Abrams, Howie & Jenkins, Sacha
The Merciless Book Of Metal Lists (Book Review)
Released: 2013, Abrams Image
Metal lists...is there anything cooler? I think not!
The book itself is really nice looking. It is a smaller coffee table book that is 208 pages long with a nice intro by Kerry King. Perhaps even more impressive is a long afterword by Phil Anselmo. I really liked Phil’s essay and despite never being a huge fan of him or his bands, I really gained a new level of respect for him as he discusses his passion for Metal is the lengthy, five page tribute to Metal. The layout and design of the book are really gorgeous. It’s all full colour and loaded with good visuals. There are tons of photos, many of them with a comedic slant that have really nothing to do with Metal at all, but are still funny. For example, in the section about ‘The Big Four’, the chapter is preceded by a picture of four, naked, fat chicks. Big four indeed! On the page with the list of Heavy Metal vocal duets there is a picture of a Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich. Get it? I really enjoyed the loose, sloppy and yet clever sense of humour employed by Abrams and Jenkins. Other design points are hard to describe in print but they did a fantastic job, the book looks big and bold and bright, lots of white-space, the whole book is very visually appealing. That makes up for the fact that there are really only about 80 lists and many of them joke ‘lists’ that aren’t even lists at all, such as the list on pages 46 and 47 titled, ‘The Very BEST Qualities About Metallica’s Load and Reload Albums’…featuring…two blank pages! The book is largely free of mistakes but there are a few minor errors for the keen eyed and knowledgeable Metal fan.
The lists are fun and funny. I love the lists of unreadable black metal logos, comments from Lemmy’s warts, the lists about taking shots at hipsters and Metal fashions. The authors also have a whole pile of guests contribute lists. People like Danny Lilker, Monte Conner, Max Cavalera, Gary Holt, Richard Christie, Brian Slagel, Scott Ian, Betsy and a handful more. One clever move was that the authors named some of their lists ‘Some Of The Best’…not the more definitive ‘The Best’ (insert topic here, albums, songs, drummers etc). By adding the qualifying term, ‘some of’, Abrams and Jenkins deftly avoided the inevitable deluge or hate-mail (or e-mail / internet tirades) after they offended some Metal dude by suggesting that they themselves are the authority and by leaving out someone’s favourite band. The authors explain this, that they think these lists are the best, they admit you might not like their lists but too bad! (see p. 15) The lists cover a wide variety of topics bands, artists, album covers, logos, industry stuff, movies, web-sites, personalities, books, and a few (rather harsh) digs at Dave Mustaine and Ozzy Osbourne.
I do have some criticism. I must admit some of the lists really weren’t all that creative. For example, ‘10 Metal Bands With ‘Death’ in their names’ or ’15 Bands that Changed Their Names’ really didn’t take much effort other than a quick internet search. Any Metal fan could pull those lists out of a hat in 15 seconds or less. Fortunately, many of the lists are very creative and funny. It’s a 35-65 split with the 35% of the lists being not all that inspired.
Next, the authors are certainly stuck in 70’s and 80’s. The vast majority of bands mentioned and events described/listed are all older, classic bands. There is the occasional modern reference but most of the lists are derived of info from bands like Metallica, Slayer, Pantera, Exodus, Anthrax, Maiden, Priest etc. Why not include some new, young bands? Probably the most recent reference was slinging an insult at an U.D.O. video from 2011 and even he is a ‘heritage’ artist. The authors run the risk of alienating a younger audience. Do younger Metal fans in South America really care that American journalist Eddie Trunk thinks UFO is awesome? I doubt it. But of course, they probably will never read this book either so I suppose the authors have to tailor their book to their audience, namely, mainstream Metal fans in America.
Lastly, it would have been nice to have a bit more of an international flavour. For example, the list of ex-MTV ‘Headbanger’s Ball’ hosts while interesting has no meaning from anyone outside the US who has never seen the television show. Same with the aforementioned Eddie Trunk list. Abrams and Jenkins go on and on about the Big Four of American Thrash but totally blow off the ‘Big Four’ of German Thrash (Tankard, Destruction, Kreator, Sodom) let alone the ‘Big Four’ of Finnish Folk-Metal (Korpiklanni, Moonsorrow, Finntroll and Ensiferum) or the ‘Big Four’ of Swedish Death (Entombed, Dismember, Unleashed and Grave) or the ‘Big Four of Female fronted Dutch, symphonic, progressive Metal bands (After Forever, Epica, The Gathering, Within Temptation) or the Big Four of Australian Power Metal bands (Illium, Dungeon, Black Majesty and Pegazus)… well…you get the idea. I’d say the vast majority of the bands in the book are the mainstream, American Metal bands. Pretty much all of the guest contributors are American as well. Don’t tell me Max is Brazilian, he moved to Arizona over 20 years ago as soon as he had the chance to get out of the slum, and Raven’s Gallagher has lived in the US for years. To summarize the few negatives, the areas that could have used improvement, the authors could have looked outside the box, stretched out to the global metal community, and kept it a bit more fresh instead of just of just doing uninspired lists about American titans Metallica and Slayer.
I really enjoy these kind of ‘list’ books about Metal, because they are so much fun to read. The positives of THE MERCILESS BOOK OF METAL LISTS far, far outweigh the bad. I liked this one more than Danville’s book of lists from 2009. I mean, the lists found here are so creative and so clearly subjective that they can only be taken as entertainment value. It would be pointless to criticize the lists about this topic or that subject, because in the end it is all Metal and we all love what we love and hate what we hate. Despite it’s few flaws, THE MERCILESS BOOK OF METAL LISTS is a helluva good time and it should stand tall on your bookcase.