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Decibel Magazine Staff (Various)
Precious Metal (Book Review)
February 2010
Released: 2010, DaCapo Press
Rating: 3.0/5
Reviewer: JP

This is an interesting concept. It’s not really a book of new material per se but it is a collection of previously released essays and articles originally published in Decibel magazine. Bias stated upfront, I don’t read Decibel I’ve always felt they are too commercial and don’t really have their finger on the pulse of metal. However, I was intrigued enough to purchase this book.

Precious Metal is a paperback, approximately 360 pages standard font and text, easy enough to read and well-laid out. It has many black& white photos but most of them are old press photos, nothing new or amazing, but they add to the visual component.

Decibel runs a series called Hall Of Fame where they interview the members of a band about a classic album. The members have to be alive which, while restricting the range of choices is a good idea to give all members who were involved in the original creativity, have equal input. This clever concept helps eliminate revisionism by members of a band who had (or have) an agenda.

Most of these essays have been expanded and refined and some bonus Hall of Fame interviews added. Ultimately, however the concept is designed or explained, this book is just a collection of interviews. If you enjoy reading interviews, you will like this book, if you don’t, I’d look elsewhere for metal reading. It is hard to critique an interview because they interviewer asks the question and the person answers the question. So in that respect the interviews are very interesting and the highlight.

There are eight authors doing the interviews and the whole thing is edited by Albert Mudrian, author of the excellent book, Choosing Death. Over half of the interviews were conducted by J. Bennett and the other seven split the rest. Defining ‘extreme’ (let alone a masterpiece) is a challenge and the staff determines which album is going to selected. The problem is that a selection committee often has the inevitable watering down effect, compromise and sometimes the end result is that no one is truly satisfied but not unsatisfied either. The albums selected are adequate. The positives are that there are some records that are not extreme by today’s standards are included, such as Black Sabbath and Diamond Head . The first seven albums were released in the 80’s and then the next 17 albums were from the 90’s. The final album, which isn’t even really metal, was issued in 2001. I’m pleased the book did NOT include newer albums because to become a masterpiece an album needs to stand the test of time, develop credibility and reputation.

I bought (and still own) 23 of the 25 albums when they came out and they are all good records some more than others but overall, I’m not really thrilled with the choices. Sure, some of them are great records but too many of them are on the fringes of metal, (Converge, Dillinger Escape Plan, and Botch) novelty for novelty’s sake, and really not all that extreme sonically, visually or lyrically. There are too many sludge type bands as well, (Down, Sleep, Kyuss, Eyehategod) so about half the list I wouldn’t consider that extreme. Many people confuse musical innovation with extremity. I’ve seen some glam bands that are more extreme than some of the bands on this list! The rest of the albums are fairly predictable, the Slayers and the Cannibal Corpses that need to be on the list, but the members must get tired of answering questions about albums they did 20 years ago! Was Black Sabbath’s Heaven & Hell that extreme? Not really. A Masterpiece? Most certainly.

The book is a good idea, a nice collection, a great reference point, and a good overview for people who don’t read the magazine. My personal taste aside, I’d recommend it to most people, because they (Decibel) don’t claim to be definitive or brash enough to say “This is THE list”. The real value of this lies in all the extended unpublished interviews of the people who created these albums, and that is why is it worth having in your Metal library.
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