We’ve all been there: As you slide the cork out of your favorite bottle and pour yourself a glass, you realize something is missing. Ah, that’s it, the rolling thunder and ominous toll of church bells that prelude the first, distorted notes of Tommy Iommi’s guitar of the opening cut of Black Sabbath’s self-titled debut album.
You top off your glass, cue up the track, and proceed to rock, wine in hand.
At first blush, the union of heavy metal music — a genre of gritty, decibel-obliterating rock whose elder statesman include acts such as Napalm Death and Cannibal Corpse — and wine, long the provenance of the refined uppercrust, might seem mismatched, but Stacy Buchanan, the publisher and founder of Walla Walla-based heavy metal-meets-wine zine, Blood of Gods, says, why not?
“Wine is for everyone. Heavy metal is for everyone,” begins a statement in the most recent spring issue. These two “uniquely specialized niches,” each filled with “gatekeeping nerds,” have more in common than you might think.
Buchanan makes a convincing argument. Now a wine professional working in the valley, his career began at the other end of the spectrum: writing tour guides for personnel on Ozzfest, a heavy metal rock tour that started back in the late ‘90s. His first tour was in 2000 when Buchanan, a fledgling music writer, was just out of high school.
“There were definitely times it felt like Almost Famous,” he says, recalling the classic Cameron Crowe music movie, of his formative years spent managing itineraries for some of the tour’s headliners, such as Slipknot and Marilyn Manson.
By the time Buchanan left the road and returned to Walla Walla in 2007, he had lived in Germany working for an LA-based music label and helped promote other big names in heavy metal and hardcore music, such as System of a Down.
He came home to a valley transformed.
“In the eight years I had been gone, the number of wineries in Walla Walla had jumped from 13 to 113 and the region’s reputation for exceptional wines was skyrocketing,” he wrote in a recent essay for Wine Enthusiast.
He started working in winery marketing and management and began noticing similarities between the worlds of metal and wine: each with their own self-proclaimed, insufferable experts, genuine adoring fans, masterful makers, and susceptibility to market forces.
“Even terminology and descriptors seemed mirrored between metal and wine,” the essay continues. “‘There are many layers of complexity and details in its deep richness that are revealed over time.’ Are we talking about a Pinot from the Santa Rita Hills or Sweden’s prog-metal maestros Opeth?”
With his connections in music and a growing love of wine, he decided to join the two and published his first zine in spring 2020. The goal? To subvert each craft’s elitist tendencies by sharing the pleasure he found in both with humor, art, features, wine reviews and more.
“I’m really against snobbery,” says Buchanan, who’s worked with difficult personalities in both music and wine and has seen the pretensions of each craft firsthand. The zine is his attempt “to take a little bit of the pressure off and lower the temperature a little bit.”
- Buchanan’s talented contributors appear to like the approach; most contribute for free (the zine is non-profit and the little revenue generated from ads, merch, and the $5 cover price goes to the Blue Mountain Humane Society). In the latest issue, these include a cohort of metal-loving editors from Wine Enthusiast who opined a manifesto of sorts, “Why Metal and Wine? Why the Fk Not?”; master sommeliers including Walla Walla’s Doug Frost, who pairs bottles with metal albums; wine reviews from Cannibal Corpse drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz; an interview between Buchanan and Maynard James Keenan, the frontman of alt-metal rock band, Tool (and winemaker himself); and scores of visual artists who skillfully capture the zine’s gothic fantasy look.
Oregon-based illustrator, Collin Estrada, a Metalica-loving artist who usually works for bands and record labels, says he’s been enjoying working on projects for Blood of Gods. Buchanan gives him artistic license to create what inspires him, such as the mythical, skull-centric bacchanalia depicted on pages 5-6 of the recent issue.
One of the perks, he says, is that he’s learning about wine.
“I get paid in wine,” he says. “I had never heard of Malbec, and I tried it, and I really liked it.”
A release party for the fall issue is planned in October at The Thief Fine Wine and Beer, where copies of Blood of Gods are sold. For more information, visit the zine’s Instagram, @bloodofgodszine.
Editor’s note: Blood of the Gods magazine is printed by the Union-Bulletin as a commercial print client.