Dean Swinford’s Death Metal Epic I: The Inverted Katabasis and Death Metal Epic II: Goat Song Sacrifice, Reviewed by Heather Bass



Dean Swinford, who happens to also be on the editorial staff for Glint, infuses his Death Metal Epic series with a mixture of dry humor, eccentric characters, and unpredictable outcomes. The most recent installment, Death Metal Epic II: Goat Song Sacrifice, debuted in May.

In The Inverted Katabasis, David Fosberg is stuck in 1990s’ Miami with the ruins of his death metal band. David aspires to emulate the sound made by  “a Gremlin in a blender” (5). However, this is not the hum-drum rise to fame with which we are all-too-familiar. David’s life is spiraling downward. His job sucks. His ex-girlfriend has moved on. Plutonic Records is dangerously close to suing him.  David is desperate to get out of mediocre Miami and avoid becoming just another “guy at the bookstore who used to be a musician” (12).

Enter Juan, a myth-obsessed sage with sartorial challenges:  “Juan sat on my doormat playing this forlorn dirge on a tiny green plastic recorder shaped like a pickle. Or rather, Juan, in a button down oxford shirt and khakis, topped, for good measure, with a ship captain’s hat, sat on my doormat playing a pickle” (64). As Juan guides David onto a new musical path, The Inverted Katabasis album is born, eventually leading to a tour of Europe’s metal heartland. But in Swinford’s storytelling, events never pan out as predicted.  David realizes why he is sent to Europe and abandons his new path—and Juan. 

The recently released Death Metal Epic II: Goat Song Sacrifice begins to answer the question: will David stay in Europe or return to the capitalist hell he fled? We find David following a new sage, Svart. David has difficulty adopting to a new identity and new way of life in Belgium (15-17).   At one point, he describes himself as “niveau een,” that is, as level one in his development. His efforts to learn Dutch are barely adequate. Instead of playing the death metal that he idolizes, David struggles to appropriate the more sinister attitudes of black metal.  Svart further “trains” David by nightly pub crawls that leave the latter “languishing on the couch, its little pink flowers drenched in a regurgitated blend of mashed fries, andalouse sauce, and Belgian ale… drowned on dry land” (8). As David tries to adjust to Svart’s way of life, David furthers himself from his previous life in Miami. Yet, the past remains present as David pines for his ex-girlfriend and re-encounters old friends, including Juan. 

The quest to recruit band members for Svart’s band, Desekration, echoes a plot thread from The Inverted Katabasis. In the first book, David had been trying to form a band under the pressure of Plutonic Records, but in Goat Song Sacrifice, David and Svart are under pressure by their new producer, Nekrokor, who asserts a dark, demonic influence. When the band finally assembles for its first concert, not all goes according to plan. A plot twist results in a cliff-hanger ending with another question: what does Nekrokor have in store for David?


Swinford, Dean. Death Metal Epic I: The Inverted Katabasis. Atlatl Press, 2013.

—.  Death Metal Epic II: Goat Song Sacrifice. Atlatl Press, 2017.