in the dresser, and whether or not we had lemonade in the fridge. In hindsight, I think I could’ve lived ten centuries in that life and never questioned it.
It wasn’t just that I was having fun. Or that I had the truest form of freedom. Or that my grandma made pancakes every morning for breakfast.
No. It was something else.
It was in the air. In the water. In the clouds, the trees, and the giant stalks of corn blowing in the field behind our house.
It was in the snow. It was hidden in our spooky garage. It lived in the cracks in the sidewalks which ran between our house and playground at the street’s end.
It was pure f**king joy.
Sometimes, when I’m lying in my bed just after waking in the morning…
Or when I’m out walking in the woods with no one else near…
Or when I’m driving at night, no music playing, nothing but me, the lines on the highway, and the stars wheeling…
I can still remember.
I can remember being in elementary school. Sometimes, just sometimes, my grandfather or my dad would show up in the middle of class. To the other kids and to the teachers, it must’ve seemed bizarre. But my grandpa or my dad would say something like, ‘Jeremy’s leaving school for the day.’ The teacher would protest, but moments later, much to everyone’s shock, I’d be sitting in the car, windows down, the world rushing past. Why’d I get to leave early? Sometimes it was to drive up to Chicago to see a Cubs’ game. Other times we’d ride out to the countryside, out in the spaces between cities (back when such things existed) and we’d just drive. Just ride toward freedom.
Just us and the wind.
And I swear, every once in a while, I can close my eyes and feel that same wind on my face. It doesn’t feel like adult wind. It’s kid-wind. It’s otherworldly. It’s f**king sorcery. Know what I mean?
But it wasn’t just the wind. See, back then I played baseball. Not the super-competitive, worried-about-my-fastball-velocity stuff I worried about when playing semi-pro ball as an adult. No, not at all. On Saturday mornings (usually cloudy, misty, and cool in the Midwestern springs) my grandma would drive me out to the ballpark. I’d meet a few coaches and plenty of kids, and we’d play ball under the racing clouds. Sometimes it would rain. Sometimes it’d even storm. But most of the time we’d run around out there on those green, green fields for what felt like days. How long did it really last? I don’t know…maybe a few hours every Saturday. But it felt like forever to us kids.
And if I close my eyes, I can still smell the grass. I can still see those clouds. I’m almost there. God, how free we were. How I miss being so free of worldly care.
In remembering it, in traveling backward through my modern adult mind, these things are just not the same. Not quite. The grass back then was kid-grass. The clouds were magic. I try to go back there in my heart, but I can’t. It’s too far away. Those days lie across an ocean of time. And if I think about it too long, it feels tragic. I could almost curl into a ball and weep with my full-grown eyes until they’re empty.
How many of these moments can I remember?
Almost all of them.
The whir of my grandparents air-conditioning (one of those in-window metal boxes which blasted frigid air into our kitchen.)
The roar of my grandfather’s lawnmower, a beastly thing which terrified me.
My grandmother’s voice lulling me to sleep.
The sound of wiffle balls flying off my plastic bat and landing in the cornfield.
The mournful, but achingly soulful winter wind buffeting our tiny house.
The time I was sick for seven days on the couch.
The way Halloween seemed to last hours and hours…and hours.
The thousand times I woke up early, treated myself to two bowls of Captain Crunch, and watched cartoons while nestled on the floor in front of the TV…all before the sun had even dared to think of rising.
It never ends, this spiral of memories. I’m betting it’s the same for most of you.
When I think back to these moments, they are far, far away. Not thirty years, but thirty centuries in my weary adult heart. And that’s the tough part. It doesn’t matter how hard I ache for them, they escape me. They existed in a world before bills, before jobs, before assignments, grades, and homework. They were king long before late fees, back taxes, damaged friendships, and shattered hearts.
These things were pure.
No, not just pure. Sacred.
And how many things are sacred? Really and truly? So, so few.
We live under great burden these days, don’t we? Isn’t that what life is? Heavy. Hard. Expensive. Go ahead. Count the cost of all your pain, all your loneliness, and all your struggles. You’ve survived, obviously, since you’re reading this, but you’re far, far removed from your freedom as a child. Aren’t you?
