Sam Hill “Book ov Sam: Infernal Depths” – Album Review

by Ben Arzate

Sam Hill is the alter-ego of New York hip hop artist Cage Kennylz, real name Chris Palko. Cage started off as a rapper known for saying controversial and off-the-wall things. His first single was “Agent Orange,” a song which sampled the theme from A Clockwork Orange and included promises to “fuck your head up like cornrows put in by blind giants” and “start bugging like an insect and lay larvae in your ear.” It shouldn’t come as a surprise that self-described death rapper Necro was the producer.

He continued on this angry, PCP-fueled tip on his debut album Movies for the Blind. This album included songs like “Suicidal Failure,” in which Cage graphically describes failed suicide attempts, and “CK Won,” a song that has the line “Chris Palko is giving these bitches mouthfuls / Then it’s ‘thank you’ notes on they face with scalpels.” Because of this, he was often put in the “horrorcore” genre with rappers like Necro and Esham.

Starting on his second album, Hell’s Winter, Cage took a more introspective turn. This one included more politically-oriented tracks and stories about his personal life. Cage stayed on this path with his next two albums, Depart from Me and Kill the Architect. I personally found those albums lacking and many of his older fans did as well, prompting some to want the older Cage back.

Cage must have recognized this as in 2012 he debuted his alter-ego Sam Hill with the singles “Misanthrope” and “Super Baked.” These brought back the violent, drug-oriented lyrics from the Movies for the Blind era, as well as bringing in some darker, trap-ish production compared to his newer albums. “Super Baked” even included a reference to Alex the Worm King, a character that often appeared in Cage’s earlier songs.

Despite this, a full-length Sam Hill project wouldn’t see a release until 2018 with Book ov Sam: Infernal Depths. From the title, to the art, to the subject matter of the songs, Cage fully embraced the “horrorcore” genre with this record. Almost every song is about murder, Satanism, the occult, and blasphemy.

The album starts off strong with “Prey to Jesus.” It’s a low-key song with dark minimalist trap production and a catchy hook, “I was pray praying to the beast.” It quickly lets us know what we’re in for with lines like “Flipping through demonic texts, starving like Ghandi /False acolytes only in it to be godly.” At only two minutes, it doesn’t overstay its welcome either.

“Sam’s Klvb” continues on the blasphemous, Satan-worshiping theme. This one probably has my favorite production. Its synths and samples are genuinely nightmarish and unnerving, and the drums hit hard. The hook is kind of weak, being a mumbled set of lyrics with some rather cheesy vocal effects, but otherwise it’s a solid song.

Surprisingly, both “Misanthrope” and “Super Baked” are on this album despite being six-years-old. They’re slightly altered here from the original releases. They also don’t really fit the Satanic theme present in all the other songs, but they’re probably the best ones on the album.

“Misanthrope” is an aggressive drug song with production that reminds me of early Three 6 Mafia and a hook where Sam declares “I don’t want to be a criminal or thug out/I just want to pick up a gun and blow your blood out.” “Super Baked” is another excellent song. The production and lyrics sound like an excellent mix of Movies for the Blind and Hell’s Winter era Cage. It’s probably my favorite song on the album.

Some moments here cross the line into campy. “Ouija Bored” is the worst offender. It starts off with a horribly acted skit about people playing an Ouija Board, has the weakest production on the album, and a bridge which sounds like something off a corny Halloween sing-along. “Tree ov Death,” while a much better track overall, also has a corny bridge with Sam Hill chanting about the Book of Life and Book of Death in a way that’s just kind of annoying.

Overall, despite its flaws, Book ov Sam: Infernal Depths is a promising start to the Sam Hill project. Fans of Cage expecting a return to the age of Movies for the Blind will be mostly disappointed as this goes in a different direction. This likely won’t win over any new fans either. However, it is a new and refreshing direction for Cage Kennylz and I think it’s his best since Hell’s Winter. If you’re also fascinated by the idea of a hip hop album about Satan and the occult, this is also well worth a listen.

One thing to note is that Book ov Sam: Infernal Depths is only available for streaming or download at the moment. However, vinyl copies are planned in the near future.

Books That Will Open Your Brain Basket, Part I

By Reverend Bob

As an ordained minister in the Universal Life Church, I feel comfortable saying that we are living in especially godless times. Everyone is a heathen nowadays…except for me. I am pure, for I soar with the owls and humbly acknowledge the felines.

