The Devils Reign II: Psychedelic Blasphemy (2016) Curated and Introduction by: Peter H. Gilmore Foreword by: Thomas Thorn Produced by: Andy Howl
In December 2016, the second volume of The Devils Reign art books, “Psychedelic Blasphemy” was released. For those who may not be familiar with the series it began in 2015 with the eponymous first volume, The Devils Reign. It was a collaborative effort between Andy Howl of Howl Gallery/Tattoo, and the High Priest of The Church of Satan, Peter H. Gilmore. Featuring over 60 artists, The Devils Reign I was thematically inspired by the list of “infernal names” outlined in Anton Szandor LaVey’s 1969 masterpiece of wisdom “The Satanic Bible.” Demons from cultures around the world were depicted by the artists, many utilizing a modern “Lovecraftian” angle. The original book was accompanied by a release event at Howl Gallery in Fort Myers, Florida, and was such a resounding success that a traveling exhibit has since made its way to galleries in both Boston and Brooklyn.
It was no surprise then, after the popularity of the first book, that a second volume was organized for release in 2016. Titled “Psychedelic Blasphemy“, it continues the diabolical tradition of The Devils Reign but with an intriguing twist.
The Church of Satan was founded in April 1966, fittingly, on Walpurgisnacht. The city of its origin, San Francisco, was the epicenter for underground culture in music, literature, and art. From rock groups like the Grateful Dead, the beatnik era of the late 50’s to early 60’s, to Ken Kesey and his band of “Merry Pranksters”, and to the underground “comix” scene. San Francisco was boiling over with artists pushing the boundaries of their genres and mediums. Experimentation was rampant, including that of popular “mind expanding” chemicals like LSD. One of the (many) side effects of this was Psychedelia, a day-glo swirling morass of light, sound, and legendary rock posters, feeding eye candy to the blitzed, wayward youths invading the city.
No one in their right mind, or with any knowledge of the subject for that matter, would confuse Dr. LaVey’s Church of SATAN with anything to do with the hippie trappings of the era. It countered the counter-culture. As Rev. Thomas Thorn eloquently states in the Psychedelic Blasphemy foreword, in 1969 “Anton LaVey had finally had enough and unleashed a curse on the sad world of wilted flower children.” Indeed. However, the time and place of the founding of the Church of Satan cannot be denied or ignored. San Francisco of that era had been defined by both the blossoming of the Psychedelic culture, and its predictable self-destruction. Where the two may meet beyond the time frame of their mutual emergence, is in challenging the status quo. Pushing the limits of taste and art. Different forms of blasphemy to be sure, but blasphemy all the same.
This is where Psychedelic Blasphemy succeeds. What may, on the surface, seem incongruous, translates wonderfully at the hands of the over 100 artists that offered their heretical visions. It’s the visual equivalent of the chocolate bar mysteriously falling into the peanut butter jar, at first it’s shocking, then thought-provoking, then brilliant. With the sheer volume of artists, one’s own subjective standards will be the judge of each piece. Stratification exists here, to what level remains in the eye of the beholder, but many pages held my attention longer than others. More than a few demanded a close inspection of the exquisite detail work involved. Fans of 1960’s era underground artists will immediately note the inclusion of work by the legendary “Zap Comix” artist S. Clay Wilson, an inspired addition to the volume that, in my opinion, earns the curators a well deserved infernal hat-tip. Underground music fans will also appreciate the appearance of Winston Smith’s “Idol”, used by the punk band Dead Kennedys for the cover of their 1981 “In God We Trust, Inc.” EP.
The book itself, like the first, is beautifully crafted. Both volumes look gorgeous next to each other on the shelf, and for me they visually and texturally invoke the wonderful “Time-Life” volumes that held my reading attention as a child. Psychedelic Blasphemy‘s cover befits the contents, with a sparkling optical treat behind the prerequisite trippy writing and Baphomet sigil, even if it is incredibly difficult for a photography hack like myself to get a decent phone shot of it. (See above.)
Magus Gilmore and Andy Howl deserve recognition for not only bringing The Devils Reign project to light as a whole, but by ensuring the quality of the content and the presentation are of the highest standards by anyone’s aesthetics. While the first volume is nearing ‘sold out’ status, Psychedelic Blasphemy is still available at Howl Books, and I would highly recommend ordering it before it becomes an expensive collectors item in the near future.