Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Metal
By Jon Wiederhorn and Katherine Turman
718 pp., $32.50
The book with the “definitive” oral history of heavy metal is heavy. Heavy on research (the product of 400 interviews), heavy in pages, and heavy on guests (it has a foreword by Anthrax’s Scott Ian and a chapter by Judas Priest’s Rob Halford), and heavy on a particular aspect too often neglected by so-called “real” metalheads: the genre didn’t necessarily start with Black Sabbath. Heresy? Absolutely not. The authors let metal heroes speak (from Ozzy to Alice Cooper, Lemmy to Max Cavalera) and make a strong case for the all-inclusive approach: embracing the pre-Sabbath elements that helped develop their heavy sound doesn’t make you any less metal. Nothing wrong with going all the way back to the Kinks’ riff in “You Really Got Me,” or to accept blues-based bands like, say, Led Zeppelin, as legitimate members of the club. The non-sectarian look honors the roots and reinforces the value of the “real” heavies, and should be mandatory reading for metalheads or anyone slightly curious to understand a genre that refuses to die and still rocks.
The Merciless Book of Metal Lists
By Howie Abrams and Sacha Jenkins
208 pp., $18.95
Now, this is completely different from the tome above. This is a book you can read in one night and re-read a million times. In fast, hilarious, concise, and precise prose and reader-friendly design, this book recognizes Zep’s influence but really has no room for it, and everything starts with Sabbath. Def Leppard’s Pyromania is “a turd dropped from pop music’s ass,” and Slayer’s Dave Lombardo is the greatest metal drummer ever. But learn how take a joke, for Satan’s sake. This book shouldn’t offend anyone. It explores a more radical way of living and enjoying the multi-faceted metal reality. Best of all: the authors don’t give a shit what you think. “These are OUR truths. Agree. Disagree. Send us death threats. We couldn’t care less, because we’re certain that any REAL metalhead will agree with us.” A notorious near-absence in the book is explained in the “TEN REASONS DAVE MUSTAINE PROBABLY DECLINED TO PARTICIPATE ON THIS BOOK” list: “5 – ‘It’s hard to lie about yourself in someone else’s book.’” Ouch.