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Wicked Woman (Book Review)
Released: 2014, Independent
Over the past decade there has been an explosion in the number of woman performers in the Heavy Metal genre. Accordingly there have been more and more people writing about this. Generally a lot of the writing about women in Metal has been academic in nature but there are a few exceptions. Addison Herron-Wheeler’s new book WICKED WOMAN is one of those, in fact the second book about women in Metal to be published this year. People may look back at 2014 as a breakthrough year.
Subtitled ‘Women In Metal from the 1960’s To Now’ is an independent publication. As a book it is a decent production with a few standard features introduction, appendix and so on. The cover is eye catching with a font reminiscent of many doom bands of the 60’s and 70’s and a nice collage of Kerry Zylstra of Occultist and Dominique Withoff of Versklaven. The smallish paperback is nice to look at a simple effective design and has a few black and white photos scattered around the book.
In her introduction Herron-Wheeler says her book was not an attempt to document every female performer which is wise because that might have made WICKED WOMAN a bit long and dry. However, a reader will immediately notice that the book is short. At just over 100 pages long it was disappointingly short. I wanted to read more! There were a few tiny technical errors but those are already being edited/fixed for next pressings and there is also talk of an expanded second edition with interest from publishers. The price is low, a steal at just a few bucks, so I’d suggest grabbing an original copy before this book gets reworked and mass produced.
The book is divided into nine main chapters roughly divided along genre lines, NWOBHM, Death Metal, Black Metal, Doom and Grindcore and so on but oddly enough the largest Metal genre, Power Metal is skipped(?!), although some of the performers in that genre are touched on in the NWOBHM and Symphonic chapters. Each chapter follows a brief history of some key performers and pioneers in their field. The prose is effective and engaging and Herron-Wheeler tells the stories and has the text laced with quotes by various women from across the ages. She does a good job of covering a massive amount of time, (4+ decades) in a short space. It would be too simple to criticize what was left out instead of focusing on some performers who don’t normally get credit, such as Jinx Dawson of the band Coven. I would certainly question some of the omissions, some of the most influential, successful female pioneers in the Metal don’t get mentioned at all, but Herron-Wheeler said she wanted to focus on the underground and genres like Doom and Grind that don’t normally get any mention at all. I think in the matter of being comprehensive some of the biggest names should have at least got an honourable mention. Her focus on the Doom genre and the Goddess tradition was especially strong and I learned quite a lot of interesting information.
One thing I enjoyed about WICKED WOMAN is that while the book was inspired by a feminist perspective, Herron-Wheeler avoids descending into traditional angry feminist rhetoric. When gender issues are raised, she states the facts clearly and plainly with a hope that these past inequalities and poor treatment of woman in Metal will change for the better. I feel this tact was clever on her point because if the book was too overtly political with an agenda it may have alienated many readers as much of the Metal community is very conservative. It was an empowering book focusing on the successes of female performers past and present under difficult circumstances.
WICKED WOMAN is very well done and will appeal to many metal heads, of all genders, that want to gain a broader understanding of the roles and perception of woman in Metal over the years. I feel once this gets tweaked and reworked and expanded this is going to be, not only entertaining, but a monumentally important book. All hail the Goddesses!