Popoff, Martin – Black Sabbath FAQ (Book Review)

Spread the metal:

Reviewed: May 2012
Released: 2011, Backbeat Books
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: JP


The penultimate Sabbath book by one of the world\’s biggest Sabbath fans.

Canadian author Martin ‘The Machine’ Popoff has another feather in his cap. He has joining the small, but growing ranks of authors who are contributors to Backbeats’ FAQ book series. In his introduction Popoff says if there is one band he would write a second book about, it would be the grand-daddy of the all, Black Sabbath. Back in 2006 he wrote DOOM LET LOOSE but this title is a significant expansion on his prior title with a different approach.

If you are not familiar the FAQ series tries to collect all the remaining trivia, fun-facts, anecdotes about popular bands and cobble together a book, hence the sub-title, ‘All That’s Left to Know On The First Name In Metal’. The paperback is a generous 400 pages with lots of black and white pictures of flyers, photos and so on with no repetition from his previous book.

My initial thought about this title (much like the Led Zeppelin FAQ book) was, ‘Not ANOTHER book about Black Sabbath!’, but once again, due to the strength of the concept and the creativity of the author, BLACK SABBATH FAQ is really worth while. There are a number of similarities in the FAQ book series, components such as a timeline of important dates in the bands history, a look at the production of each album, lists of solo albums and projects outside the Sabbath machine and more. The book is driven by Popoff’s opinion. There are many subjective lists of his thoughts and ranks of albums covers, production jobs and so on. There is no right or wrong by Martin articulates his ideas well and I think most people would generally agree with his assessments. Despite being loaded with mountains of facts the book comes across as a bit of a (well-deserved) love-letter to the band. Nothing wrong with that!

BLACK SABBATH FAQ goes way, way beyond other books about the band. There are interviews with people who did albums covers, lists of charts positions and releases dates and there are interviews with road managers of tours including very detailed descriptions of legendary tours like Black Sabbath/Van Halen tour or the Black and Blue tour with BOC. Martin talks at length about Heaven And Hell and the final era of Dio and he also lists slightly less weighty topics like creating lists of bands named after Black Sabbath songs. The thing I like is that the book covers all eras with equal enthusiasm and respect. All the singers get their due, later-era live albums are analyzed and the timelines go right into 2010. The script does get bogged down a bit with Martin’s incredibly detailed analysis of Black Sabbath demos but those are relegated to the appendices, which admittedly are invaluable to the die-hard fans. There are 35 chapters and it would be foolhardy to try to even summarize list all of the information in this book. The review would be six pages long!

The true value of this book lies in Martin multiple, post 2006 interviews with various members of the band. It’s all fresh, new and exciting for fans. The information he pulls out of the old grey matter of the old grey haired members of Black Sabbath is compiled in a readable format that is surely to stand undisputed as ‘All That’s Left To Know About The First Name In Metal’.

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Technical Details:
Format Reviewed:
Publisher: Backbeat Books
Pages: 400