The price of our great technological advancement? The cost of convenience? It’s greater than we know. I can see it in my son. He’s seven now (God, how quickly they grow up!) but his childhood is nothing like mine. He carries weight…already. He knows things of which I was ignorant at his age. So many things.
He knows about bills. About politics. And divorce. About broken hearts.
And for as much as I’d like to shield him, my effort would be useless. I can no more stifle his knowledge than I can stop the sun from rising tomorrow.
The loss of innocence is a quick thing. Quick…and silent…and irreversible. And perhaps even tragic.
And so I hope, hope beyond hope, actually, that when you close your eyes and dream of your faraway days, the green grasses of your childhood, and of your grandma’s pancakes (hopefully she made them) your memories are sharp. I hope, if only for a moment, you can go there. That you can forget what it’s like being an adult.
And that for one moment in your mind, every so often, you can be a kid again, and your heart is whole…
J Edward Neill writes fiction and philosophy books, and he usually makes them tragic.
The best (we mean worst) villains in fiction, fantasy, gaming, television, and real-life.
Thirty-two villains will enter the challenge.
Only one will come out on top.
How it works:
Every week (for the next several weeks) Tessera Guild will publish brackets chock full of bad guys.
The next week, we publish the previous week’s winners and create another bracket.
Until only one villain remains.
We start with eight matchups.
For each matchup, choose your winner. You decide the criteria. Does Villain A defeat Villain B because he’d more powerful…or does Villain B win because she’s got a wayyyyyyyy better costume?
Sauron vs Bowser
The Kraken vs Darth Vader
The Grim Reaper vs The Joker
Predator vs Lord Business
Satan vs Kim Jong Un
Dracula vs Darkness
Ganon vs Terminator
Skeletor vs Mr. Burns
Tune in next Monday for more diabolical matchups!
Six Deadly Sins
The 7 Deadly Sins are:
If you could destroy one of these forever, as in remove it from the consciousness of every human being for all time, which sin would you choose?
Suppose a man dedicated the first twenty years of his life to being a vicious criminal.
He was a thief, a thug, an arsonist, a kidnapper, and even a murderer.
But then, for the next 50 years, he turned his life around.
He gave millions to charity. He found homes for orphans. He fed the poor. He traveled to war-torn nations and helped innocent people evacuate.
What is the value of this man’s life?
In your eyes, has he found redemption?
Generations of Evil
In certain cultures around the world, different generations are referred to separately.
For example, in America there exist such divisions as Gen-X, Baby Boomers, and The Greatest Generation.
It’s a common theme for older generations to criticize those who are younger, often with cries of, “Kids these days don’t know a damn thing!”
Is it true that previous generations contain people who are wiser, harder working, and more moral?
Or has every generation that has ever existed contained similar percentages of stupid, lazy, and immoral people?
The Conjecture Clock
First, here’s a few interesting measurements of time:
Attosecond – Currently the smallest division of time. Approx 10−18 seconds.
Megasecond – Approx 11.6 days
Galactic Year – The time it takes for the Sun to orbit once around the Milky Way’s center. Approx 230 million years.
Exasecond – Approx 31.7 x 109 years. (more than twice the age of the universe.)
Now, the real question:
Does time exist?
Or is it simply a human construct?
When answering, take your time.
The Sun will Rise Tomorrow. Won’t It?
If you can, name three things or phenomena it’s acceptable to believe in without having actual objective proof of that thing or phenomenon’s existence.
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Nemesis versus Prey
Galen hadn’t meant for everyone to die.
He hunkered in his hole, bobbing his head to the falling rain’s beat.
He tasted the ashes of the dead in the air.
And he knew it was his fault.
If I hadn’t come here, they’d be alive, he thought.
I guess I did them a favor.
Little streams of warm water slid across the broken streets overhead and plunged into his hiding spot. He hated the feel of the rain squelching in his boots, and he grimaced when the foul liquid peppered his hood. He hadn’t been this uncomfortable in weeks, not since the time he’d cut the fingers off a man who’d tried to steal his one and only apple.
