In memoriam: Metal luminaries pay tribute to Necrophagia’s Killjoy

Frank (Killjoy) Pucci, 1966-2018

Legendary death metal pioneer Frank “Killjoy” Pucci passed away Sunday, March 18. The frontman of the seminal act Necrophagia was 51 years old. His bandmates in Necrophagia—guitarist Serge Streltsov, bassist Jake Arnette and drummer Shawn Slusarek—announced his passing via a heartfelt Facebook post; however an official cause of death has not yet been released. Killjoy’s supporters can assist with his funeral expenses by donating to this crowdfunding account at GoFundMe.

Yours truly had been reading about Killjoy and Necrophagia for years in old interviews of classic death and black metal bands whilst discovering the dankest corners of underground metal in the ’90s by way of “proper” magazines, tattered fanzines falling apart at the seams and the burgeoning internet, but it wasn’t until Pantera’s frontman Phil Anselmo joined the band for Holocausto de la Morte in 1998 that I finally heard the filthy rumblings of Necrophagia. Anselmo had written music that prompted Killjoy to reform the band for the aforementioned, “official” sophomore release. Prior to breaking up in 1990, the band planned to release what would have been their second album called Ready for Death, a recording from 1986 that eventually became heavily bootlegged among tape traders before finally solidifying officially on the A Legacy of Horror, Gore and Sickness compilation in 2000.

From Holocausto de la Morte, I worked my way backward to discover the seminal death metal gem that was the band’s 1987 debut: Season of The Dead, an album emanating a cacophony that’s seemingly escaping from a crypt occupied with a rotting corpse injected with the exhilarating boost of heavy metal energy. Killjoy was always the centerpiece. He would belch death grunts maniacally and venomously. The horror movie aficionado’s delivery was unique, merging a coarse, punk-like aesthetic with tormented, inhuman vocals. He sounded like what we may imagine to be the voice of the dead.

Vastly unlike the slick, over-polished tech obsessed stylings of many contemporary death metal bands, Necrophagia, a band that Killjoy formed in 1983, was amongst the crew of forefathers that had a comparatively more dirty and unhinged sound and soul. Necrophagia was as integral as the likes of Mantas/Death, Possessed and Master in terms of the birth and solidification of death metal. Anselmo’s eventual involvement proved to be a momentous catalyst that truly revived the band that became more prolific than ever before. They would go on to churn out blood-curdling music regularly even subsequent to Anselmo’s departure.

I reached out to a veritable “who’s who” in the underground music business from across the globe, ranging from metal historians and journalists to label heads and genre leading and pioneering musicians, to share their experiences with Killjoy as well as their perspective about his impact and indelible impression upon underground extreme music. Their enthusiasm to contribute and musings below make it clear that his influence upon death and black metal has been profound and simply can’t be overstated.

Some lyrics from Necrophagia’s song “Embalmed Yet I Breathe” seem apropos: “Still I remain. Alive undead…”

Maniac — Mayhem, Skitliv

One bottle of Lagavulin’s finest Scotch and Season of the Dead is what got me through the very sad news of my brother Killjoy’s departure. It was way too premature considering the fact that we sort of had a pact to annoy our surroundings for another fifty years and we had new music planned.

When I first heard the Necrophagia demos in the mid ’80s I was hooked. It was the best shit I’d ever heard. That made me sit down and record the Septic Cunts tape, and that tape got me a job in Mayhem. Euronymous was the one who played me the demos and he was the one to put me on Deathcrush. So I owe Killjoy a lot. I started writing to him then and we stayed friends from then on. I interviewed him twice for Damage Inc. [Maniac’s old and recently resurrected fanzine] and all I wanted to do was to push his music everywhere because it was the best shit ever. The vocals on those early demos are unequalled to this very day and will probably stay unequalled until the end of time.

I miss him already. There is a void now. And words become futile because action was always the thing with Killjoy. I could write heaps of anecdotes about my brother, and heaps of good stories and so on and so forth, but I think I will end this with a quote from Ezra Pound, the one guy whom Killjoy never understood: “It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse.” And Killjoy did indeed write apocalypses. You are sorely missed.

