Brutus, Lou-Sonic Warrior (Book Review)

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Released: 2020

Publisher:  Rare Bird books

Rating: 3.5/5

Reviewer: JP

I was a little hesitant going into this book.  It is the autobiography of Lou Brutus.  I had no idea who this guy is, never heard of him before, but the publicist said it was a good rock story and was kind enough to provide an advance copy for me to read, so I did.

Recently I coined there term, ‘metallography’, a biography of an ‘average’ Joe (or Jane) who writes their autobiography and puts it all in a Hard Rock and Heavy Metal context.  SONIC WARRIOR is sort of like that, but the author is a life-long, American, mainstream rock radio industry guy, so he has an insiders perspective.

LOU BRUTUS makes his claim to fame as having seen over 3000 music events, not bands, not concerts…music ‘events’, whatever that means.  At first I was mildly skeptical because that means since his first show, Black Sabbath in December of 1976, he has seen a show every five days, every single week for 43 consecutive years.  I suppose it is plausible when you have worked in the industry as long as he has. I suppose if he saw two concerts in a week (say on a Friday and Saturday) with two or three bands on the bill that is four to six bands a week, every week for decades that meets his average of one every five days.

However, he does say he never really got to actually see a lot of the concerts because he was busy working, running around backstage, interviewing people etc.   He actually uses 20 pages of the 256 page autobiography in Appendix A to list the bands he has ‘seen’, about 1400 unique bands in total.  He says he has seen multiple big-name, bands dozens and dozens of times.  I suspect he is massaging the numbers to kind of make it sound more impressive than it really is.

I’ve seen about concert per week for 30+ years too and I don’t go bragging about it like it is some special thing, especially when the vast majority most of those shows were free. Lots of people go to shows constantly. However, it is still an accomplishment and a lifetime dedication to be sure, and just like every other big rock DJ who sort of has the ‘big fish in a little pond’ syndrome. It comes with the territory for most of us (I’ve been a DJ for 20+ years) the proximity to fame despite having done very little to earn or deserve it.  However Btutus is smarter. He wrote a book about it!

In terms of the actual book, because it was a digital copy so I can’t comment on the layout design or style of the book but apparently it will have illustrations that were not provided in the advance copy, however, I’m very confident that that the good people at Rare Bird will do a fine job in that department.  It has a nice foreword from Corey Taylor of Slipknot. Broken down to it’s elemental component, SONIC WARRIOR is not even really an autobiography, just a string of stories and anecdotes, about 20 of them.  Half of them are about Hard Rock and Metal people/bands/events and the other half are not-Metal artists which will hold little to no interest to our readers.

Brutus spins a good yarn and has a natural way with words when he comes up with alliterations like, ‘…vociferously volcanic Vesuvius of vomit.”   He a talker, like most DJ’s and he just writes like he talks, not flawless prose but a fun, engaging, mile-a-minute style.   He sort of comes across as a typical American, a bit brash, bravado and lots of cursive energy, trying to be the life of the party and mostly succeeding tempered with a nice dose of self-deprecating humour.

When it comes to big name rock and roll, he has done it all. From seeing Metallica in the Arctic on a press junket, to bowling with Gene Simmons to hanging out at Ozzfest, flying in a helicopter over Live-Aid, he really has done it all.  An amazing life and career to be sure!  He confesses is not a big partier either which helps his attention to detail when it is not viewed through painful, foggy lens of a hangover the next day.

For our readership, in terms of actual Metal content there is very little in SONIC WARIOR.  Brutus was one of those big America Rock DJ’s who likes a bit of everything but was never really a die-hard Metal guy.  Looking at the list of 1400 or so bands, there is a good chunk of Melodic Metal (80’s hair metal bands etc) but not as many extreme or underground Metal bands.  There are very few European bands but that makes sense because, if his American radio station would not have many international bands on their playlist, he would not be assigned to go cover those shows as part of his job.   In addition, if he was not a fan of those more extreme or underground styles of Metal to begin with, he probably would not bother to attend.

So much of the stuff is about Slipknot and Pantera and all the Nu-Metal, and mallcore bands that ruled the 90’s.  I’m absolutely not judging his taste, it doesn’t matter at all, but I’m just letting readers know this before they dish out for a book that is only about 25% Metal-related content.   This is a Metal site after all!  Brutus talks about the biggest names in the music biz and a lot of mainstream stuff.  You can also tell he is a big music fan as he collects his ticket stubs and weird memorabilia from shows and tucks it away. He is passionate and enthusiastic!

I came away from this sort of feeling amused and entertained but just very slightly underwhelmed.  Perhaps because I have been in the radio industry for 20+ years as well and reading between the lines, it seems the stories are, shall we say, elaborated for comedic effect, and he does that extremely well.   However, if Brutus wrote a more realistic portrayal about the hours spent waiting in a dingy, grey, concrete backstage room of some faceless hockey barn, where a band is late and then they blow off the interview because someone is ‘sick’, or sometimes even worse, they send the replacement bassist, who is bored and hung-over and provides one-word answers to your cool questions you spend ages preparing for the singer, that would be a pretty boring book.  I like Brutus’ version of reality much better.

In hindsight my review might have a bit of an overall negative tone but in that is just my own bias and attitude.  In reality, this book is really entertaining, delightful, fun to read and very funny. SONIC WARRIOR provides that glimpse behind the magic curtain that we all wish we could have, myself included.  I’m just jealous because I never got to see Metallica in the arctic.