Swinford, Dean-Death Metal Epic-Book III: Sinister Synthesizer (Book review)

Spread the metal:

Reviewed:  July 2022
Published: Atlatl Press, 2022
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: JP

The vast majority, (99% or higher) of publications about Heavy Metal are non-fiction. When a Metal themed fiction piece is published it always catches my eye. In this case the publication in question is the Death Metal Epic trilogy. I intended to review all of them individually.

Dean Swinford is an American professor of English who resides in North Carolina. He is a life-long Metal fan and has tried his hand at writing a Metal themed fiction piece. Printed and presented by Atlatl Press the first part of the series was written in 2013.

I reviewed Part I of this trilogy (The Inverted Katabasis) in March 2020, and Part II (Goat Song Sacrifice) in April of 2020. I recommend you go and read those reviews if you have not already done so. Various events stalled the publication of Part III but as the cliché goes, better late than never, although the book is not really ‘late’ as you can’t rush art!

I added more detail in those two previous reviews and instead of repeating myself these reviews are intended to be read, like the books, in sequence.
At last Part III of Death Metal Epic (Sinister Synthesizer) has arrived. With a full two years between books, it took me a moment to re-familiarize myself with the characters, I probably should have gone back and re-read Part I and Part II, but Part II ended on a cliff-hanger and I wanted to get back into it.

Our story picks up with our hero still in Belgium living life, trying to find his way, seek his muse, create his Metal art and figure out his mildly complicated love-life. Two girls but he can only have one but neither is quite perfect, quite a conundrum for a young man!

The horror theme, and dare I say, ‘supernatural’ elements hinted at in Parts I and II become realized as the story progresses. Again, no spoilers shall be found in this review but this is not a full-blown horror novel. There was just enough tension to make this an excellent thriller.

My only complaint is about how the climax was handled. In moments of real-life crisis, we can only predict how we will react and compare to how others react. Concepts of fight vs. flight, fear vs. heroism, rapidly come into play we never know until we are unwittingly thrust into those scenarios. All I know is that I felt vaguely unsatisfied how our hero reacted in a climactic moment of crisis. I can’t judge but his response to various situations seem very far removed from what I would have done, imagining myself in the same fictional situation! Hopefully I will never find out! If this is the worse complaint then there is no issue really.

The Metal content is to the core, lots of great references and one-liner and very realistic portrayals of Metal people and the Metal way, as it were. I was secretly pleased that the protagonists found some divine inspiration after listening to a washed-up Christian Power Metal band at bar! None so true!

SINISTER SYNTHESIZER really wrapped the trilogy very nicely. It was logical, engaging, a bit gritty and didn’t stoop to trite plot devices to put everything into a nice little package with a bow on it. It was a fitting conclusion to a great story. Add the trilogy to your summer reading list today!