Michael Berberian — Season of Mist Records

I’ve been working ond an off with Killjoy for nearly 20 years. Twenty years is a long time. We had fights, arguments, we had great moments. We, as a label, changed a lot, from being a super small underground label (AKA a disorganized mess) to what it is today. Killjoy? He didn’t change much. He stuck with us, always there. His passions (plural), being gore and metal, stayed intact.

I met him twice in recent years… Last time was in Philadelphia with his wives (yes, plural), then at Hellfest. He was a genuinely nice person to have around, completely passion driven, not ego driven. Humble, but interesting and unique. I guess if he had a bigger ego or more craving for recognition, Necrophagia would have been recognized as the extreme metal pioneer they factually are. But no, much like Killjoy, Necrophagia was never the band in the spotlight, but the monster lurking in the shadows that you would only stumble into if you dared to go into the beyond.

Ian Christe — Heavy metal historian, publisher, author, DJ of Sirius XM Radio’s Bloody Roots show

Necrophagia was one of the most fun U.S. death metal bands, and it’s especially crucial how active Killjoy was on the tape trading scene throughout 1986 and 1987, when so many of the originators had either disbanded, changed styles, or were in the process of moving onto bigger things. Nineteen eighty-six was a huge hardcore crossover year, and Necrophagia had that raw edge but they were undeniably pursuing gross, gut-chewing death metal. Killjoy was a great guy. He lived in the early days to find people who shared his interests in gore, metal, and mad states of mind. And when he returned in the 1990s, when death metal was already full of rules, he freaked people out with his piercing shrieks and gurgles. Killjoy was a true original and inspiration, I remember freaking out with him on the phone when From Beyond was a brand new movie. His place in death metal history is secure.

Mirai Kawashima — Sigh

To be honest, I was kind of predicting this as he was a typical live-fast-die-young person. We made music together. We toured together. We watched horror movies together. We quarreled and fought a lot. Even after we separated our ways, I always looked for Necrophagia’s name when Sigh played at European festivals, but unfortunately we never had a chance to play together. Anyway see you on the other side. Even if you’d ask me to rejoin Necrophagia over there, I would refuse though.

Vincent Crowley — Acheron, Infidel Reich, One With Darkness, Nocturnus

In 1987, Necrophagia released their debut album, Season Of The Dead, a classic underground album that still stands its ground today. When I left the band Nocturnus to form Acheron, my travels took me to Pittsburgh for a couple years. It was there in 1989 that I met Frank “Killjoy” Pucci at a local music club called The Electric Banana. I can’t remember who was playing, but I do remember trading him the first Acheron demo for a copy of his Killjoy demo. After that we bumped into each other at shows all the time and talked metal and horror.

Years later, when Myspace was the big thing, he and I got back in contact with each other and stayed in touch. We supported each other’s work and always had respect for each other. The two of us had many conversations about doing a music project together, but due to our schedules we never did get to work together. And I truly regret not making more time to do so now. The last time I saw him in person was several years ago in Pittsburgh at a music store called Eide’s. He was still the same down-to-earth guy I met in 1989.

Killjoy was a true underground warrior and he forged his own unique style of singing. HIs musical contributions are without a doubt important to the evolution of the underground scene. He will indeed be missed by his family, friends, fans and musical peers. I raise my glass up to the Metal Gore King and salute his time on this planet. Hails, brother! You will not be forgotten!

Kam Lee — Massacre, Denial Fiend, Nattravnen

If you ever met Killjoy, then you know how approachable and down to earth he really was. And if you talked about horror movies more than music to him, then you were sure to find yourself in an in-depth conversation for sure, because very much like myself, Killjoy loved horror.

Around 2008 to 2010, Killjoy lived in Florida, about 5 minutes from where I live now. This is when we hung out together. My wife and I would spend weekends over at his place, watching horror films all weekend long, laughing together while viewing episodes of a Japanese show called “Silent Library.” He would cook dinner for us. We did cool buddy stuff together. We went to see the Friday the 13th remake at the theater, a Danzig show, the horror convention here in Orlando called “Spooky Empire.” We spent Halloween together. Mirai and Miki from Sigh came to visit, and we all hung out at his place. I laughed as Killjoy, my wife, Mirai and Miki all attempted to eat this incredibly hot sauce, so hot it came with a warning label. This is the Killjoy I want to remember: the buddy, the friend. And though the last few years we had not spoken because we were both busy and doing our own thing, I would often think of him. I miss my buddy. I miss my friend.

