The Scream (1987) by John Skipp and Craig Spector

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All the 80s kids are going crazy about rock music and the band of the moment is The Scream, an enigmatic and openly diabolical outfit that nobody really knows nothing about. Their debut album soon becomes a soundtrack to murder and mayhem as the band’s hardcore fans, the Screamers, sort of zombies with their eyes gouged out, begin their slaughter-spree and suburban homes and concert venues become killing grounds. EEYAAOW! as them kids say.

Splatterpunk, which is basically a synonym for excess, was all the rage in the 80s and Skipp and Spector were the horror subgenre’s best examples. The Scream has a good base to it – rock music is the Devil’s music, after all – but as Manowar sang it, “all men play on ten”, and so do Skipp and Spector. Sometimes the results are admittedly nice, but often they feel cartoonish, because everything that can go over the limit inevitably does. Especially problematic is the finale at a stadium concert, with one fictional band led by Jacob Hamer going after the by-gum-they-are-truly-evil The Scream with guns and grenades and what not. Seeing as the final concert takes place after The Scream’s previous concert caused a massacre makes one wonder about the competence of the municipal authorities as well.

The subplot about the Christian right’s crusade against rock music is a sign of the times, as are the references to Vietnam. Everyone and their uncle seems to be a veteran, probably because First Blood part 2 came out in 1985 and they all suddenly remembered. Getting the music right is the hardest part of any book dealing with music and while The Scream doesn’t fumble it too badly it hasn’t aged too well either, mainly because the music that came after makes these fictional mid-80s bands pale in comparison. Sure, some of The Scream’s lyrics are clearly evil invocations (the Screamers would probably have their minds blown by Morbid Angel, whose debut LP came in 1989), but mostly the lyrics spell generic mid-80s hard rock.

The Scream would be a quick fun read if not for its slightly bloated length, with too many secondary (or tertiary) characters one barely even remembers by name. There’s simply too much filler here for an effective impact, and the impact is all one cares about in splatterpunk.

*** (3/5)