THE FINAL RECONCILIATION by Todd Keisling (Crystal Lake Publishing, release date February 03, 2017. Digital only formats)
Author Todd Keisling has created a horrific composition in THE FINAL RECONCILIATION, combining heavy metal music and horror mythos for a compelling configuration of a novella. It’s a quick-paced and captivating read that craftily builds tension right up to the final bloodbath.
A progressive metal band from Southeastern Kentucky parlays a successful EP release into a two-record contract with a major music label. Outside forces, in the guise of an entrancing ethereal groupie, exert a subliminal influence on the creation of their first (and final) album. Their new music has the ability to effect a trance-like state among both performers and audience, and opens a doorway into an otherworldly realm. These events are foreshadowed early in the novella, and will come as no surprise to readers. Still, the final resolution is even more intense due to the power of the narrative and the suggestions that have been introduced along the way.
Keisling’s primary characters, the four members of the rock band The Yellow Kings, are convincing and realistic. In a question and answer video on You Tube, Keisling reveals that he is not a musician and does not have a background in rock music, aside from being a listener and fan. He acknowledged being influenced by the music of Opeth, Alice In Chains, and Tool in imagining the sound of The Yellow Kings. His characters are fully realized. Knowledgable music fans and readers will easily empathize with them, especially lead guitarist Aiden Cross, who serves as narrator of the story.
The novella is preceded by liner notes from The Yellow King’s unreleased album, The Final Reconciliation. Chapter titles correspond to the Track Listings of the album. The fourth chapter, entitled Track 4: The Usurper’s Ascent, also represents the point at which listeners of the sole live performance of the album begin to fall under the supernatural influence of the music.
Just before The Yellow Kings sign a major contract, lead singer and rhythm guitarist Johnny Leifthauser meets an alluring gypsy vixen and falls under her spell. The other band members are introduced to Camilla Bierce, who soon becomes their groupie and accompanies them to Los Angeles. During a night of drunken exotic debauchery at Camilla’s loft, she seduces all the band members and influences the future direction of their music. Her loft houses an otherworldly collection of art, artifacts and other supernatural curios, none more disturbing than the life-size statue of Hastur, a misshapen Elder God.
The story begins thirty years after the final appearance of The Yellow Kings. A news reporter arrives at a nursing home where lead guitarist Aiden Cross, the sole surviving member, tells for the first time of the events that led up to the studio recordings which culminated in the fatal concert.
Keisling was inspired by The King In Yellow, an 1895 story collection by Robert W. Chambers that also influenced the writing of H. P. Lovecraft. He pulls elements and themes from Chambers’ work, especially The Yellow Sign short story, and weaves them into THE FINAL RECONCILIATION. All the stories in Chambers’ collection include references to The King In Yellow, a play in book form which induces madness in those who read it.
Keisling takes many of Chambers’ concepts, including the mysterious city of Carcosa, the Yellow Sign, strange hooded figures on an eerie shore, and modifies and enhances them for even greater effect. The hooded figures hide behind pale whitened masks, under which coffin worms thrive. The description of Hyades, now a music club, the inhabitants of Carcosa, and the acolytes of Hastur are visualized in good and grisly detail. Camilla, Keisling’s deceitful muse, is named after a character in Chambers’ dangerous play.
Author Keisling also manages to include the scenes of sexuality and bloody, brutal violence through suggestion and summary rather than elaborate graphic descriptions. Yet, they will still remain vivid in the readers’ minds due to his narrative skills.
It’s an impressive story, and is scheduled to be included in a forthcoming anthology from Crystal Lake Publishing.
DISCLOSURE: A digital copy of this novella was provided by the publisher, with the hope of an honest and unbiased review.