Of course, it takes more than Bible thumping or kneeling and standing to make yourself righteous. If you want to be truly righteous like I am, no amount of church-going or back lashes will get you right in the eyes of the Lord. Particularly because no one knows what lord we’re even supposed to be talking about.

Is it the New Zealand songstress Lorde or that gloomy egoist Lord Byron? Your guess is as good as mine.

It’s a tough one to answer because there are just so many lords to choose from. The raw balls of it should be obvious—there is more than one way to become truly enlightened. Despite what your parents told you, atheists can be good people too. Or, like their Christian counterparts, they can be cunts.

But when one familiarizes themselves with the poetic passages of books like The Gnostic Gospels, it becomes more difficult to practice routine cuntiness. As you will soon discover, the right reading material can really blow your lid back and once it has, it will root around in that musty attic you call a brain until it straightens some things out.

A person’s moral character may, in some ways, be determined by inherent factors, but external stimuli plays a vital role in our development as sentient bipeds. The following volumes are but a few examples of literature that has the power to open our minds, expand our horizons and contract our sphincters with the full breadth of its collective wisdom.

Read on for all the answers to the meaning of existence, my brothers and sisters!

The Dhammapada

Unlike so many poor fucks in this country, I never had religion thrust upon me like an uninvited cock. I was raised in a relatively secular household by two non-practicing Protestants. While my cat-lick friends were getting pelted by rosaries and learning to resent the God that was shoved down their throat, both figuratively and literally (see: body of Christ), I was free to discover shit on my own.

As such, I went through the obligatory angsty stage where Antichrist Superstar was the official soundtrack of my day-to-day life and the only god I concerned myself with was the self-proclaimed God of Fuck.

Then one day I was in a used bookstore and came across a little pocket size book bound in green leather, its yellowed pages meticulously folded and annotated by whichever crunchy theology major owned it first.

Soon, I was turning to the book’s many concise aphorisms whenever I needed some reassurance. The Dhammapada is ostensibly the collected works of the Buddha, but it also functions as a guide to living in general. Its messages are delivered in a simple and easily digestible fashion, but this doesn’t take away from their substance. What one finds when reading it is that all world religions share fundamental values and messages of love in common.

Where The Dhammapada differs from other religious texts is in its bedrock compassion for all human beings, regardless of faith or lack thereof. An agnostic can read its words, and find meditation and purpose in them just as any monotheist could.

Excerpt from The Dhammapada:

“Those who have high thoughts are ever striving; they are not happy to remain in the same place. Like swans that leave their lake and rise into the air, they leave their home and fly for a higher home.”

The Quran

Hey kids, it’s not just for terrorists! You, too, can become a Muslim…or, ya know, just dig on the gorgeous language used to compose this handsome tome. Conceived as the final, definitive iteration of the Bible, The Quran is said to be a revelation from God or Allah.

Despite what sensationalist news outlets have led you to believe, The Quran is not an incitement to violence, rather it is a list of guiding principles divided into chapters of ornate verse. Far from a terrorist manifesto, the book actually proves that all or, at least, most monotheistic religions believe in essentially the same god, they just call him by different names.

The Quran has been demonized by the Western world because radical extremists have used its Sword Verses to indoctrinate suicide bombers and the like, but the wrath of those verses is small taters compared to the far flung carnage and near-pornographic imagery of the King James Bible.

Consider this: The Sword Verses account for just 149 of a whopping 6,236 overall verses. To stigmatize an entire book for such a small portion of its text is like banning all obese people from a food court just because a couple fat guys loosed their bowels at the soda dispenser one time.

The Book of Lies

Speaking of shitty people, Aleister Crowley is arguably the reigning king of the cunts, having fleeced celebrities and easily malleable morons with his magick theory and Tarot card sleight of hand. Still, there’s no denying his influence on pop culture and modern literature.

The English poet and occultist earned the title of the “Wickedest Man in the World” through no small amount of effort. A spy, a turncoat, a nympho and a drug fiend, Crowley was what apologists would call a renaissance man but what former acolytes would likely call a douchebag.

