My first exposure to Christian Death was the 1983 book Hardcore California by Peter Belsito and Bob Davis. The images of Christian Death members Rozz Williams and Shron performing live (both photos by Ed Colver) are indelibly marked on my psyche. Rozz is dressed in black, holding a crucifix, various bells and skull trinkets hang around his neck. Shron appears to be in the process of nailing a dead cat to a another crucifix, the hammer visible in the photo. Both men are rather androgynous in appearance. These two photos seemed so wrong to my fourteen year-old mind, and the idea of actually listening to such a band felt so taboo. I needed to have this album. I grew up in suburban South Florida, not exactly the oppressive bible belt, but not LA or New York either. I took a long sweaty bus ride from my burb to Open Books and Records in North Miami to buy the record. The bus ride home was considerably less grueling as I sat staring at the cover, in eager anticipation of what the album might sound like. At the risk of sounding like a crotchety old geezer I must say kids today don't understand this kind of build up, this raw excitement. Most of them have already heard the music and have been bombarded with images of the artists long before they download them from iTunes. Nowadays the time between when I become interested in hearing something and actually hearing it is never any longer than preparing a sandwich or finding my keys. Not that I miss long bus rides and the occasional shitty album bought because the cover was cool (fuck you, Exploited) but I believe that having such experiences is why music is sacrosanct to me today and still the source of much excitement, long after everything else seems boring, futile, and cheap. Upon getting the album home, and dropping the stylus on the vinyl, I almost wept. Christian Death seemed more mysterious, and more forbidden even after hearing them. I felt like I was a member of some secret club, as if I was in on some great universal truth generally unknown by the lesser beings who constantly stood between me and my hapiness, I was a sullen teen, and Christian Death were a sullen band. As clichéd as it may sound, I felt as if Christian Death existed only for me as a tangible manifestation of my confusion, my frustration and my typically adolescent angst. Of course later I learned this was simply not true, many people had bought and enjoyed this album, they pressed quite a few of them. Not one iota of Only Theatre of Pain's appeal has been lessened by time, this album still fills my head with grainy sepia toned images of crucified animals, matricide, swastikas, and other unsavory things. Rozz Williams remains one of my favorite lyricists. His gift for stream of consciousness prose and vivid imagery was unparalleled. His lyrics ranged from the uncomfortable to the stirringly beautiful and romantic, all the while presenting himself as a degenerate poet with a firm resolve to end his suffering once and for all. And as I listened more and more, he became less of a scary gender bending demon and more of a human, an extremely hurt and vulnerable one at that. The rare sort of genius that can never last. I even at times worried about his well-being though I never met the man. On April Fool's Day 1998 I heard that Rozz Williams had hung himself. I wished it was a joke, but it wasn't.