My last apple. He shook his head.
Did he have to bleed on it?
Down in the muck and shadows, Galen waited for the rain to snuff the fires. The stench in his pit was already unbearable. Two others had crawled down into the hole with him, but they’d been too slow, and had gagged to death moments later. The poisonous air in the city above had been more than enough to kill them.
He wanted out.
But he knew if he poked his head up too soon, someone was likely to nip it off.
So he waited. Ashes from the burning city mixed with the rain, which in turn plummeted down into his hole, painting his cloak, his weathered pants, and his skin a sickening shade of grey. He didn’t look like a living man anymore.
He looked like death.
I’m the Ash Man, he thought. Can’t catch me if you can’t see me. Can’t kill me if I’m already dead.
He whistled softly to himself, and he couldn’t help but grin. Ash Man sounded like a nickname he might’ve liked. But someone had once told him he wasn’t allowed to give himself nicknames.
Too bad, he thought. Ash Man would be better than Prey.
When the storm was at its strongest and the thunder began to break the sky, he climbed out of his pit. Soggy, his face grey as charcoal, he pulled himself above street level and emerged into the half-light of the ruined day. The shanties and crude brick houses that had made up most of Cedartown lay in crumbled heaps around him. The smoke from human corpses curled into the air despite the rain.
He slithered down a street and ducked behind a pile of smoldering wood beams and bricks blackened by fire. An hour ago, he’d been standing inside a house in the very same spot, conversing with the doctor who’d lived there.
The ashes staining the wall a dozen feet away?
The good doctor’s, he imagined.
At least he finished before he died.
Clutching his cloak around his shoulders, he hunkered in the house’s ruin. The hole in the back of his neck, which the doctor had installed and lovingly termed a ‘skin-port,’ itched worse than his toes inside his rancid boots. But he didn’t dare scratch.
Doc said not to, he recalled. Needs a few hours to heal up.
He slowed his breathing, just like his mother had taught him. He snapped his eyes shut and listened to the sounds between raindrops, the rolling thunder, and the wind beating against broken walls. Somewhere, maybe a few hundred feet away, another building collapsed. And somewhere else, the rain crackled as it peppered a burning wooden beam.
No. Not those sounds.
Soundless, still barely breathing, he made a shadow of himself and slipped out of the doctor’s crumbling abode. When he passed the wall onto which the doctor’s ashes had burned a vaguely human shape, he couldn’t help himself. He stuck out his finger and scrawled a ‘G’ in the ash.
It was a stupid thing to do, he reckoned.
But was it?
The ones hunting him would know he’d survived.
They always knew.
He crept into the alley behind the doctor’s house. Some of Cedartown’s houses were still half-standing, and some walls still high enough to provide cover. He moved from ruin to ruin, and he stepped so lightly through puddles black with ash no one would’ve heard him even without the thunder and rain.
Through one house, he moved like the wind. A woman and her child knelt on what he supposed had been the kitchen’s dirt floor. Their bodies were flesh no longer, just sculpted dust soon to be washed away by the rain.
He moved on.
In another shanty whose roof had burned away, he glimpsed an old man half-buried beneath a mound of smoking timbers. The poor creature sucked in short breaths, looking little different than a fish plucked from his bowl and tossed on the floor. But was he really an old man? In this place where no one lived longer than forty years? Or had the bomb aged him, withering the flesh of a much younger man?
It didn’t matter, Galen supposed.
Whoever the man was, he wouldn’t be alive much longer.
And it was a good thing, he reckoned.
He reached Cedartown’s boundary, if such a thing existed in the weary old hamlet. The last few shanty huts, erected in no particular order on the directionless cobblestone streets, had made a noble stand against the bomb’s fury. A few were merely blackened, but not quite felled. One or two looked almost untouched, shielded from the blast by some miracle of physics.
Someone might’ve survived in these houses, he imagined. Someone might still be hidden inside one of the shanties, ticking away the last few minutes of their life.
If it were true, he pitied them.
Wouldn’t be a pretty life here. He crouched beside a house of sticks. It’ll soon be sand. Just like all the rest.
