Released: 2012, Sterling
I reviewed the first edition of this book for this site back in 2004 and gave it decent rating of 3.5/5. I was pleasantly surprised to see the ‘Completed Revised And Updated Edition’ in my local bookstore so I grabbed it.
I’m going to divide this review into two sections. It may help to go read my review of the first version for some context. The first part will assume you have never heard of the book (or don’t own it) and the second section will go into detail on the differences between the two versions to help people, who do own the first version, make an educated decision about purchasing the new one.
THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF HEAVY METAL is one of the better Metal encyclopedia’s on the market. This 400 page long, oversized paperback is printed on thicker glossy paper and is in glorious technicolour. The design and layout are very attractive, making it fun and easy to open to any page and enjoy an entry at your leisure. As with most Metal encyclopedias the bands are listed alphabetically and there are about 200 entries, covering most genres and sub-genres, from all eras of Metal from the late 60’s to yesterday. Bukszpan has done an excellent job.
There is a write-up on each band with a limited discography, comprised mostly of the studio albums of each act with label and year. There is no line-up’s listed, for the most part, that is an almost impossible challenge and the author was wise to omit it. There is a system he has devised for rating lyrics and unfortunately it is often way off-base. I suspect he doesn’t read or listen to lyrics much. Unfortunately he didn't correct the errors from last time about bands lyrical content.
There are countless photos but many of them were stock photos of the olden days or perhaps the ‘classic’ eras of bands, giving the look of the book a bit less of a contemporary feel. For example the photos of Iron Maiden are all from the 80’s and a keen-eyed, experienced (ie. older) fan will recognize many of these shots from magazines or other sources. Nonetheless, it is beautiful to look at. Bukszpan has many humourous little captions and quirky comments to keep the mood light.
There are a number of other excellent features little sidebars on Record labels, magazines, fashion, drugs, conflict and others as well as eight spotlights on specific nations such as Japan and Africa. It was good to see these because it added a more of an international cosmopolitan feel to the book. There is also a cool timeline and 15 ‘top-whatever’ lists, most of the completely subjective but not too far off base. The extra features really add value to the book.
Scanning his lists you can tell Bukszpan is a bit out of touch with the current, global metal scene and is stuck in the past. For example his list of the Top 10 most underrated bands includes; King’s X, Voi-vod, Kyuss, Candlemass, Tea Party, Dust, Carnivore, Atomic Rooster, Granicus, Sir Lord Baltimore. Not one band on that list was formed later than 1990. He might as well re-title the list ‘10 old bands I Like’! The fact he thinks that Candlemass is underrated is simply ludicrous. They are widely regarded as the most influential, pioneering Doom band ever, virtually single-handedly creating the entire doom genre and they are the most well-known, most prolific and most successful doom band of all time. How he could possibly consider them underrated boggles the mind. It leaves you questioning his personal definition of ‘underrated’. His list demonstrates that his understanding of what constitutes ‘Metal’ is weak as 70% of those bands are borderline at best, with only Carnivore, Voi-vod and Candlemass being truly Metal and only Carnivore perhaps being under-rated, as the other pair of influential bands are held in extremely high regard.
You could pick and point out many bands that are not included, but overall the selection is quite well done. He is a bit weak in the Black Metal area but very strong and comprehensive in the Doom/Stoner/70’s retro type bands, as well as originators of the scene. I scratch my head a bit when Bathory and Dimmu Borgir don’t make the cut but Cactus and the Flower Travellin’ Band do make the grade. I’m not here to dissect who made it and who did not, that has been done before. In fact, Bukszpan writes a very entertaining and illuminating introduction describing how much grief he got from readers of the first edition for bands that were included or bands that were not included. Speaking of the fans, in the introduction he writes, “According to most of them, I had betrayed them and their favourite bands by leaving out Artist X or Artist Y, and the fact that I had included artist Z was conclusive proof that I had zero credibility whatsoever. One such person e-mailed me a list of problems he had with the book and then mailed a hard copy of the e-mail to my house, just to make sure I had gotten it.” (p. 15) I admired the courage of Bukszpan as later in the introduction he admits that he screwed up, big-time on the first book and was appreciative for second chance to rectify some of the choices from the first time around.
If you did not get the first edition you have to get this one for your library. For those of you who did, and want a more in-depth analysis...read on!
That takes us to ‘Part II” of this review to discuss in more detail the changes he did make. Let’s get right down to the numbers. Bukszpan subtracted four bands; Insane Clown Posse, Limp Bizkit, Cycle Sluts From Hell and Kid Rock. He added 40 bands with a strong emphasis on 60’s and 70’s bands including Angel, Buffalo, Cactus, Cream, Death (Detroit), Flower Travellin’ Band, Free, Girlschool, Humble Pie, Heart, Legs Diamond, Mountain, Nazareth, Starz. Some of the more ‘modern’ acts he added are still old in spirit bands like Airbourne, The Darkness and Wolfmother. He also throws in some borderline/suspect bands like Isis and Sevendust and Killswitch Engage and a nod of that hat to some of the crop of mallcore/nu-metallers like Lamb Of God, Hatebreed and Mastodon, so you can tell his tastes are not very contemporary at all. However, printed encyclopedias by nature are looking back at the past, so he can’t be faulted for not including current bands as they may not stand the test of time.
The book is significantly smaller than the last printing in terms of physical size which is a shame because the last one was huge and awesome to look at. He corrected a few mistakes, (but not all) and added bands that should have been there in the first place; Arch Enemy, Cradle Of Filth, Destruction, Dream Theater, Nightwish, Rhapsody and Stratovarius. Unfortunately, he kept bands that should have not been included in the first place such as Alice In Chains, Deftones, Helmet, Korn, Melvins, Nine Inch Nails, Queens Of The Stone Age, Rage Against The Machine, Soundgarden, Tea Party, Therapy and Tool…in fact the more I think about it the more I realize how much unmitigated, non-metal crap did make the cut, the above bands having little or no connection to the history and lineage of Metal except for the fact that they may have an electric guitar in the band.
However, Bukszpan has a very liberal and inclusive (and revisionist) definition of ‘Metal’ and that is unfortunate because for the truly hardcore Metal fans you could argue that up to 40% of the bands really should not be in an encyclopedia of Heavy Metal. It is akin to writing an encyclopedia about sports cars and 40% of the entries are about boats, trucks and airplanes…all people movers with engines but very different machines and certainly not sports cars.
Although it was a bit of an impulse buy for a book I, in essence, already own, but I feel there is enough new material to justify a re-buy. By including a high percentage of 70’s rock bands with little relation to Metal, and the fact that Bukszpan did not drop a dozen bands with no relation to Metal when he had the chance the second time around, I was tempted to keep the rating the same as the first edition at 3.5. However, by fixing some mistakes, adding lots more content and dropping some of the questionable entries, I feel the improvement warrants an increase to a 4/5. I’m assuming the debut is now out-of-print, so if you don’t already own it you might as well grab this new, improved version of THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF HEAVY METAL. It deserves a spot in your library.