Music has charms to soothe the Savage Breast
As I sit here contemplating how to start this review, the music is on and already my neurons are firing off with a multitude of thoughts, images and ideas. That’s the beauty of music I guess, that magical ability to influence, inspire and shape what you hear, think, feel or see. Doesn’t matter what the genre, the artist or the song, everyone interprets what they hear differently. Which in the case of Savage Beasts, the music inspired anthology from Grey Matter Press, makes for a fantastic delve into the dark and twisted imaginations of eleven talented writers of horror and dark fiction.
I think the easiest thing you can glean from that last sentence is how much I enjoyed reading this anthology. Usually when I’ve tagged a book for review I read and take notes. In this case I was about a third of the way in before consciously realising I hadn’t taken any. I was, as the saying goes, lost in music. From orchestral music to doom metal to jazz and beyond, this is an anthology that more than lives up to its premise of echoing the eclectic mix of music that inspired and shaped the contents.
Straight from the off this is an anthology that grabs you with a surefooted intent to deliver on its premise with Edward Morris’ wonderfully atmospheric and moody tale of disturbed spirits, blues and jazz on night shift in “To Soothe the Savage Beast.” The story had this eerie and unsettling vibe about it that reminds me of those moments when you have a building settle at night with barely audible creaks and groans and you sit there wondering “what the hell was that?” A disorientating, creepy and poignant story, it is indicative of the quality of stories contained herein.
The next story marks a stylistic change with the blunt force trauma of Karen Runge’s excellent “Going Home” which is a deliciously dark and twisted tale of rage and revenge. I really liked the way in which this story unfolds. It has this E.C. Comics vibe about it as a couple respond to their parent’s abusive and loveless relationships with like for like. Just a great little story of revenge served freezing cold. That blackly humorous tone is echoed in John F.D. Taft’s fantastic “That Song You Cant Get Out Of Your Head” about the roots of creative inspiration. You know, those songs that just get stuck into the folds of your brain and won’t let go. This is just a wicked little delight of a story from a writer that I hadn’t come across before. Needless to say, I will be on the look out for more of his writing. The excellence continues with “Pestilence by Beemahr” by Shawn Macomber, a tale of scents and insects. This is an absolute peach of a story about a revolt by one of nature’s humblest creations, the gypsy moth caterpillar, to man’s hegemony of the natural order. To say more would be to spoil what is a vividly realized, stylish and enthralling tale of the apocalypse.
Which is a feeling echoed upon reading Konstantine Pariadas’ magnificent “Killing Noise”. Inspired by the sheer musical power and grandeur of classical music, this is a beautifully realized vision of a world at war. A world in which sound equates to death, orchestras have become armies and classical compositions are weapons of mass destruction with which to pummel the enemy. That shared sense of music and war having profound effects on the emotions and the psyche is explored further in J.C. Michael’s “When Death Walks the Field of Battle”. Atmospheric with a hint of the supernatural, this story takes a long hard stare at the effects that perpetual war would have on a person’s psyche and the constant battle one might have between rational thought and insanity in a kill or be killed situation.
The anthology then changes pace with Daniel Braun’s dark and haunting tale of physics in “An American Ghost in Zurich” as a researcher discovers tampering with time can have far reaching effects on the nature of reality and relationships. That notion of what is reality actually is explored in Maxwell Price’s ode to 60s psychedelic rock, “Poor Mal” as a musician discovers that opening the doors of perception can be quite literally mind altering.
Much like the psychedelic era, progressive rock is about excess so it is fitting that next story in the anthology, “Eidolon” by E. Michael Lewis, continues in a similar vein. An excellent tale of obsession and ego this chronicles the tumultuous relationship between a band and its’ flamboyant and popular singer and how that often fractious relationship can poison and taint your perception. The poisonous nature of relationships forms the central theme of the dark and nasty “Crawling Back to You” by Paul Michael Anderson as it takes a long cold stare at the abusive and parasitic relationship between vampire and servant where each is as equally corrupt as the other. The anthology comes to an epic conclusion with T Fox Dunham’s magnificent “Die Musik Des Teufels” which inverts the perception that one can have of music being a soothing balm for the soul as one man’s love for his son leads him to experiment with a musical therapy born from the darkest depths of history. Epic really does not do this one justice!
Suffice to say that kudos must be given to editors Anthony Rivera and Sharon Lawson for creating an anthology that is an absolute blast from beginning to end. For want of better words, Savage Beasts fucking rocks!
SAVAGE BEASTS is a volume of contemporary dark fiction inspired by some of the greatest artists in musical history. SAVAGE BEASTS is a thrilling and thought-provoking nightmare of devastating supernatural experiences exploring darkly introspective science fiction and fantastical alternative realities, each accompanied by the sound of the music that defines your life.