Allfather are a band that have been on my radar for a while, and their riff-packed new album ‘And All Will Be Desolation’ (out Sept 7th) slays even more than I had hoped. Hailing from Kent in the UK, they play sludge-and-hardcore-infused death metal which is proudly political, tackling lyrical themes that include fascism and the European migrant crisis. So I had a feeling they would have some fascinating literary choices, and I was right. Bassist Andrew is a professional librarian so he knows a thing or two about books, and here he takes us on a journey from George Orwell to Sophie Scholl to Metallica and beyond.
Andrew Day, Allfather bassist
1. Not Now Bernard, by David McKee. A childhood favourite. Bernard gets ignored and eaten and even the monster gets sent to bed. Proof to me at an early age that there is no justice in this world.
2. Homage to Catalonia, by George Orwell. As a 12 year old and Very Serious Young Man, I took it upon myself to sack off Point Horror and instead read the entire works of George Orwell (n.b. I didn’t have my first real kiss until the age of 17 and these two things are definitely related). 1984 is the obvious one to go to, but for me Orwell’s reportage is in many ways superior to his fiction. Homage to Catalonia is a very clear eyed account of idealism turning to disillusionment during the Spanish civil war and also a very clear warning that the fascists aren’t always bound to lose.
3. The Crow Road, by Iain Banks. I read and re-read this over a couple of years when I was living with my parents after university. I tried to find some of main character Prentice McHoan’s endearing aimlessness in my own situation, but I was a lot less endearing, a lot more depressed and probably listening to more Neurosis than a healthy person should. The Crow Road is big-hearted, funny, warmly cynical, and makes the very good point that if a close family member is a casual racist, they’re probably thoroughly evil too.
4. Beloved, by Toni Morrison. Former colonial and slave owning nations like Britain and the States will never be at peace until they reckon with their own violent, racist pasts (and let’s be honest their violent, racist presents). Toni Morrison’s Beloved gives shape to the unimaginable suffering and mental trauma experienced by formerly enslaved Afro Americans in the immediate aftermath of the American Civil War. It’s part ghost story, part waking nightmare and shows just how destructive the physical and emotional toll of slavery was and continues to be.
5. If This Is A Man, by Primo Levi. Another book that somehow finds the words to describe the unimaginable horrors visited by humans on other human beings. Italian Jewish writer and chemist brings an almost scientific precision to his description of his own incarceration in the Auschwitz during the Holocaust. His writing could almost read as detached if it didn’t make the suffering he experienced so close at hand and so keenly felt. It’s a towering work by a towering human being that everybody should read.
6. Winter’s Bone, by Daniel Woodrell. Speaking of good writing, Daniel Woodrell’s Winter’s Bone is a chilly, compact masterpiece. Set among grinding poverty in the former mining communities of the Ozark Mountains, Winter’s Bone is a thriller, a coming of age tale and a rumination on what the death of an industry does to people all rolled into one. In the formidable Ree Dolly and the terrifying Uncle Teardrop it also has two of the best all-time characters in fiction. With its violence, tragedy, natural beauty and occasional bluegrass, Winter’s Bone is like a Panopticon or Twilight Fauna album in book form.
7. Order Without Power: An Introduction to Anarchism, by Normand Baillargeon. Politically I’m left-libertarian, so basically anarchist. Anybody that thinks anarchism is all about smashing things and will never work should read this. You’re wrong.
8. The Beauty Myth, by Naomi Wolf. Allfather are a political band and I consider myself to be a political person. One thing that I have found, through mistakes as much as anything, is that you can’t, as a straight white man, begin to call yourself a feminist, an ally or whatever until you’ve called out your own prejudices first. No-one asks to be prejudiced, but societal and political norms drive that crap into us from birth, so the most useful thing white men can do is work through our own bullshit first before we start calling out others. The Beauty Myth was an important part of my dealing with my own sexism – it lifts the lid on the subtle but very real forces of oppression that control the lives and bodies of women and showed me things in myself that I’d either been blind to or in denial of. It’s well written and clinically precise in its detail too and leaves you in no doubt that misogyny is real and inherently damaging in its practice.
9. The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood. Speaking of feminism, if you want to read a thoroughly escapist novel about a repressive, despotic United States where women are reduced to servility and sexual objectification, read The Handmaid’s Tale. Yes, those are clumsy parallels to draw with Trump’s America, but it’s hard to believe that Margaret Atwood wasn’t in some way prophetic when she wrote it. As a classic piece of dystopian science fiction, The Handmaid’s Tale stands tall in its own right and, in Offred has a character, like Ree in Winter’s Bone, who is occasionally vulnerable but who you just know is sitting on a whole volcano of badassery.
10. Sophie Scholl and the White Rose, by Annette Dumbach. If you want to know what courage in adversity looks like, read this. Sophie Scholl and her fellow members of the White Rose movement were students in Munich during the Second World War who printed and distributed anti-nazi propaganda, in the end going to the guillotine for it. Their bravery and idealism are inspirational in their own right, but, as difficult as the closing stages of the book are to read, it’s what Sophie Scholl says to her captors and prosecutors in the face of certain death that make you realise just what and amazing human being she was. Read this book, cry a bit at the hopeless, tragic beauty of it all, and then go out and fight fascism any way you can.
11. To Live Is To Die: The Life and Death of Metallica’s Cliff Burton, by Joel McIver. It’s about Cliff fucking Burton. What else do you need to know?
Thanks to Andrew Day from Allfather for this thought-provoking list. I’m ashamed to say that so far I have only read a couple of these excellent suggestions, but the Primo Levi and Sophie Scholl are now going straight to the top of my ‘must reads’.
Allfather’s new album And All Will Be Desolation is released on September 7th from Rotting Throne Records. You can check out Allfather here: