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Berelian, Essi
The Rough Guide To Heavy Metal (Book Review)
December 2011
Released: 2005, Penguin Books
Rating: 2.5/5
Reviewer: JP

First published in 2005, THE ROUGH GUIDE TO HEAVY METAL is one of many, many books providing an encyclopedia style look at our beloved genre. Featuring a picture on the cover of Ozzy looking his craziest, this slightly oversized paperback is a new looking book. At 410 this book has lots of features, it’s nicely laid-out, easy to read with red highlights and accents. There are dozens of black and white photos, an introduction from the author and a foreward from Bruce Dickinson and an index. The bulk of the book is an alphabetical list of bands each given a brief write up and one or two album recommendations.

The actual content encapsulates bands from 1970 to the modern era and examines all genres and sub-genres. The roughly 230 bands in the book represents less than 0.33% of the total bands in existence past and present. Accordingly the author was wise to name his book the ‘Rough Guide’. There are too many books about Metal that claim to be ‘Definitive’ or ‘Ultimate’, when in reality they are not even close due to the vast number of bands in the realm of Metal. Actually, the Rough Guides are a series of book published in England, other titles include Rock and Hip-Hop for example, so this book is more of an overview of Metal.

In terms of choices for inclusion the author states in his introduction he was very broad and inclusive when deciding what to write about. Berelian states, ‘The idea behind this book is to detail the stages and history of Metal in all it’s flavours and guises; thus you will find Bon Jovi cuddling up to industrial deathsters The Beserker; Nirvana duking it out with grindcore veterans Napalm Death; and Thin Lizzy sharing the bill with abrasive art-metallers Tool; there is even a nod or two to the most recent garage-flavoured sounds.” (p. iv)

Therein lies my main complaint about the book, I’ve never appreciated an inclusive analysis in my Metal literature. I’m more of a purist. There is so much real Metal that deserves consideration, why bog down the book with non-Metal crap? There are tons of Alt. Metal, Nu-Metal, Mallcore, Punk, Pop and Grunge bands at the expense of real Metal bands. I’d suggest that Silverchair, Creed, Korn, Nirvana, Nickelback, Smashing Pumpkins and Limp Bizkit, really didn’t need to be in this book. There are at least 50 bands in this book about (20%) that aren’t really ‘Metal’.

As with many British books there is a Commonwealth-centric overview and an examination of the global Metal scene goes left untouched. There are many, many small-scale British/Australian/New-Zealand bands of non-Metal lineage such as In Me, The Vines, The Datsuns, Bush, The Casanovas and D4, that could have been dumped for a number of far more important, influential Metal bands from around the world. The author leans towards covering bands that would specifically appeal to British readers; bands such as Thunder, The Wildhearts, Little Angels, Quireboys, Terrorvision and several others that never really made an impact off the island. Even the British joke band/comedy act Bad News gets an entry!

There is virtually no Metal representation of Japan, Australia, Central America, South America, Asia and large chunks of Europe! There are only five entries from Germany, (Accept, Scorpions, Helloween, Kreator and Michael Schenker) arguably one of the most Metal nations on the planet! Not much from Italy, Finland, Spain, Holland, Russia…I would have liked a more international perspective.

In terms of which Metal bands are covered, the author is insightful and provides a very interesting and often humorous overview of each band. Each photo of a band or performer has a comedy caption as well. Another interesting feature are the 40 ‘Feature boxes’. Each of these side-bars covers a Metal related topic with a enthusiastic and humorous analysis. Some of these include, ‘Metal Movies’, ‘Bizarre Cover Versions’ and ‘Drummer Jokes’.

THE ROUGH GUIDE TO METAL is just that. The title lives up to it’s promise. It’s is decent introduction to causal fans, new-comers to the genre, with the potential pitfall of a revisionist slant categorizing a bunch of non-Metal bands as Metal. It’s amusing at times and well done, covers the bare minimum with style and flair.
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