Codger Burton, bassist and lyricist for Frivolous Black, the heaviest heavy metal band to ever come out of the UK, awakens to find his hotel snowed in, his band mates evacuated, and monsters roaming the halls. Looks like Codger picked the wrong week to quit using cocaine. From the twisted mind of Tony McMillen comes the hilarious rock and roll horror of An Augmented Fourth, a novel of the Lord of Low End.
Horrifying and hilarious, this illustrated novel is for any fan of heavy metal. Ross Lockhart says, "Black Sabbath meets The Thing."
"Wildly entertaining … McMillen has a knack for dialogue."– Gabino Iglesias, LitReactor
"It would take a real virtuoso to properly blendThe Thing,The Mist, Black Sabbath, and Bowie into one rollicking, comical cosmic horror tribute to early metal and the dark beyond. Lucky for us, Tony McMillen has the chops to make this mutant beast fly on blessed black wings.An Augmented Fourthis a strange, sludgy, progged-out blast!"– Jeremy Robert Johnson, author of Skullcrack City and Entropy in Bloom
"Tony McMillen'sAn 1 Fourth(2017) is heavy metal rock and roll horror at its wailing-guitar best. Set in 1980, the point of transition from heavy metal to punk,An Augmented Fourthblends inter-dimensional eldritch horror, David-Cronenberg-movie grotesquerie, and psychedelia in a thrash-metal twenty-minute-guitar-solo of a story."– Marion Deeds, Fantasy Literature
1 Frivolous Black
December 12th, 1980, three days after some Yank shot John Lennon dead on the street in New York City like some unloved dog, and there I was, trapped, snowed in at a hotel in Boston certain that someone was coming to kill me next.
My name's Codger Burton. If you know me it's because I'm the bass player for the heavy metal band Frivolous Black. But you probably don't know me.
I'm the bass player.
I also wrote most of the band's lyrics but some fucker with a high-pitched voice got to sing them so he gets most the credit. I don't mind that. Most of the best things I ever wrote felt like they were written by somebody else anyways. Which makes it a bit weird to take much credit. If somebody asked me where'd I come up with the words to "Beyond This Sleepless Dream" or "Tetrahex" or any of the old stuff, I wouldn't know what to tell them. Except it's almost like they were given to me. Just waiting out there for someone, anyone, to grab them. Like somebody else would have written them eventually if I hadn't have been the one. But I was. That's the whole problem I suppose.
I don't know how long I was unconscious in my hotel room but when I came to the first thing I did was stumble-step to the window, part the blinds, and look out at the endless white swirling outside. The storm didn't notice me back. The whole city was covered in snow, the taller buildings looked like massive, gleaming white bone, newly cleaned and jutting out of the earth. I watched, silently mesmerized as more and more perfect white flakes fell down playfully all over the cold dead city.
Fuck me, this was going to be a shit time to try and kick cocaine.
We were touring behind our new record with our new frontman and trying to restart the band's career when I decided to restart myself and finally give up the coke and the drink and all (most) of the other assorted bullshit. I suppose all the rest wasn't a big enough challenge. Quitting cocaine isn't like kicking heroin, or so I've been told. You don't puke and thrash about or any of that, it's more like the biggest come down you've ever had, but Christ help you do you crave more coke. Quitting booze on the other hand, there was plenty of puking and shaking to go along with that. Feeling like my skin was falling off of my body in hot wet sheets one minute and then that stabbing deep cold that had me churning like a dead leaf in a breeze the next. Shit, I might as well have done the smack with the state I was in now. There's a song off our second album, the one everybody owns, about heroin addiction. I wrote it after all these Yank soldiers coming back from Vietnam started turning up at some of our early gigs in England. They had seen and done so many fucked things over there that they had all started shooting up to deal with it. There were practically piles of syringes covering the ground at some of the shows after everyone had left. Poor bastards, they were just trying to get away from their own private hell but instead ended up inviting it back straight into their veins. I could relate in a small way. I guess we all can.
My own hell wasn't so bad really, especially in comparison. It's hard to moan about being rich and famous and getting to do what I love for a living but of course I still manage. My own hell was called Frivolous Black and I had spent eleven years in it at that point. From back when we were a blues group called Soil 'til the day Vinnie came in to band practice with a new direction and a new kind of riff, saying maybe we should be playing "doomy tunes," right up until we sacked our frontman, Sully Sullivan, last year. I've been there for it all. And some of it has been good, very good. Heaven even. But of course that just makes the other side even worse. And if you're looking at your old LPs and wondering which one I am, of the three gentlemen with long hair and drooping moustaches standing with their arms folded behind our clean-shaven, oddly angelic looking lead singer, I'm the one with the bushiest hair and the second best moustache.
