Rough Music out of Strange Aeons

Rough Music Front Cover

This morning, we present to you a review of Simon Kurt Unsworth’s Rough Music, which appeared in issue nine of Strange Aeons magazine and which was written by Brandi Jording (© 2012 Brandi Jording/Strange Aeons):

“The elders of convention teach us that there are five fundamental stages of sin, and while I’m a big fan of all five, the ensuing deviation from rectitude can be a real killjoy. So I found it quite fitting that Spectral Press decided to cast us all into a bottomless pit of guilt with their fifth installment. We’ve got a long, hard road ahead of us, but Mr. Unsworth’s “rough music” is there to lull us straight into one man’s personal hell.

Cornish, our rather loathsome protagonist, is an imperious sot; a man living heavily under the influence of egotism and ignorance, oblivious to the things that go bump in his life. But his carefully constructed world (and marriage) begins to collapse under the weight of his infidelity. And one night a strange but familiar creature appears at 3a.m. to perform an elaborate dance meant only for him. It seems there can be no rest for the wicked, and with the darkness comes clarity and revelation. Someone or some thing demands to be seen and heard, and it’s brought an entire troupe along with it.

More of a cautionary tale than an all-out thriller, the poignant notes were meant to be played for those with a lamentable ear. Well written with a subdued atmosphere, it left a bittersweet taste behind. And while I generally prefer a more in-your-face style of writing, I found myself spiraling into the pit along with Cornish, hoping he’d receive his comeuppance, but knowing his downfall would bring about the destruction of another. But such is life. No good sin goes unpunished, and guilt does love its company. A fine if slightly off-kilter installment from Spectral Press, my only complaint would be that we have to wait so long between releases. So here’s to their continuing success. May the coming years bring to them (and to us) new horrors and sins with which to revel in.”

With thanks to Brandi and Strange Aeons! More soon!

The Strange Aeons webite can be found here.

Two new reviews and an update

So, first up this bright Tuesday morning is a new review of Simon Kurt Unsworth’s Rough Music – this one was written by Walt Hicks and can be found on his Hellbound Times blog. Walt has been a consistent supporter of Spectral Press ever since it opened its doors – so what did he think of the first issue in the imprint’s second year? Find out here.

(Psst – Happy Birthday to Mr. Unsworth, too!!)

Secondly, here’s a review of Paul Finch’s King Death, which appeared in Issue Eight (Winter 2011) of Strange Aeons magazine. I reproduce it here in full with the permission of the magazine:

In the early 1300’s, rumors of a terrible plague began to spread throughout Europe. Entire regions of China and India had fallen, and it seemed death itself was drifting westward. Rumor became reality in 1307 when a Genoese ship pulled into the port of Messina with a dead and dying crew. The Black Plague had arrived, and by 1350 an estimated 50-70% of England’s population had perished.

In Spectral Press’ fourth offering, Paul Finch transports us back to this slightly exaggerated time where the mortality rate more closely resembles that of Captain Tripps than the actual Plague. It is a world no longer in the thralls of death, but a world which has gasped its last pitiful breath, and lies rotting under an unremorseful sun.

Rodric, a former member of the free-companies, has seen his fair share of destruction. Clad in a suit of black mail with a skull emblazoned upon his helmet and shield, he rides through the silent, fetid countryside (on a pale horse no less) ridding corpses of their riches and the few survivors he encounters of their lives. He is a man without honor or remorse. Hardened by war and having grown increasingly numb to the horrors that surround him, he sets out upon his diabolical crusade with little sympathy.

One day, while Rodric reflects upon his incongruous kingdom, he spies a well-bedecked page-boy, half alive and stumbling through the valley below him. Greed spurs him into action, and after his alter-ego cows the boy into a terrified silence, he presents himself as Death, King Death, and demands to be taken to the wealthy lordship he abandoned. In return, he agrees to grant the boy’s final wish, to join his family in death. But once they arrive, Rodric learns that there is a precipitous price to be paid for masquerading as Death, and realizes, albeit a bit too late, that it’s not always good to be King.

While not my favorite offering from Spectral, Finch certainly has a way with words. Though he paints a dour portrait, his brushstrokes are eloquent and unequaled in their execution. Whether describing a wild land reclaimed by nature, or a procession of the decomposing dead, there is beauty to be found. And it’s because of that beauty, that torrid love affair with morose prose, that this chapbook deserves to sit upon your shelf. A worthy addition to Spectral’s ever-growing library, but limited to their standard 100 signed and numbered editions, finding your own copy might be as hard as finding a lone survivor in a time of plague. But don’t let that stop you from jumping on the unearthly bandwagon. Future releases will sell out quickly, so make sure to stop by their website and subscribe, because the terrors you miss today, will surely turn into tomorrow’s spectral regrets.

