The days of magazines, especially ones covering very-specific musical genres, is long past now. But back in the early ‘90s, years before most people became aware of the internet, these magazines were our primary source of information about bands and topics that were otherwise difficult to find.
There were plenty of punk 'zines around in the '80s and '90s, and we had Propaganda Magazine for goth stuff, but those of us into the growing post-industrial scene didn’t have anything talking about our (somewhat questionable) interests. We mostly had to just wait for the occasional band profile in Propaganda or new volume by RE/Search.
The Fifth Path was a short-lived magazine out of Sacramento, California that filled this niche. Only five issues were ever published, coming out sporadically between 1991 and 1994. The founder, Robert Ward, died in 2004. Michael Moynihan of Blood Axis was a contributing writer to issue 3 and is credited as Associate Editor in issues 4 and 5.
This magazine was unique in its time, being the first US-based magazine (that I was aware of, anyway) to primarily cover the post-industrial genre that later came to be known as “neofolk”. At the time this style was commonly referred to as “apocalyptic folk” or simply “World Serpent” — so called after World Serpent Distribution, who put out most of these releases.
Any editorial flaws the magazine had were more than made up for by the quality of the material. Ward scored interviews with most of the major artists of the time: Death in June, Sol Invictus, Fire + Ice, and more. Alongside the music was the usual selection of countercultural topics such as Satanism, Charles Manson, social darwinism, and so on.
I bought all five issues as they came out but these copies have long since vanished into time. I was reminded of the magazine recently and, after fruitlessly watching Ebay for a while, I got in touch with Fred Berger, founder and editor of Propaganda Magazine, who generously agreed to part with the copies in his library.
The feature articles are all very good, and it’s interesting to look at these as a snapshot of this subculture in the early '90s, particularly the ads and short news items included at the beginning of each issue (for example, Varg Vikernes’s arrest for church burning in Norway is covered in issue five).
I’ve scanned all five issues and you can now download them right here. Each issue contains a selection of music articles, news, music and book reviews, and articles on topics such as survival, occultism, etc.
- The Fifth Path: Issue One
- Foetus Inc, Death in June, Robert Anton Wilson, Zeena LaVey, Jack Chick, Throbbing Gristle bootleg reviews, An Introduction to Urban and Wilderness Survival
- The Fifth Path: Issue Two
- Rozz Williams, Kodo, Skinheads in East Germany, live show reviews of Death in June, Current 93, Sol Invictus, Survival: Shelters and Tools
- The Fifth Path: Issue Three
- Boyd Rice, Sol Invictus, Freya Aswynn, Blood Axis, Yukio Mishima, Carl Orff, Skinheads in East Germany part II, Survival: Fire Starting Tools
- The Fifth Path: Issue Four
- Swans, Sol Invictus part II, Adam Parfrey, Crash Worship, The Electric Hellfire Club, Thomas Lyttle, Odinism in Heavy Metal
- The Fifth Path: Issue Five
- Fire + Ice, In the Nursery, Ordo Equitum Solis, Somewhere in Europe, David E. Williams, Will, Bathory, Odinism in Heavy Metal part II, Third World Black Magic Dictators
The magazines are not in pristine condition, as they were used as source material for articles in Propaganda. Some pages have margin notes and highlighting by Fred Berger, and a Death in June photo was cut out of issue one for use in a Propaganda layout. Apart from these minor things, they are all complete and readable, and should be an enjoyable read for anyone interested in this scene.