Concerts

Sympathy for the Devil: Diama Luciano Is Ready toTest Denver's Metal

Diama Luciano wants to revolutionize the death-metal scene in Colorado.
Diama Luciano wants to revolutionize the death-metal scene in Colorado. Evan Semón
When Diama Luciano fell in love with heavy metal, it made sense that Satan was present. The Denver-based musician and organizer — who plays guitar in the local death-metal band Katalysk and co-founded both the Satanic Temple Colorado and the Death Metal Consortium — was blessed to see the legendary group Iron Maiden headline the first metal concert she ever attended. One of Iron Maiden’s best-known songs is the 666-centric “Number of the Beast,” and that cemented in her soul the unholy union of metal and Satanism, two things that remain her obsession and passion.

“I have been listening to metal since I was very young,” Luciano says. Still, while a student at Smoky Hill High School, she started out playing in a far less sinister cabal: the marching band. “The Stars and Stripes Forever” may have been on the opposite end of the spectrum from the technically stunning, hellishly visceral form of metal that Katalysk would one day conjure, but it was amid those squeaky-clean tubas and timpanis that Luciano began to meet like-minded musicians — and there a plan was hatched to flip their script and head in an infernal direction.

“William Stibbs and Garrick Phillips, two other metalheads from my high school marching band, bonded over our shared musical interests and eventually started a band of our own,” Luciano explains. “The result was one of the cleanest, most devastatingly powerful death-metal projects I’ve ever had the pleasure to work on.”
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Diama Luciano has gone from marching band to metal.
Evan Semón
Luciano is boastful, but she backs it up. The group’s debut album, Incessant Awakening, was released in 2020, and it’s as accomplished as it is brutal. With Stibbs on guitar and vocals, Phillips on bass and former member Nathan Sampson on drums, Luciano wields her ax like a surgeon with a scalpel — only the goal isn’t to heal. Instead, the album’s ten songs probe the extremes of human existence, metaphysics and musical daring. It’s also a concept album, one that weaves an apocalyptic saga involving political corruption, mass murder and the awakening of ancient evil. Naturally, the songs are peppered with plenty of vicious blastbeats, growled vocals and tooth-drilling solos that define the genre of death metal.

Satanism also factors into Katalysk’s daring music. “I discovered Satanism on Independence Day of 2016, the same year Katalysk was formed,” she recalls. “My girlfriend at the time recommended I read Anton LaVey’s The Satanic Bible. And as an edgy, depressed, angry teenager at the time, it felt almost as though I could have written the book myself. The philosophies LaVey espoused regarding freedom, self-worth and vital existence were so at home with me, I became a Satanist on the spot.

“Over time I eventually simmered down and grew out of LaVey’s angry diatribes and settled into a more active and well-rounded variant of Satanism, the Satanic Temple,” she continues. Formed in 2012 as a progressive, socially conscious alternative to LaVey’s venerable Church of Satan, the Satanic Temple has gone on to forge a much more inclusive and activist form of Satanism.

“I read an article about the Pink Mass, an event in which the Satanic Temple’s national spokesperson, Lucien Greaves, performed a ‘gayification ritual’ and draped his nuts over the gravestone of the Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps’s mom, thus turning her gay in the afterlife,” she recalls. The Westboro Baptist Church has been notorious for decades for its vile protests at the funerals of LGBTQIA+ people.
“Greaves’s tagline at the Pink Mass was, and I’m paraphrasing, ‘Well, we in the Satanic Temple don’t believe in magic, but we are inclined to believe that the Westboro Baptists are inclined to believe that the ritual was a success.’ After that, I was sold.”
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Katalysk members (from left) Garrick Phillips (bass), William Stibbs (lead guitar/vocals), Rylan Torres (drums) and Diama Luciano (rhythm guitar).
Garrick Phillips
With that, Luciano set her ambitions higher than those she had with Katalysk alone. After co-founding the Colorado chapter of the nationwide Satanic Temple in 2017 — detailed in a December 2020 Westword cover story — she decided to use her dual platforms in tandem. She helped put together the Death Metal Consortium as a confederation of Denver musicians that includes Luciano, Philips, Stibbs and current Katalysk drummer Rylan Torres, as well as Elias Addison of local death-metal powerhouse Teratanthropos.

