Welcome to Tales From the Metalnomicon, a twice-monthly column delving into the surprisingly vast world of heavy metal-tinged/inspired literature and metalhead authors... Tales first encountered the infernally enchanting work of James Newman when the stalwart badasses over at Shock Totem re-released his uber-excellent "ode to 1980s horror" The Wicked last year, and subsequent forays into his "coming-of-age thriller" Midnight Rain and human-psyche-plumbing Animosity proved every bit as satisfying. Now, as Newman prepares to unleash his insane-sounding fourth novel Ugly As Sin upon the world it seemed as good a time as any to query the hard rock/heavy metal enthusiast about the soundtrack to his apocalypse...
There was a time in my life when I was proud to call myself a Horror Writer. Horror is what I grew up reading/watching, and I used to dream of being "the next Stephen King" -- which hasn't happened yet, in case you were wondering. It never failed to piss me off when I read interviews with writers I admired, and they insisted that they weren't horror writers. They sounded ashamed of it, and I took that shit personally.
We live and learn, though. We change as we grow older. The things that we used to consider so important fall by the wayside and no longer seem like such a big deal. Now I understand completely where my favorite authors were coming from. Make no mistake: I will never apologize for my love of the macabre. I still write horror often -- although usually in the short form -- and I have no doubt that every piece of fiction I write for the rest of my life will have one foot planted firmly "in the darkness." I can promise that you won't be reading any romance novels with my name on the spine. But straight-up horror is no longer the only thing I write. And these days I'm just fine with that.
There is a point to all of this. Honestly. It just took me a while to get to it.
Just like horror isn't the only thing I write, the hard rock and metal I grew up listening to isn't the only kind of music I dig these days. It's certainly not the only thing I have playing in the background as I'm working on my latest project. In fact, the older I get, I find any music with vocals tends to be distracting. Instead of focusing on whatever story I'm working on, I find myself wanting to sing along, bang my head, and pump my fist in the air. There are exceptions to every rule, however...
You'll notice multiple genres are represented here. Some of it is spooky, some of it rocks, and some of it just gets my juices flowing and makes me want to create.
Create what? Well, that depends on my mood...
I'm not sure if I'd go so far as to say that I prefer Dio-era Sabbath over the band's output with Ozzy, but I do love the two incarnations equally. All the same, this album has long been my favorite Black Sabbath album. Such a brilliant collection of classic heavy metal tunes, full of raw, blistering power but also moments of eerie beauty.
Dark as dark can be, morose but strangely calming -- at least, I think so -- Katatonia is one of those rare bands that truly sounds like no other band in the world. I've heard folks describe them as sounding like "the Cure if the Cure were metal" and I can't really argue with that. But I love Katatonia, even though I hate the Cure.
Simple, haunting synths. It doesn't get much better than this. I probably write to John Carpenter's Christine soundtrack more than any other CD.
Brad Fiedel's Terminator soundtrack is another favorite that spends a lot of time in my CD player. My novella Holy Rollers -- available in my collection People Are Strange, and soon to be a short film -- was written to nothing but this disc on repeat, I remember. I love the epic, ominous feel. I've always thought there was something strangely sad about it as well. Even when you are allowed a minute or two of peace and quiet -- think the love scene between Sarah and Reese -- the one who wants to kill you is still out there. You can run, but you can't hide. He will never stop until he finds you. So you'd better make that love scene count.
Oh, the blues. How I love the blues. I listened to nothing but the blues while writing my most recent novel, Ugly As Sin. With their hard drinking, carousing with dirty women -- which sometimes cost them their lives -- and rumored deals with the devil, it could be argued that the old blues dudes were metal before rock n' roll was even born. Listen with an open mind, and you might just find there ain't nothin' cooler.
If you've never heard of Lustmord, you've missed out on some of the creepiest, most disturbing soundscapes ever recorded. Let me fix that for you now. "Black Star" gave me nightmares the first time I heard it. No kidding. I imagine some Lovecraftian, leviathan beast lurking over a moonlit rise...unseen for now, but it's coming. Closer. Can you hear it? It will be here soon. And God help us all when we fall beneath its gaze...
Highway To Hell is my favorite album from Angus and the boys. "If You Want Blood, You've Got It"? Indeed. Whether you're a horror writer, or an author of those aforementioned romance novels, I believe all artists open their veins and spill their blood each time they do their thing and mean it.