Campbell, Vic- Metal Missionary

Spread the metal:

Author:  Campbell, Vic
Title: Metal Missionary-The Steve Rowe Story
Publisher:  VC Media/ Rowe Productions
Published: 2016
Date: June, 2018
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: JP

In Metal there is ‘the underground’, which is arguably the vast majority of Heavy Metal, then there is truly underground, the stuff even most Metal fans don’t know about.  Mortification is one of those bands.  The Christian Metal (or White Metal, if you prefer) is an underground scene all to itself, with it’s own fan-base, bands, labels, distributors and media.   As White Metal bands go Mortification is among the most successful having a career that spans, fourteen studio albums and a quarter of a century of touring. You can’t be that productive for that long and NOT have a story to tell!

The renowned Aussie DJ, Vic Campbell, is the man to tell the story of Steve Rowe, founder and sole surviving member of Australia’s Mortification.   METAL MISSIONARY is a very well designed and presented independent publication.   It is an over-sized paper-back, full colour, loaded with photos and runs over 300 pages long.  Rowe and Campbell worked in close conjunction and much of the prose is from Steve himself.

METAL MISSIONARY follows your standard chronological retelling of the life of Rowe.  Rowe over time became truly legendary in the global White Metal scene, not only running Mortification but a record label and distribution as well.  We get to follow Rowe early life, a somewhat standard tale of a good upbringing.  He had good values, stable home-life, sports, school, some girls, nothing crazy, by all accounts a good kid, except that he was bitten by the rock ’n’ roll bug.    As time went on Rowe decided to mix his faith and Metal and had a considerably large degree of success with record deals, North American and European tours and and some well-respected Death Metal albums. The story talks about his life, marriage, tours, band line-up changes (and there were a lot of them!) his distro company and building a recording studio.

Then the book gets really interesting.   At one point Rowe got cancer. Twice.  Bad cancer.  I know all cancer is bad but this was an especially aggressive and lethal type that attacked his spine.  A good portion of the book is about his illness, treatment and recovery. It is not a pleasant story. He goes into intense explicit, personal detail about all of it.   At one point I was thinking to myself, “Man. I do NOT want to read about this poor guys suffering anymore, it’s just too grim!”  He did say however, that his decision to give that much detail is more about education and triumph of faith and will, rather than pity.

I really don’t like the word ‘miracle’.  So many people throw it around in sports, pop culture, the news in daily, life…a true miracle is rare and the overuse of the term has made it lose most of it’s meaning.   If a guy scores the winning goal in a big game, it is not a miracle. It’s training, hard work and maybe good luck.  However, Steve’s recovery, when he was literally on death’s door in his final convulsions is miraculous.  I’ll spare some of dramatic detail to preserve the  integrity of the story, but it is pretty amazing.  Although it is a strong Christian element, the narrative is not preachy and Rowe and Campbell, men of faith, are not overbearing, but strong in their convictions and brave to tell that faith in something higher can and will help, if you let it.

METAL MISSIONARY is a very powerful book.  It combines human drama and a decidedly Heavy Metal tale of struggle and perseverance. The respect and recognition that Mortification deserves is long overdue and Rowe’s life story has been an amazing adventure. I’m glad it finally gets to be told.