Side gigs and hustles are pretty much what you’ve got to do to survive in the world these days. It seems like everyone you know is driving a rideshare on the weekend, running an Etsy shop, selling their old shit online, or whatever it takes to scrape by. Unless you’re in the upper echelons of the industry, most people in extreme music do something on the side (or do the music on the side, as the case may be). Some people work as sound engineers, some work with the design and art side of the industry, and some just head back home to work on roofs in between tours. For Stu Folsom of Spiritworld, 2022’s Godlessness marks the start of what will hopefully be a long and lucrative side venture turning the world of his music into beautifully deranged Western novels.
Unlike most traditional side gigs and hustles, Folsom’s literary venture is actually directly linked to the music he puts out with Spiritworld. With section headings “The Demon Storm,” “Unholy Passages,” and “Comancheria” sharing names with tracks off the band’s debut LP Pagan Rhythms, it doesn’t take long for readers to make a connection between Folsom’s projects. The connections don’t stop there either. I don’t want to spoil anything about all the cool little connections and Easter eggs for fans of the band but take a good long look at the Deathwestern album art before diving between the covers and you might see a few familiar faces and images.
While the connections between Folsom’s killer band and the novella are fun for fans, you really don’t need to have heard a single Spiritworld riff to dig the book. If you like Western novels and splatterpunk stories, you’ll definitely feel at home here. This is a book that could easily fit into the Splatter Western series that Death’s Head Press has been doing. Consider it the kind of story that Louis L’Amour might write after a season or two in Tartarus with a bit of a John Milton twist thrown in for good measure.
Without delving too far into the actual plot of the book, Folsom has crafted a tale filled with demonic possessions, horseback shootouts, shady characters, and hidden motives. The book is structured into three separate sections that each connect yet pretty easily yet could stand alone as well. All three take place within the same odd world that Folsom has created and, when he finally reveals what’s actually going on with said world, it’s quite the revelation and something that really hooked me deep within the narrative. Suffice it to say, I really hope that the literary journey in the universe of Spiritworld is not just a one-off occurrence.
Although Folsom might be a newer author, he still manages to impress with his prose here. With stories like these, there’s almost always a gleefulness about how nasty the author can get and Folsom seems to feel comfortable getting as down and dirty as the next macabre wordsmith. Scenes of necrophilia, ravenous mutilation, unimaginable torture, and grisly scalpings play as well on the page as they would in the most fucked up of horror films. Folsom certainly likes going places that other authors might be afraid to and Godlessness will give you plenty of scenes to replay over and over in your head when you can’t sleep at 3 a.m. and the wind picks up outside.
The book is short, coming in at barely more than 100 pages, and I honestly found myself curious as to what Folsom would do with a longer tale. Granted, finding time to write a book in between putting out kickass metal records and touring with some of the greatest bands to grace extreme music doesn’t end up leaving one with a lot of time for literary ventures. Still, after reading Godlessness, it’s clear that Folsom is a real Renaissance man and I find myself wanting to return to the world he created here. Whether that return is in the third Spiritworld album or in another book, it can’t come soon enough.
Photo at top: Cover of Godlessness.
Get the book here.