Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Metal by Jon Wiedenhorn & Katherine Turman(2 out of 5)

ImageOK, I love books like this. Definitive oral histories of any genre,pop culture mainstay, or popsicle makers are my favorite type of books. The Saturday Night Live one is probably my all time favorite. I just couldn’t get into this book. It’s a big one, weighing in at a little over 700 pages(physical book, kindle edition, who cares?). It’s font is easy to read. The people quoted in each sub-genre; a veritable Who’s-Who-In-Metal, but I felt something missing in several parts of this. I think the authors did a great job; however, the gigantic subject arena in which they chose to play was so immense that their focus lost something in the translation of the histories described within.

I liked anything and everything that Lemmy, Ozzy, and Scott Ian said. In fact, between his quotes and foreword, I hope Scott Ian writes a book sometime in the near future. Lemmy is never old; Lemmy is always relevant. I also enjoyed the gutter-sniping between Trent Reznor, Marilyn Manson, and Richard Patrick of Filter. You get all sides of every story. That’s always refreshing. A refresher course I did need on a number of things from the heavy metal past. This served as one.

It also served as a beginner course in other forms of metal that I am not familiar with- black metal, death metal, and metal core- while I knew some bands(thanks, Jen!) and am now a little more familiar with others(thanks Dan), I am still unfamiliar with many of the bands and personalities that are listed. It’s good to know some more of the interesting stories- the murders left and right in the black metal region of the book- fascinating and disturbing all the same.

Side note: it’s always refreshing to read, again, what a prick Paul Stanley is. And how in love with himself Gene Simmons is. But KISS? Legends despite(or maybe because) of that. Fascinating thoughts come about after reading parts of this book.

Thrash- always escaped me because Jen played it so much that Carol and I usually ran screaming for the ghetto(Robbins) whenever she played Kreator on repeat(it happened, Jen, don’t deny!). I didn’t see Morgoth mentioned in here anywhere. Sepultura really didn’t get much of a shake. Biohazard? Mercyful Fate? Metal Church? Voivod? Yngvie Malmsteen?  Accept(I thought there would’ve been more of a mention, if for nothing else, that video for “Balls to the Wall” will live in infamy for the rest of our natural lives).It seems like there are parts where some bands get the lion’s share of storytime, others are a little bit sparse. If it’s “definitive”, where are some of those trailblazers represented? I think if were the total deal, it would’ve clocked in over 1,000 pages. Just my opinion.

Deaths of Cliff Burton and Randy Rhoads? Amply covered, but I would liked to have seen other metal gods from other parts of the book referenced as well as to the effects that both Cliff and Randy had on other metal gods throughout the years. You get more of the death scene in the black metal chapter, disturbing it is, but also fascinating to read the accounts of the feuds of those who were murdered vs those who murdered. Some psychological stuff never hurts a book. Dimebag Darrell? He gets a full rendering of respect and retort(from Phil Anselmo, over accusations that his actions may have facilitated the crazy fan to go on a shooting rampage which ultimately cost Dimebag his life.). Other metal gods who have passed into the hereafter metal gates get their due, but I felt- again- as if their deaths had on now on the bands and their fans, but on the entire musical landscape.

I liked it quite well until the death metal. Hair metal- since there wasn’t much to start with in the first place, shouldn’t have warranted much of a chapter. Nu metal, more than anything, was highlighted by the idiocy of Fred Worst(Durst,Cursed,Burst,Whatever). I did learn something from the death metal chapter, the focus and anticipation of the book really started to wane at that point. Usually, when I’m woefully ignorant of things covered in definitive books like these, I anticipate with excitement reading those chapters that will teach me something. Those last four were just kind of hard to trudge through. I think it would have benefited more from some further discussion of what was going on in the real world at the time of the emergence of the various types of metal.

All in all, it was just a hard sell, for the simple fact that I feel it wasn’t comprehensive enough. It should have been a lengthier tome. I realize this sounds insane, given the amount of pages the book is, but there was something missing here. You can tell that both authors poured their hearts and souls into it, but the Literary Scythe was at work here. There was a lot about the drugs, alcohol, and psychological issues at work behind the scenes. While no doubt their messed up selves contributed somewhat(or a lot, according to people quoted in the book) to the output of the band, it’s about the CULTURE of metal. At least, i thought it was. I had hoped that the two authors would write a chapter themselves on what metal has meant to both of them, or encounters they’ve had in metal themselves(both are journalists) over the years. The one page end by Jon Wiedenhorn is alright, but it doesn’t feel so–personal. It feels like it’s a narration. One read, one wrote. Their collaboration is entirely verbatim, through the eyes of those who have made the music, lived the music. What is their view of things? They could have ended each chapter with each one of them with their OWN opinions of that period of time- given that it’s an oral history and others are quoted extensively, opinions as well as facts, why not the authors also? Feels like a missed opportunity.

They also forgot gothic metal– a prime example of this is Lacuna Coil. They are here, they are now, they are an excellent band. Where’s their mention in this? Another missed opportunity. Gothic metal is a sub-genre of metal. it should have some say also.

Overall, it’s a good read. i just think it could have been more encompassing and bigger in length. I was not left with a lot of hope at the book’s end, for the future of heavier music(beyond Lacuna Coil). I’m sure Dan and Dave will point out some other excellent bands, but you are left holding this huge impressive book(great pictures also, many of which I’ve never seen) and a lesser-than-optimistic view of the future of heavy metal once you close that book. If you find yourself wishing for Rob Halford to suddenly invade a chapter with a Spam and Twinkie omelette recipe, then you are missing a whole lotta something in what you’re reading.

~ by generationgbooks on June 30, 2013.

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