Compton, Eric – Denim & Letters-Pieces Of A (Book Review)

Spread the metal:

Author: Compton, Eric
Title: Denim & Letters-Pieces Of A
Date Published:  2014
Publisher: Indie
Reviewed:  August,  2018
Reviewer: JP
Rating 3.5/5

As Managing Editor of one of the world’s largest and longest running Metal webzines, I don’t always have the luxury or time (or desire) or keep an eye on other Metal websites.  There are many out there, I am a familiar with many of them, I know the ones I like, the ones with good reputations and vice-versa. Maximum Metal is one of the really good ones, but I just never really go there often, we are busying doing out own thing and Maximum Metal are just one of the pack, true fans doing good work, keeping the flame of metal alive.   One of their most prolific reviewers is an American fellow by the name of Eric Compton and since 1999 he has written over 1000 reviews.  According to Maximum Metal website stats he has written abut 33% of their entire database of reviews. He likes to write about Metal!

A few years back, he decided to start an alphabetical book series called DENIM & LETTERS and the first one is called PIECES OF A.  As you may guess this is a collection of his reviews of albums from bands whose name begins with the letter ‘A’.  He has collected 130 reviews and published them in a nice-looking paperback that is about 150 pages long. There are no photos, and not much technical information either, just the name of the band, the album, the label and the year it came out.  For some reason, he decided to drop his ratings that originally appeared on the Maximum Metal website.  There are also some endorsements from various Metal people and the author writes a sincere introduction describing his entry into the world Metal back in the 90’s.

Compton was clever enough to add some value by adding some new material. He has added eight short interviews with musicians, again all from bands that start with the letter ‘A’ and there are a number of various quotes and insights pulled from his work at Maximum Metal, so it is not all just reviews. He chose to interview lesser known people so it is pretty cool in that regard.

I found Comptons reviews to be quite short and often lacking on detail, some of them only 4-5 sentences long.  There are a number of small errors, punctuation, grammar, spelling, the wrong words used and technical errors about bands, his editor really needs to go over this again.  However, I make my fair share of mistakes in my reviews as well and fan-based journalism is just that, it is not meant to be technically flawless at all times. He focuses mostly on full-length studio albums only; virtually no live albums, compilations, box-sets, EP’s, books or DVD’s.

What was very appealing is that he does not review the same old bands and albums over and over; all of his picks are quite contemporary. He reviews albums that have been released between 1999 and 2014 but the at least half of the reviews were from 2010 to 2014.  Compton reviews a wide range of styles of bands.  He covers the big names like Accept, Annihilator and Anvil to newer little guys like Art Of Dying.  He covers many genres from Death Metal (Autopsy) to Power Metal (Axenstar) to mallcore (As I Lay Dying) to Hard Rock (American Dog) and he reviews them all with very little bias.   I like his style of reviewing he talks about all sorts of things, album art, production quality, line-up changes, record label stuff and lots of good trivia.  I feel his reviews are insightful and interesting.

I’ve thought that it would be a neat idea to go back and publish all the reviews I’ve written for in book form, but then I ask myself… “Why?  They are already all on-line for free!  Who would buy it?”  However, Metal people do like buying books that consist of lists and reviews! Martin Popoff launched his publishing empire with a book of album reviews (RIFF KILLS MAN) in 1993 but this was largely pre-internet so you could not go read those same reviews for free on-line. Accordingly, I’m not sure about the long-term viability or sustainability of a 20+ book series of already pre-published reviews. The added-value content may make it worthwhile in the long run.   As mentioned, this was first published in 2014 and to the best of my knowledge, four years later, there has not been a ‘PIECES OF B’ yet.  At this rate of one letter every four years it will be an 80+ year project before it is complete!

However, I still admire Compton for doing it. He is clearly a prolific and passionate reviewer and if he puts his mind and resources to it I’m sure the series will continue.   I bought this first one, ‘just to have’ to indulge my collectors mentality for my library, but how badly I’ll need to buy and own hard copies of the entire series is something different.