Heavy metal has always shared a close relationship with the horror genre. From metal grandaddy Black Sabbath’s very name (lifted from Mario Bava’s 1963 anthology film) to the occult aesthetics of black metal and the grisly imagery of death metal, this diverse sonic universe overlaps with horror in varying noteworthy ways. Indeed, I found my gateways into heavy music around the same time I discovered horror fiction and cinema, and it all seemed somehow connected. At twelve years old, I felt an indescribable link between the menacing vibes of AC/DC’s Highway to Hell (1979), the ominous cover art for Korn’s 1994 debut, the horrifying transformations in William Friedkin’s The Exorcist (1973) and the fiction of Stephen King (which often explicitly quotes from hard rock and heavy metal music). As I grew older, I explored these worlds of artistic expression more deeply, and I became fascinated with their shared emphases on extreme affect and sensory overload. I listened, watched, and read more widely. I discovered Robert Aickman and Shirley Jackson and Kathe Koja and Thomas Ligotti. I dove into Bathory and Repulsion and Dissection and Manilla Road. Like many other members of the past two or three generations, I became increasingly fascinated by the cultural moment of the Satanic Panic (which subjected both horror and heavy metal to equally hysterical scrutiny).
These obsessions are written all over Darkest Hours, implicitly and explicitly; when corresponding with artist Mikio Murakami about our visions for the expanded edition’s cover, I included album art for Bathory’s 1984 debut, Slayer’s Show No Mercy (1983), Mötley Crüe’s Shout at the Devil (1983), Onslaught’s Power from Hell (1985), and Mercyful Fate’s first two studio albums. The book is transparently steeped in specific traditions.
This playlist includes many of the key artists and songs that had an impact on the stories’ tones and aesthetic approaches. If you’re the sort of person who enjoys listening to music while reading, I recommend this compilation as a sonic accompaniment to Darkest Hours: Expanded Edition. CLICK HERE
Between the covers of Darkest Hours, you will find academics in distress; humans abusing monsters; demons terrorizing people; ghostly reminiscences; resurrected trauma; and occult filmmaking. Ranging from satirical to dreadful, these sixteen stories share a distinct voice: urgent, sardonic, and brutal.
This expanded edition includes a new foreword by Sadie Hartmann (Mother Horror) and author notes for every story describing Thorn’s process, influences, and more. This updated release also features seventeen of Thorn’s essays on horror cinema, which cover films by Tobe Hooper, George A. Romero, Rob Zombie, M. Night Shyamalan, Wes Craven, and Dario Argento, among others.
“Mike Thorn manages to find new and shocking ways to traumatize his readers, in the best sense. Even for a seasoned genre veteran, there are some truly scary and disturbing journeys to be taken in Darkest Hours. Mike is the real deal. A startlingly talented author with an imagination H. P. Lovecraft would have envied.”
– Jamie Blanks, director of Urban Legend and Valentine
“A collection of horror stories that are not only scary, but also intelligent, thoughtful, and carefully planned.”
“The element of surprise is a tribute to Thorn's ingenuity; the assuredness of his prose is due to his extensive knowledge of the horror genre. Perfectly paced from the first sentence, these stories grab you by the collar with the urgency of mortal danger. Highly recommended.”
– S.P. Miskowski, Bram Stoker Award-nominated author of Strange is the Night
“Mike Thorn is inescapable, and he understands that most terrifying variety of monsters, the hidden ones, the inner ones. They’re on display here. Savor the experience."
– Robert Dunbar, author of The Pines
“Mike Thorn is an author to watch. I think he’s going to do great things in the world of horror and dark fiction, and I for one, will be there to watch it. Will you?”
– Char’s Horror Corner