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Blake, Stephen & John, Andrew
The World According To Heavy Metal (Book Review)
Released: 2002, Michael OMara Books Unlimited
I find it difficult to review general pop culture reference guides to Heavy Metal because after being immersed in the culture and lifestyle for 30 years, these books seem to carry little value for me. However, I don’t want to arbitrarily dismiss books like THE WORLD ACCORDING TO HEAVY METAL because they serve a purpose; namely an introduction to the genre. The British reference guide to Heavy Metal was first published in 2002. It is an undersized hardcover with a nice dust-jacket with a picture of a very young Zakk Wylde, sans beard. It doesn’t have any pictures but it is nicely laid out across 161 pages and five chapters and a brief bibliography.
The whole book has a loose, fun feel with lots of quirky quotations from various people. The book opens with a very brief, sloppy history of Heavy Metal but a nice intro nonetheless. Next comes some genre definitions and the authors are not afraid to poke fun at genres. For example the entry for ‘gore Metal’ simply reads, ‘This is gross. It’s a form of death or grindcore but takes the subject matter for it’s lyrics from pathology manuals and medical texts.’ (p. 45) Chapter three is a selection of miscellaneous trivia with commentary on homosexuality in Metal, Lars Ulrich’s art collection and quotes from various artists about the terrorist attacks on Sept 11, 2001. It’s an odd mix of facts but delivered in an entertaining fashion.
Section four contains very, very brief biographies of about 80 bands. Naturally it would be impossible to be comprehensive but they do have a good selection of bands from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s and a wide variety of genres. Of course bios of all the big bands (Maiden Priest) are included but there are a few nice surprises like mini bio’s of Pungent Stench and Lord Weird Slough Feg. For example under the letter ‘B’ you get bios on Bal-Sagoth, Bathory, Benediction, Black Sabbath, Body Count, Bolt Thrower, Bon Jovi and Burzum! There is a heavy British focus with 20 of the 80 bands (25 %) coming from England.
Of course there are lots of minor technical mistakes littered through the book, such as Dark Angel is from America, not the UK and the name of the third Sabbat album is Mourning has Broken (not Morning) but only a die-hard fan would notice these errors. The book finishes with a 15-page focus on Ozzy Osbourne and his career. There doesn't seem to be much focus, the book is kinda of scattered; it has some history, some trivia, some opinion/editorial and is all over the place.
Despite the fact that THE WORLD ACCORDING TO HEAVY METAL is now a decade out of date, probably out of print, and aimed at a younger audience, it’s still a fun little quick-read guide to the genre. For collectors only.