{Book Review} We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix-Metal Never Dies

In We Sold Our Souls, Grady Hendrix, fresh off of his major hit, Paperbacks from Hell, delivers a fantastic novel that is an ode to 80s paperbacks, and the golden age of metal music. If Grady’s other outings have been too tame for your liking, you’ll dig this new novel from him. This novel is as black as Bathory’s album, Blood Fire Death (one character even listens to the song “A Fine Day to Die” off of this album in the novel). What we get with We Sold Our Souls, is not only Grady’s best novel to date, we get a fantastic horror novel that’s bleaker than a winter in the woods of Norway, and dirtier than a crust punk’s basement hangout. It’s safe to say Grady was holding back with his other books, and this book feels like a whole new Version of the author, one that has put on corpsepaint and is ready to listen to Emperor from start to finish and will still crave more.

The plot for this novel is a Faustian tale of a man trying to achieve mainstream success at any possible cost. We’re introduced to Kris Pualski, in the start of the novel, she’s working the reception desk at a Best Western, and her life is horrible. In her prime, she played for a heavy metal band called Dürt Würk, who never became famous but had an okay following. One thing that haunts her is a night she can’t remember. She remembers it involved a contract, but she can’t remember anything else. She’s angry at her old singer Terry Hunt, who’s now a famous metal singer, while her and her ex-band mates are struggling and living horrible lives.  One day, she embarks on a quest to meet her old bandmates, and she ends up on a journey that takes the reader through an America that is obsessed with conspiracies, pills, and is full of paranoia. The things she learns will change her life, and the lives of those around her, forever.

Grady Hendrix knows his metal and knows his horror fiction. He knows how to ramp up the tension, and he knows how to make the reader squirm. This book will have the reader yelling at the pages and squirming in the fetal position. You have everything you need to make a classic metal horror novel, ex-band member who wants to know why the band failed, while the lead singer gained fame? Check. Paranoid ex-band member convinced people are out to get him. Check. The band member who wants nothing to do with what’s going on. Check. And, last but not least, the one band member who had the biggest problem with drugs and alcohol, but has now turned over a new leaf and is involved in some new age healing techniques. Check. You can’t forget the manager who is a metaphor for Lucifer, because, what Faustian novel wouldn’t be complete without a Lucifer character? None, that’s what.

With this being a Faustian novel, one has to pay attention to the theme. This is where this book is a departure compared to normal Faustian tales. If you look at Faust, and the many stories it’s inspired. It’s about a man who sold his soul for knowledge and power. He gains all the power and knowledge he craves, but at a cost. His own soul. Faust makes us think about selling your soul to the devil, and what it means to sell your soul. Well, We Sold Our Souls deals with that, the main theme of this novel is choice. This novel is about making choices, willing and unwilling. It’s about the effects those choices and decisions have on you and the surrounding people, and the consequences of making said choices. In this novel, we are introduced to the effects choices have, but we’re also introduced to music festivals full of commercial advertisements, and what we really give away when we sign a document.

Speaking of signing documents. The scariest scene in this novel isn’t the insane gore (there are some brutal scenes), or the bleak philosophy that Hendrix puts into the background which would make a perfect black metal album (Grady, if you read this, you need to make Troglodyte an actual album). The scariest scene involves signing a document. It doesn’t sound scary, but, once you get to the scene, there will be a chill running up your spine. Grady Hendrix tops any of the scenes in his previous novels; it’s his most tense, scariest, and most violent book to date. It’s one of the best metal horror novels published since the 1980s.

Speaking of philosophy, there is a bleak undertone of the hopelessness of our existence; this is where the book dips its toes in Thomas Ligotti and black metal territory. This part of the novel wasn’t as strong as it could have been. Mostly because the writing still has a tinge of optimism about it. This causes conflict with the pessimistic backdrop. This small issue hurts the text a little, but, nothing is perfect.

If you like metal, horror, corpsepaint, and hate nu metal, you will love this book. It’s a great time from cover to cover and is impossible to put down. Hendrix has told a masterful tale and continues to evolve as a writer. This is easily one of the best major releases of the year for horror (although the indies have been killing it), you owe it to yourself to put on some headphones, strum your guitar, pretend you’re a rock star and get lost in the story.

P.S. Dolly Parton rules.