Eddie Trunk's Essential Hard Rock And Heavy Metal Volume II (Book Review)
Released: 2013, Abrams Image
Back in 2011, I wrote a review of Trunk’s first book. I gave it a below average review and perhaps regrettably I took a bit of a personal shot at Trunk. I say regrettably because I should not let my professionalism be clouded by my frustration with him. My gut feeling about him is still the same but I should be more supportive of the work he does with his TV show and books. He does good work, but he could do so much more. My frustration with Trunk stems from the fact that he has this magnificent platform (radio, books, TV) to support new, young, vibrant, active Metal bands and yet he choose to trot out aging rocker after aging rocker like Sebastian Bach and Lita Ford. Don’t get me wrong, I love artists Bach and Ford. I support them, buy their records and go see them when they are in town. But it seems like it such a wasted opportunity from a guy who claims to be this huge Metalhead to keep living in the 80’s.
I rarely read reviews of books or CD’s before I write my own review of them so as to avoid being tainted and or subconsciously being influenced by those writers. After my review of Trunks first book was published, I suspected I was too hard on him and was curious what other people were saying. I went on Amazon.com and looked at various reviews of his book and there were many complaints similar to my own. I was relieved that I wasn’t the only one who didn’t really like his first book and I realized that I wasn’t too hard on him. Essentially those other comments validated my opinion.
Trunk has released his second book EDDIE TRUNK’S ESSENTIAL HARD ROCK AND HEAVY METAL VOLUME II and unfortunately it falls in the very same trap as the first volume...nothing new. It’s basically another love-letter to the few bands he grew up listening too and Eddie is stuck in the past listening to mainstream Hard Rock and Heavy Metal. Eddie champions the 80’s with 34 of the 35 bands being founded in the 80’s, the lone exception being Buckcherry. A good chunk of these bands listed are dormant, obsolete or long gone for 10, 15 even 20 years. Bands like Angel, Blue Oyster Cult, Cinderella, Triumph haven’t done much musically for years, but for the most part, the bands listed are still active, recording touring acts.
The book is very attractive, well laid-out and designed. It really looks marvelous. It is the same format as last time; it is nice to have the same consistent look for Volume II. It’s an oversized, soft-cover, 239 pages long, full colour with tons of photos, memorabilia and notes. The publisher Abrahams and Eddie did a great job on the physical/visual aspect. However, you can sell the sizzle but if the content is weak, true fans will see past the smoke and mirrors.
Once again the book has many, little technical errors but this time he was clever enough to say up front in his introduction that the discographies and line-up’s are incomplete and he just defaulted to what he considers classic, perhaps to avoid criticism. Eddie still struggles with understanding genres and has a very odd perspective of what is ‘essential’ (his terms not mine). The book is called Hard Rock and Heavy Metal and yet he includes grunge, industrial and generic, Top-40 rock such as Buckcherry. In terms of genres, Trunk skips all the more extreme styles; there is no Power Metal, No Death Metal, no Doom Metal, no Black Metal, so by his own criteria he omits about 75% of all the Metal on the planet by ignoring these genres. There is even less thrash included this time with only Exodus, Overkill and Testament making the cut.
Overall, his choices for inclusion are a bit better than last time, the overall tone of the book is a just a tiny bit heavier. In Volume I, ten out of his 35 choices are Metal and in this edition, 11 out of 35 of the picks are Metal. In this book he includes bands that should have been in the first edition; bands like Dream Theater, W.A.S.P., Yngwie Malmsteen and Manowar that are far more prolific, sold more and were more influential (ie, essential) than Billy Squier and Skid Row. At the end of his last book Eddie had an Appendix called ‘More Essentials’; a list of 27 bands. Almost every band in this new edition was in that Appendix. 25 of the 27 bands listed made the cut for the new book, only Kix and Blue Murder are no longer essential I suppose.