Bård Guldvik Eithun — Emperor, Blood Tsunami

Frank Killjoy Pucci, a legend. I had the pleasure of meeting him a few times. He was genuinely interested in you and a 100 percent dedicated fan of the underground music and horror scene. Death is never timely, neither was Killjoy’s. The amount of people paying their respects shows what impact he had on people and the scene. Safe travels, metal brother.

Mark Sawickis — Impetigo

Necrophagia first came on my radar in the mid 1980s when I was heavily into tape trading. With song titles like “Chainsaw Lust” and “Autopsy on the Living Dead” I was hooked due to my love of gore and horror. The demos were very raw and heavy with Killjoy’s totally sick vocals which were pioneering at the time. Then in 1987, Season of the Dead came out. I got it on what at the time was a new format: CD. It was actually one of the first extreme metal albums to be released on CD. The album blew me away with an amazing blend of horror, death and thrash with Killjoy’s trademark vocals. I didn’t have a lot of contact with Killjoy back then but I was definitely a big fan.

Later on in the late ’90s Killjoy joined with another good friend of mine, Chris Reifert (Autopsy, Death) to put out a super sick album by their project The Ravenous. I got wind they were on the bill at Milwaukee Metalfest and it would finally be my chance to meet Killjoy in person and see him live. I had never seen Necrophagia. I remember first meeting him at that show. I took him some Impetigo picture discs and we sat and talked for a while. He was very appreciative and a very down to earth and friendly guy. It’s always refreshing to meet someone you’ve looked up to for years and they are super cool.

We kept in contact on and off over the years but seeing Necrophagia was elusive for me. They didn’t do a lot of shows and they never seemed to be ones I could get to. Then came the announcement of Necrophagia on tour with Venom Inc. They were playing Chicago so that would be my chance to finally see them live. What a killer show it was. Got to meet Killjoy again and catch up with him; he was always very personable and willing to chat and just see what was going on in your life. Luckily Venom Inc. and Necrophagia toured again and came through Rock Island, IL this time. So I got to see them a second time. Killjoy was in a lot of pain at the show with some severe back problems but he took time to sit and chat again and catch up. With all the pain you never would have known it from the show as Necrophagia brought the sickness again. This was the last time I got to see Killjoy.

He left us with a great body of work and a legacy of music of which he was a pioneer. It’s sad to think I won’t get to see him again, but I have some great memories. R.I.P. brother. You are missed by many!

Matt Harvey — Exhumed

Killjoy is a name that gets short shrift when the story of death metal’s inception is told, but he, along with Jeff Beccera, Kam Lee, and Chuck Schuldiner, helped invent the now ubiquitous “death growl.” His voice was the terrifying sound of a casket being dragged across a stone mausoleum floor, a gleefully morbid narrator spewing gore-drenched horror stories from the darkest depths of the ’70s and ’80s oeuvre of Fulci, Romero, Argento and their ilk.

I picked up the Ready for Death cassette in 1990 and was immediately sucked into the filthy vortex of death metal it contained. It was raw, primitive, and filthy, the perfect alternative to the rapid sanitizing of death metal that was happening at the time courtesy of the Monte Connors and Scott Burnses of the world.

I met Killjoy years later and also worked with him a bit during my time at the ill-fated Necropolis Records, and he was always nothing but super-cool and very kind about my efforts with Exhumed. He was also unwavering in his love of all things horrific and his dedication to keeping Necrophagia raw and nasty. I begrudgingly came to love the records he did with Phil Anselmo (full disclosure, the idea of “the guy from Pantera” playing death metal really bummed me out, until I heard the records) during Necrophagia’s comeback as well. I haven’t seen Killjoy in years at this point, but his music remained with me and will continue to do so. His haunting rasp will echo through the cemeteries of our minds as long as death metal continues to rot our brains and pollute our eardrums, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Al Dawson — Earache Records

Oh, man. This one is a tough one. I got the news pretty much first thing Sunday that Killjoy had passed on. I had just spoken to him on the phone only recently and he seemed in great spirits. He still had his passion for his metal, his horror movies and his fiancee. Rest In Power, buddy. A true metal legend.

