Heavy Metal Thunder (Book Review)
Released: 1985, Sarah Lazin (Doubleday)
HEAVY METAL THUNDER stands as one of the very first books being published about Heavy Metal dating way back to 1985. I remember borrowing this from my local public library when I was young. For the purposes of expanding my collection and filling some gaps in the Library Of Loudness I recently picked up this long out-of-print book on-line (Amazon or E-Bay, I can’t recall right now). It was certainly fun to go back and re-read it over 25 years later.
This oversized paperback features a decent photo of Marcel LaFleur of Smashed Gladys! Anyone remember them? They were a short-lived glam band from Toronto, Ontario (later NYC) and also interesting to note is the photo was taken by Mark Weiss, who was just hitting the big time as the most in-demand Hard Rock Metal photographer of the 80’s. The book runs 213 pages and has dozens and dozens of black and white photos, many of them quite large and three sections of full-colour photos on glossy plates, numbering about a couple dozen photos. It also has an index, and a very limited discography of 11 bands that is unfortunately loaded with errors and omissions. Interesting there is a Metal timeline, probably one of the first that briefly discusses key points, incidents and events in the evolution of the genre. There are a few mistakes here and there as well, (eg. Yngwie band is called ‘Rising Force’, not ‘Rising Sun’, p. 202) but for a book this old, the errors are inconsequential.
There is a nice forward by Rob Halford and an introduction to Metal. In the preface Bashe says he wants the book to …’provide historical and cultural analysis… (p. 2). Under the circumstances, considering the fact that Metal was still just a 15-year old teenager in 1985, (like myself), he does a reasonable job. There is also a history of Heavy Metal that spans about 24 pages and it is well-written and balanced and largely free of major errors. I found it especially interesting to go back and read a history of Metal that (at that time) was considered contemporary, with the added advantage of a quarter century of evolution. What did people think about Metal back in 1985? This is one of the first documentations of the history of the genre. I’d recommend this as mandatory reading in a university course about Metal, for young fans or even for historical revisionists like the people at Metal-Archives to give them a concrete time-bound example of what was considered Metal back at the time of writing in 1984. Bands like Def Leppard and Rush were considered Metal to many but it is hard for a young fan of extreme Metal to fathom that concept. HEAVY METAL THUNDER, really helps to demonstrate the roots of the genre and it is fun to compare then and now.
What this book is really about, when you get right down to it is that HEAVY METAL THUNDER is a collection of 11 band biographies. That’s it. I suppose when you break it down, there is not much to the book but having said that, those 11 bios are quite extensive and span about 130 pages. The bands are (in alphabetical order) AC/DC, Black Sabbath (and Ozzy), Def Leppard, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Motley Crue, Quiet Riot, Rush, Scorpions and Van Halen. Remember the bulk of this book was written pre-Thrash, pre-Death, pre-Doom, pre-Power Metal...almost pre-everything...back then it was just METAL! Accordingly, there is little discussion or debate about genres and sub-genres, unlike today where the fragmentation and extensive analysis (social and academic) of genres. The book does focus on the biggest artists and does have a slightly commercial feel, and could have expanded to over the early underground scene of Slayer, Exodus, Raven, Venom, Riot, Manowar, Anvil, Loudness, W.A.S.P. etc, but hits all the necessary highlights, to give a reasonable ‘mainstream’ overview of the genre.
As a longtime Metal fan, I found that when I read HEAVY METAL THUNDER I got a lot of value from an intellectual perspective (with hindsight) and a lot of enjoyment from a nostalgic perspective as well. I’m probably rating this title a bit higher than it deserves to be for a simple collection of band bios, but it’s a fun and historically important book.