Released: 2015, DMR Books
Metal fiction is quite rare and of the 300+ books reviews in the Library Of Loudness section less than 10 (less than 3%) are reviews of fiction. When I heard of the new book SWORDS OF STEEL, a collection of short stories written by Metal artists, I could not refuse an opportunity to check it out.
The 254 page pocket-sized paperback is really cool, reminiscent (on purpose) of old pulp collections. The printing, layout and design are very nice as well and it includes a few black and white drawing scattered around. SWORDS OF STEEL is an anthology of short stories and a couple of poems. Edited by DM Ritzlin, the book includes a short and enthusiastic introduction by David C. Smith the well-known (don’t just call it ‘fantasy’) author.
I must admit that 99% of my reading is non-fiction about Heavy Metal so to be honest I was not familiar with any of the artists as authors, but as metal musicians I have albums by all of them as they are, by and large, well-know in the underground classic/traditional/power metal styles. However, an in an earlier life (aka my youth) this style is almost all I would read, much preferring Fantasy to Science Fiction so this book speaks to me and has helped rekindle some of those times of yore when reading fiction was much more my passion, back when time was abundant, before the horrible and crushing burdens of adulthood; mortgage, bills, kids and the omnipresent, ever demanding, soul-sucking job. Actually, my life is not that bad at all but that last sentence was a fun line to write. I’ve been out of the fiction reading loop for so long that’s why I enjoyed this book so much.
The list of authors are (listed alphabetically by what band they are, or were, in)
-Bal-Salgoth (Byron Roberts)
-Cauldron Born/Briton Rites (Howie Bentley)
-Eternal Champion (Jason Tarpey)
-Funeral Circle (JP Abboud)
-Gate Keeper/Scythia (Jeff Black)
-Hellwell/Manilla Road (E.C. Hellwell)
-Solstice (James Ashbey)
-Twisted Tower Dire (Scott Waldrop)
…and works by Page, Weingertner and David Smith who co-wrote with Howie Bentley, what could be arguably the centrepiece of the book (the longest story at over 50 pages) called, ‘All Will Be Righted On Samhain’.
The content itself are short-stories are all in the realm of heroic and dark fantasy. This is an important distinction pointed out by Smith in the introduction and alluded to on the back cover that says, “…modern fantasy has been plagued with convoluted plots and series without end.” Take that, HBO-soap-opera-pretending-to-be-fantasy series, Game of Thrones! Humour aside, there is a true distinct between the high fantasy and the gritty, dark and at times just weird, tales presented here. I’ll avoid a long and analytical review of each piece, that kind of defeats the purpose, this classic summer reading book is meant to be devoured like a hungry cave-troll gnawing on the femur of a hero, not probed and dissected like a brain surgeon. Suffice it to say these tales of quests, battles magick, (yes, with a ‘k’) all laced with hints of horror and the tales are from across the ages and realms, some imagined, some loosely based on real life (Elizabethan times, Roman, England and Gothic times). There are also a couple of poems and a neat opinion/editorial piece of creative writing called ‘Headbanging Warriors;’ by M. Harold Page’ who draws a fun parallel between the metal warriors of today with warrior brotherhoods from across the ages.
SWORDS OF STEEL is awesome, no other way to describe it. The book’s back cover is boldly emblazoned with the words NOT FOR WIMPS! And I heartily agree.
Side: Note fans may be interested to read a Howie Bentley essay on the connection between Robert Howard and Metal that was published here on Metal-Rules.com on Sept 11th, 2011 in our section From Hell’s Heart.