Tony McMillen’s latest novel, An Augmented Fourth, is a cosmic horror love letter to Birmingham’s finest heavy metal act, Black Sabbath. When the bass player from rock band Frivolous Black awakens to a vicious snow storm trapping him inside his hotel, things soon take a bizarre and cosmic twist as our ageing musician becomes locked in a fight for survival.
An Augmented Fourth rocks, and I had a really fun time reading this book. On one side the novel reads like an outtake of Spinal Tap as our fading rock star recalls his past endeavours with the Frivolous Black, whilst at the same time he tries to unravel the secrets of what is happening at the hotel and why? And of course, he is trying to stay alive! The future of Frivolous Black is up in the air a little; a new singer, the arrival of punk and the absence of some of the bands earlier magic all contribute to an overall feeling of the end being nigh for the once mighty metal act. This is one area in which I feel McMillen nails it. The uncertainty about the bands musical future, the band politics, the threat of punk rock stealing their fan base, it makes for great reading and feels really authentic.
Another highlight is the dialogue which is so often the downfall of many books, here it is great, dripping with dark humour and rock myth. The characters themselves are pretty stereotypical, though necessary I feel for the story. McMillen’s prose is smooth and easy-to-read and conversations between Codger and superfan John, in particular, is laugh-out-loud. Fans of Ozzy era Black Sabbath will make swift connections to Frivolous Black; form the band’s origins in Birmingham to the ominous album cover art on their debut album, McMillen doesn’t hide his love for the mighty metal behemoth that is Black Sabbath though there are references to other great rock/metal bands, too.
McMillen isn’t just about the rock, though. Readers will find more than enough cosmic horror for Lovecraft enthusiasts to piss their black pants with glee, and the vivid descriptions of these aberrations of the flesh are a joy to read. Whilst only a relatively short novel, An Augmented Fourth packs a hard rockin’ punch and is a really great story about the power of music. With its breakneck pacing, colourful characters and dreamy cosmic imagery, this is a fantastic horror trip and another winner from the mighty Word Horde.
5/5 power chords from the Grim Reader.
Pick up a copy from here.