The members of the Death Metal Consortium all “have the stated goal of revolutionizing the death-metal scene in Colorado. The founders of this organization are extremely passionate about death metal, and we want to bring a new wave of glory to the state of Colorado. We also want to shake up the formula for how live concerts are done in Denver. Most metal shows are pretty much the same. A band plays, then there’s a soundcheck, then the next band plays, and so on. Then the headliner plays and everyone goes home,” she explains.

“But in other countries, other states even, many of the metal shows might have MCs introducing the bands, or drum battles, or collective covers,” Luciano adds. “I recollect a lot more collaborations like this happening during metal shows in the past, and we seek to bring that back. The Death Metal Consortium is our attempt to jump-start a new, ferocious death-metal scene with the backdrop aid of the Satanic Temple.”

To that end, Luciano and the Death Metal Consortium have organized an event titled Baphy’s Blastbeat Bonanza — with Baphy being, of course, a perversely cute nickname for the Satanic deity Baphomet. It’s set for May 8 at the Oriental Theater, and the lineup of Colorado talent includes Katalysk and Teratanthropos, as well as Axeslasher, Human Paint, Condemned to Burn and Improvised Slaughter.
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Teratanthropos members (from left): Nathan Sampson, Tiernan Pfaus and William Stibbs; Elias Addison is top center.
Trent Jacobs

“The bands that have been picked for this show are ones that the Death Metal Consortium views as the best and most promising up-and-coming acts in Denver,” Luciano says. “You won’t find any platinum-selling bands or bands with tens or hundreds of thousands of Facebook followers. But you will find Denver’s hidden gems. These bands deserve the spotlight, and metalheads deserve to hear them.”

In keeping with the Death Metal Consortium’s mission statement, Baphy’s Blastbeat Bonanza won’t be a typical band-break-band-break-band kind of affair. Luciano and crew have plenty of surprises up their sleeves, including collaboration, improvisation and even ritualistic group percussion that slyly harks back to Luciano’s marching-band youth. She promises dancing witches and a circle pit that will ideally transcend mere moshing and become a dark rite unto itself.

The concert will also serve as an admittedly belated celebration of Hexennacht, a springtime ritual of protection and purification that is rooted in the pagan tradition; ironically, it was appropriated by early Christians to burn witches in effigy. “I do believe it will be the most metal Satanic ritual ever performed,” Luciano says. “With this, we will honor both Hexennacht and death metal all at once in the perfect cacophonous representation of what the night is about: the longstanding marriage of metal and Satan.”

The synergy between Satanism and heavy metal stretches back over fifty years, when Black Sabbath began citing Lucifer by name in its songs. To Luciano, there are various and profound reasons why this alliance has endured into the 21st century. “The most obvious connections between metal and Satanism are aspects of a shared aesthetic imagery,” she explains. “Satan, demons, darkness, fire, death, witches, rituals and so on are all frequent topics of discussion among metal bands and Satanists alike.

“But deeper than that, there is a shared value for freedom and self-expression, a bond which formed in the days of the Satanic panic in the ’80s,” she says, referencing the period during the Reagan era when Satanists became the bogeymen of America’s self-appointed moral watchdogs. In addition to imaginary Satanic cults supposedly lurking around every corner and snatching children for human sacrifice, everything from horror movies to role-playing games to, yes, Iron Maiden was accused of dragging America straight to Hell.

Luciano sees Satanism in a more healthy and cathartic light, especially as she practices it in the Death Metal Consortium, the Satanic Temple Colorado and Katalysk. “There is a mutual respect for the pain and despair we as humans have to suffer through,” she says, “and a subsequent desire to turn that energy into something positive rather than pretending it doesn’t exist.”

Baphy’s Blastbeat Bonanza, with Axeslasher, Katalysk, Teratanthropos, Human Paint, Condemned to Burn and Improvised Slaughter, 6 p.m. Sunday, May 8, Oriental Theater, 4335 West 44th Avenue, $20, theorientaltheater.com.
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Jason Heller
Contact: Jason Heller