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McIver, Joel
Extreme Metal II (Book Review)
October 2011
Released: 2005, Omnibus Press
Rating: 4.0/5
Reviewer: JP

EXTREME METAL II was one of McIver’s earliest books about Metal. As the title suggests it is an expanded and revised edition of the original, first published in 2000. I don’t own and haven’t read the original EXTREME METAL, so I can’t compare or cross-reference the two tomes.

EXTREME METAL II is a nice sized 176 page, soft-cover. It’s black and white but it is printed on glossy paper, which accentuates the simple, readable layout and design. The book falls in the list or encyclopedia category. Listed alphabetically there is a brief write-up on about 400 bands and over 115 accompanying photos. McIver wisely avoids the potential pitfall of including a discography for each band, because discographies are notoriously difficult to get correct. I’m not saying McIver couldn't do it, I’m sure it would be fine but long lists of albums can bog down a book at times. Instead he chooses to include one recommended album per band information about the year, label of release and website info. I bet it was a mind-numbing exercise to choose just one recommendation for each! For what it is worth, his recommended albums are completely in-line with what I would have picked. Scattered generously through the book are quotes from key people like Benton, Schmier or Akerfeldt each adding personal insight and perspective into the nature of extremity in music.

The book also contains a list of recommended reading as well as an excellent two page definition, description and encapsulation of the history of extreme Metal. Keeping in mind that this book came out almost 6 years ago, and that sub-genres evolve rapidly (let alone changes in statistical information) however at the time of publication I feel McIver provided a definitive snapshot of the time, most of which still holds true today. Other nice features are a sincere foreword by Petrozza and be sure to read McIver’s introduction describing his criteria for inclusion BEFORE you send your angry letters and e-mails!

Referring to inclusion criteria, McIver was clever to tag his book ‘extreme’ because such a broad term spares the reader endless debate about which bands are worthy of inclusion. Extreme is a funny word with different interpretations. For example, I feel that a band like Rhapsody (Of Fire) is extreme for developing the whole epic, symphonic, neo-classical, swords and sorcery, Hollywood-Soundtrack Metal thing and expanding it into a 10 album, 15 year conceptual project…that’s pretty extreme! But in terms of this book, ‘extreme’ refers to the main genres of Thrash, Death, and Black Metal, with hints of Power and Doom sprinkled in. Sticking with expanding the concept of extreme for a moment, everyone’s version of what is extreme will differ based on age, experience and listening preference. Some readers of this book who are die-hard Black Metal guys for example, might suggest that Metallica or Flotsam & Jetsam aren’t extreme. An wiser,older Metal fan might read the inclusion of those bands and nod his (or her) aging, graying head in somber approval recognizing that Metallica and Flotsam & Jetsam were quite extreme. I feel that very few reasonable people could argue with McIver’s selection criteria, which is broad, inclusive and thorough. It was very nice to see some lesser-known extreme bands such as Demilich and Malformed Earthborn make the cut next to the Slayer’s and Dimmu’s.

EXTREME METAL II is a fantastic reference guide for casual fan and veteran alike. Well researched and well written I’d recommend it to any Metal fan. It’s almost time for Part III!

Next review: » Mciver, Joel - Justice for all: The Truth About Metallica (Book Review)
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