Released: 2001, Cherry Red
I just realized that when Metal-Rules.com had the great crash back in the day we lost a few book reviews, specifically five of the six books in the Rockdetector series of Metal encyclopedias. The only one that survived somehow was A-Z OF 80’s ROCK. I reviewed the entire series back in or around 2004. This review is a bit of a non-review in the sense that I’m going to do a perfunctory re-review of the remaining books in the series; DEATH METAL, THRASH METAL, POWER METAL and DOOM, GOTHIC & STONER METAL. I’m doing this for the sake of completion for the Library Of Loudness, as a public service and perhaps most of all, a tribute to Garry Sharpe-Young, who suddenly and unexpectedly passed away of a brain attack in his home in New Zealand in early 2010.
As I mentioned in my 2004 review of A-Z OF 80’s ROCK, I did contribute to all of these titles, so my perspective is not necessarily completely neutral. You will see (if you bother to read all the reviews in the series) that they are pretty much the same. When reviewing a book series that is essentially the same, except for technical details, there is only so much one can say about a single book in the series. Accordingly, because I’m lazy, I have deadlines for newer books to cover and because I don’t want to re-write entirely new, long-winded reviews of essentially the same book… five times in a row…, these reviews are all pretty much the same. How’s that for brutal honesty?
Having said that, this book is the greatest book on the subject of Black Metal ever! Many years ago the author, Mr. Sharpe-Young started a career chronicling the heavy metal genre. In the late 90’s the book “The Ultimate Hard Rock Guide was published. http://www.metal-rules.com/review/viewreview.php
?band=sharpe&album=&post_by=&rating=&month=&year=&pos=3 It proved to be a tome so weighty and a project so expansive it evolved into the web format of Rockdetector. Eventually Sharpe-Young started publishing his data he had collected over the years into print form. This is the first book in the series.
A-Z of BLACK METAL is an encyclopedia pure and simple. No wordy opinionated reviews, just straight facts, text and minimal frills. The cover has a shot of Gorgoroth and the back cover has a shot of Nattefurst of Sorhin. The paperback runs 404 pages long.
After a short and articulate introduction by Mr. Sharpe-Young the book starts on Page 1 with Abazagorath and ends on page 390 with Zylkon X. Writing a review of an encyclopedia is hard because there is really not much to say, but I will try. The font is clear and easy to read, and the text is not too small. The format starts with the band name, country of origin, line-up and a paragraph or two of simple info about the band. Next follows a discography in semi-chronological order with track listings. There are a few dozen black and white photos scattered about the book.
One minor drawback is that the line-up info can be a little sparse. Keeping in mind it is virtually impossible to track who came and went from a band, let alone thousands of bands, many (most?) now defunct, so it is understandable. Sharpe-Young opted for a very simple single “formal” line up description and lets the text space be used to chronicle the comings and goings from the band, which is more enjoyable to read than a list of names and dates. Another minor gripe is the habit of keeping EP’s distinct from the main discography. In my opinion they are valid releases that should be included in chronological order.
As for the caliber of information about metal bands contained within, it is top notch. It covers every major band in glorious detail and even includes bands you have never heard of like Hunengrab Im Herbst and Dark Phase from Turkey.
Given the utterly massive, virtually exponential growth of Metal in the past decade any attempt to document the number of bands in any genre, seems ill-fated. To attempt to do this in print today in 2011 would seem, well… quaint, given the existence of the two biggest internet Metal databases, MusicMight and Metal Archives. However, back in 2000 when these books were envisioned by Garry he truly set the standard for Metal encyclopedias.