Review: The Armageddon Chord by Jeremy Wagner

Posted: April 15, 2014 in Reviews
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This review was originally posted at West of Mars. It is being posted here, at its new permanent home.

Every now and then, you hear about a book that excites you beyond belief. A book you absolutely MUST read, so much so that you go track down the author so you can get a copy for yourself. Yeah, I know. It happens to me fairly often. What can I say? I’m a book freak. Bibliophile, I believe the word is.

Now, I’m not the world’s biggest fan of horror. Oh, I like the genre, don’t get me wrong. My problem with horror is that I like really well-done, squirm-in-your-seat, psychological horror. The blood and gore? Yawn. But if you promise to mess with my brain and make me afraid of what might be creeping around in the dark, I’m there.

I suppose it makes sense that this horror novel that caught my fancy was written by the one and only Jeremy Wagner, guitarist for metal bands Lupara and Broken Hope. The man rocks harder than I do, and now he’s treading on MY turf: rock and roll fiction.

The Armageddon Chord, his debut novel, is the story of Kirk Vaisto, God of Guitar. Poor Kirk’s a good guy, living a quiet life in a mansion, with a backyard music studio. The set-up reminds me of Jason Newsted and his Chophouse, but not quite as communal. Kirk’s a loner, all right. I’m not sure the poor dude has friends.

Anyway, Kirk gets suckered by his amazingly opportunistic agent into signing a contract with Festus Baustone, a bully who keeps company with some really sick people. Baustone and his buddy want Kirk to play a song for them. It seems simple at first — until Kirk finishes the transcription and plays it for the first time. Then, he’s smart enough to turn tail and run. Or… try to. Remember when I said Baustone was a bully? Yeah. That.

It’s Satan who’s coming to visit via the mystery song. And it’s up to Kirk to not only summon him, but vanquish him as well. Is our man up to the task?

This storyline is so awesome, I’m not sure why it wasn’t an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Really. Joss Whedon is wherever he is in all his brilliance, wondering why he didn’t think of this plotline. It’s that good.

And while I know there are an awful lot of people who dismiss the power of music, Wagner spends some time letting his characters wax more poetic than I ever could on the subject.

One area where I could use a little less waxing is near the end, when religion figures very strongly into the situation. Oh, I get that it’s necessary and I love what the guitar does to the heavy. Plot-wise, it works. It’s just that the characters get a bit too preachy about the glory of Christianity for this good little Jewish girl from the ‘burbs.

I hope Wagner’s got more up his sleeve, with or without Kirk and his love interest, Mona (that’s a provocative name…). He shows some serious author chops in this too-short novel (am I the only one bemoaning the lack of subplots?), although there are some clunkers that show Wagner as a writer who’s still got some growing and polishing to do on the mechanical level. Yet he’s close: on page two, he hits us with a band so evil, they “made Slayer look like Justin Bieber.”

Dude. I hope you know the Slayer guys if you’re going to go around dissing them like that. I’ve met them. They scare me. (Actually, that’s not true. I have met them, but they didn’t scare me. Still, it sounds good, so we’ll go with it.)

Keep writing, Jeremy. You’ve earned this West of Mars Recommended stamp.

  1. […] This is one for you horror fans. Sorta reminds me of a bunch of other books that’ve been set in the club scene, and/or had a horror bend to ‘em. Dave Butler’s Hellhound on my Trail. Voice, definitely. Even some Ladies and Gentlemen… the Redeemers or The Road to Fluffer. And of course, if you’re into horror with your Rock Fiction, you know how I feel about The Armageddon Chord. […]

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