Horror Book Review: In the Shadow of the Horns: A Black Metal Horror Anthology (Various)
In the Shadow of the Horns: A Black Metal Horror Anthology combines two of our loves here at GBHBL. Horror and heavy metal, the extreme sides of both worlds. Edited by Evan Dean Shelton and Edwin Callihan, 16 authors have contributed to this tome of evil.
Kicking off with Matthew Mitchell’s The Band, the anthology gets going with a very strong, imaginative and stomach-churning story. One with the dark and twisted mind-set of a Clive Barker style Books of Blood story.
A popular ‘zine’ writer is tired of bands claiming to be the most extreme show you’ll ever see. When he hears about a mysterious group simply known as ‘the band’ he makes it his mission to see them play. It doesn’t get any more extreme than this. A story that builds anticipation and pays it off in delightfully dark fashion.
The Aluxes by Robert P. Ottone tells a story about a couple and their baby ending up in the clutches of some hillbillies with the intent of delivering ritualistic murder. They may have made a mistake though as a mother will do anything to protect her child. Even awakening her own dark history with the occult.
A solid story, in a short amount of time, Ottone makes you care about the characters and delivers a short, sharp combination of racism and occult horror.
One of the shortest stories, Lorraine Schein’s The Edifice delivers a descriptive and hollowing cult tale told in diary format. There’s not too much to sink your teeth into here but her vivid writing captures the imagination nicely.
Bringing it back to the combination of metal and horror, Scott Bryan Wilson’s in Dedicated Service to The Old Ways is one of the few misses in this anthology. Written well and crafting a gleeful image of defiance to Christianity. The story about a man dreaming of being his black metal alter-ego Lord Phenex is clever and reflective of a certain era in black metal’s history.
Sam Richard’s Taken by the Mountains is the deepest story in the anthology as it details a man who is struggling to move on from the suicide of his partner. Having accepted that he just can’t, he plans to end his own but ends up discovering life might just be worth living. A powerful tale, the monstrous aspect is weaved wonderfully with this character’s turmoil and depressing acceptance that he just can’t go on anymore.
Born Under the Master’s Spell by Edwin Callihan shares some similarities to the opening story, The Band. In that it’s about seeing and hearing the most extreme live music around. This one takes it in a more macabre and hellish direction though, one that again, draws comparisons to Clive Barker and the world he created with The Hellbound Heart/Hellraiser. The sights and sounds described here, enough to send you falling into a pit of madness.
A completely different style of story comes next with Hank Pattison’s Taking The Target Home. A story about a group of mercenaries for hire who end up on a job that changes them forever. A cold, dark and uncomfortable read, there’s no going back after this one.
Old Blue and The Enemy by Trevor Markwart is one of the best of the anthology. Taking some inspiration from the infamous video nasty, The Driller Killer. A retired police officer is being driven mad by the heavy metal noise that emanates from the apartment below. Desperate to get rid of his noisy neighbour, his methods of attack get more and more extreme. Leading to an ending you wouldn’t want spoiled. Brilliant in a delightedly dark way.
Going back in time, both story-wise and in writing style, Keith Anthony Baird’s Walked a Pale Horse on Celtic Frost story is a solid effort. One with an ambiguity to allow your imagination to run riot. Whereas Pedro Iniguez’s The Dogs of Summer is a sillier and amusing horror that has its main character discovering some uncomfortable truths about his family.
The Triumph of Belphegor’s Feast by J.R. McConvey is a delightful blend of black metal and Lovecraftian style horror. How seriously do you take the music? What do you do if your singer kills himself on stage in a bizarre conjuration?
One Lie for One Soul by SJ Townend is one of the most disturbing stories. The blend of demonic impregnation, the resulting carnage and horrifying descriptive monstrosity is very memorable.
Gava Fran Trulen by Daniel Beauregard is a little dragged out and isn’t particularly satisfying. Although it does create a nice blend of nature and horror. Whereas Evan Dean Shelton’s CHURCHBURNER is rooted in horrifying reality. A tough, no-nonsense gang indebted to each other find themselves being hunted by a demonic force. What makes this story so interesting is how it makes you care about these characters even though they’re not exactly nice people.
The penultimate story, Lawless Darkness by Morgan Tanner, is one of the best again. A genuinely upsetting and horrible tale about a young man who finds the screams, howls and crying of the dying makes for great vocals on his music. Yeah… this is a disturbing read and it’s bloody excellent.
Before Convulsive, Or Not at All by Joanna Koch takes us far into the future for the end of everything. A story that deserves praise for just how descriptive it is when it comes to flesh, blood and bone.
16 stories, 16 unique tales of horror, all with some twist or interesting reference to black metal. It was said several times throughout but if you want a comparison, In the Shadow of the Horns: A Black Metal Horror Anthology is reminiscent of Clive Barker’s Books of Blood. More hits than misses, the varying level of horror and styles makes for a constantly interesting read.
You can order the anthology here.
In the Shadow of the Horns: A Black Metal Horror Anthology (Various)
The Final Score - 9/10