More reviews coming soon!

AN UPDATE: MUSIKS & MYTHOS

This is just to let those interested in purchasing copies of the series of Lovecraft audio-CDs that Temple of Azathoth Records are producing in collaboration with Spectral that the project has been delayed by two months due to a personal bereavement. The first in the series, featuring two stories from the master of cosmic terror himself (The Music of Erich Zann and Nyarlathotep) and a tale from the modern wielder of Lovecraft’s strange legacy, Joe Pulver (The Delirium of a Worm-Wizard), will now be available from May 2012 instead. More information will be brought to you here as the time approaches for release – but rest assured it WILL be unleashed upon an unsuspecting world…

Spectral: 3-in-1 review number 3

Well, this week, as you guys may have noticed, there were no reviews available to me to upload on Monday, thus breaking my recent custom – but this midweek post more than makes up for that. It’s from the esteemed folk at Strange Aeons Magazine and it will appear in the Fall 2011 issue (Number 7), debuting at the HP Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland, Oregon, in the US this weekend. With the kind permission of KL Young, Executive Editor of Strange Aeons, I reproduce it here – and this is what they had to say:

This issue, we’re reviewing a line of chapbooks from the newly created Spectral Press imprint. From their site: Spectral Press is a small independent imprint publisher; issuing very limited edition signed and numbered single story chapbooks in a high-quality presentation on a quarterly basis, and concentrating on the ghostly/supernatural end of the literary spectrum.

If you’ve picked up a chapbook before, you know it’s basically an 8.5”x11” stack of pages, folded in half and stapled on the spine. They’re cheap and easy to make, and they look like it. Right off the bat, Spectral is throwing all of that out the window. While the format remains the same, Spectral Press knocks you out with the gorgeous cover art and paper stock, the beautiful text choice and layout, and the spectacular content. Each issue is limited to 100 copies, making them extremely collectible.

Each new chapbook is an “issue”, and Issue I is “What They Hear in the Dark”, by Gary McMahon. After the violent death of their son, Rob and Becky buy a new house in an attempt to keep their minds and bodies busy as they work through their grief. In this “fixer-upper” of a house (a thinly-veiled metaphor for their own relationship), they find a “Quiet Room” – a place where sound literally cannot be heard. Both of them have a solitary, supernatural experience in the room; Rob’s negative, Becky’s positive, and this conflict is what drives the story towards its inevitable, creepy conclusion. If there are any complaints, it is that the characters are a little weak, their identities not quite fleshed out or believable – but McMahon is such a strong writer that it’s easy to forgive, and at 20 pages long you haven’t got time to really notice. An excellent start to this new publishing house!

In “Abolisher of Roses” by Gary Fry (the second offering from Spectral Press), we are introduced to husband and wife Peter and Patricia, at a hoity-toity outdoor art show that Patricia has been invited to show at. At first this feels like familiar Twilight Zone fare – Peter, our point of view character, is broadly painted as uncouth and unlikeable, alternately thinking about how little he enjoys or understands art, and how much he does enjoy his mistress. It’s fairly obvious he will get his comeuppance as he travels farther – and further – into the woods, away from the real art show and into one specifically designed for him. But Fry manages to pull a few tricks from his sleeve, and his skill in storytelling is apparent. The ending is satisfying and unexpected – as every ending should be.

Finally, Spectral’s Issue III is “Nowhere Hall”, by Cate Gardner. In Gardner’s story, our protagonist, the suddenly jobless Ron, is lured into a run-down hotel by a strange umbrella with an even stranger message: We want to live. Help us. Inside, Ron is faced with bizarre memories and imagery, some familiar tropes of the genre, and some not-so.

Gardner tells a confusing and mind-bending story, bordering on stream-of-consciousness and disregard to structure, all things I’m not a fan of. BUT… her mastery of the written word is so strong – in fact, she’s a fucking Jedi when it comes to painting a picture with words – made this my favorite of the three chapbooks. Sure, I might have had to re-read that paragraph anyway, just to understand what was going on in it… but I re-read it first because it was just so beautifully written.

It’s not often that you get to watch a new publishing house begin with such strong content. This is exciting and fascinating stuff, and you want to get in on the ground floor – you’ll be paying for your kids’ college tuition with these super-collectibles in 20 years – because if you don’t think Spectral Press is going to be moving into bigger and better stuff pretty quickly, you’re crazy.

These books are sold out. But you can buy subscriptions for their new releases at [their website – which is right here folks!].

What a fantastic start to the day – this is the kind of review that all publishers (and authors) kill for. Onwards and upwards!! =)