In the shadows, he waited. The fields beyond the hamlet had ceased burning, and the smoke was no longer black, but pale and wispy. Galen kept his hood close to his cheeks, his neck still itching. If anyone had seen him, they’d have said he was a ghost with ashes for skin, black opals for eyes, and a cloak so weathered it must’ve been ripped from the grave of a corpse twenty years dead.
And if that someone had seen him, gasped in terror, and run screaming into the barren fields, Galen would’ve smiled. He was good at frightening people, and better at being alone.
The foul, humid wind whipped up across the grass. Galen didn’t move. Between flurries of smoke, curtains of rain, and the charnel smells of Cedartown, he hunkered low and listened to the world.
He wasn’t alone.
The Nemesis and his soldiers had come from the east, having followed him from the steel cities near the ocean all the way across the rusted, blackened graveyards dotting the shores of grey-watered lakes. Always, they were the shadow on his back, the knife in the darkness.
And always, he escaped them.
The enemy warrior, clad in scaly black armor, trod through the mud at Cedartown’s edge. He walked alone, Galen knew. Only ten of the Nemesis’ knights had come here, and this one, a beast of muscle and black steel, believed himself unstoppable.
Maybe he was right.
Maybe, in a fair fight, no swordsman in the Kingdom of Earth could outduel the black-armored warrior.
But then, Galen didn’t care for fair fights.
When the black knight clattered to the end of the street and halted at the beginning of the fields beyond, he didn’t know he was being watched.
Two swords, Galen counted.
Other, deadlier weapons.
He’s a pretty one…he is.
It’s a shame.
The wind rose again, and with it Galen moved. Gliding between breezes, he closed the distance between himself and the knight. His only weapon, a knife scavenged from the steel cities of the east, flashed in his hand.
The knight never heard him, never saw him.
And with the wind, Galen floated behind the knight, buried his dagger in the tiny gap between armored plates, and eased the armored titan down into the mud.
Even before Galen helped his limp body to the ground, the knight died. Galen’s dagger, wet with heart’s blood, splashed into a puddle, where the scarlet stain spread through grey water.
“Sorry for that,” Galen whispered into the dead man’s ear. “You lived a good life…better than most of us. I’ll honor you by keeping one of your swords.”
He rolled the dead knight onto his back. It felt funny to him that a man with so many weapons and so much armor could be felled by a simple handmade knife. Shaking his head, he loosed a black-steel dagger from the knight’s waist and sliced the straps crisscrossing the dead man’s chest.
Quite by accident, he glimpsed the knight’s other weapons. They were marked with the Pharaoh’s seal, and were among the deadliest devices ever made. One looked like a wand, short and slender. The other was an obsidian disc polished to a mirror shine.
These, he didn’t touch.
Another day, old friend, he thought.
For now, just your sword.
He tugged one of the knight’s scabbards loose from the straps and pulled the sword halfway out. More than a century ago, he’d had a similar blade—three feet long, ebon steel polish, sharp enough to clip a man’s head from his shoulders without him feeling a thing.
With the dagger and sword, he crouched over the knight and peered back into Cedartown. Fell shapes moved though the city, hunting with weapons drawn. The Nemesis and his men were dressed all in black, and the rain glinted atop their armored shoulders.
“Should’ve paid more attention.” He patted the dead knight on his arm. “Might’ve seen me before you died.”
No, he knew.
Even at his best, he never had a chance.
He sprang to his feet, tucked his new weapons under his armpit, and darted into the field beyond Cedartown. He’d picked right. The grasses here were scorched by fire, but still tall enough to hide him. Like a snake—an animal no one in Cedartown had seen in centuries—he slithered through the grass and vanished.
The Nemesis and his men, even had they looked in his direction, would’ve thought they’d seen nothing more than the wind.
In minutes, Galen stood a full half-mile away. A blackened tree jutted from the dirt, and he leaned against it. His neck itched worse now. He considered ripping the skin-port out, if only to ease his irritation. He would’ve done it, too, had he not spent the last hundred years searching for the right man to install it.
Never said it would itch this much.
