We have always been right upfront that Shock Totem would not exist were it not for the staff’s mutual love of music. Ken and I originally met on a music forum and music threads its way through most of what we do. So when I was asked to review a collection of horror stories inspired by music, I was all in. I’ve read similar anthologies before—Shock Rock, Shock Rock II, Dark Notes from NJ—but most of those were inspired by one specific genre of music. Savage Beasts proves a little more interesting in that it is inspired by many genres of music, that multi-faced beast, classical, prog rock, metal…all are given a chance to leave their bloody thumbprint on a reader’s forehead.
The collection opens with “To Soothe the Savage Beast,” by Edward Morris, a story of history and a haunting, one steeped in jazz and violence. Karen Runge gives a strange tale of love and animals (literal and symbolic). Shawn Macomber offers up an itchy story called “Pestilence by Beemahr,” where he shows that the quickest way to horror country is with icky, ooky, creepy, crawly, squirmy bugs. Although, this is lot smarter than your average insect horror tale, this one is steeped in consequence.
“Killing Noise,” by Konstantine Paradias, is an exploration of music as a weapon and it certainly is not the kind of music you’re expecting it to be. “When Death Walks the Field of Battle,” by J.C. Michael, is exactly what the title promises. Paul Michael Anderson’s “Crawling Back to You” is a dark song about bad relationships, addiction, and the darkness that swaddles them both. The anthology closes out with “The Musik des Teufels,” by T. Fox Dunham. I can’t even fully describe what he’s done here…almost mad scientist journal filtered through opera/musical linen and drunk with fever by flawed and fractured souls. Beautiful and strange.
I liked the overall tone of the collection and the concept, a few of the tales while good did not resonate as long as others. Stoker Award-nominated editors, Anthony Rivera and Sharon Lawson, did an excellent job here, compiling a variety of tales inspired by a variety of musical styles. The inclusion of story notes always wins points with me.
Savage Beasts is available from Grey Matter Press.