Larkin, Colin – The Virgin Encyclopedia of Heavy Rock (Book Review)

Spread the metal:

Reviewed: November 2001
Released: 1999, Virgin Publishing
Rating: 1.0/5
Reviewer: JP


A straight-ahead Metal Encyclopedia. At 500 pages it is a great reference tool and addition to a metal library but more knowledgeable fans might find cause to criticize.

The title alone, “Heavy Rock (?!) is your first warning. Published by Virgin mega-music conglomerate is your second warning. The sub-title: “Based on the Encyclopedia of Popular Music” is the third warning. Three strikes and you are OUT!

This book fundamentally sucks on so many levels. Where to begin… Normally I don’t like to blatantly slag stuff but man is this weak. I suppose I should give you some reasons why this bites.

Let’s start with the good, what little there is. This thing is massive, over 500 pages. It is a true encyclopedia format with small entries for hundreds of bands. There is a nominal review of releases, but no actual review. It covers bands pretty much from Zep and Sabbath to the current crop of corporate whores. (aka nu-metal). I gave it one point because Colin Larkin tried. I believe he honestly did try. Anyone who tackles such a monumental project, or decides to author any book about metal deserves some accolades. There are even moments when I believe he could be a “Heavy Rock” fan. There are a few occasional, perceptive insights into bands or trends. We cannot fault him or trying. The only other positive (or negative?) thing is there is a big slant to the melodic hard rock bands of the UK, like the Wildhearts and The Almighty that did well over the pond but didn’t make much a dent in the rest of the world.

Why does this book both suck and blow at the same time? Many reasons!

1.) There are hundreds of mistakes. Each entry comes with a small discography and there are so many mistakes it makes it unreadable. Classic example, According to this book (as of time of publication in1999) Grave Digger apparently has 5 full length CD’s (instead of the 9 full length and 13 releases overall reality). The mistakes are endless.

2.) There are dozens of bands that barely qualify as rock that were included that should not have been. (Bush, Blues Traveller, Blind Melon?!)

3.) There are dozens and dozens of major bands excluded; bands, that have had a major impact on metal and it’s history. How can you include an entry on Bob Seger and not have entries on Stratovarius or Blind Guardian?! Laughable. Ludicrous, Lousy.

4.) Almost a complete disregard for most sub-genres of metal (Prog, Black, Death), hence the title “popular music” I suppose. Only the biggest of the big in the sub-genres get mentioned. (R.E.M. but no entry on Dimmu Borgir)

Ultimately, I believe that Virgin paid a team of writers, 90% of which were non-metal fans, to quickly generate this “encyclopedia” to cash in on the massive global resurgence of metal. Shameful. For archivists only. Avoid.

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Publisher: Virgin Publishing
Pages: 0