Everyone makes out being immortal like it’s a thousand-year party.
From his safe vantage, he watched Cedartown. The Nemesis and his men scoured the ruins like ants hunting for a last drop of sugar. He saw their weapons flare more than once, their sinister lights somehow darker than everything else. They were killing Cedartown’s last survivors, probably more out of frustration than anything else.
They hadn’t found his body, and they knew they wouldn’t.
He’d escaped them yet again.
Almost got me, boys. He lifted a rotten apple out of his satchel and took a careless chomp. But now what’ll you do?
The doctor’s dead.
And I’ve got what I came for.
He wished he could’ve seen their faces. Before the sunset, before the starless night reclaimed the ruins of a town in the middle of nothing and nowhere, he wanted to see the frustration in their eyes.
But then, he knew he wouldn’t.
He’d fled twenty generations of the Nemesis’ men.
And if he’d learned one thing in the last five-hundred years, it was that they never took off their masks.
Galen hadn’t meant for everyone to die.
He hunkered in his hole, bobbing his head to the falling rain’s beat.
He tasted the ashes of the dead in the air.
And he knew it was his fault.
If I hadn’t come here, they’d be alive.
I guess I did them a favor.
Little streams of warm water slid across the broken streets over his head and plunged into his hiding spot. He hated the feel of the rain squelching in his boots, and he grimaced when the foul liquid peppered his hood. He hadn’t been this uncomfortable in weeks, not since the time he’d cut the fingers off a man who’d tried to steal his one and only apple.
My last apple. He shook his head.
Did he have to bleed on it?
Down in the muck and shadows, he waited for the rain to snuff the fires. The stench in his pit was unbearable. Two others had crawled down into the hole, but they’d been too slow, and had gagged to death moments later. The poisonous air in the city above had been more than enough to kill them.
He wanted out.
But he knew if he poked his head up too soon, someone was likely to nip it off…
Think Galen will lose his head?
Find out here.
47 FURIOUS TAILS, ISSUE ONE live on KickStarter
January 23rd, 2019 – Writer W.S. Quinton and artist Alexia Veldhuisen brought their vision of the samurai epic to KickStarter in a bold way. This new comic book, 47 Furious Tails Issue One, is the first in a twelve-issue limited series that tells the classic story of the 47 Ronin in brilliantly-illustrated comic book pages.
In issue one, readers are introduced to key actors in this historic legend as Asano Naganori prepares to leave Ako for his fateful, final trip to Edo.
Based on historic and literary accounts, 47 Furious Tails portrays the characters from this classic tale as anthropomorphic animals, making each character beautifully unique.
Issue one immerses the reader in the lives of these famous samurai as they carry on with their lives before the coming of events that would transform them into legends. Witness as Asano Naganori meets with his loyal Oishi Yoshio, and behold the prowess of the elder samurai Horibe Yahei and the young Oishi Chikara as they defend Ako from fierce bandits.
Fantastic art, devotion to duty and fierce samurai action await the reader, in 47 Furious Tails.
Discover 47 Furious Tails, Issue One right here: KickStarter: http://kck.st/2RchurL
Sinopa Publishing LLC is incorporated in the Commonwealth of Kentucky
47 Furious Tails is a trademark of Sinopa Publishing and is Copyright © 2017 by W.S. Quinton
All rights reserved
Tessera Guild Artist Spotlight Presents:
Five Artists You Absolutely NEED to Follow
Rachel Quinlan is an award-winning fantasy artist based in Saint Clair Shores, Michigan. She graduated from Michigan State University in 2001 with a B.F.A. in Studio Art. Working primarily in ink and watercolor, she attempts to emulate techniques that were commonly used by illustrators of the Golden Age. Inspired by nature, folk tales, and mythology, she hopes to create images that are magical, immersive and mysterious.
Some of Rachel’s gorgeous art, including her pieces ‘Wise One’ ‘Tiny Hoard’ ‘Fisherman’ ‘Cailleach’ and ‘Ascend.’
