A master of the brush and guitar, Mark Riddick has forged himself a place in the annals of heavy metal history. Whether he’s conjuring up a new, grotesque work of art for his death metal albums or recording music for his death metal project, Riddick is a well known name in the world of underground death metal.
Hailing from Northern Virginia, Riddick first took an interest in art at the age of 14. Inspired by established illustrators such as Chris Moyen, Steve Somers, and Alfonso ‘Artgore’ Ruiz, Riddick took on the grotesque horror style that would become his calling card and entered the realm of underground death metal a year later in 1991.
Determined to have his work seen, Riddick went to every underground metal show he could and began networking with established bands, fanzines, and record labels via “snail mail” and the tape trade.
“Most of the contacts I made were through photocopied fliers passed through the mail, compilation tapes, and through other connections I made with bands. This eventually led to the publishing of my artwork in fanzines, on 7” EP covers, demo tape covers, etc,” recalls Riddick.
Eventually, his work fell into the right hands and made an impression due to his use of a “myriad of techniques to achieve the detail” in his work. To this day, Riddick prides himself on his raw skill and minimal use of computer programs to refine his work.
Since his debut twenty-four years ago, Riddick has worked with hundreds of artists in the death metal scene, and despite finding success at a young age, his success didn’t go to his head and he yearned to better himself at every chance. This led to Riddick seeking out art classes in high school and eventually attending Greensboro College in North Carolina and graduating with a BA in Studio Art. All the while, Riddick continued his work in the metal scene, expanding his resume and list of contacts, even inking an ill fated comic book that never saw the light of day. Despite this bump in the road, Riddick kept his head high and fortune found him time and time again.
“Last year I was approached by a best-selling author to illustrate a novel but I just couldn’t make time for the endeavor due to my already heavy workload. In the meantime, I’ve just completed work on a 600-page book called Logos from Hell, which features logo illustrations by over thirty of the best artists in the underground metal scene,” says Riddick before remarking about an out of character ambition. “I would certainly like to illustrate a children’s book at some point in the future but nothing is officially planned at the moment.”
Over twenty years after making his professional debut, Riddick has made himself a legend in the death metal community. His work has been compiled in hard cover art books, featured on skateboard decks and trading cards, and he has had the distinct pleasure of working with numerous popular metal acts such as the Black Dahlia Murder and Hypocrisy. His work has even broken into the mainstream, for in 2010 a poster he had done on behalf of Dethklok, a semi-fictitious heavy metal band featured on the Cartoon Network series, Metalocolypse, was featured in Print Magazine. Riddick views this as one of his crowning achievements as an artist and looks proudly upon all of his work. Art, however, is just one thing that has made Mark Riddick a household name in the death metal world; enter Fetid Zombie.
Judging by his art, it’s no surprise that Mark Riddick would be a heavy metal musician as well. Though he has performed and collaborated with many bands, a busy workload and family life had put a terrible strain on Riddick’s time leading to one of his most well-known projects; his one man death metal solo project, Fetid Zombie.
As can be gathered by the name of the band, the lyrics primarily deal with the subject of death, Hell, and other elements of horror. The only member of the band, Riddick sings in a low, raspy, zombie-like voice that fits the death metal genre well but remains comprehensible. Riddick’s character, ‘the zombie,’ gives the band a unique sound setting it apart from an ocean of death metal bands that mostly rely on deep, indecipherable growls.
“I do attempt to make my vocals somewhat decipherable but also varied. I like to experiment with slightly different vocal approaches to keep the music interesting and the listener engaged. I don’t want the vocals to come across as redundant or one-dimensional,” says Riddick in regards to his vocals, as for his lyrics, “My lyrics have varied in subject matter from album to album. As of late all of my lyrics have been obsessed with death and dying. In addition, I wanted the name of the band to sound foul and disgusting as my approach to song-writing is never over-produced or polished.”
Despite his work never being “over-produced or polished,” the music of Fetid Zombie is pleasing to the ear, even if one isn’t a diehard death metal fan. Unlike most bands, the bass guitar is a prominent element of the band, alongside melodic guitars and technical drumming, helping Fetid Zombie standout even further.
“I believe the emphasis on the bass guitar in Fetid Zombie is one of the details that set it apart from so many other bands. The bass guitar is my main instrument as I’ve been playing it the longest of any other instrument, about 26 years, so I make an effort to let it shine as opposed to burying it in the mix as a useless rumble in the background.”
Greatly inspired by the American death metal and Greek black metal scenes as well as traditional rock and heavy metal, Fetid Zombie employs a variable guitar sound. While some songs are relentlessly heavy others are highly melodic and technical showing off not just Riddick’s inspirations but his talent with the guitar as well as the bass. However, being that Fetid Zombie is a one-man-band, Riddick has shown little interest in performing live. Fans interested in the band can all of Fetid Zombie’s music and merchandise on www.riddickart.com. Music can also be can be found on Amazon.com, bandcamp.com, as well as independent music stores across North America courtesy of Megaforce Records/RED.