Released: 2008, PowerChord Press
Hard Rock and Heavy Metal’s #1 author, Martin Popoff is getting old. That’s not an insult directed to my friend Martin. He freely admits it on his website! He recognizes his strengths and weaknesses, which is a rare trait that not many of us possess. One of his weaknesses (if you can even define it as such) is a fading interest in the myriad realms of modern metal. That plays directly into one of his strengths as he has been turning his attention towards the classic early days of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal. This passion has turned into a series of books called Ye Olde Metal. Martin has published five in the series and in private conversations with him, he says he has almost finished several more.
What are these books about? Essentially, Popoff has compiled a collection of extensive track-by-track album reviews, laced with massive amounts of detail, trivia and first person recollections by the actual artists on the albums. These have all been culled from Popoff’s massive archive of interviews with these artists. These books are pretty much the final word on these albums. Martin’s idea is similar to the popular 33 1/3 series of books where an author does an in-depth analysis of an album. Martin has rather cleverly decided to focus on some lesser-known albums instead of review the huge albums that have already been written about in great detail over the years. Each chapter is dedicated to one album and each chapter starts with a shot of the (vinyl) album cover. Lastly, each one is limited to 1000 copies and autographed so act fast!
This review is more of a quick public service announcement, rather than an in-depth analysis of each title. I’ve reviewed the first five books in the series this month (May, 2011) and they each have similar flow, theme and content. Meaning read one of my book reviews of the series and you’ve pretty much read them all. They are subtitled as 1968- 1972, 1973-1975, 1976, 1977, and 1978. It’s a bit of a cop-out but it beats trying to write five unique reviews for five virtually identical books. Lazy vs. Efficient. Toe-May-Toe, Toe Mah-Toe! For the record the intro and outro for each of these reviews are identical with a bit of unique, individual commentary in the middle bits.
Now we are kicking! 1976 in my mind is where I really started to become a little more musically aware, Queen, Kiss, Alice Cooper, Rush stuff like that. In this third title in the series we get 13 reviews and none of the four aforementioned bands make the cut, which keeps in the spirit of the series, as those bands have all been ‘done to death’. Instead we get Moxy, Terrible Ted, Angel, Scorpions and more. There are more and more photos and flyers starting to be scattered around the text as well, adding a better visual presentation. I noticed Martin chickened out and did not print the original uncensored album cover art of VIRGIN KILLER by Scorpions. They talk about the banned album art but don’t show it, opting for the band shot version. It was a good year for Metal. This book also contains a long and intimate interview with Brad Delp, (Boston) his last interview in fact before he took his life in early 2007.
I suppose a reader could micro-analyze the percentage of bands that they enjoy in a specific book with other books in the series and rate them accordingly. For example, I like more bands in the 1978 version than in the 1976 title so I could give 1978 a higher rating but I have avoided that temptation, because realistically, Popoff has spent the same time, energy and love into each title. In fact he describes his series as his, “love letter to ancient metal”. All the books in the series hold equal weight and equal quality.
Olde farts rejoice and reminisce, young bucks listen and learn, and we all kneel together at the Ancient Alter Of Metal where it all began. Like the old saying goes, “The gods you worship are steel, at the altar of Rock and Roll you kneel’, (B. Lawless, 1984) and these are the (un)holy scriptures of an age gone but not forgotten.