Jasper, Tony & Oliver, Derek
The International Encyclopedia of Hard Rock And Heavy Metal (Book Review)
Released: 1983, Facts On File Publications
I believe this to be the very first encyclopedia about Heavy Metal. That in itself is an interesting and notable accomplishment! THE INTERNATIONAL ENCYCLOPEDIA OF HARD ROCK AND HEAVY METAL was first published in 1983, which means the bilk of it was written in 1982. First published in England this collection was written by a team of four metal men, Tony Jasper, Derek Oliver, Steve Hammond and Dave Reynolds. Jasper is of course one of England most well known authors with over 70 books to his name. Derek Oliver wrote for Kerrang! and Metal Hammer, and of course Dave Reynolds wrote for Metal Forces, so there is so pretty good Metal ‘cred’ in the research department.
The encyclopedia is a slightly over-sized paperback that runs 400 pages with no extras. No pictures, no index, no bibliography, no source notes, no preface, no introduction, just an authors note on format than it dives right in with entry #1 Accept and runs right through until…you guessed it…ZZ Top.
The format is simple; each entry contains the following: the band name, nation of origin, a ‘classic’ line-up, a few sentences about the band and then a limited discography usually limited to the full-length studio albums with a notation about label and year of release. So, in terms of technical data, it’s a bit thin. However, documenting almost 1500 bands in 1982 is a pretty impressive feat! By way of comparison Metal-Archives (not too pick on that great site!) only lists 1300 bands from 1970-1982, so by the industry standards this is a very comprehensive book.
The one main part I don’t lie about this book is that is not neutral. An encyclopedia is supposed to document facts. The authors decide to makes editorial comments, and that is their prerogative, but I feel the book could have benefitted from a more neutral tone. For example their sparse entry on the Norweigan band Allison simply says, “Although a good pub/club heavy rock band, Allison will not go much further.” (p. 7) Although their assessment was accurate (who has ever heard of Allsion?), it still lacks a certain degree of professionalism. There are a number of entries where the authors basically insult the bands, and other entries predict great things for new (as of then) unknown bands. The authors are surprisingly accurate about who will make it and who will not, for example predicting back in 1982 that Virgin Steele would make it, and of course they did.
There are a number of mistakes but these are understandable as the authors were collecting information from obscure bands from across the globe, before the advent of the internet naturally, so it can be forgiven (sort of). For example they list a band like Exciter as coming from America and not Canada, or mixing up the title of the first Mercyful Fate EP in 1982 calling it ‘Soul Without Corpse’, when in reality the 1982 EP was self-tilted but on occasion referred to in polite company as ‘A Corpse Without Soul EP’.
THE INTERNATIONAL ENCYCLOPEDIA OF HARD ROCK AND HEAVY METAL is a groundbreaking work. It’s use today as a reference guide is pretty limited but as a historical document and as a snapshot of the first decade of Metal’s lifespan, it is an invaluable resource. If I was writing this review in 1983 this would have easily ranked a 4.5 out of 5, an absolutely mandatory reference guide for any Hard Rock and Metal fan, but in 2012 it’s age betrays it’s weaknesses, and accordingly we knock it back a point. Note there is also an updated edition from 1986 that has Guns N' Roses on the cover.