Book Review: Corpsepaint by David Peak

“Bleak is a word used to describe so many releases within the horror and dark fiction worlds… With Corpsepaint, David Peak seeks to raise the bar in the reader’s understanding of what bleak really means.”

 

Bleak is a word used to describe so many releases within the horror and dark fiction worlds. Whether it be derived from flawed characters, a world in turmoil or the dread brought about by the inevitability of a grisly end for a sympathetic protagonist. With Corpsepaint, David Peak seeks to raise the bar in the reader’s understanding of what bleak really means.

The novel opens with a scene of what we learn is utterly meaningless, wanton violence. Violence for no cause other than the brokenness of Max, the black metal musician and mastermind of Angelus Mortis, the trailblazing band that brought ‘true’ black metal to the United States way back when.

Since those heady days, Max has lost his way; his early albums achieving cult status while his more recent work is largely unappreciated. In a bid to revive his former glory, his label have fixed him up with Roland, a towering young drummer of prodigious ability. Roland too, though, is a man devouring himself within, dripping with self-doubt, convinced he is a fraud.

The two embark on their trip from the USA towards Ukraine, where they will meet and record a new Angelus Mortis album with the infamous members of Wisdom of Silenus in their rural compound.

The world created by Peak in this novel is utterly believable, every step of the way. The characterisation of Max, at first seemingly a man who has lost even the frayed edges of his sanity, builds over the course of the book. His frailties explaining themselves through flashbacks to life experience and through the constant searching to regain the highs of his early career. The same is true of all the characters. No matter how simplistic—even stereotypical—they may at first seem, Peak paints them in full colour, bringing them to complex life.

The life of the band on the road, hurtling from one night of excess to the next, is believable and will be familiar to anyone who has been involved in music, even if in Corpsepaint the excesses are ratcheted up to eleven. When the cosmic horror elements, for which David Peak is famed, begin to creep into the narrative, it is never jarring. It simply knits neatly into the nihilism that seeps from every pore of the story, setting up a finale that is compelling, shocking and believable.

KEV HARRISON

 

Publisher: Word Horde
Paperback (240pp)
Release Date: 30 April 2018

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