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Daniels, Neil
All Pens Blazing-A Heavy Metal Writers Handbook (Book Review)
January 2010
Released: 2010, Independent
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: JP

When I heard about this book I bought it right away. As a metal journalist I am very interested in the work of other Metal journalists and this book is the definitive examination of the art of writing about music.



Neil has released a number of other titles and is becoming very prolific in the field and this is (I believe) his first independently produced publication and it does show. The book itself is pretty massive at 350 pages but even moreso because of the tiny font. It is almost too small to read comfortably. I suppose to enlarge the font would have pushed the page count over 600 easily. The cover is a neat idea (a collage of magazine covers) but it is poorly executed as it is too dark and blurry and seems somewhat random, like a fanzine. The title is very clever and fits perfectly and the whole work is nicely prefaced with a forward by Martin Popoff. The whole look and layout of the book is downplayed but inside content is the king.



All Pens Blazing is a collection of interviews with 65 metal journalists from around the world that were conducted by Daniels himself. The interviews all follow roughly the same format and ask a standard set of questions, letting the journalists have free reign. I wouldn’t think that a person would normally sit and read it cover to cover because of the repetitive nature of the interview Q&A format. More likely one would choose a familiar author and read his or her thoughts. It is great to dip into, in small chunks.



Daniels is based in the UK and the majority of the journalists interviewed are from the UK, because of it’s stronger and more mainstream acceptance of music journalism over the years. The interviews provide fascinating insight and detail into the lives, working habits, projects, feuds and passions of the most respected and esteemed metal writers around. Many of the writers don’t pull any punches elaborating on past grievances, not getting paid, getting fired, getting ripped off or grumbling about lousy interviews with annoying rockstars. To nicely off-set the negative aspect of journalism, there are some interesting tales of being paid to go on the road and drink with bands you admire for a week and then write about it! What better job is there? However, most of the authors (when the subject is broached) agree the days of the elaborate paid junket are long gone. Many of those interviewed are generous enough to provide tips for aspiring writers and editors, very useful information indeed.



If you grew up reading any sort of metal magazines, books or fanzines then you will recognize many of the names interviewed here in this collection, names like Henderson, Dome, McIver, Christie, Friend, Popoff, Slagel, Madder, and many more. Ultimately, this collection of essays is getting down to a narrow of a niche as possible, namely writing about writers who write about music. However, if you want to explore that niche, I recommend this collection for any aspiring writer and fan of metal journalism.
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