Tag Archives: Grey Matter Press

Savage Beasts

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.

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Equilibrium Overturned

Most anthologies carry a theme, sometimes heavily. A concrete yoke of hackneyed premise across sagging shoulders. I always like the “whatever” sort of collections, which is exactly what Equilibrium Overturned is. Sort of. Most of these tales deal with a bleak sense of survival, the settings change and the details and characters, but every one involves a tenacious attempt to hold the fuck on in a world uncontrolled.

John Everson’s “Amnion” gives us a well-meaning physician and his experiment in regaining youth. Factor in some bad decisions and a haughty wench and we have the makings of a nightmare. JG Faherty shows us a unique sort of zombie apocalypse in “Martial Law.” Rose Blackthorn’s “Through the Ghostlands” is one of my favorites, a stark and sad tale of siblings making their way through a haunted landscape.

“Perfect Soldiers,” by S.G. Larner, shows us a different kind of terror war going on and Martin Slag’s “Wombie” is a surrealist bizarro tale about a veterinarian and the world scale conspiracy of oddity that he uncovers. “No Man’s Land,” by Roger Jackson, gives us a war-nightmare where the dead aren’t lucky enough to remain that way.

Sean Eads’ historical horror show, “The Alamo Incident: From The Chronicles of Timaeus Shields,” must be read to comprehend. Tim Waggoner delivers a gory slice of brutal bizarro in “This Is Not a Horror Story.”

The collection closes with a tale of sadness and loss simply titled “Sunrise.” In this tale by Tony Knighton, we follow a desperate father as he tries to save his ailing son in an unforgiving world. All in all, the stories in Equilibrium Overturned are solid and the thread of desperation and survival is present in almost all of them.

Available through Grey Matter Press.

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