Posts Tagged ‘MaxoVanka’


Continuing from last week…so, how did I come up with the story itself, what with the song being pretty vague? I always start with place and setting. Carcass is from Liverpool, so there we are. We’re in Liverpool. I have been to the UK numerous times, but I have never been to Liverpool. My closest connection to Liverpool is my third-great-grandfather , from Holyhead, Wales, having left from Liverpool to get to Canada. That’s it.

Follow my thinking here: Liverpool’s industrial history reminded me of Pittsburgh’s (where I live), and when I think Pittsburgh & painting, no, I do not think Andy Warhol, though I know you probably do. No, I think of the murals of Maksimilijan “Maxo” Vanka in St. Nicholas Catholic church in Millvale.


He was a Croation-American artist who painted these 25 murals in 1937 and in 1941, which are considered his most important works.


Maxo Vanka

There is also a story of a phantom priest associated with St. Nicholas. Take a little bit of all of this and you have a Liverpudlian painter haunted by a ghost while he refurbishes a church’s murals. So, now, to relocate the church in Liverpool…this was easy.

St. Luke’s — aka, “The Bombed-Out Church” — really stood out. It’s bombing, along with the Vanka murals, gave me my time period, in addition to a key plot point. The Liverpool Blitz began in August 1940 and ended in January 1942. St. Luke’s was hit by an incendiary bomb on May 5, 1941. Vanka may well have been working on one of his murals the moment St. Luke’s was hit. It was gutted, but the stone structure still stands as a memorial.

St. Luke’s was more ornate woodwork and stained glass than murals. If you go here, on the left you’ll find pictures — count down to the sixth pair. These are of the main altar, and I don’t know if the designs here are painted, or tile work, but I used them to model Geoffrey’s painting:

Another pause, and Geoffrey only stared at the segment of mural directly above his head, the IHS of Christ’s name, the frame around it, the crown it wore, repeating all around him. Its curved plan invited an almost serpentine quality that seemed to slither over the arris of the vault and down between the large stained-glass panes.

Oh, names. Two characters, Geoffrey the painter (Jeff Walker — bass, vocals) and Bill Geoffrey Steer — guitar) and the priest, Father Owen (Ken Owen — drummer when Heartwork was recorded).  Easy-peasy.

Then it’s just a matter of reviewing a few historical sites about Liverpool and studying maps — make sure, especially after a few years of bombing, that you’re looking at a map contemporary with the events, or you’ll end up with streets that exist today, but didn’t then. I have no idea who the hell would catch this, but, you know…nice to be as accurate as possible about a place and time you’ve never been to or experienced. You’re bound to screw up, misinterpret, or miss something altogether, so at least try to minimize it.

Take these elements, hammer them together, and create an outline. Put the song on in the background on loop, and then ignore it, because you’re writing now and you’re in the zone.

Metal songs don’t necessarily have to translate directly into a crazy story full of typical metal tropes, though it’s fine, really, if that’s what the writer wants to do (I’ve really enjoyed some of those…😆). After that stint editing Despumation with open submissions, I can tell you, the vast majority of stories derived from metal songs tend to be exactly that — literally derivative. And that gets really old, really quick. Also, when you fall back on just being as metal as you possibly can, the prose tends to suffer (I don’t know why, because there’s really no reason, but that’s what I was seeing, repeatedly) — there’s little attention paid to language, which, considering the lyrics are a huge part of this whole process, losing sight of the language is kind of inexcusable. And it doesn’t matter how intelligent or, frankly, meat-headed the lyrics are — when you start looking at ways to interpret them as a fully fleshed out story, once you enter the creative process, there’s always something you can do with it to set the story apart and above.

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