Released: 2010, Dakota Stevens
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 http://www.Metal-Rules.com.
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 of title of the book is actually, A GUIDE TO TRADITIONAL HEAVY METAL MUSIC INCLUDING ITS ORIGINS AND FAMOUS BANDS SUCH AS BLACK SABBATH, BLACK LABEL SOCIETY, ALICE COOPER, DEF LEPPARD, BRIDE AND MORE which frankly is a horrible title. Bride? Really? The book is broken into three sections spread over 214 pages and Ozzy graces the cover.
-Overview of Traditional Metal
-Traditional Heavy Metal Bands
The first section is pretty brief and talks about lyrics, terminology, and musical characteristics. Following are three articles about stylistic origins namely; Psychedelic Rock, Blues Rock and Hard Rock. This 24-page section is quite interesting and delves quite thoroughly into the roots of those genres. The bulk of the book (183 pages) are entries on 27 different bands. I’m not sure how these bands were picked but some of the choices for inclusion were very strange and some of the bands that were left out are unforgiveable. No Iron Maiden? No Judas Priest? What were they thinking? I won’t list all the bands but I thought it was strange to include the short-lived (but excellent) Canadian act Sword who get a single page. Other odd (but welcome) inclusions are Heaven’s Gate, Oz and Twisted Tower Dire. They are some inclusions that people might debate, based on metal merit and modern revisionist definitions of Metal; Quiet Riot, Kingdom Come, Scorpions, Dokken and Def Leppard but I’ve always considered those guys Metal and they were originally identified as Metal so it works. Other weird ones are Ethel The Frog and Gordi. No it’s not a typo, it’s Gordi from Yugoslavia, not Lordi from Finland. The odd thing is the bands are not listed alphabetically or chronologically; it’s just a weird random list of bands.
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 TRADITIONAL METAL 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 Traditional Metal was like until 2010.