Hit The Lights! (Book Review)
Released: 2017, Powerchord Press
I’m a bit surprised that no one to date has written a book about the history of thrash. It seems like a no-brainer. I personally know of two colleagues, both who have started writing books on the topic but it seems they have been beaten to the punch by the metallic manuscript manufacturer, Martin Popoff with his 60th book.
HIT THE LIGHTS is published on his own Powerchord Press is the first of three books in a series, all designed to look and feel the same, much as he did with his epic NWOBHM trilogy. It a decent paperback, about 240 pages long, with lots of black & white pictures as well as the obligatory insightful introductory words from Popoff. I’ve reviewed so many of his fine publications I almost feel like I’m repeating myself but his quality of work is so consistently high, it is hard not repeat myself and seem like a bit of a fan-boy, which I guess I am in a sense.
HIT THE LIGHTS-The Birth Of Thrash takes us from a very brief overview of the development of the archaic origins of the ‘sound’ of thrash, with a particular focus on speed, especially double-kick drumming, dating back to the 70’s. He keep is brief covering 1970 (and earlier) to 1980 and then the story gets going in earnest. The book is laid out chapter by chapter 1980, 1981, 1982 and 1983 each a chronological overview of milestones that occurred that year.
The style is a mix of clever observations, facts and loads of trivia by Popoff all anchored by interviews with the principle players. The book sort of plays out as a combination of oral history with ample quotes from the earliest participants with linking bridges connecting the story. He touches on industry people like Brian Slagel and Ron Quintana, Bob Nalbandian and others. There is lots of information on how a small number of independent record stores, a small circuit of clubs, a handful of fanzines and a few dozen dedicated fans literally built an entire scene from scratch in just a few years. Popoff interviews so many people, all the big names, Exodus, Death Angel, Testament and of course Metallica and covers all the line-up changes as well. At one point Popoff points out that you could have all the people who invented thrash; players, and industry people alike and put them all in one room. What a cocktail party that would be! Slagel, Johnny Z, club owners, radio people and half a dozen bands, the scene was that tight.
Popoff doesn’t leave out Europe and he hits major milestones from pioneers Accept up to the big three, (now big four) of Destruction, Kreator, Sodom and Tankard. There is also an appropriate tip of the hat of the punk rock and hardcore scene and props to the under-rated Suicidal Tendencies who were there from day one but never fit in with either the LA scene nor the Bay area scene. Reading this book was a trip down nostalgia lane…although I will admit with so few people in the scene many, many of these stories were very familiar. I’ve read lots of them before…ie. Metallica raids Johnny Z’s liquor cabinet, Kirk Hammet replaces Mustaine, the Anthrax guys help out a broke Metallica guys who were living in a dump in NYC, etc, but it is nice to have all that important historical data compiled into one place. All thrash fans and most Metal fans will love this book and I can’t wait for Part II which by his own accounting is already about 60% done.
Popoff, as mentioned, has written a lot of books about Metal but I feel this series, will be one of his more important, better selling series as it is the first (to the very best of my knowledge) book that has tackled on the most important, best selling and long-running Metal genres today.