I think we all know what a huge fan I am of Karina Halle and her Experiment in Terror series, so I was pretty excited when she asked me if I wanted to check out The Devil’s Metal, the first book in a new series. Okay, I’ll admit it, my first thought was “hey, why aren’t you busy at work on the next Perry and Dex novel? Don’t you know I’m waiting for it?” I did wonder for a moment if she could manage to pull me into another storyline as well as she did with those books. Now I feel guilty for doubting her! In The Devil’s Metal, Halle definitely proves she’s not a one hit series wonder (one series hit wonder?)!
The Devil’s Metal takes place in the summer of 1974, when metal was just starting to emerge as a new music genre and experimental music was at the height of its popularity. At the center of the plot lies Hybrid, an up-and-coming metal band that gives new meaning to the term “sold my soul for rock and roll.” Dawn Emerson, a 21-year-old aspiring music journalist, gets the chance of a lifetime when Creem magazine commissions her to write a piece on the band at the request of the Hybrid’s manager, Jacob. She joins the tour as an awe-struck fan hoping to launch her career with a legendary piece of music journalism, but soon finds out that she really should have been more careful what she wished for.
Weird things start to happen on the tour, and most of it is centered around the disturbing groupies that seem obsessed with Sage Knightly, the lead guitarist and star of Hybrid. Forget about the dangers of too much sex and drugs in rock and roll, Hybrid has much scarier things to worry about…like the fate of their souls.
Speaking of sex and drugs- yes, both are present in The Devil’s Metal. Karina’s books are not for the easily offended, which is one of the reasons I love them so much and respect Karina so highly. She doesn’t censor herself for the sake of appealing to the masses. Her tales are gritty, raw, and very real. The sex scenes are intense and steamy- they type that would make you blush if your mom came in the room while watching them on television. However, Halle uses them expertly to both advance the story and satisfy readers who are ready to explode from a buildup of sexual tension between characters.
Amazingly Sculpted Characters: A Halle Trademark
Character development is one of the most important aspects of any book, and Halle can write circles around even the most well-known authors when it comes to that. Her characters are the type of people I would want to hang out with. In The Devil’s Metal, Dawn is strong, opinionated, and courageous. At the same time, though, she has weaknesses that make her more human. She worries a lot about everyone else, especially her dad and brother. Rather than saying “yes” to the tour right off the bat, she has to check with several people to make sure they’ll be okay while she’s gone. While caring for others isn’t exactly a flaw, caring to the point of giving up your own dream and happiness is.
Halle had her work cut out for her in this novel because there are so many characters that needed to be fleshed out. Between the band, the manager, the roadies, the nasty groupies, and Dawn’s friend and family, it could have been easy for character development to lack. Amazingly, every single character, right down to a random groupie, came across as very real and genuine.
A real backstage experience
In addition to being a brilliant novelist, Karina Halle is also a music journalist. In The Devil’s Metal, she puts that experience to good use by giving readers a true look at what goes on side-stage, backstage, and on the tour bus. Through her words, you really feel like you’re standing off to the side of a concert, seeing the band perform through the eyes of someone who truly knows her stuff. In 1974, music journalism was still very much a man’s world, with women just struggling to be taken seriously.
If you liked the Experiment in Terror novels, you’ll love The Devil’s Metal. With that series coming to a close, it’s good to know that Halle isn’t going to vanish into the ether after the last book. I have a feeling she’ll remain at the top of my “must read” authors for a very long time.