Now Frivolous were touring behind our new record with our new lead singer, a Yank, no moustache either (I don't think lead singers are allowed to have them for some reason) and we were almost done with this leg of the tour. Just one more gig here in Boston at the Boston Garden, then a nice big break for Christmas and New Year's so I could go back to Birmingham and maybe see my relations. Of course that last gig was supposed to be today, but the entire city was practically shut down due to the snowstorm from what the television said yesterday, so needless to say our concert was cancelled too. It pained me to give the parasite any credit at all, but when our road manager, Peter Dorsbry, got word of how shit the weather was suspected to turn in our area he had all of us switch hotels. 'Least that's what he told me on the phone when he called me five hours ago incredulous that I hadn't been swept up with the rest of the band, the roadies, our trusted dealers, birds and various other muckers and barnacles that had attached themselves to the great underbelly of the Frivolous organization over the last ten years, ever since the band trundled its way out of Birmingham.
"You're still there at the Hotel Alucinari? Codger, Jesus, man. You're snowed in, you know? Nobody can get to you until maybe tomorrow. You know I had your room searched? Nobody saw you, where were you hiding, might I ask?"
That conversation with Peter was before my moment at the window looking out at the white skeleton city. When I woke up later I thought I had left the window open it was so cold, which is why I walked up to it. But it was still sealed, which meant the heat had been turned off. I checked the phone and it was dead too. TV and lights the same. They had shut the power off after they evacuated the building, or maybe the storm had knocked it out. I didn't even have a watch to tell what bloody time it was. Brilliant. Luckily I had an even worse problem to occupy my mind: The absolute center of my head felt like it was caving in at that moment. I remember getting sick and going to the toilet before finally passing out again.
When I woke up, I was in the closest for some reason, not laying down on the floor but standing straight up like a vampire's prick in his crypt. I didn't know how much time had passed, but sunlight was still creeping in through the window so it couldn't have been too long. I was getting the shakes pretty bad at this point and I just wanted to find somewhere dark and quiet. So I went to the toilet where I could return to being sick. I always had a fragile stomach. Sully used to stand over me while I let it loose and clap his hands and laugh. He'd call it my "solo project." Bastard. His actual solo project was going along swimmingly, that first single with his new guitar player, fucking bostin'. Even though that fucker was a Yank, Christ An Augmented Fourth 5 could he could play… When I closed my eyes it felt like my brain was swelling up against the inside of my skull like some hot air balloon made of meat. The fucking drink. I had been hitting it too hard for years, I knew that, but we had all been hitting it hard. Why did I choose now to try and kick it along with the coke? I was setting myself up to fail all over again. I had gotten sober for five months a year ago when we fired Sully. It didn't feel right throwing him out of the band for being a coked out alcoholic loon when the rest of us were also coked out alcoholic loons. So I quit drinking and the coke then, just to be sanctimonious, which was the second time I tried to quit and the first time it stuck. Well, stuck for five months. It had been bad then, really bad. But now was worse. No matter how many times I think I've turned my back on the church, when I'm puking, I'm a believer. No one's an atheist when they're hungover. Hell, when you're trying to kick you might as well be born again. Believe me.
I think I may have been getting the DTs then, because in the bathroom on my knees, face hovering above the toilet bowl full of my own sick, looking perversely like I worshiped the filth that my body produced, I kept thinking I could see something black swarming in the corners of my eyes. Some flickering, weird, unexpected crackle like when you opened a sugar jar only to find a vortex of shiny black ants crisscrossing in and out of the white granulated dust…
Christ, I needed some coke. I thought, maybe I should just quit the drink but keep the coke for a bit. Maybe just 'til I'm off the bottle…
I waited for about ten minutes and when I didn't puke again I got slowly to my feet.
This was day two off any shit and I knew it could get bad again but I also got the sense that a relief period was coming. I went to the mirror out of habit but avoided looking at myself in the eye like it was a divine mandate. Of course curiosity got the better of me, like it usually did, and I gave myself a quick appraisal: My eyes looked like an empty auditorium. The skin on my face was taut and greasy and there were bruised, almost green circles forming around my eyes. On top of that, even my moustache looked shit. Maybe I always looked this bad and now I was just sober enough to see it. Then that black flicker again off to the sides of my vision, dark tiny tadpoles dancing in my peripheral. I had the distinct sensation of the gnarled tips of black tree branches curling around my head then receding swiftly from my view. I turned around stupidly to investigate and of course there was nothing. Fucking DTs. I needed something to do before I started seeing little green men coming out of the upholstery. So after procuring a pair of pants from my luggage and putting on my complimentary bathrobe, I left my room in hopes of finding something, anything, to get my mind off of things. Before I left the room I looked back at the window, watched the storm for a bit more, the snow corkscrewing through the air this way and that. Everything inside the room with me then was still and quiet and the only sound in the whole world was the long sustained howl of the wind outside.