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King Fowley, the 31-year-old drummer and lead singer for Deceased, a group he’s certain is the longest-lasting metal band in Virginia, has lived in the same Arlington house since 1975. The living room is overrun with relics from bygone eras: 2-foot-high Kiss dolls, Japanese imports of Cheryl Ladd singles, Mork & Mindy trading cards, a Laverne & Shirley game—”the old ABC lineup,” he says. Horror-film arcana is a particular passion of Fowley’s. His fright-flick video collection, some 10,000 titles strong, has grown so large that the joists in the attic, where much of it is stored, are starting to show through the ceiling below.
“The horror films definitely go hand in hand with the extreme metal that we play,” explains the strong-armed musician, stroking back his shoulder-length hair. “Being Deceased, you can’t really write about Scooby Doo. You got to write about things that you’re into. That’s where we get our death metal from. We’re really into the morbid side of life. You’d be surprised: We’re pretty creepy guys.”
Fowley does not seem like a creepy guy. Eccentric, perhaps. He lives with his brother and mother; he credits his mom for his movie addiction (she started taking him to horror flicks when he was 7) and for facilitating his enduring interest in music (she escorted him to his first show—Kiss at the Capital Center in ’79, the Dynasty tour). He’s a self-employed father; aside from being a working musician, Fowley runs his own record label, which releases forgotten metal bands whose music never made it onto CD. “I sell about one or two thousand of each of these a year,” he estimates, showing off the label’s stock of discs, which he stores in his brother’s room.
Deceased’s catalog, running from ’92’s Luck of the Corpse to the soon-to-be-released Supernatural Addiction, provides a fair representation of Fowley’s artistic and personal progress. In Deceased’s early days, he says, “our goal was to play like Slayer on 78 speed. We were aggressive and young, and, you know, doped-up.” Fowley remembers frightening the authorities during one of his band’s early gigs at the Crazy Horse: “They had the riot squad come out. They didn’t know what the hell was happening. It was insane. Some guy ran off with the door money. They thought we were possessed by the devil.”
These days, the band members are clean, and Deceased’s music is a touch slower, if no less fierce, than it used to be. On Addiction, the riffs bludgeon. The rhythms stampede. Fowley growls like a werewolf feasting on poodles. In metal publications, advance praise for the disc has been encouraging, to say the least. “People have been saying stuff like ‘Maiden’s gonna need five guitarists to play this one,’ Fowley reports, shaking his head in disbelief. “You start thinking, When I was a kid, Maiden was the God Almighty.”
Deceased is commonly characterized as death metal—which is fine with Fowley, although he considers himself more of an old-school purist. He has no respect for younger players who morph at will, from Satanists to thrashers to Korn copycats. “To me as a musician, it’s just not honest,” Fowley says. “Our old guitar player was always like, ‘Man, you got to get more brutal with the vocals so we can stay up with all these other bands.’ And I’d always say to him, ‘That ain’t me.’”—Brett Anderson
Deceased performs with Hatred at Phantasmagoria Feb. 25 at 9 p.m.