It’s Armageddon time again, boys and girls! This time brought our way by a scheming corporate scumbag and his equally vile archaeologist toadie. Festus Baustone is THE big cheese. In the corporate ocean, he is the top fish. No one messes with him; he gets what he wants at any and all costs. He employs Helmut Hartkopf, a badly scarred Egyptologist, to unearth a fabled relic that would usher in the End Times as well as grant the dying gazillionaire immortality. Helmut succeeds in finding the artifact, a piece of ancient music written in hieroglyphics by Satan himself, that when played will open the clanging gates of Hell and allow all its populace to spill forth and run amok.
Enter Kirk Vaisto, critically touted “Guitar God” of the modern age.
Kirk, a humble and nice enough fellow, is about to have his humble and nice enough life torn asunder. Festus and Helmut decide to rope him into a ploy to translate and play the evil song and open up a can of Hell-on-Earth™ on an unsuspecting world. That is the basic premise at work here.
The biggest mistake one could make with The Armageddon Chord, Jeremy Wagner’s debut novel, would be to take it too seriously. Doing that would no doubt cause one’s brow to furrow a bit and also leech the fun from the novel. The characters are great and purposefully over the top. They are loving caricatures based on some of Wagner’s favorites from page and screen. Helmut Hartkopf is so very obviously a mishmash of Major Toht from the Indiana Jones film Raiders of the Lost Ark and Vladis Grutas from Hannibal Rising. Festus Baustone being an amalgamation of all the wealthiest, pompous douchebags we read about in Forbes. Our hero, Kirk Vaisto, is as blatant a homage that anyone versed in great guitarist would recognize it—Kirk Hammett and Steve Vai, if you need it spelled out.
Jeremy knows the ins and outs of the music end of things, being as he served as a guitarist for the grindcore band Broken Hope and is currently the Riffmaster General for the groove/death-metal band Lupara. He knows his shit.
With The Armageddon Chord Wagner has crafted a love letter to biblical/supernatural adventure works, drizzling them with numerous musical references and nudges. Jeremy describes it as “Crossroads meets The Da Vinci Code.” I can get behind that synopsis.
(And for all you kiddies out there, by Crossroads he means the bad-ass 80’s blues film, and not the tepid Britney Spears vehicle from a few years ago.)
I actually think this is quite a daring debut, in that the man is a horror writer and the debut novel he hands us is…well, barely horror. It has more in common with action/thrillers than monsters and gore. I know in my heart that Jeremy will deliver those to us as well, in the not too distant future, but the The Armageddon Chord is not that kind of book. It is, however, a fun and quick read and not a shabby way for the guy to stick his toes in the murky water.