The Armageddon Chord is a crazy over-the-top romp of good versus evil and is exploding with little music Easter eggs for fans who know where to look. The story switches back and forth between the protagonist, Kirk 'God of Guitar' Vaisto, compared to real-life guitarist Michel Angelo in the novel, a clean metal guitarist who never really fit into the band that made him rich and famous, and the antagonists Helmut Hartkopff (metal reference!) and Festus Baustone. Hartkopff is straight out of Indiana Jones and I liken Baustone to an evil mastermind from a James Bond movie. Crazy, yes, but it works. The antagonists' motivations are explained and it makes sense how events pull both sides together. Wagner does a great job of weaving in secondary characters to assist in fleshing out Vaisto and Baustone. I was pleasantly surprised with the character Mona and I enjoyed her scenes with Vaisto after her introduction through another character (not to be spoiled). My only real complaint character-wise is the Priest could have been more developed. I thought he came out of nowhere and I would have liked to know more.
Wagner fills the pages of The Armageddon Chord with his knowledge and experience as a musician. From Vaisto's guitar playing to scenes in the studio to industry details, it's obvious Wagner poured his passions into the novel. And the chapter titles--Dream Evil, The Cabal, Nocturnal Emissions, Diabolus in Musica, Metal Heart, etc.--all metal music references that were fun to find and that I could tell Wagner had fun slipping in.
I had no idea what I was getting into with The Armageddon Chord but it was a lot of fun. At times it felt like the story struggled balancing its over-the-top nature with serious tones; the strong religious themes near the end didn't fit with the characters as well as I'd like them to but overall it was a great read. And the pace of the final act is just awesome. I'm looking forward to Wagner's next book. Check out The Armageddon Chord!
Recommended: 8/10 (10/10 for metal music fans)
Next up: Epitaphs: The Journal of the New England Horror Writers edited by Tracy L. Carbone.