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Galax band Cult of Dionysis mixes metal and comics

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Most musicians wouldn't want to be called cartoonish, but members of the Metalcult have turned themselves into characters in a self-published comic book.

By Brian Funk, Editor

Picking the perfect name can be a challenge, but that’s never been a problem for one Galax-based underground metal band.
It currently has three.
The Cult of Dionysis — aka “C.O.D.” or “Metalcult” — have created an original blend of heavy metal music that is alternately described by founder Dennis Warren as “geek thrash” (they have their own comic book, after all) and “Stache Core” (an ode to Warren’s unique facial hair, the unofficial fifth member of the band.)
Because they publish an independent comic book series, “Metalcult Comix,” about the band, they’ve also earned the description of “The Justice League of Metal.”
Warren isn’t content with one name, either, Most know him simply as Dionysis.

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The founder and current drummer of the band elaborates on the selection of the band name: “Well, all the good names seem to be taken. So in 2006, when the band was coming together, I knew it had to be something really different. I wanted it to be stronger and last longer than just your average band, which dies when one or two members break off from the group.”
Warren had already been using “Dionysis” as a stage name for several years, “and that’s how a lot of people had really been introduced to me. So, I knew I wanted to continue using that.”
He said the idea of using “Cult” came from the concept that “this project had to be tough, it had to be dedicated, it had to really want to survive beyond the timespan of a normal band.”
Warren quickly discovered the fatal flaw — no one could spell it.
So, they started using the abbreviated “C.O.D.” and the fans ended up providing the “Metalcult” moniker.
“We heard some friends talking about ‘Metalcult’ or just ‘Cult’ and were delighted to find out that’s what they were calling the band,” Warren said. “So, yeah, we have a lot of names, and we use ‘em all. I think it’s good to have multiple identifiers. Maybe it makes us a bit more memorable.”

Do-It-Yourself Band
Since 2006, Cult of Dionysis has released several discs, a music video and launched a comic book series. They have been listened to by people from countries all over the world and have toured Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.
This 100 percent “do-it-yourself” band has accomplished the vast majority of this without the assistance of a corporate record label or management company — a fact they are very proud of.
In 2007, Cult of Dionysis released a three-song EP titled “CCCXXXIII,” which featured the single “7Doors,” with Dionysis on lead vocals.
A year later, the whole band dynamic had changed as Warren moved to the drum kit while James Huff picked up bass and vocal duties for the group. Huff has been playing music for about 16 years.
The Cult began touring the local region in 2009 and by the end of 2010 they had released a six-song LP record titled “Alchemy.”
Along the way, they were joined by guitarist Scott Mays and new lead guitarist Heath Hash was recently inducted.
Hash, 17, went from being a fan to a full member, by far the youngest of the group.
He first saw them at a show at the Independence VFW.  “I really dug their sound. I was the drummer in a band called Downfall at the time and we got to play with them in Independence at a Metalfest.”
He was asked to jam with Mays, whom he’d known for a long time, and Hash picked up the Cult songs easily.
“I had one practice with them and we set off on our 2012 tour. We’ve played close to 15 shows or more and we aren’t done yet. The guys are so cool and they have brought me in and made me feel right at home.”
Hash, a Galax High School student, is also drumline captain of the marching band.
Warren says the Metalcult’s musical influences include bands both theatrical and heavy, with a lot of “classic,” old-school metal icons — KISS, Alice Cooper, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Sepultura, Pantera, Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax, Megadeth, Testament, Lamb of God, Gojira and Faith No More.

Heavy Metal Stigma
Scott Mays says the use of the word “cult” might have negative connotations for some, but he thinks of it more as the definition a group of people interested in the same thing — in this case, music. Fans, no different than fans of football or Star Wars.
“We play heavy metal music. We can’t have a name like ‘Dennis Warren and the Flat Top Blue Ridge Home Boys.’ We are simply a group of friends who come together once or twice weekly to play music that we have written together,” he said. “The songs’ lyrical content is about comic book heroes, the apparent downfall of government and achieving impossible goals. There is no lyrical content about anything scary or ‘evil.’
In fact, Cult of Dionysis has done a lot of good over the past couple of years. They’ve raised money for the American Red Cross and played benefits for cancer patients, 4-H Boys Club and the American Cancer Society.
That “cult” term could also apply to the band’s avid fans, Mays said.
“Our fans are the best ever! We are friends with most of them and love to hang out with them at our shows. We are so fortunate to have the best following of fans to support us locally and regionally. Plus, they make us feel kinda feel like rock stars, even though we all know there are no such thing as rock stars from Galax.”
“They drive to shows in other states wearing our T-shirts just to see us perform and help promote us and we love each and every one of them,” said James Huff. “They are the reason we continue fighting to be heard and discovered and the reason we put our own blood, sweat, tears, time and money into this band.”
Huff said the band may look and sound extreme, but people shouldn’t judge them based on that. “We have families and kids and pay taxes. We have day jobs. All I can say is listen to the music and it will tell the story for us. We write songs about everybody’s normal everyday life and struggles, and we do so without vulgarity.”
Cult of Dionysis members are also dedicated to promoting local and regional music, using their shows to introduce fans to other acts they may enjoy. “Without support, the scene will die and there is so much talent in our area and so many bands that need the support and exposure,” Huff said.

