The NWOBHM Encyclopedia (Book Review)
Released: 2002, Publisher: Iron Pages
This 800-page monstrosity is the culmination of many years work by the good people at Iron Pages in Germany who have been meticulously documenting the metal scenes of the world for many years. This is a compilation of two or three earlier versions, tragically available only in the German language, and this weighty tome is finally unleashed on the rest of the English speaking world.
This book is quality through and through. There is not much more to say than it is the definitive guide to the NWOBHM ever produced. Over 500 bands from the giants to the rarest obscurities. The information presented is fascinating, not just straight discography and line-up info. The author has a sense of humour as evidenced early on by his comments in the preface. “Whether or not my unashamedly verbose writing style lends itself to creating an informative-but-readable reference source remains open to debate though. If you feel yourself lapsing into a coma or losing the will to live, stop reading.”
The book includes, opening comments by Paul Dianno, Brian Tattler and Jess Cox, a preface, an introduction, acknowledgements, a survey, an epilogue, a list of compilations, (local and otherwise) and a long and multi-faceted essay that touches on everything from gender, the state of the market, tips for buyers and sellers. Highly informative and interesting!! It is these little extras that make it all the more interesting. It is also nicely bound, professionally produced and the font although small is very readable. This book is incredibly informative. I found myself enjoying all sorts of incredible tibits! I really know knew of about half of the bands listed to there are certainly many new worlds to discover.
In one sense the book is very depressing to read. 95% of the bands listed are dead and gone. Almost every entry has some phrase along the lines of “total disaster”, “complete failure”, or “broken dreams”. That is the harsh reality. Most of these hopefuls never made it and they did break up and disappear forever. Take the entry for Axis for example “ Sadly, the all new Axis seemed not to have won the hearts of the listening public and it looks as if the participants no longer had the will to continue in the face of complete and utter disinterest from the nations rock fans. The dejected musicians, having ultimately failed to make a lasting impression in either of their musical incarnations, seem to have gone their separate ways in the latter half of 1982…” There are many such descriptions scattered throughout the book. It is kinda depressing at the sheer number of young hopefuls who just never made for whatever reason.
My main complaint is the insistence by the Europeans to continue to deny the existence of EP’s and singles as important elements of a bands discography and history. All the EP’s and singles are listed separately which is frustrating, annoying and makes it very difficult to logically follow a bands history. For example, a band had an EP, a single and a full length all in 1985. Chronologically speaking did the single come out before or after the actual release? Because of the format chosen many of these questions go answered. Normally I would not mention such a seemingly unimportant point but this is a comprehensive guide and should answer the questions about a bands history. It is confusing and annoying to have to jump back and forth, back and forth to determine the actual discography. My other beef is why did the author deny the existence of cassettes as viable releases? There are several examples of a band putting out a full length, studio cassette and the author ignores them in the discography. Why? Just because it is on cassette?
This annoying anti-cassette prejudice should be stopped!
My next minor query is I’m not sure why they choose to have a flaming eagle (Phoenix?) on the cover. A lion would have been more appropriate as more people associate the eagle with the US. One other very minor point. It would help to have a working knowledge of English geography, as there are many casual mentions of small towns that most people who do not live in the UK have no clue where they are. Is Fish-on-Rye Township near London or Birmingham? What’s the difference between East and West Pudwankingham? What the hell are the Midlands? Keep a map handy. There are several other British phrases that some readers may not get but fortunately my family is English so it didn’t bother me.
I have a confession to make. I have not finished reading this book before reviewing it. I know, that is bad, but not as bad as only listening to part of a CD once and forming an opinion like some reviewers I know! (No one at Metal-Rules just to clarify) However, I am sitting and actually reading this beast end to end once and then it will be a handy reference guide for years to come.
This poses a bit of a problem in one limited sense. Reading the book cover to cover I recognized the fairly repetitive and formulaic writing style. The prime example of formulaic writing being the overuse of the phrase “not to be confused with” or some variation on that. For example there are 23 bands listed that start with the letter “A” in this book. In 10 of those entries that phrase (or something very close to it) is used! He must have written the phrase “not to be confused with” in at least 200 of these entries. The formulaic style is forgivable for two reasons. If this book was read as it is meant to be read, (as a reference guide being dipped into on occasion) I’m sure no one would notice. Secondly, there really is no other way to accurately describing factual detail. Mr. Macmillan’s lighthearted and humorous style made what is essentially reading an encyclopedia much easier to handle.
It is a challenge reading this cover to cover but I feel immensely satisfied and rewarded exploring an integral part of metals history. You may not want to sit and devour the whole thing as I am but it is a mandatory guide in your metal library, especially the mallcore punks who need to learn where real metal came from.