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Phillips, William & Cogan, Brian
Encyclopedia of Heavy Metal Music (Book Review)
January 2011
Released: 2009, Greenwood Press
Rating: 2.5/5
Reviewer: JP

In my mind the word Encyclopedia means more than just a list of facts. An encyclopedia needs to be unbiased and neutral, academic and professional and above all comprehensive. I don’t always understand why these book that come out every year label themselves as Encyclopedias. With over 200,000 bands listed in the world’s largest Metal database (MusicMight), even trying to attempt publishing a comprehensive printed version is almost an exercise in futility. However commerce prevails and gifted writers tackle these insurmountable projects with vigor and enthusiasm. That brings us to Cogan and Phillips stab at documenting the virtually un-documentable.

Published in an attractive hard cover in 2009, this book is an adequate 270 pages, with very few pictures and a simplistic, streamlined layout. The authors are academics, professors and have a reasonably good grasp on Metal, but if I had to guess, I’d suggest they probably weren’t really life-long fans. That is not not necessarily a bad thing but some of the choices included for entry betray their lack of understanding about Metal. Of course they address this very point in the preface and say they opted to be ‘inclusive’ which is the key flaw in that Metal is a very exclusive and elitist genre. They should have erred on the side of caution and not added not-Metal crap like Limp Bizkit, The Melvins, Insane Clown Posse and Nickleback. There are about a couple dozen, nu-metal, alt-metal, grunge, rap and rock bands that really shouldn’t have been in the book.

Another problem is that as outsiders they don’t truly grasp the role of many metal bands on the development of the genre, their importance and influence. They arbitrarily dismiss many bands critical to the history and development of the genre such as W.A.S.P, Manowar and Dream Theater. There are many bands that probably should not have been included, to add room for more legitimate bands. Who the hell are Zolar X, The Sword and Smokewagon and why do they take space away from bands like Angra, Rage and Blind Guardian? I’m not suggesting the former trio are not good bands but the choices for inclusion seem odd.

The authors opt to include a good number of non-bands entries into the book. Entries like ‘Cookie Monster Vocal Style’, ‘Demos’, ‘Headbanging’, ‘Tribute Bands’ and ‘Eddie Trunk’ serve to nicely add a bit more depth and substance to the book by elaborating on components of Metal culture. There are blurbs on movies, personalities in the scene, books, and clubs, all contributing to the depth of the encyclopedia.

The book has it’s fair share of mistakes both technical (dates, albums titles etc) and opinion based mistakes that again show that as academics they don’t truly have a grasp on the definitions of sub-genres and the parameters for inclusion or exclusion. Overall, it’s an average attempt to document and chronicle Metal and it’s culture. Written and presented as text book it would do well for a non-metal fan taking ‘Metal 101’ at a University but more advanced fans and critics will likely find less value.
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