Curl, James-Axemen: Ten Guitar Players, Ten Stories (Book review)

Spread the metal:

Reviewed: May 2022

Published:  Indie, 2021
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: JP


American James Curl is slowly making a name for himself with quality books examining some of the 80’s (and beyond) Hard rock and Heavy Metal artists. Following great books on Dokken and Dio, Curl is back with his third book in the genre, AXEMEN.

AXEMEN bears the subtitle of ‘Ten Hard Rockin’ Guitarists Tell Their Stories’ which is pretty self-explanatory. This independent publication is decent enough, maybe a little short at 160 pages but I suppose you are supposed to leave them wanting more. There are just a few black and white photos scattered across the book. As for wanting more in his brief intro Curl says this is Volume I hopefully with more to come.

These 10 interviews are a quick, easy read. Curl interweaves quotes from his interviews with the subject and a nice narrative loaded with facts and trivia. I like this technique, moreso than just a Q&A format reprinted. It seems to flow a little nicer. His selection of people to interview is a nice mix of solo artists and band artists, although people seem to go back and forth between sessions, bands, clinics and solo albums.

It is evident that Curl is a true fan. From the interesting tales of Rowan Robertson auditioning for Dio, to Tracy G auditioning for Dio, to Gus G auditioning for Ozzy (I see a trend here) there are some many great stories it is hard to choose a favourite. A lot of this has been covered before but it was a fresh take and a nice walk down memory lane at the same time. Each chapter/interview comes with recommendations and shones with his natural enthusiasm.

What I like about this book is that it focuses on some of the unsung guitar heroes. There are lots of guitar books and media attention out there. People idolize the dead (Van Halen, Rhoads) and people write about the shredders (Malmsteen and Stump etc) and even the 80’s heroes who maybe lived up to their earlier potential (Bratta, Lee) got lots of press. Curl decided to shine the spotlight on active guitarists, who are big names to fans of Hard Rock/Metal guitar but not the household names. You have to be quite the Hard rock aficionado to know about guys like Greg Leon who never quite grabbed the golden ring.

AXEMEN was a very entertaining read and I sincerely hopes he continues on with more volumes in the series.