Who Invented Heavy Metal? (Book Review)
Released: 2015, Powerchord Press
The cybernetic writing machine that is Martin Popoff returns with his bi-annual book, his first of 2015 and number 40-something overall. This time Martin has veered off of his usual course and written something a little more academic. Not to suggest that his work was not intelligent before but his new book WHO INVENTED HEAVY METAL is an exhaustive study. This is his tour-de-force, his Master’s thesis, his PhD and perhaps a defining moment in the history of Metal academia where he comes as close (closer!) as anyone has ever come to accurately and definitely defining the origins of the Heavy Metal genre.
The cover art features a picture the old mill at Mapledurham in Oxfordshire in England and if it is not familiar to you, it should be! It is one the more iconic images in the history of Heavy Metal. The book itself is his usual high standard, perhaps a little less emphasis on graphics but still has many little photos of album covers ads, flyers and the like. In his introduction Martin lays out his methodology, which is a logo=ical, progressive timeline with backing documentation.
Running a decent 256 pages, it generally covers from 1967-1971 and WHO INVENTED HEAVY METAL consists of four main parts. Martin lays out an incredibly detailed timeline of moments in musical history that trace the lineage of the genre. Not only musical samples are referenced, but early advertising, promotional materials, interviews etc all intertwine to complete an accurate depiction of the evolution of the genre. All the usual suspects are quoted, Deep Purple, Sabbath, Led Zep etc, etc, Most of thev quotes are drawn from interviews that Popoff did himself. It is straight from the horses mouth. So who did invent Heavy Metal? You will have to read the book to find out!
I’d like to finish off with a common way to end a book review with a recommendation. It would be too simplistic to end with saying, ‘I’d recommend this book to everyone’. In addition, is not like a band-specific book review where it is easy to suggest that fans of that band would enjoy it. That is too obvious. I believe because of the academic nature of this book I’d recommend it to true students of music and history and not just your ‘average’ Metal fan. I’d also recommend it to people who want to learn more about the origins of Heavy Metal. Over the past several years, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend of young people attempting to re-write Metal history to suit their own selfish agendas. It bothers me when I hear some people declare that bands like Metallica and W.A.S.P. (etc) are not Metal because either they don’t like the band or they never grew up listening to them (ie. That’s my Dad’s 80’s Hard rock!) In fact, the revisionism streak even extends to websites like Metal Archives, the Metal (so-called) ‘Encyclopedia’ that disqualifies certain Metal bands, (that are widely considered Metal by fans, the industry and academics alike) from inclusion. So I hope that those types of people will read WHO INVENTED HEAVY METAL and gain a greater appreciation and understanding of the history and roots of the genre. Not only is it an important weapon in the war against the deniers and revisionists, this book will stand as an important academic document in the annals of music history. I can certainly see this being a part of University curricula in the near future.