Eddies information is pretty standard, there is very little that is new or exciting for fans to read. Most of the info is stuff you could read on Wikipedia or flipping through an old issue of Circus or Hit Parader, with the exception of his personal anecdotes. Does anyone really care that after visiting Eddie’s radio show, Blackie from W.A.S.P got invited to a hot tub party? Each entry has a little intro, a short write-up, a list of some releases and a list of a few people who have been in the band and the inevitable photo of Eddie with the band. For each band he does a ten-song recommendation list and 95% of them are the 80’s hits. In his introduction he said he wanted to avoid the hits and look at ‘deeper cuts’, but by picking ‘Cherry Pie’ by Warrant, ‘Metal Health’ by Quiet Riot and ‘Kiss Me Deadly’ by Lita Ford he shows that he is not really familiar with the deeper catalogue (or newer songs) of these artists at all.
Eddie really lacks international focus, a common trait among American journalists and some American Metal fans. 32 of the 35 listed bands are American. There are one British band, (Saxon), one European band (Accept) and one defunct Canadian band. You could argue that Whitesnake is British, Hughes is British and Yngwie is Swedish but all three (Coverdale, Hughes and Malmsteen) have all lived in America for 20 years or more and both have practically their entire bands made up of Americans. It’s not Eddies ‘fault’ that so many great bands came from America but it seems he is not really aware of anything going on outside the US. What I’m suggesting is that there are many more ‘essential’ bands from around the globe for example Nightwish or Sepultura, than the bands he chose such as Extreme and Cinderella.
For example, Nightwish has been one of the most successful Metal bands on the planet for the past 20 years. Since Cinderella’s last studio album in 1994, Nightwish have multiple, world-wide releases (twice as many as Cinderella) world-tours, a book, videos, DVD’s, a full-length movie (!) and meanwhile, good ol’ Cinderella plays the occasional county-fair show in the US. There is just no comparison, but Cinderella had a couple of big hits in the 80’s so they make the cut and Nightwish (a far more ‘essential’ band) don’t make the cut. Cinderella was simply rehashing Aerosmith and Nightwish are innovators that single-handedly spearheaded a massive genre of gothic, female-fronted symphonic Metal with hundreds (maybe even low thousands) of bands in that style. Nightwish is far more prolific, popular, influential and innovative than Cinderella could ever be. I’m not picking on Cinderella, I LOVE them and have all their albums but I use that of a simple example of how he makes poor choices and has a poor understanding of essential or how big and important the Metal scene and community is outside of America. His choices demonstrate that he is really focused on the US and not much else and lacks understanding of Metal beyond his own borders.
One of the comments I made of his first volume was that Eddie has a pretty big ego and this book is even worse. There are almost 50 pictures of Eddie. Here is Eddie onstage with Band X. Here is Eddie backstage with Band Y. Here is Eddie hanging out with Band Z. It almost seems like he has a deep-rooted need to prove he saw a concert and he met famous people. “Look! Here is my ticket stub! Here is my backstage pass. Here is a picture of me with yet another aging 80’s rocker!” He could have titled this book ‘Eddies American Rock Scrapbook’ or ‘Treasured Memories’. There were countless stories where he emphasizes himself. He says, ‘I saw this band.’ ‘I met this band.’ ‘I introduced this famous guy to that famous guy.’ ‘I have a radio show.’ ‘I worked for a record label.’ ‘I signed this band’. There is very little in terms of neutrality or impartiality and much like the first title it is Eddie’s autobiography thinly veiled as a list of his favourite bands. You didn’t see similar ‘List’ books by fellow authors Popoff, Bukszpan, Ingham, Sharpe-Younge, or Grow saturated with that kind of stuff. However, having said all that, it is Eddie’s book, he is proud of his accomplishments and not afraid to talk about himself or share his stories from his past.
To summarize, EDDIE TRUNKS ESSENTIAL HARD ROCK AND HEAVY METAL VOLUME II looks great but is another uninspired, generic list of mainstream American bands many of them past their prime. The book is Trunk’s tribute to himself and there are a dozen other books in this style on the market that are superior in scope and scale.