A notorious egomaniac, Crowley wrote many volumes about magick and masonic rites, but it was two particular volumes that most closely defined his persona. First, there was The Book of the Law, a Satanic treatise that formed the basis for his religion, Thelema. This book deconstructed the morals and values of Christianity, reducing them to one single principle: “Do what thou wilt, this is the whole of the Law.”

This simple rule exemplifies Crowley’s self-centered and self-serving philosophy, one that reflects his character as a man perfectly. After all, this is a guy who would flip on colleagues on a dime and piss off anyone who got too close to his inner sanctum.

The second volume is The Book of Lies, a gleefully pedantic and contradictory collection of rules and poems that serve as a sort of Complete Idiot’s Guide to Thelema. The book’s fallen idol, Frater Perdurabo (a stand-in for Crowley himself), is indicative of the Thelemic elders.

“The Universe is the Practical Joke of the General at the expense of the Particular, quoth FRATER PERDURABO, and laughed.

But those disciples nearest to him wept, seeing the

Universal Sorrow.

Those next to them laughed, seeing the Universal Joke.

Below these certain disciples wept,

Then certain laughed.

Others next wept.

Otherst next laughed.

Next others wept.

Next others laughed.

Last came those that wept because they could not

see the Joke, and those that laughed lest they

should be thought not to see the Joke, and thought

it safe to act like FRADER PERDURABO.

But thought FRATER PERDURABO laughed

openly, He also at the same time wept secretly;

and in Himself He neither laughed nor wept.

Nor did He mean what He said.”

Of all of Crowley’s published confessions, this one stands out as, perhaps, the most paramount to those considering the Thelemic religion. It appears to admonish the rube that Crowley and, by extension, Thelema is a shameless huckster peddling truths which he does not believe in.

As a teenager with what junkies used to call an “ice cream habit” or “chippie,” I would snort a bump of dope while waiting for my dealer to return from picking up and as the warmth hit me, I’d read from The Book of Lies as if its dictates were actually applicable.

Needless to say, you don’t want to have a head full of junk when you read something like, “The Abyss of Hallucinations has Law and Reason; but in Truth there is no bond between the Toys of the Gods. This Reason and Law is the Bond of the Great Lie. Truth! Truth! Truth! Crieth the Lord of the Abyss of Hallucinations. There is no silence in that Abyss: for all that men call Silence is Its Speech. This Abyss is also called ‘Hell,’ and ‘The Many.’ Its name is ‘Consciousness’, and ‘The Universe’, among men. But THAT which neither is silent, nor speaks, rejoices therein.”

It would be impossible for anyone to observe each of the rules the book calls for as they clash with each other on every page, and that was likely the point Crowley was trying to get across. If the whole of the law is that one should do what they want, so long as it does not hurt or encroach upon another person’s will, then of course a book of lies would try and say otherwise.

The Book of Lies holds up today, functioning both as an introduction to Crowley’s silly religion and a sterling example of his sinister wit.

Keep your eyes peeled for Part II…

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Alienation & Validation: 10 Questions with Author Elle Nash

Any author worth their salt will tell you that to craft a good first novel, you have to labor like you’re working the coal mines. It’s an emotional and oft-Sisyphean task that takes time, energy and a whole lot of pain.
Most of those authors are also full of shit. The hubris that attends your debut novel is something both naive and myopic. The bottom line is, most first novels blow, if for no other reason than the author went into it with the misguided intention of writing the next Great American Novel.
Elle Nash shows no signs of having suffered under such delusions and the amazing part is that her work shines as a result of this. Animals Eat Each Other is the kind of debut that all writers should aspire to, a highly literary work in an age where the trend has been to distance oneself from the literary.
Recalling at once the grimness of Flannery O’Connor, the ferocity of Gone Girl and the imagistic talent of authors like Darcey Steinke (see: Jesus Saves) and Francesca Lia Block (see: Wasteland), this novel tells a splintered tale of a bizarre love triangle in a way that we haven’t seen before and likely won’t see again.
Its author is an unexpected one, coming as she does from a background writing for manipulative mainstream publications like Cosmopolitan Magazine and the like. But don’t get it twisted, Elle Nash is not some insipid hack spewing out “13 Ways to Please Your Man & Not Be So Damn Ugly”. Nash is the editor of Witchcraft Magazine and a scribe who marries the macabre with the mundane in a way not unlike Bret Easton Ellis at his best.
I sat down with Elle to see if she could spill the realness about this incredible first book. Here’s what she had to say.

