REVIEW: We Sold Our Souls, Grady Hendrix

Friday, 11 January 2019

In the 1990s, heavy metal band Dürt Würk was poised for breakout success -- but then lead singer Terry Hunt embarked on a solo career and rocketed to stardom as Koffin, leaving his fellow bandmates to rot in rural Pennsylvania. Two decades later, former guitarist Kris Pulaski works as the night manager of a Best Western - she's tired, broke, and unhappy. Everything changes when she discovers a shocking secret from her heavy metal past: Turns out that Terry's meteoric rise to success may have come at the price of Kris's very soul. This revelation prompts Kris to hit the road, reunite with the rest of her bandmates, and confront the man who ruined her life. It's a journey that will take her from the Pennsylvania rust belt to a Satanic rehab center and finally to a Las Vegas music festival that's darker than any Mordor Tolkien could imagine. A furious power ballad about never giving up, even in the face of overwhelming odds, We Sold Our Souls is an epic journey into the heart of a conspiracy-crazed, paranoid country that seems to have lost its very soul...where only a girl with a guitar can save us all.

At its very core, We Sold Our Souls reads like a love song to metalheads and music lovers everywhere. I didn’t grow up listening to metal, I was metal-adjacent; buying the same music magazines and hanging out in the same clubs, but heading to the bar whenever the songs got too heavy for my delicate constitution.
But, for a long time in my life (maybe not so much anymore, or maybe it is still there and just lurking in the recesses of my mind), music was one of the most important things in my life. It was my guiding light, my home, the only place for a long time, that I found acceptance. And, no matter what kind of music plays that role for you, We Sold Our Souls taps into that love that, I suppose, at one point in our lives, nearly everyone has experienced.
Therefore, I don’t think you necessarily need to like metal to appreciate this book, to see yourself within its pages. Although, let’s be honest, to understand the plethora of bloody hilarious pop culture references, it probably helps.
It is a horror novel that becomes all the more powerful by tapping into that fervour, that obsession. It uses it to heighten the action, grounds the devilish story in a weird sort of distant but familiar environment of the gig scene. One that, even in real life, is characterised by excess, and emotion, and extremes; and makes the idea of soul sacrifice all the more plausible. I don’t think the song lyrics worked as well as they could have, but the entirety of the world-building and the grounding of them in the shitty-band scene that we all know and love, really worked in Grady Hendrix’s favour, to make them less of a problem than they probably would have been otherwise.
Altogether, We Sold Our Souls was like no horror novel I have ever experienced and I know, I will be considering for a long time which of the rock gods that we know and love or loathe, followed in Terry Hunt’s footsteps and made the same deal.
My vote would be for Jared Leto. I mean, that dude has it all. It is just not possible without some kind of devilish intervention.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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