Sonic Hell

After four years in Hollywood, that town where all dreams came to die, the entity known to the authorities as Maxwell Shelderson the Third and to the general public as Max Shell had to admit it – life was usually pretty fucking good. Or it was until his engineer quit this morning.

Right when it was going great, right when his hot new find Satyriasis were grooving with a titanic monster of an album, the idiot engineer had to quit. Tinnitus. It always brought those humans down in the end.

Max had made his reputation in a little more than record time, literally and figuratively. On arriving in Hollywood four years ago on the specific orders of his mistress, it took him no time at all to discover that the movie business wasn’t quite his cup of tea. For one thing, they worked you to the bone, and he had much better uses for his.

Once upon a time, when hair bands were the next big thing and all the noise on the Strip, aspiring deadbeats in bandanas had made Cambion Studios the place for wannabe rock stars to record their demos in the hopes of multimillion dollar record deals.

A few bands succeeded, going on to fame and fortune before the drugs, the decadence, Machiavellian record contracts and VH1 TV specials did them in, but by then, Cambion had a reputation for being the place any self-respecting metal band began their illustrious careers.

That was over twenty years ago. Since the original owner was forced to sell off Cambion to pay the legal fees for a coke bust, Cambion slowly but surely slid into a state of metal fatigue. As the world moved on and bands went to other, better-equipped studios, a series of fly-by-night owners and the general decline of the music industry reduced it to a fifth-rate studio complex waiting for a wrecking ball to happen.

That was the day Max walked in the door, pretended to work there, and took about five minutes to figure out the layout, the logistics and his own battle plans for domination.

Two weeks later, no one dreamed of questioning his right to be there, just as no one ever wondered whether he had anything to do with the owner’s missing torso and later the head that emerged in the Chiquita Canyon landfill. It was only identified thanks to an enterprising forensic officer and a ten-year-old charge for DWI.

That just meant the bank knocked off sixty percent of the asking price when Max showed up with a checkbook to buy the studios.

Six months, a state-of-the-art renovation, an expensive PR makeover and two new releases later, Cambion Studios was an instant sensation. Metal bands came running to be reinvented by Max Shell, producer extraordinaire, for he could do what everyone said they wanted and everyone else got so horribly wrong – he could create a veritable sonic Hell on Earth. Not the Hell of limited human imagining and misguided metalheads but Hell as it once truly was, with its unearthly, inciting mix of mayhem and madness, metal and opera, music and emotion.

So they came, those boys and young men who thought rock’n’roll was a better option than working for a living, they came with all their own visions of what they wanted to say, what they wanted to do with their music, and if they were unsure of what directions to take or what options to choose, Max took great pains to teach them. To be fair, he had an edge or two on the competition.

He was the last remaining incubus on Earth. He was taught by his mistress to hide his tracks well, to be infinitely discreet and not to give himself away too much, but humans were so vulnerable, and women were so curious. In the course of four years, more than one young woman was found dead after what the LAPD coroner determined had been a night to remember, and that last, fatal night of their lives always belonged to Max.

What could he do? He had to feed. Those girls who came to the studios and hung around, hoping for a way out just as much as those hungry bands in his studios, girls with starving, khol-rimmed eyes and fishnet legs, girls with black talons and black talents, girls who begged to be abused didn’t take too long to discover that Max, with his Maserati and his money and his tall, inhumanly perfect self, with his prerequisite, long back hair and piercing blue eyes, was a much better deal than the dirty unwashed dudes who just wanted to screw their guitars.

Meanwhile, he needed an engineer, and a break, and to go home to the house in the Hollywood Hills that kept his own filthy little secret, a secret none of the music journalists who interviewed him ever knew.

A very human, very pregnant secret named Abbie.

Original image by Joe Chiodo

With special thanks to Tiger Powers.

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