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Stevens, Dakota
A Guide To Heavy Metal Music (Book Review)
March 2012
Released: 2011, n/a
Rating: 2.0/5
Reviewer: JP

There is a fairly new, interesting series of books about Metal but not much information seems to be available about them. Essentially these books are reprints of articles pulled from Wikipedia and edited by Dakota Stevens. I’m not sure who or what Dakota Stevens is (a person? an editorial firm?) but Stevens has over 400 titles like this covering all forms of pop culture, movies, TV, celebrities and music. For our interest, there are already about 40 books in the ‘Metal Series’, as I’m calling it. Initially, upon discovery of these titles, my feeling was, “Why would anyone want to pay good, cash-money for something they can read for free on-line?” However, the Librarian in me got the better of my wallet and I ordered five titles, the ones that I felt would have the most interest to the fine and cultured readers of This month I will review all of them; A GUIDE TO HEAVY METAL MUSIC, A GUIDE TO TRADITIONAL METAL, A GUIDE TO POWER METAL, A GUIDE TO NEOCLASSICAL METAL and A GUIDE TO SYMPHONIC METAL. There are another 15 genre specific titles in the series, including Death, Thrash, Black, Doom, Glam, Folk, Viking and many more. There are also at least a dozen ‘band’ books as well, focusing on the biggest names in the biz; Black Sabbath, Scorpions, Helloween, Death, and Testament for example.

The full title of the book is actually A GUIDE TO HEAVY METAL MUSIC: HISTORY, FESTIVALS, FOUNDERS AND MORE, which doesn’t really roll off the tongue. The cover is cheap looking. It’s a fan photo of the band Deuteronomium playing live. Why them? Nothing against the band but I’m sure there had to be a better band they could pick to represent all of ‘Heavy Metal’. They aren’t even in the book! The book is 158 pages long, easy to read, a few black and white photos and lots of lists.

The book is broken into five main sections.

-Overview and History of Heavy Metal

-Image And Fashion

-Fan subculture


-Founders of Heavy Metal Music

The overview is decent, nothing as comprehensive as Christe’s book SOUND OF THE BEAST. The image and fan sub-culture sections are short and inoffensive, lasting only a few pages. The Festivals section is essentially lists of Festivals but woefully incomplete only including Bloodstock, Monsters Of Rock, Ozzfest and Mayhem Festival. This 57 page section is mostly lists of who performed on what stage at what festival, where and when It is kind of cool to be able flip back and notice that Helloween, for example, played on Sept 18th, in Barcelona at the 1988 Monster of Rock festival in Spain. The last 78 pages is dedicated to the Founders, namely the Big Four; Zeppelin, Purple, Sabbath and Priest with standard articles. Many books have been written on each of these bands but the articles are good and it’s a nice brief overview of the bands. I consider this a simple Metal 101 and the start of the series.

Ultimately the book has a number of potentially fatal flaws. The editor, Dakota Stevens, has to take the word of the person who posted the article in Wikipedia as authoritative and (hopefully) free of bias. That’s the problem, anyone can post anything on Wikipedia but that does not necessarily make it correct. Without knowing it, Stevens may select a very poorly written and biased article and publish it, before the community of on-line observers has a chance to correct or edit the offending article. Some of the on-line articles are written in first person. For example, comments like, “I went to that festival and it was great.” really should have been edited out.

This leads to the second problem, unless Stevens (the person or company) has extensive and intimate knowledge of Heavy Metal, they will be unable to edit the article properly. Accordingly, there are tons of mistakes; little ones, but mistakes nonetheless that the editor did not correct.

Reading an on-line article is very different than a book. A book may have a bibliography, references and so on but Wikipedia has hyperlinks that are listed and you can go to that page to read more. In these books the links are mentioned but not included! For example, under the band Black Sabbath the heading would read; ‘Former Members: see: List of Black Sabbath band members.’ On Wikipedia that is a link to another page listing the Black Sabbath band members, but in the book, the page of former members not included at all! The editor should have gone to each of those related links and pages and included the pertinent information. There are dozens of such examples of poor sourcing and incomplete entries.

Lastly, this book is almost immediately out of date. As soon as Dakota Stevens selects the article for physical publication, someone more knowledgeable, could conceivably re-write the entire article on a band or genre and post it on Wikipedia and therefore the book could be almost immediately redundant.

A GUIDE TO HEAVY METAL MUSIC is a neat idea, a neat project and I do like having the physical copy of the book. It sort of encapsulates the genre up until roughly 2010, sort of like a little 40th Anniversary of Metal series, a snap-shot in time of what popular perception of what Metal was like until 2010.

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