Sharon Bascovsky — Derketa

Necrophagia has been well known in the Pittsburgh underground scene since the mid ’80s. They’re one of those cult bands that had significance on all of us as they were one of the first bands that we got our hands on to listen to. Killjoy’s name alone is notorious throughout the death metal and horror scene. That’s impressive. I actually cannot remember the first time that I met Killjoy, but I’m pretty sure it was through Don Crotsley of NunSlaughter. I would run into him occasionally at different metal shows throughout the years. It was always a good feeling when you’d hear someone say, “Hey, Killjoy is here!”   Then, of course you had to go hunt him down to say, “Hello.” It really broke my heart hearing that he died. I’m still at a loss for words. He was someone that I genuinely enjoyed running into. I’m saddened that I’m never going to hear “Hey, Killjoy is here,” again. I was running into him more frequently in recent years, three weeks ago, in fact. He really was a sweetheart. One time we were hanging out with a bunch of friends and long story short, we were concerned over the safety of some friends of ours that had left. He and I texted until the early morning hours until we learned of our friend’s safety. I’ll never forget that.

Don of the Dead — Nunslaughter

Being a fan of Necrophagia, I was nervous about meeting Killjoy for the first time, but after introducing myself, he wrote my phone number down in his black book. This was 1985. Killjoy’s music impacted and influenced the direction that so many bands, including Nunslaughter, wanted to take. His vocal style was unique, unmatched and as brutal as they come, but he was soft spoken and kind. He was iconic. He was a titan, and he was my friend. Thank you for the horror.

Kunal Choksi — Transcending Obscurity Records

Necrophagia’s importance to the death metal sound has been criminally overlooked. While others were hailed as pioneers and looked up to, Killjoy and his contribution with Necrophagia hasn’t been given due credit. It’s absolutely tragic that he passed away so soon. He’s definitely an unheralded legend.

Kyle Powell — Engorge, Mortician

 Franky was a funny fucker. Always had a joke going. We met back in the mid ’90s at one of the Chiller Theater Horror Conventions in New Jersey after being in contact through email some years before. We instantly discovered we had the same interests. Gore, horror, music, Coffin Joe and food. Those interests culminated into me wanting to set up what would be Necrophagia’s first U.S. tour some years later in 2005. The rest, as they say, is history. We had a blast on the road. Everything from drunken game playing, Killjoy calling every urinal while on the road “racist against short people,” and of course the kinship that comes from sharing the stage. His love of horror and gore would become legendary, and his impact and influence on newer bands, both black and death, was vastly apparent. One of our last conversations was pertaining to his record label and how he wanted to expand it. I encouraged him to do so. In later years, he had been very busy with touring and we lost touch but would always pop up in email at some point to say, “Hey.” He was a great friend, musician and visionary, the likes of which we may never see again. I only hope he finds a urinal that is unbiased when he gets to where he is going. Fulci Lives!

Sandesh Shenoy — Cyclopean Eye Productions

Ever since I discovered Necrophagia back in 2000, thanks to my buddies in Dying Embrace, Necrophagia would go on to become one of my favorite death metal bands of all time. I still remember spending many drinking sessions getting bombed on cheap Indian vodka with my friend Vikram of Dying Embrace and watching Through the Eyes of the Dead on video cassette. The gore in those music videos was so over the top that it even left us seasoned gore hounds completely stunned!

I somehow managed to get in touch with Killjoy via email and began corresponding regularly with him. He was definitely one of the biggest horror fans I have ever known, and he had been through tons of movies, more than I could have ever imagined. He recommended several killer movies to me, and I actually remember sending him a couple of Indian death metal demos and a few Indian horror flicks back in the day. As a person, he was a gem and probably one of the most humble and nice guys I’ve ever known.

A couple of years ago, when Dark Descent Records asked me if I was in touch with Killjoy and could connect them because Dark Descent wanted to release Cabal’s only full length Midian, I was more than happy to help to see this killer album repressed on vinyl.

