The Brainpan Concerto
Sideshow Press, 2011
Review by Matthew Tait
Although largely unfamiliar with the works of Kurt Newton, I could not let a title like ‘The Brainpan Concerto’ slip away into the ether without putting it under the microscope. This is the sort of quick, no frills paperback horror that aims straight for an aficionado’s jugular. It even came equipped with a humorous letter from a Shock Totem editor detailing how the book came into possession … and that what I held in my hands was somewhat of a collector’s item.
A quiet corner of Connecticut and bodies are suddenly turning up in a condition that would be almost comical if it wasn’t so deviant: corpses of both sexes are being discovered with the upper portions of their skulls removed and strange electrodes jutting from their grey matter. Local homicide detective Saul Spencer and his partner Gwen Martel are assigned to the case – and right off the bat it becomes apparent they are dealing with a serial killer who is of no ordinary ilk. For it seems there is an underlying structure to the crimes … that whomever carried out such careful and deliberate torture has a loftier purpose than mere slaughter for the sake of it.
Cody Miller is a typical teenage music-nut. Often spending hours online looking for the next mind-blowing illegal download, his musical tastes suddenly dovetail into darker regions when he discovers a form of strange ambient music hitherto heard before. Deciding to add his own organic bass textures to the mix, his next course of action is to track down the anonymous user who created the tracks. When he discovers the artist living only a short distance from his home he takes a trip that might very well be his last.
The Brainpan Concerto is my first excursion into Kurt’s world, but it certainly won’t be my last. This is intelligent, gutsy writing full of simple and elegant prose. The horror is more than disquieting – it takes on a rough physical edge that is frequently reminiscent of a celluloid outing by Eli Roth. Plot lines converge in a razor-sharp climax that shows the marksmanship of a solid writer who has put in the hard yards over many horror deviations. Also provided is a smattering of internal illustrations by Tom Moran that give this hellish tour a pulp-fiction feel similar to the EC comics of old.
The Brainpan Concerto is available from Sideshow Press in a limited edition hardcover.