“For those about to rock, we salute you LEO DARKE!”
LUCIFER SAM BY LEO DRAKE - BOOK REVIEW
“For those about to rock, we salute you” must be one of the most famous calls to arms in the long and hallowed history of heavy metal and I would formally request AC/DC elongate their legendary set-closer to “For those about to rock, we salute you LEO DARKE!” Why? Lucifer Sam is both one of the dumbest and finest odes to heavy metal, the dark arts and horror I have read in a long time. There are more musical references than you can poke a stick at, and believe it or not, even the long dead cult heroes Sid Vicious (Sex Pistols), Stiv Bators (Dead Boys), Philthy Animal (Motorhead) and Brian Jones (Rolling Stones) make fantastic guest appearances, from beyond the grave, in an all-dead supergroup towards the end of the novel. Things do not get any better than Sid mixing it up with Philthy!
Lucifer Sam was a metal-heads dream boat of a book and it is unlikely anyone else will enjoy it so much as lifelong fans of loud guitars, as the multitude of sly references and jokes were a joy to behold. Heavy metal has always been particularly self-referential and many bands have enjoyed poking fun at themselves, rivals or their fans. Lucifer Sam really runs with this idea and has a lot of fun in turning it into a horror novel which plays upon heavy metal’s oldest cliché; that it is the music of the Devil. Since Ozzy sang “Generals gathered in their masses, just like witches at black masses” metal has never broken away from this idea and so we are introduced to an incredibly successful, and very mainstream metal band, called ‘Cat-o-Nine-Tails’ (CoNT) who have been going since the late 1980s.
Although CoNT have a massive following they are dismissed by the critics for their very safe and radio friendly style of heavy metal. Crucial to the story, CoNT dump their original singer, Ray Startling, after the initial success of their debut album which was a wild cross between punk and metal. Ray was also a nutter, a truly charismatic frontman, and due to his unpredictability is sacked and given a payoff. Future albums released by CoNT becomes softer, bland, but incredibly popular. Ray, meantime, disappears into the bottle and obscure cult status. Reading this part of the novel you may well be thinking of real metal bands who dumped their original singers after their debut album and went on to have huge success. I could think of a couple. But I’ll leave you to come up with your own conclusions…..
One of the real strengths of Lucifer Sam was that it was about much more than CoNT, and for large stretches of the novel they lurked in the background, along with the outstanding character Ray Starling who has monumental cameos at both the beginning and the end. The majority of the novel was about struggling heavy metal band ‘Lucifer Sam’ which is fronted by Kirk Stammers who are playing support slots in front of fifty people in the backrooms of grotty London pubs. They dream of being stars, getting a big break, the perfect support band slot and are a realistic caricature of every struggling rock band that dreams of the big time. Dreaming is most all of them do.
Lucifer Sam are not fans of CoNT. Why? The novel is set around 25 years after the breakthrough album of CoNT and the unceremonious dumping of Ray Startling. In the passing years CoNT have gone from strength to strength and sold millions of albums, Kirk Stammers on the other hand only enjoys their debut opus featuring Ray. The problem is Kirk’s girlfriend Rose is a massive CoNT fan and plays them all the time, and poor old Kirk has no choice but to listen to them whether he wants to or not. I really liked this angle of the story, because we have all had partners who do not like the same music as we do. Do we practice tolerance, or speak the truth? I hate listening to music I don’t like and fortunately I have a very tolerant wife!
The main part of the story is particularly farfetched, but for the most part goes in tune with the rest of this crazy, dirty and crude novel. The jet carrying the band disappears over the Indian Ocean, Rose is particularly devastated, but it magically reappears in the same location six months later. Nobody has a clue what truly happened and the band are saying very little except they have a new album and concerts coming up very soon. Kirk Stammers suspects something very dodgy is up….. He might just be right.
If you go into this book in the right frame of mind you will have a lot of fun, it really does not take itself too seriously. There are some excellent books around featuring heavy metal and this is much more in tune with Grady Hendrix’s entertaining We Sold Our Souls than David Peak’s brutally majestic Corpsepaint. Along the way other great characters are introduced including hack music journalists and kinky police inspectors. If you’re aware of famous London music venues you’ll be affronted to hear that the legendary 100 Club even burns to the ground.
Leo Darke knows the importance of the comeback in both horror and heavy metal. Think Freddie, Jason and Michael Myers and on the music front the examples are endless from Black Sabbath to Kiss. Lucifer Sam has its own magnificent comeback which is so cool you’ll be pumping those devil-horned fingers in the air when the legendary Ray Starling returns to the book, kicking and screaming, in the terrific closing sequences.
As the novel begins to rock (and roll) we head to the legendary Wembley Arena (or whatever it calls itself these days) and over the years all the top metal bands have graced that stage. Once again, respect to the author Leo Darke for not sending us to the soulless O2 arena for the conclusion of his novel. Lucifer Sam was littered with lots of cute music observations, a daft story, but had serious soul which had me singing from the rooftops. This novel hits all the right notes and is a must for metal fans everywhere, hopefully others will enjoy it too.
"Leo Darke has created a heavy metal nightmare made of hard-driving prose, a dark sense of humor, and a jovial nod to 1980s horror fiction. There’s sex, gore, and suspense to spare, and it all unfolds to a heavy metal beat. An enjoyable read." —Ray Garton, author of Crucifax and Ravenous
"Death Metal has a new vanguard band—and a literal meaning. This band's music is truly Killer." —Mallory A. Haws, The Haunted Reading Room
"Just like the punk rock era that it so finely evokes, Darke's tale is edgy, dangerous, thrilling, unpredictable, and scary. Lucifer Sam rocks. Hard." —Stuart R. West, author of Twisted Tales from Tornado Alley and Ghosts of Gannaway
The Day the Music Died When a private jet carrying internationally acclaimed rock band Cat O' Nine Tails vanishes over the Indian Ocean, the shockwaves were felt around the world. There was no wreckage, no bodies, no black box recordings to provide clues as to what happened to the musicians. They were simply gone.
Rock 'n' Roll Will Never Die Just as the world is recovering from the loss of Cat O' Nine Tails comes news that the jet carrying the band has mysteriously re-appeared in the same air space from which it had vanished six months ago. Was it a publicity stunt? The band is unable—or unwilling—to answer that question. They were "lost. But now we're back…" with the promise of a new album with a killer new sound coming soon. There's something definitely not right with the band, but the nation is too firmly in the grip of Cat O' Nine Fever to notice. And as the formerly affable, much-loved Cat O' Nine Tails gears up for a new stadium show, it falls to Cat's original front man, sacked years before, and the members of a virtually unknown punk band, Lucifer Sam, to uncover the real threat behind the massive publicity drive.
Telekinesis thriller in which a young man has a girlfriend deleted from his memory