All images – copyright Rachel Quinlan
Rachel will display her wondrous art at several shows in 2019, including:
Motor City Comic Con
May 17 – May 19
October 23 – 27
You NEED to check out more of Rachel’s work right here: www.rachelquinlan.com
And make sure to follow her at Twitter (@RachelQuinlan) Instagram (rachelquinlanart) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/
Anthony Ojeda is an illustrator and storyboard artist. He’s originally from New Jersey, but is currently based out of Los Angeles. (He says the winters are brutal in L.A., but we at Tessera Guild don’t quite believe him.)
Besides creating awesome art, Anthony loves to cook, travel, and enjoy fancy whiskey.
Check out these kickass creations by Anthony:
All images copyright Anthony Ojeda
Alexia Veldhuisen was born and raised in Amsterdam. For many years she worked at Gojoker Strips & Comics, a well-known comic shop.
Pursuing her lifelong dream of becoming a comic book artist, Alexia moved to the US, where she graduated from world-renowned comic book program, The Kubert School. Alexia was awarded the Dave Simons Memorial Scholarship for her achievements in inking.
Next to comic art, traditional painting, and digital art, she enjoys coffee, video games and “normal” books.
She dreams of telling her own stories and secretly being a master samurai.
Some of Alexia’s art, including several pieces illustrated for Sinopa Publishing:
All images copyright Alexia Veldhuisen
Presently Alexia is the artist illustrating, coloring, and lettering the comic book ’47 Furious Tails.’ She is also contracted as the editor for the 2019 ‘Sinopa Assemble!’ project, a creator-owned comic book anthology. Alexia has previously contributed art to the RPG adventure book, “Tarot Adventures, Book Two: Comet over Echo Rock” in which she produced truly stunning work.
And definitely at her epic Instagram.
Laura Potter is an abstract artist who paints from pure emotion.
She began painting 10 years ago to help express emotions, and found it to be the perfect way to do that.
When doing commissions, she listens to her clients’ needs carefully to be sure to capture the right image and colors.
Most recently she collaborated with a musician to produce a CD cover for a winter-themed album.
Take in a few of Laura’s amazing and colorful abstract creations:
All images copyright Laura Potter
Corey Carter is the designer and owner of Ocean Inspired Design. Her love for shelling and art led her to open a coastal-themed Etsy shop where fellow ocean lovers can find handcrafted seashell home decor and unique gifts.
When Corey isn’t gluing seashells on everything she can get her hands on, she enjoys writing, reading, wine, imagination, music, and terrible dancing.
Check out Corey’s crazy-awesome shelltastic designs:
All images copyright Corey Schultz Carter
What’s new for Corey in 2019?
She’s going BIG with mirrors! Many of her clients inquire about custom seashell mirrors, and so she’ll be making larger designs than ever before. Seashell mirrors require a lot of time and attention, but the end result is stunning!
Cover your house in shells by visiting OceanInspiredDesign on Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/
And you have simply got to follow Corey’s latest creations on Facebook: https://www.
Are you an artist?
Do you know any awesome artists?
Visit ShadowArtFinds for more colorful art.
What are the songs which mean the most to you?
The ones to which you bob your head while listening to a random radio station in traffic?
Or the song you listened to on repeat during your last breakup?
Which album is your favorite?
The one you downloaded on iTunes because your friend told you it was the new hotness?
Or the sleek vinyl record you discovered in a run-down music shop after months of searching?
I can’t speak for you. But the answer feels obvious.
The music we love most is tied to our most powerful life experiences.
I was thirteen-years old. I lived with my grandparents and their youngest daughter, my Aunt Patty. Every day when I came home from school (I usually walked through a giant cornfield to get there) the house was empty except for me and Patty. Little did my grandparents know, the house would also be full of music. Patty liked to jam, you see, and she liked to jam loud. I remember walking in the back door (I never used the front door…because really, who does?) and immediately begin to vibrate to the sounds of late 80’s melancholy music. At the time, the sacredness of those moments didn’t register in my mind. All I knew was that I felt suddenly alive, free to shut down all the stresses of the day, free to lose myself in the music.
I didn’t even know the bands’ names at the time. I didn’t care.
But to this day, I can still picture myself walking through the back door.
