Shock, Aris- Rites Of The Abyss (Book Review)

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Reviewed: February, 2022 
Published: Heavy Music Artwork, 2021
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: JP

I’ve been following the trends in Metal publishing for some years now and I’ve made some predications that I’m very glad to see are becoming true.  Specifically, the rise of region specific/genre specific Metal books.  This sub-set of books while once quite rare are becoming more and more common.  What it interesting, becomes popular. What becomes popular, becomes studied. What is studied becomes published. With any luck for the authors and publishers it becomes profitable or at very least useful.  RITES OF THE ABYSS:The Genesis and History Of Greek Black Metal is a prime example of this.

Published in late 2021 by metal-niche publisher, Heavy Music Artwork, RITES OF THE ABYSS carries on their fine tradition of high-quality products.  This 200+ page, mid-sized paperback is printed on high-quality, glossy paper and a thicker card-stock type cover.  The colours really pop out at you and the layout and design are very nice. Author Aris Shock has taken the task of documenting this respected scene and he has succeeded admirably.

The book has forewords by three titans of Greek Black Metal; The Magus, Necroabyssius and Necromayhem. If you don’t know who these guys are you have a lot of homework to do, or better yet, buy this book.  The book is referenced well, has some recommended reading, and a section about their brothers in Cyprus.  Visually the book is top-notch.  Many high-quality images are reproduced; album covers, flyers, pictures of demos, live concerts, photo-shoots, and scattered all across the pages making this much like a visual history as well.

Shock has divided his book into small and logical sections that cover many aspects and facets of the Greek Black Metal scene. Overall he has chosen to divide the nations Black Metal into three eras or waves.  Also inter-spliced are sections about the recording studios, bands gear, their clubs, record stores and the media. Chapter VI is a short but very interesting section on the short-lived ‘Satanic Panic’ in Greece, complete with their own set of (un-related) crimes for which many Black Metal musicians and fans were unfairly targeted by politicians, media and society in general.  The way Shock presented his information is logical and intelligent.

Shock says in his introduction that he wanted to let the material speak for itself and kept his analysis to a minimum, relying on many interviews and reviews of critical albums to carrying the bulk of the story. It’s quite impressive how much information is packed into the book. It started as an encyclopedia but in his introduction he said it started to look like a mail-order catalogue of over 600 bands so he did some painful editing and revised his style. It’s tight and concise but still very readable.  RITES OF THE ABYSS is a reference guide, oral history and visual history all in one.

The Greek Black Metal scene was (and is) really one of the world’s strongest.  Following the Scandinavia’s dominance of the Black Metal genre (being the genesis, epi-center with the most quantity and quality) I could argue that Greece was next, or at very least tied with the UK.  America was quite late to the Black Metal game, and then wandered off into eco-friendly variations in later years. Germany was too busy doing Power Metal. The Canadian and Australian Black Metal scenes were virtually non-existent, France was too mellow, Italy and Spain didn’t have much to offer.  The Low countries of Benelux were competitive and had high quality bands but still trailed Greece.  Japan and Brazil had early and important primitive contributions put could not match the volume and quality of Greece.  Not only that while many other international Black Metal bands merely imitated the Scandinavian scene Greek Black Metal bands developed their own unique, regional style.

It is about time that someone documented this impressive scene and Aris Shock has done an excellent job.  RITES OF THE ABYSS is not only interesting and well-presented, it is an important contribution to the canon of Black Metal literature.