Released: 2010, Backbeat Books
Books of Heavy Metal lists have becoming increasing popular in the past several years and this is just one of many released this year. Author Eric Danville boasts credits as a writer and/or editor working for High Times magazine, Screw Magazine and Penthouse Forum. My kind of career! Danville has taken a decidedly comic look at Heavy Metal in his book.
Clocking in at 230 pages, the book is nicely laid out, easy to read, well-organized and loaded with cartoon sketches by Cliff Mott. The exaggerated style of his parodies of famous Metal personalities and celebrities are inventive and funny and add a nice touch.
The book is essentially about 125 lists broken into seven chapters loosely based on themes of Sex, Drugs, Occult, Road Life and so on. There are some guest contributors (Gwar, Ted Nugent, and William Murderface of Dethklok) and some bands have created their own lists for inclusion to add a bit of flair. The whole theme is humour, which plays a large part in the development of these lists and ideas. Humour is pretty subjective and while this book wasn’t utterly hilarious it was clever and funny.
My main criticism of the book is a subtle one and perhaps hard to articulate. The book is not really a book of lists about Heavy Metal. It is more a book of lists that use Heavy Metal, it’s culture, it’s archetypes and image, as the basis for the comedy. It’s a rather fine distinction but one that I noticed right away. It seems that the author is not really a true underground metal fan, but someone who is aware of mainstream metal culture and uses those standards as the basis for the jokes. For example, on p. 223 the list called “10 Things Ronnie James Dio is Older Than.” (Microwaves, Scuba-tanks etc) OK. The joke is simple and we get it; Dio’s one of the older Metal guys, but does it have anything to do with metal music? Not really. Danville could have had anyone’s name in there, an actor a politician and so on.
Other examples of lists that are not really about Heavy Metal (the music) but more connected to personalities are, lists of cars, lists of books that someone read recently, lists of favorite cities to tour, lists of movies, lists of cocktails named after metal bands etc. These are all interesting enough but don’t really have anything to do with metal music per se.
The other slightly disappointing aspect is that many of the lists are just collections of information that could be easily compiled by looking at any number of on-line databases. For example on p. 59 the list called “28 Bands with Bloody Names” (Blood Duster, Three Inches of Blood etc) is pretty simplistic. There are several lists like that bands named after this body-part or that common phrase, that take very little creativity to compile. There was some great potential here for interesting lists other than ‘Violent Band Names’ and so on, but it went mostly untapped. Most metal fans make these kinds of lists up in their sleep or off the top of their heads over drinks before a concert. A list of 12 metal concept albums (p. 132) is not all that interesting or useful when there are hundreds of Metal concept albums out there. However, for someone who is not really into Metal they would look at a list and say, “Wow! There are five heavy metal bands that have played with an orchestra! I never knew that! (p. 140)
On the plus side there were some very interesting lists, creative and well researched such as the list of the names of Alice Cooper’s snakes (p. 39) a list of bands named after places or characters from J.R.R. Tolkein books (p. 34), Kiss merchandising (p . 198) and a list of how certain metal artists got their stage names. (p. 193). There some great lists that compile info that is nice to have in one place for trivia purposes such as the list of the winners of the Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance (p. 150) The whole thing is jammed with great anecdotes and familiar stories from the realms of mainstream metal.
This book is more of a comic introduction for people to Metal and the Metal lifestyle. It’s the kind of book well-intentioned Grandmothers get for their grand-kids for a Christmas gift because it is all about, “that music with all the screaming”. It’s a great coffee table book, very amusing, well done and I’d recommend it to any fan or person interested and/or sympathetic to the world of metal.