The Final Reconciliation by Todd Keisling
Crystal Lake Publishing, 2017
Available: Kindle edition, Audible
After thirty long years of silence, Aidan Cross, physically and mentally scarred, is finally granting an interview. He wants to open up about his time with his heavy metal band, The Yellow Kings. Aidan reveals an impossible account of music, the occult, and death with his story about The Yellow Kings’ unreleased album, “The Final Reconciliation”, which led to their live concert resulting in a bloodbath.
After The Yellow Kings sign a record deal and embark on a successful tour, they meet Carmilla Bierce after an intense concert in Texas, and ask her to join them. The lead singer, Johnny, becomes increasingly entranced with this new addition to their tour bus. She convinces them to take her along to Dim Carcosa, her pet name for Los Angeles. Carmilla quickly takes control: her influence over the band comes swift and heavy. Aidan suspects something is wrong, but when he tries to communicate his worry to his friends, they either don’t listen or she is in the way.
The way the new album is being recorded is troubling to Aidan. Carmilla does not permit the band to play more than a small selection of songs at a time, and the recording studio has been set up in a ritualistic way by Carmilla herself. Then dreams come, of otherworldly robed creatures with their faces hidden behind masks– visions of true Carcosa, all with the same message: “Take off your mask.” Carmilla also orchestrates The Yellow Kings’ final reconciliation, the concert to end all concerts, at least for The Yellow Kings and their fans. Masks for everyone, ritual robes and medallions for The Yellow Kings, and patterns for the band to follow, musically and physically, all add up to a bloody evening.
There is much to like about this novella, especially if you are a fan of horror and metal. The writing keeps a fast pace and engages the reader at every twist and turn. The characters are memorable, particularly Aidan and Camilla. Aidan is clearly struggling with past events, and wants to finally tell his story. When he discovers the reason behind the journalist wanting the interview, Aidan’s reaction is what is to be expected given the way he told his story. I remain conflicted about Carmilla. There is a line in the novella comparing her to Yoko Ono or Courtney Love, which made me wholly suspicious not of her, but of Aidan. Women are often blamed solely for the downfall of something, like a musical group, without blame being leveled at their male counterparts. For this comparison to be assigned to Carmilla immediately made me question Aidan’s motivations. Also, since we are only hearing Aidan’s side of the story, how much of his story is reliable? Several questions remain, but one thing is clear. Nothing is as it seems in the world of Carcosa. Recommended.
Contains: brief sex, brief body horror, some gore, lots of reference to amazing metal bands (I’m looking at you, Mastodon).
Reviewed by Lizzy Walker