And if I close my eyes, I can still hear Depeche Mode thrumming in my head.
I was sixteen-years old. I lived in the deep south with my father. Because he worked two, sometimes even three jobs, I almost never saw the man. Essentially I lived alone, pretty much the freest teenager in the entire world. During those hot, humid, lonely nights, I didn’t have much to do. We were poor. I didn’t have many friends, and the few I did have lived miles away in their normal, secure households. I didn’t watch TV, and my video game system (the original NES, what else?) sat unused in my grandparents’ house seven-hundred miles away.
But the one thing we did have?
A killer sound system. Doubtless the best in the neighborhood, possibly the whole city.
And during the long afternoons and even longer nights, while I sat in the shadows, reading pulpy fantasy books, contemplating the smallness of myself, I listened to music at all times. Loud music. Powerful heavy metal music. Slayer. Danzig. Metallica. And a hundred other bands whose guttural roars and swollen guitar riffs filled my little house…and more than once brought the police to the door.
To this day, I remember every lyric of every one of those albums. They were my salvation in many ways. With them, my isolation became bearable.
I was a little boy. Exactly how old, I can’t really recall Living part-time with my father and part-time with my grandparents, my life was always in flux. But what did I know? Everyone seemed to love me…or at least tolerate me. I suppose maybe I was a pretty obnoxious little guy. Somehow both spoiled and ignored. Loud but quiet. Affable, yet prone to bouts of running outside and not coming back inside until well after dark. Oh, how the mosquitoes loved me.
But sometimes, on certain weekend nights, when the mood was right and everyone in my grandparents’ house was getting along (our house was really, really small, you see) my grandfather would turn off the TV, set aside his bourbon, and pop a few vinyls on the record player. And suddenly the walls came alive with the sounds of Frank Sinatra, crooning Summer Wind or my personal favorite (to this day) One More for my Baby (And One More for the Road.) And then maybe he’d play some old, soft Elvis, to which I’d often drift asleep on the couch.
But while I was awake, I would dance. Me, the guy who hasn’t ever danced in his adult life, bouncing around the living room. And those were happy moments, just me, my loved ones, and the music.
My grandparents are gone now, but they’re alive and well in my heart.
And the moments I can see clearest?
Our warm, musical nights.
I was seventeen, cruising down the road with my very first girlfriend. The hour was late, and we were headed to a lakeside cabin way out in the countryside. During the long, long drive on dark roads, while the trees watched over us and the white lines on the highway sped past, we listened to the same album over and over again.
We didn’t talk. We just listened. And it was perfect.
I’m sure the girl has long forgotten the album. Actually, I’m sure the girl has forgotten me.
But I remember that night. How could I forget? It was the music, you see. It’s forever wrapped up in a memory that warm summer night.
Driving away from home (for the last time) to the sounds of Phil Collins.
Drowning my sorrows after a breakup in a dark basement to the booming dirges of Type O Negative.
Journeying out to the countryside while totally absorbed in Hans Zimmer instrumentals.
Soaring up to Chicago listening to silly, mid-90’s hip-hop.
Painting on Friday nights until 3AM to the slow, serene ballads of Olafur Arnalds.
All of these, I won’t forget.
Plenty of music crosses our paths between the rarest and most memorable instants of our lives. Songs, albums, and artists, perfectly good, drift into our consciousness while we’re driving to work, eating dinners out on the town, or wandering through shopping malls in search of stuff to buy. Some of the music is great, and some really, really bad. But somehow, most of what we remember arises not from these casual, everyday moments, but from the times in our lives when we needed it. When we were ready for it. When the timing was perfect and the moments couldn’t have been what they were without an accompanying soundtrack.
Chances are, you’re a lot like me.
Your favorite music is tied to places, people, moments, and feelings.
The smash new single by ________ isn’t what you remember five years down the road.
The unexpected song by the artist you didn’t know…timed just right…that’s the one that sticks with you.
Because music lives in moments.
Brand new cover art for Coffee Table Philosophy book 101 Questions for Women?
It’s exactly what it sounds like.
101 questions for the ladies…