As noted by lead singer and songwriter Aksel, Perkeros play avant-garde metal. Given that Aksel’s blown his entire student loan on instruments and other musical equipment and prioritises practicing for perfection above attending lectures, there’s no questioning his dedication, but for all that when it comes to performing he’s the weakest link. We join Perkeros at a chaotic gig, then look at Aksel’s home life where his girlfriend is about reaching the end of her tether with dreams she can no longer believe in.

If Finnish co-writers JP Ahonen and KP Alare haven’t actually had their own hopes of rock stardom while sacrificing reality, then they certainly know someone who has. Aksel is utterly convincing as a nice, but deluded guy wanting the impossible, but so concerned about every tiny little detail that the big picture eludes him. Because they carry the first half of the book, it’s important that the remainder of Perkeros is filled out with likeable personalities, including the nice surreal touch of an actual bear on drums. Ahonen knows his music beyond metal as well, including many little nods to other bands, half of which bassist Kervinen claims to have played with. Robert Johnson’s plaintive blues is especially well used.

The charm of Sing No Evil is amplified by Ahonen’s art, which is neat, character-rich cartooning for the most part, turning into something phenomenal when it comes to illustrations of music being played. It’s trivially used for gurning poses of Aksel playing on the left sample art, but also extraordinarily effectively bringing a performance to life as seen on the other page.

We gradually learn that despite supposedly craving success, Aksel has almost superstitious views of its requirements, which act as road blocks, and can’t share his own vision even when things go well. This is subtly signposted along the way. However, three quarters of the way through, what had been a high functioning story largely grounded in reality, surreal touches notwithstanding, takes a turn into a parody of an atrocity committed when a death metal singer put the shite he was spouting into practice. The groundwork has been laid, but as with Aksel’s single-mindedness, it was nuanced, and could be taken very differently. The swerve into literal horror changes the entire mood, and drops what had been a nice character-based elegy to the power of music into something more commonplace. It’s a shame.

For the most part Sing No Evil is charming and captivating, featuring people to believe in, and despite being let down by the ending there’s much to recommend it.