Released: 2007, Collectors Guide Publishing Inc.
Martin Popoff has just released his 30th book on Hard Rock/Heavy Metal. His work hasn’t been getting nearly enough attention in our book reviews section. As of 2011 we’ve only reviewed five of his 30 titles on this site. Well to celebrate the 30th book milestone of sorts, this month (March, 2011) I’m going to go back to the core of his writing career and review the four (or five or six depends how you count) books that are the collections of his reviews. I’ve already reviewed the title THE COLLECTORS GUIDE TO HEAVY METAL VOLUME I: THE 70’s back in 2004. Click here for review. http://www.metal-rules.com/review/viewreview.php
Also reviewed in this series this month are the original COLLECTORS GUIDE and the decade themed follow-up series, the 80’s, 90’s and the newbie the 00’s. Plus we’ll look at his very first book going way back to 1993 RIFF KILLS MAN, the book that started it all. Incase you are confused yet here’s how it works.
RIFF KILLS MAN! (1993)
THE COLLECTORS GUIDE TO HEAVY METAL (1997)
THE COLLECTORS GUIDE TO HEAVY METAL Volume I The Seventies (2003)
THE COLLECTORS GUIDE TO HEAVY METAL Volume 2: The Eighties (2005)
THE COLLECTORS GUIDE TO HEAVY METAL Volume 3: The Nineties (2007)
THE COLLECTORS GUIDE TO HEAVY METAL Volume 4: The 00’s (2011)
There will be a bit of repetition in this feature/series of book reviews due to the similar nature of each title but each book has it’s quirks and charms. Let’s get to it!
The 90’s were an odd decade for Metal. The 70’s started it. The 80’s grew it and defined it. The 90’s saw an attempt at a partial restructuring of the definitions of Metal as sub-genres crystallized and new ones emerged (1990-1995) Around 1997 it started to grow exponentially that by the new millennium no one could truly embrace and understand it. Martin Popoff discusses that very point in his introduction expressing his growing frustration at his (or anyone’s inability) to capture an accurate or detailed picture of the genre.
It’s another monsterwerk at 3703 reviews spread across 520 pages. Red cover this time! The pictures of album covers are gone. The font seems a bit smaller than the 80’s book, but it’s probably just my old eyes. Metal Blade Records gets the nod again to have the privilege of providing the 15 track bonus disc. Again it is streamlined, no personal lists or musings. The two lone appendices are a mirror of the pair in the 80’s book, namely a reproduction of the top albums from the 90’s culled from his TOP 500 HEAVY METAL ALBUMS OF ALL TIME book and a corresponding personal lists of his favourites. My tastes seem a bit more in line with the fans of the Top 500 book, rather than Martin grunge friendly list.
Martin felt the need to address the surge in alt.metal, grunge and so on, so our opinions really start to diverge at this point. This was the first book that I really started to question his criteria for inclusion and/or definition of ‘Metal’. In my mind Martin was getting increasingly out of touch with the underground and what was happening in the global explosion of Metal.
The trend was predictable, in that this book covers even less of the available material. Martin realizes that and says so in his introduction, almost being resigned to the fact that he (or anyone) could do it anymore. I personally would have dropped the dozens (even low hundreds) of bands of questionable metal content and/or value and dug deeper into the underground. However, exploring all that new music is really, really hard work. It takes time and money and back in the 90’s you couldn’t just download a bands entire catalogue with the click of a button. If you wanted to steal music you still had to go to the record store and stick the album up your shirt. The 90’s book covers almost exactly a quarter of what was out there, roughly 12,000 albums released between 1990 and 1999. It’s overwhelming but still comprehensive. One outta four albums ain’t bad! It’s still better than anyone else out there!
Martin writing seems a bit more cynical and tired as he has less and less tolerance for the Melodic bands that cropped up in the 90’s and tried to keep going. On the flip-side he has expanded his appreciation and understanding of the extreme sub-genres. It’s as if he circled the wagons with his favourites, gets accidental exposure to the newer ‘mainstream’ stuff and is less willing (and or able) to explore into the underground for his less preferred genres. I can’t say I blame him.
Even though it’s not my favourite of the COLLECTORS GUIDE series, it is very useful for open-minded fans, and is likely the last book he will do that can do justice to an entire decade. Martin hangs on to show the world he is still the most knowledgeable, well-rounded and open-minded Metal fan around. Like all the others in the series and despite my misgivings, the 90’s is essential for your library.