Reviewed: March 2020
Released: 2019, Publisher: Independent
There exists an interesting little sub-set of books in the Hard Rock and Heavy Metal genre and that is Metal fan autobiographies. While most Hard Rock/Metal Books fall into conventional categories of biography, autobiography, history or art books there is a growing number of fans who write their own life story in relation to Metal. These are not band members, or ex-employees or managers or industry folk who are writing about Metal, these are simply people, usually guys, middle-aged, white guys in North America to be precise, who write their story as it relates to the Metal. I’m not sure why but it seems to be a largely North American phenomena.
There are any number of examples; METAL FATIGUE (Baker), HELL BENT FOR LEATHER (Hunter), NO SLEEP TIL SUDBURY (Jensen), POWERCHORD (McKenzie) and a dozen more. I’ve reviewed all of these titles here on Metal-Rules if you are interested to read them. The latest author to join the growing ranks is American author, Angelo G. Spenillo who has published his book, I AM A PROFESSIONAL METALHEAD. They say everyone has a book inside them ready and wanting to be written and the driven and productive Spenillo has heeded the call.
This 195+ page, slightly oversized, paperback is an independent publication but is nicely laid-out and presented. There are a couple dozen black and white photos as well. The book carries the sub-tile ‘How Heavy Metal Guided My Career Journey’. This is important because unlike most of those other books (which are all decent in their own way), Spenillo has a unique angle, namely marrying business advice and Metal. Although those two topics might not seem like natural bedfellows, it works. The book is well-sourced and he even has provided a Spotify playlist that you can go on-line and listen to while you read the book. It fits nicely with his storyline.
Spenillo grew up in America in the 80’s and his formative years were defined by Glam Metal and melodic Hard Rock. As time went on he discovered more and more sounds and genres that were to his liking. An intelligent and driven young man he eventually became a lawyer, got a job with the Department Of Justice, got married and all those things. His life has been backed with a full-on Metal soundtrack. He breaks his book into five main parts, the first three are more of a straight-forward autobiography and the last two sections are more business and perhaps most interestingly how Heavy Metal, has inspired him to be successful and also to mix lessons he learned from Heavy Metal and transfer those into a business environment. There are some very interesting parallels to be sure.
If I had only one minor comment it would be that Spenillo often seems to write like his situation is somehow special or unique. Of course his own tale is unique to him, but the main story of a white guy growing up in North American the 80’s and becoming a productive successful member of society and still listen to metal is really not all rare or special as he seems to think or imply. By now, all those 80’s Metal fans (millions of them) are all now 45-55 years old and all have jobs and wives and careers and many, many of them still are die-hard Metalheads. In my circle alone, I know senior HR people, investment bankers, energy traders, insurance brokers, government employees, nurses etc…who are all still die-hard Metalheads and they all still wear metal shirts, go to shows, play in bands, and buy CD’s. It’s not like some secret society!
Spenillo almost over explains some things, but that is in part because he is deliberately writing for a non-Metal audience. I found this angle refreshing, but also an odd choice because who is going to read this book? It is like a chicken and the egg scenario. Who is the intended audience? A metal fan who is a business person? or a business person who is a Metal fan? or a Metal fan who is not a business person? In the end he chose to write for a fourth option, a business person who is not a Metal fan and accordingly it comes across as a Metal 101 at times. As a life-long, die-hard Metal guy I can honestly say I did not learn one single fact about Metal that I did not already know. However, I’m not the intended audience!
Fortunately, his observations about Metal are witty, engaging, accurate and error free. He name drops a few obscure bands, (Heaven’s Edge anyone?) demonstrating the depth of his knowledge and experience. There were many times when I was reading along and I was nodding in agreement thinking, ‘this guy nailed it’. Another aspect of his style that I enjoyed is that he is seemingly devoid of ego. He admits there are bands he has never heard of and admits to making embarrassing mistakes, (which really aren’t mistakes at all) and he says, yes, he likes other forms of music as well. Anyone who is not a big Metal fan, will learn a ton of interesting things.
Spenillo has also developed some interesting ideas such as the MCZ ‘Metal Comfort Zone’ where he explains how some fans always listen to what they grew up with, some expand their comfort zone and try different things. During the course of the book he is often suggesting that people step out of their comfort zone, musically and professionally to take risks and explore new music or try new things in business. Seems reasonable to me. He also develops the concept of the EMS ‘Escalating Metal Swing’ which tracks the development of new sub-genres over time. These are some interesting concepts but he doesn’t over-analyze things.
Ultimately, I AM A PROFESSIONAL METALHEAD is a fun, light read, well-written and articulate. Part life guide, part self-help, part business advice all wrapped in a Metal wrapper makes this book pretty positive and inspirational. His connections between Metal and business make this one of the more interesting and unique Metal fan autobiographies on the market.