We first meet the foil, Max, as he hums a Beatles tune, “She Said, She Said”. A few chapters later, the protagonist, Roland, says that hippies are the worst hypocrites of all. At first, I bristled with defensiveness. What’s so hypocritical about peace, love, and rock n roll? Especially ironic, considering the fact that the preceding line claims that Roland would never hold a person’s beliefs against them, and a few chapters later, he openly admits to enjoying a hippie doom band. Besides, the metalheads in the story, live on a communal farm with a bunch of cute barn animals and organic vegetable gardens. They might as well live in a counter culture artist’s retreat in Taos! What’s with the author’s and/or characters’ beef with flower power?
But then I did some deep soul search and shadow work, and as much as I hate to admit it, he does have a point. Of course I’m defensive, because I know it’s true! I’m the kind of person who would punch a hole in the drywall, but then hide the damage under a “Live Laugh Love” sign. (God I wish I was joking or exaggerating, but thats the honest truth about something that actually happened)! Show me a die-hard Beatlemaniac who doesn’t suffer from clinical depression and/or a severe personality disorder, and I’ll show you a fucking liar. Maybe we gravitate toward colorful imagery, bubbly pop songs, and cutesy aesthetics, in order to overcompensate for the darkness in our souls, and hatred in our hearts. Psychedelic visuals are especially telling as a dead give away. The only time that peace and love feel even remotely real to me, is when I’m tripping balls on mind altering drugs and mood modifying chemicals. The reality of life, is one of sorrow and suffering. With that in mind, our dark story of dread begins.
The point of view shifts from character to character, chapter by chapter. Of course, most are from Roland’s perspective, the down-to-earth drummer, sensitive musician, and relatable hero of the story. Some chapters delve into guitarist Max’s head, getting into the vain, selfish, entitled mind of a bully and a bastard. Some chapters are told through the eyes of Seph, the hardworking, industrious, and independent love interest, whose tough exterior and nasty attitude only make her all the more mysterious and alluring. Some are even told from Taras, the creepy mystic fortune teller, who reeks of tobacco, incense, and snake oil, hiding behind his eerie veneer of cryptic smoke and mirrors. Then there’s Grigore, an even bigger dickhead than Max. Of course, we also have Roman, a loyal soldier to Seph’s self-righteous cause. Finally, there is Falchik, whose fate is obviously heavily inspired by Euronymous of Mayhem infamy.
Side characters include a wild array of locals who live and work and coexist in this same world, whom the reader might find charming and endearing, but whom the main characters only see as mere scapegoats and sacrificial sheep for the slaughter. Everyone outside of their cute little musical clique is just more meat for the grinder, while they fancy themselves to be so special and talented and intellectual. “Ah, the world is insignificant in the grand scheme of the cosmos, and life is meaningless, and nothing really even matters… But our music is like so totally super important you guys!!!” Huh, just like actual metalheads in real life. A+ for believability and realism!
It’s interesting to see how the characters think and feel about each other. Each person thinks so highly of themselves, while judgementally nitpicking at everyone else’s personality flaws with contempt and disdain. They all use each other, in order to justify their own selfish misanthropy. This is definitely an ESH (Everyone Sucks Here) situation. Each character is either obnoxiously arrogant, pathetically pitiful, or some unholy combination of both. Which makes it all the more infuriating when they remind me of myself and my friends! Hey, that always makes for a great horror story: just watching bad things happen to bad people. Or, scarier yet, bad things happening to normal people just like you and me, anybody and everybody. Kind or cruel, intelligent or ignorant, strong or weak, everyone suffers, weeps, and bleeds in this narrative. Again, A+ for capturing the reality of life and the human condition.
One observation I’ve made in life: The most miserable misanthropes are only projecting their own low self esteem and inferiority complexes onto everyone else. “Oh, I’m a shitty person, a dirty rotten liar, a sneaky thieving cheat. Therefore, so is everyone else who ever has or ever will exist in the history of humankind forever!” Similarly, philanthropists project their own resilience onto everyone else, seeing the best in themselves and others. “Oh I’m flawed, but I try my best, therefore, everyone else is probably good, or at least misunderstood, deep down inside!” We’re all vain. We assume everyone thinks and feels the same way we do. Our experiences are filtered through cognitive bias, and, by proxy, cognitive dissonance, when those illusions are inevitably shattered. Everyone is a sanctimonious hypocrite, holding each other to impossible standards of perfection, while holding themselves to no standards whatsoever and constantly making excuses for their own behavior. (Like when I was so butt-hurt over a couple passing comments about the Beatles and hippie culture, that I felt compelled to write two paragraphs about it, because everyone needs to see MY side of things, all the time, no matter what!) See, this book kind of forces you to confront your own darkness masquerading as light, hatred masquerading as love, and ignorance masquerading as wisdom.
There are several subtle allusions to black metal, such as a freezing moon, astral chamber, and funeral mist (to name a select few), as well as clever literary references, such as to the “wine dark sea” of Homer’s Iliad. David Peak is a true metalhead and a brilliant writer. The prose is intense and lyrical. I swear, you can actually taste the cold beer, smell the gross sweat, hear the off-tune instruments, feel the heavy drumbeat, and most importantly, embody the visceral fight-or-flight instinct of fear. The gory depictions of graphic horror are vividly violent. This book will give you one hell of an adrenaline rush. From medieval dungeons and witch hunt torture chambers, to modern controversies of bands burning churches, this book brings on the brutality without mercy.
This book is brutally honest about addiction, withdrawal, and relapse. You name it. Alcohol, heroin, nicotine, caffeine, God knows what else. The author accurately explains the causes and symptoms. And yet his descriptions are so vivid and visceral, sometimes even violent. His sordid storytelling is a vice grip on ancient mythology, Grimms Faerie Tales, Shakespearean tragedies, and modern horror. Max’s damaged psyche is especially dysfunctional and toxic. Like other horror villains, his behavior is equal parts infuriating, and pathetic. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve also struggled with mental health, depression, and addiction myself. I eventually got better, and I continue to work on myself, with therapy. But it must suck to actually DESERVE your own self loathing! I can’t even imagine! Sometimes the descriptions of Max’s extreme violence and paranoia are downright painful to read. It strikes uncomfortably close to home for things that have happened to me… As well as the pain that I’ve inflicted on others, intentionally or otherwise. Yeah sure, psychosis and personality disorders might explain it, but they don’t excuse it.
Hoo boy. This horror isn’t just blood and guts, although there is plenty of that, for all you splatter thrashers out there. But even more disturbing, is the psychological aspect of it. How people can be so cruel and hateful, while delusionally convinced that they are objectively doing the right thing. How people’s beliefs and principles can cloud their common sense, corrode their moral compass, and corrupt their very humanity. This alone makes the tale truly terrifying. Sometimes bluntly realistic, other times shamelessly indulging in the stylized aesthetics of Black Metal, this book is as fascinating as it is grotesque. Corpsepaint is available on Word Horde, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble. Four stars outta five!