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THE ART OF ROZZ WILLIAMS--FROM CHRISTIAN DEATH TO DEATH
Edited By
NICO B. (Last Gasp; 1999)

This thick large format paperback celebrates Rozz Williams (a.k.a. Roger Painter), a superstar on the Death Rock scene who committed suicide in 1998. As the title proclaims, the focus is on Williams’ art--poetry, song lyrics and some pretty extraordinary found-image collages--rather than his apparently tortured life, of which we get only brief descriptions. The biographical details that do register aren’t pretty, with poor health, frequent professional setbacks, a rocky love life and a chronic lack of finances being constants.

     I first encountered Roz Williams’s work through the 1998 short film PIG, a gruesome look into the mind of a serial killer that Williams wrote and scored. The film’s director Nico B. also edited this book, claiming he began the project with modest aims but after Williams’ suicide expanded his scope, ending up with this massive compilation.

     Included are copious lyrics from the various bands Williams fronted (Christian Death, Shadow Project, Daucus Karota). Examples: “Yes, I am to blame for all that’s gone wrong/in third world abortions/Fuck you all, I’ll hide it my way”…“Union of dismantled dreams made flesh/Torn asunder in this nightmare mesh/We call life.” Williams’ poetry, as presented here, is very much in the same vein: “Starved infants with subnormal temperature/fracturing the bones by striking them/with a mallet.”

     Roz Williams evidently had an unhealthy predilection for madness, death and perversion. This makes perusing this book an often harrowing experience, particularly in the final sections taken up with Williams’ collage artwork.

     The latter, in my view, represents Williams at his creative best. Many of his early attempts at college are reproduced, sparse black-and-white visual compilations in which guns, swastikas, skulls and disembodied limbs all recur. His later, more elaborate collages are full color blasts of pure insanity, with spiders, squids, eggs and anatomical charts set over monasteries, nighttime landscapes and an atomic blast.

     While I’m not entirely sold on Rozz Williams’ “genius,” this beautifully produced volume provides an unmatched immersion in his warped universe. There is, however, one big drawback, and that’s with the book’s flimsy construction: the glued-on cover comes off very easily, making the $24.95 price tag seem excessive, to say the least.

     

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