Review: Realm Of The Damned (Graphic Novel)

Of all the art forms metal has escaped into, graphic novels continue to elude me. I’ve played Brutal Legend, watched Metalocalypse, seen album  art displayed in festival “galleries,” but I’ve never read a metalised graphic novel. Enter Realm Of The Damned, what is essentially nearly 150 pages of extreme metal album cover material.

Released on Werewolf Press (graphic novel publishing company of Candlelight’s Steve Beatty), Realm of the Damned comes from Alec Worley’s keyboard and Pye Parr’s pencils and tells a gory tale of bloodshed, metal and further bloodshed.

I’m not going to spend much, if any, time discussing the plot. People who spoil things are dicks and should swing from the highest tower (plus I’d be breaking all sort of review copy restrictions) so I’ll paste in below the back cover description for Realm Of The Damned.

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There’s no one left to protect us from what lurks in the dark. There’s no Hellboy, no Mulder and Scully, no Torchwood or Men in Black coming to save us. The monsters have won.

Our world now belongs to them.

The Vatican’s last line of paranormal defence – The Congregation – has finally been overrun by the supernatural forces of darkness. Our heroes are all dead; only the damned remain. Among them is Alberic Van Helsing – addict, murderer, survivor – and the creatures that were once his prey now hunt him across America. But when an apocalyptic evil is resurrected in the forests of Norway, it falls to Van Helsing to become the hunter once again if mankind and monster alike are to see the dawn.

Van Helsing’s quest for salvation and survival takes him through the ruins of a neo-gothic Europe, where he must face the vampire queen of the Vatican, a man-made monster with the heart of a storm, the lycanthropic lord of the forest, the mummified ruler of the slums of Cairo, and the crazed vampire demi-god who threatens to devour them all.

This is Realm of the Damned: Tenebris Deos, a graphic novel of pure Black Metal horror that unleashes the classic gothic monsters on a modern rampage of redemption and damnation. Raw, fast-paced and bristling with atmosphere, this is a bloody and blasphemous epic that leaves no church unburned.

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I realise that that appeals to pretty much everybody who visits the site so I’ll include a link here to allow you to pick up your own copy.

Returning to this short review now though, you can enjoy the plot on your own time. There are several points that stand out for me in Realm Of The Damned, the main one possibly being that it is brutal but isn’t brutally cheesy. Often when metal is pushed into another market it can leave metal fans with a slight cringe feeling that manifests into them disassociating themselves with the product. ROTD escape that fate by embracing the over the top spirit of black metal, the subtle references sprinkled throughout also helps. Yet at the same time, it’s not just for metal fans, you don’t have to have Emperor’s back catalogue memorised to appreciate this. It’s not written as a fan service or a way to get metalheads to buy more merch (and lets face it, we do buy some amount of shit), it’s for everyone. Except maybe kids.. or maybe it’s for kids. We all have to learn about church burning at some stage.

ROTD also feels very much a part of the visual metal world. At times it almost feels like what should be inside lyric booklets instead of the lyrics. Metal artwork has always been a highlight of the genre, and it’s great to see it take a life of its own outside of the music. Parr has definitely done his homework here; at times I almost expected to see the Cannibal Corpse logo revealing that this is an elaborate marketing scheme for a new album.

What really puts the icing on the cake is the Spotify playlist available on the books website; it’s the best accompaniment to what you’re reading. Sadly you’ll come to the end of the book before you come to the end of the playlist, but you can always save the second half for a second read.

You can meet Alec Worley and Pye Parr this Saturday (14th) at the Forbidden Planet London Megastore from 1 – 2pm where you’ll be able to buy a copy and get it signed. Sadly I’m a few hundred miles North of that but from the review copy I can readily recommend you get yourselves there. Apparently the hottest new band, Sons of Balaur, will also be putting in an appearance so you don’t want to miss it…

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