Metalcult Comix
In 2011, Cult of Dionysis published the first two issues of their comic book series, “Metalcult Comix.” The fourth issue was just released.
The books are written, illustrated and published by Warren, and feature band articles and a bizarre, psychedelic, science-fiction/superhero storyline about the band. For example, a recent issue features the band visiting a planet of mustache-headed women, yet another homage to Dionysis’ Salvador Dali-esque whiskers.
His influences for the comic are a diverse mix: authors H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe; comic book creators like Robert Crumb, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman and Frank Miller; Heavy Metal Magazine; and musicians who crossed over into comics, like KISS and Alice Cooper.
“When I was an infant I stumbled upon the music of KISS. I was also exposed to my brother’s collection of underground comics, which included the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers and Zap Comix,” Warren said.
“I gobbled up these books like candy [and] I somehow knew one day I would be a rock-n-roll comic book super hero just like Alice Cooper & Gene Simmons,” he says.
Fast forward a few decades, and Warren has finally made this vision a reality with his bandmates.
The books — with covers paying homage to 1970s-era Marvel Comics — are always priced at an affordable “300 cents” per issue, or $1 for a digital download.
Warren is a master pitchman for his book, like his idol Stan Lee.
Metalcult Comix spins tales of the “Metalverse,” which Warren describes as parallel realities, each with it’s own unique version of the “Metalcult” band.
“We all have our own personalities, which adds dimensions to the band and these traits are characterized in our comic book series,” Huff said.
The cast includes the skeletal Kill Grrl (seen on the cover of their latest issue) and characters based on band members — Metronomicon (Warren), with “a ridiculous mustache and tendencies toward extreme strangeness;” Thundrazoid (Huff), “a hillbilly headbanger with few teeth, and even fewer fears,” plus the ability to grow to enormous size; Riffomaximus (Mays), the team’s designer of weaponized guitars; and Ultrametallikiss (Hash), a mystery man and secret weapon.
Just don’t mistake their willingness to poke fun at themselves and have a bit of a good time as a lack of focus.
“This is not just a metal band. We are an organization and band of brothers,” Huff said. “We take our music very seriously and treat is a business.”
In 2012, the band entered a studio with producer Peter Wichers (who has worked with bands like Nevermore, Soilwork and Darkest Hour) to create a new single, “Behind The Mask.” The limited edition disc was released along with issue #3 of “Metalcult Comix.”
The group just released issue #4 of the comic book series, with a Metalcult Comix Special #1 coming soon.
Warren says that, in the end, it’s not the name that matters — it’s the music. “This band will answer to whatever you choose to call them.”

SEE THEM LIVE
• Oct. 20 ― Rex Theater in downtown Galax. Guests include The Reasons Were Legion, Thru World Aggression and The Misconception Attempt. All-ages show. Tickets $5 at the door. Doors open at 6 p.m. and music starts at 6:30 p.m.
• Nov. 10 ― Independence VFW Post, also featuring DREAD, Annabelle Leigh, Cult of Dionysis, Monstrok, and Blight. Showtime is 6 p.m. Admission is $5.

METALCULT COMIX
Learn more about Metalcult Comix at facebook.com/MetalcultComix. The comic is available for sale at Next Generation Tattoo & Body Piercing at 209 S. Main St. in Galax; at Metalcult shows, by mail order by
contacting Dennis Warren (facebook.com/metalcult); or online at cultofdionysis.com/comix

LINKS
• Band Website: metalcult.net
• Facebook: facebook.com/cultofdionysis
• Listen @ Loudtrax: loudtrax.com/artist-music-albums/60211-Cult-Of-Dionysis
• Listen @ Reverb Nation: reverbnation.com/cultofdionysis

WATCH VIDEOS
Check out the links below to watch Cult of Dionysis live from the Headbangers Bowl in Galax, and watch their music video for the single "7Doors."

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