Death Metal Epic I: The Inverted Katabasis | Book Review

Through the years, the wonderful world of heavy metal has seeped into many different areas of art and entertainment, with obvious mentions such as films like This Is Spinal Tap or most recently, animation series like Metalocaplypse and Aqua Teen Hunger Force including music from Mastodon.

Now while books are aplenty on metal, not so much in the world of fiction. This is what makes Dean Swinford’s novel, 'Death Metal Epic I: The Inverted Katabasis', the first tale in a young death metaller’s voyage through musical and personal turmoil, an intriguing book to pick up.

Death Metal Epic plays off many clich├ęs in metal bands in their infancy, from members moving out of town to others becoming disinterested in playing ‘this kind of music’ anymore and the one valiant warrior intent on not letting his death metal baby die. The novel sees our protagonist, David, the one-time guitarist in Valhalla fall away from his band due to these very circumstances and only to make things worse, he has a record label on his ass about contractual obligations for a new album and a tour.

This short book takes us through some of the very real pressures that many a small time band found themselves in, and set in Florida in the shadow of legendary death metal bands from Morbid Angel to Deicide to Obituary, David can feel the power of greatness within reach but several road stops and obstacles lead him to a new musical companion, forming Katabasis and a whole new metal adventure that’s only just begun with this first book.

If anything, Death Metal Epic is a fun read in that it’s layered with band references, quips and in-jokes; one highlight being a particular Valhalla critic denouncing their album as “life metal”. At the same time, these aspects can be a flaw. Outside of the already hardened metal fan looking for a light read, Death Metal Epic isn’t going to appeal to many readers. It’s very a niche book.

Given its brevity though it works, and Death Metal Epic sees David go through many a different bump in the road and the expectation of a Part II is more than met with a couple of loose ends left on the book’s conclusion that are enough to pique interests for the next installment.

Jonathan Keane
Follow Jonathan on Twitter @J_K9

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