Killjoy’s untimely death is a huge blow to both the death metal and black metal scene and the horror movie genre. His loss has created a huge void which can never be filled. Gore Forever!

Ben Hogg — Beaten Back to Pure, Birds of Prey

 My recollection as a 14 year old metal freak was gathering as many zines from as many places on earth as possible: stuff like Total Thrash from Philly, War and Pain from Michigan, Book of Armageddon, etc. Every issue had different cool shit, but some serious staples in 1986 were Wehrmacht, Massacre and Necrophagia, among others. They seemed to answer every interview. So after reading, we’d search out the demos. It took me until the fifth Necrophagia demo, Power Through Darkness, to have the band fully hit me. I still love that one. Seasons of the Dead was sick, of course, but I didn’t prefer it to the demos. Then about a decade later, Killjoy roared back with new, improved Necrophagia, and then The Ravenous and stuff. I was jacked. When we met at a metalfest, we spent a couple minutes together. I remember noticing he was shorter than I expected and had put on a number of pounds—same here, no shame—so I asked what he’d been up to for the last decade. “Watching horror and eating pizza.” Laughs were shared. All I can say is his musical output was crazy heavy, so if ya don’t know, start knowing. WhiteWorm Cathedral ruled like hell just a couple years ago. Man, Killjoy, you’re gonna be missed even by an outsider looking in such as myself. Take it easy, you gory bastard. Rest up.

Chris Forbes — Metal Core Fanzine

Around 1990 I got a promo called Season of the Dead by the band Necrophagia. Back then there was no internet, so besides being very impressed by this release, I began writing letters back and forth with Killjoy. We sent letters to each other for several years and I was even fortunate enough to meet him at an Ohio Deathfest several years later. When I read about his passing… the world of underground metal has lost a legendary singer and one of the best voices I have heard. R.I.P. Killjoy. You will be missed.

Nathan Perrier — Labrat, 11PARANOIAS

We were exposed to Necrophagia through the Anselmo era reboot and being young and inquisitive worked our way back. Being a brutal UK band in the late ’90s, we often got offered great support slots for brutal U.S. bands and Necrophagia doing a rare Euro tour was one. We took on about half of it, and it was a blast from day one. Mirai from Sigh was on duty, and Goblin’s Italian drummer was in the line up, too. He didn’t speak a word of English and seemed bemused by the whole thing. From day one Killjoy was super cool, in an approachable, nerd kind of way, and we all got along fine. We had a Jaeger endorsement which kept us all in high spirits and spent many memorable nights on their bus out of our minds talking metal, horror and general shit! Somewhere there is VHS of me and Killjoy in some sketchy Dutch or Belgian bar aggravating skinheads by dancing to Abba. I think we ended up needing a hasty retreat! My memories of him, having met again occasionally over the years, were of an amiable guy who enjoyed hanging out, being a nerd and causing moderate levels of good, healthy chaos. He made you feel like you were good friends. The experiences will stay with me forever. Rest easy, Killjoy!

Tom Knizner — Cardiac Arrest

On the morning it happened, I was at a local record show in the Chicago area when my wife called me with the news that Killjoy had passed away. I had not checked Facebook that morning, but low and behold, I had several messages asking about him and I now have seen several posts from other friends and Killjoy’s bandmates, confirming what I did not want to believe or accept. Needless to say, I was emotional, sad, and very upset. I stepped outside for a while to get it together.

Necrophagia was a huge influence on me in my formative years, not only musically, but in theme. I am also a worshipper of horror films, so Necrophagia just worked for me. We kept in contact over the years, and we finally met in person in late 2003 at a horror convention through a mutual friend. Since then, we would see each other a few times a year at conventions and shows. When I joined Cardiac Arrest in 2006, he was very supportive and took an interest in the band. He was always very supportive and interested in what we were up to. It was at that point where an influence became a friend.

We kept in touch the best we could. Anytime he was in Chicago, we’d meet up and shoot the shit, mostly about horror films. We shared many mutual friends, so it was always a blast hanging out. I’m sad that we will never hang out again. I will miss his random texts. I will miss his encouragement and advice. And, of course, I will miss my friend. Rest easy, my friend. Thank you for everything, and gore forever!

Obituary of Frank Pucci