Bob Freville: “Animals Eat Each Other” is such an evocative title. What was your process with your debut novel? Did the story come first or did you think of the title first and then work from there?
Elle Nash: Thank you! The story came first. I had a few other titles previous to this one. In 2016 I’d written a poem called ‘the moon’ as part of a chapbook that won the Nostrovia Chapbook Contest, in which “animals eating each other” was a line, and that seemed to fit better than anything I’d thought of previously.
The process of writing it was long. It had started as a short story. I was working under Tom Spanbauer’s mentorship at the time and just kept expanding and felt it would be best as a short novel by the time I was finished with it.

In an age where more and more indie authors are kind of gearing their work towards the bizarro fiction genre, going out of their way to kind of give everything a shock factor without placing value on plot and character development, I found your book to be a breath of fresh air.

Was the humanism of the piece important to you and how did you approach the narrative? Were you aiming for something a bit more literary than what we see from most small press outlets today?
Thank you so much. I appreciate work that is shocking in the right way, but I’m a huge character person. Even with movies, I want things with far more character development than anything else– it’s something I find frustrating about blockbuster movies lately. There’s zero character development.
If you can’t make me care about the person I’m reading/watching about, even if I hate the character, which is still evoking something out of me, I just don’t feel invested in it. I want to be moved by what I read and the only way to do that is for me to know the character.
In that way I would say I was aiming for something more literary, if we describe literary fiction as something that focuses more on character. Plot is important too, but at the same time, I wanted the plot to feel natural and not too clean.

What’s more important to you as a writer? Style or substance? And do you think the two can be handled in a mutually respectful fashion?
Truly, both, but style more than substance. I can read a lot of sad substance stories but they may not break my heart. Style brings me to my knees.

You’re going to get this from every interviewer because it’s inevitable with any first novel: How much of the narrative is autobiographical?
I do get it from every interviewer! At this point, I just want to ask why it matters, if the work is good and compelling. Memory itself is a kind of fiction, so even if any of it were ‘true,’ it would only be true for a single person from a single perspective. It’s a similar experience reading a really good book, when you’re in the ‘fictive dream’ state. We love it because in that singular moment the truth is revealed to us in some small way.

Alienation plays a big role in this story, particularly the alienation of millennials from each other. It’s interesting to explore the detachment between people even when they are physically close. Is this something that you intend to continue to delve into in future works? Do you see your book as an artifact of the era that we are living in or would you prefer it be read as something more timeless?
Alienation is kind of a timeless feeling, I think, and it’s something I think about a lot, so it will probably show up in all of my future work in some form.

What do you view as Lilith’s biggest problem in the book?
That she wants to feel validated by her mother.

Fuck, marry, kill. Darcey Steinke, Hubert Selby, Jr. and Bret Easton Ellis.
Fuck Bret Easton Ellis, Marry Darcey Steinke, Kill Hubert Selby Jr.

Savage. (laughs) Are you writing another book or focusing on other things at the moment?
Yes, I’m working on a novel and also a book of short stories. I do try to switch to ‘focus on other things’ daily, like one day or for a few days I’ll wake up and think, “today I am not a writer” and I do all of the other things life demands of me. But I worry I might have too many days like that and then I become depressed and anxious and come back to writing again.

I know the feeling. What does your writing routine look like?
I frantically work when my baby naps most of the time. I also text a lot of one liners up into my notes app, and sometimes I just talk to a recording app on my phone while driving, which will transcribe (though not perfectly) the things I say to it. On Saturdays and Sundays when I can swing it, I will work a bit if I can while my husband is home.
I try to stay in the present moment a lot but it’s difficult. Most of the time, I’m thinking about my next project or story– about plot or things I should be writing down. Then I finish a story and I feel embarrassed by it and I’ll think about it until I can get back to the computer and add more or fix the parts I know are bad. Revision is hard. I try to revise things one moment at a time and not look at the big picture if I can help it…. that tends to overwhelm me, and it creates blocks in my work.

What are the two most important words in the English language in your opinion?
“Love me.”

Animals Eat Each Other is available from Dzanc Books. Click here to pick up your copy today.