Folk Horror, Grim History and Cheap Occult Paperbacks: Join the Doom Book Club with Green Lung

Pic: Ester Segarra

If you find the mystical aura of Green Lung’s strain of doom as alluring as us, you’re probably wondering just where their lyrical themes come from. It turns out that a hefty portion of it comes from books, some of which can be found on Instagram under their hashtag #doombookclub, but after exhausting that list, we wanted more, and reached out to the band for this list of doomy books. If you need us, we’re going to be spending lockdown working our way through it. Over to Green Lung vocalist Tom Templar:

My day job is in publishing, and I read all the time, so naturally a lot of my lyrical inspiration comes from my bookshelves. When I was listening to Electric Wizard or Cathedral as a kid I’d always pore over any mentions of films they made in interviews – that’s how I got into all kinds of psychotronic cinema, from Psychomania to The Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue to the Blind Dead movies. So when Green Lung started attracting a following I began sharing the odd literary inspiration.

If you wanted me to talk about “heavy” literature I could spend all day droning on about Moby Dick or Riddley Walker, but doom’s atmosphere is pretty specific. I’m not going to claim that there’s such a thing as a “doom book”, but here are some examples from my shelf that inspired Green Lung lyrically or aesthetically, or simply gave me the same spine-tingling feeling as those ringing intro chords to ‘Black Sabbath’.

 

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THE FOREST OF DOOM by Ian Livingstone

Let’s start at the very beginning. I’m seven years old. In a bookshop, I see a hooded lizard-man snarling at me from the depths of a murky forest on a cover. Is this the moment I seal my fate and submit to a life of heavy metal nerdery? Probably. (I still have a collection of Fighting Fantasy gamebooks. If anyone wants to trade a pristine copy of the incredibly hard-to-find Magehunter for a signed first pressing copy of Woodland Rites on vinyl, bring it to the merch stand. I’m not joking).

 

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WITCHES AND SORCERERS by Arkon Daraul

This is probably the book that started my whole occult obsession – I bought a copy in a charity shop on the Norfolk coast when I was about fourteen and never looked back. I have an embarrassing number of these cheap occult paperbacks from the late sixties and early seventies – they were printed in droves in the wake of the success of The Witch-Cult In Western Europe by Margaret Murray and Witchcraft Today by Gerald Gardner, which were the key texts leading to the countercultural witchcraft revival. Almost all of these books are total cash-ins and entirely unreadable, but the aesthetic? Pump it into my veins.

 

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THE INHABITANT OF THE LAKE by Ramsey Campbell

The one author who always gets a mention in doom circles is obviously HP Lovecraft, whose long shadow lies over anyone wanting to get both cosmic and nihilistic (see Electric Wizard’s Dopethrone). But one of his acolytes who never seems to get any credit is Ramsey Campbell, who brought the Cthulhu Mythos to Britain, in fictional locales Brichester and Goatswood. Prime untapped source material for all British metallers here – the only one I can find who have used him for inspiration are the ultimate literary metal band, Iron Maiden, with ‘Still Life’ referencing the titular story in this collection.

 

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HARVEST by Jim Crace

Proof that doomy lyrical inspiration doesn’t always have to come from semi-pornographic witchcraft magazines and pulp paperbacks, Jim Crace’s Harvest was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, but is true folk horror. Beleaguered rural villagers get high on magic mushrooms in the forest, throw about witchcraft accusations and (spoiler alert) burn down a manor house. Try not to slow-headbang while reading.

 

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COME ALONG WITH ME by Shirley Jackson

Shirley Jackson is best known as the author of The Haunting Of Hill House, which for me boasts the best opening paragraph in all literature, but her short stories are also a must read for pure doomy atmosphere. ‘The Summer People’, in this collection, is my favourite. The literary equivalent of an ethereal drone doom band.

 

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THE ENGLISH CIVIL WAR: A People’s History by Diane Purkiss

Is there such a thing as a “doom historian”? Maybe Ronald Hutton, expert on witchcraft and Neolithic Britain, might fit the bill. Or Julian Cope. For me the frontrunner has to be Diane Purkiss, whose monolithic The English Civil War demonstrates that you don’t need to turn to fiction for inspiration – British history, with its bloody battles, rampaging witchfinders, public executions and unending cruelty, is grim enough.

 

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THE GORMENGHAST TRILOGY by Mervyn Peake

Mervyn Peake was a brilliant witchy illustrator (check out his logo for Pan books, or his illustrations for Christina Hole’s Witchcraft In England), but his masterpieces are the three novels that make up the Gormenghast Trilogy. From the location (a vast, labyrinthine castle) to the characters (all of whom could provide inspiration for the names of doom bands: Titus Groan, Sepulchrave, Sourdust, Nannie Slagg) to the plot (a decaying aristocratic dynasty’s family pile slowly becomes their tomb), this is the ultimate doom narrative.

 

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HELLEBORE, edited by Maria J Pérez Cuervo / WEIRD WALK

In recent years several fantastic zines have reintroduced readers to the weirdness of the British landscape and its history, from folk horror to alternative heritage sites to archaic rural traditions.  My two favourite, each with only two editions printed at time of writing, are Maria J Pérez Cuervo’s Hellebore and the mysterious Weird Walk. Both are beautifully designed, meticulously researched, and boast interviews and features with lots of figureheads from all corners of the British occulture. They’ve already been helpful in sending me down the rabbithole writing lyrics for our second album. [Also check out Rituals & Declarations – ed.].

 

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DAMNABLE TALES, edited and illustrated by Richard Wells

Full disclosure – Richard is an artist we work with regularly; he illustrated the covers for both our EP Free The Witch and our debut LP Woodland Rites. But I had to mention this book, which he’s currently nearly crowdfunded. It’s a collection of classic folk horror stories that he’s illustrating himself, and will be an absolute treasure trove for fans of the genre. There are some big names included like M.R. James and Arthur Machen, and also some lesser known writers like Eleanor Scott and Margery Lawrence. Best of all is ‘Pallinghurst Barrow’ by Grant Allen, in which an academic ingests cannabis indica and is dragged through a psychedelic vortex into the depths of a Neolithic barrow, where he does battle with an undead king of the Iron Age. It’s the most authentically ‘doom’ short story I’ve ever read – and it was written in 1892!

 

Woodland Rites and Free The Witch are out now. Order here.

Words: Tom Templar (Green Lung)