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Louder Than Hell

(It/Harper Collins)

Reviewed by : Mark Gromen
Rating : 7.0

Over more than 650 pages, the two authors collated several decades’ worth of quotes, tracing the lineage of “metal” from the late 60s, to the modern era. Like Banger Films’ multi-episode Metal Evolution, each chapter focuses on a specific era, honing in on one or two big names. However, it is hampered by it’s lack of global scope. The longest chapter is devoted to thrash and while it mines familiar territory, includes the Big 4, EXODUS and TESTAMENT, alongside the death and black metal segments (which sample the widest array of bands/industry personnel) are the best. Like the other sections, the perspective is almost exclusively American (OK, Bay Area thrash, what about early EXCITER, JAG PANZER, the Teutonic 4, etc?). How can you write about metal without talking about Europe, especially from ‘90 to early 2000s, when that continent remained the only viable grounds for our beloved music?

A Herculean task, encapsulating the timeline into a single book, it’s not without faults. The NWOBHM chapter is almost exclusively dedicated to BLACK SABBATH, JUDAS PRIEST and AC/DC. A pitiful handful of IRON MAIDEN quotes are attributed to ex-singer Paul Di’Anno and this 46 page British Steel chapter includes a discussion of the LOLA scene, TYPE O NEGATIVE and MONSTER MAGNET. Huh? Unlike prolific BW&BK scribe Martin Popoff (whose observations are occasionally noted and who has made a living off books filled with new/recycled interviews/quotes), Wiederhorn & Turman tend toward the salicious aspects (sex & drugs), with almost no discussion of any particular song and/or album. Unforgivable, considering this tome is subtitled, “The definitive oral history of metal.” Not surprising from one of the former editors of RIP, the 90s LA based magazine short on substance and long on image/posturing. Might explain why there are more quotes from both Fred Durst (LIMP BIZKIT) and Jonathan Davis (KORN) than Ronnie James Dio! Yes, there are chapters dedicated to nu-metal, hardcore/crossover (38 pages each) heavily accented on NYHC, metal-core (58p.) and industrial (41p, about MINISTRY/ WHITE ZOMBIE/ MARILYN MANSON and FEAR FACTORY).

Hair metal (namely MÖTLEY CRÜE, RATT and QUIET RIOT) also has a presence. There are four color pictorials (promo and live shots) from throughout the years, interspersed throughout the book. 55 pages are afforded PANTERA era, deservedly so, for keeping the music afloat Stateside during the Nineties (an era when these two scribes were employed), but that wasn’t the only thing happening overseas and it’s more coverage than they give the entire vaunted NWOBHM. Many of those quotes offered only in retrospect, by people other than the performers.

While certain to hit their target market, across the metallic spectrum, anyone NOT familiar with the music would be mislead into thinking the genre is filled with sex-starved, debaucherous egotists, a negative sterotype (sadly) this does nothing to dissuade. Not saying this doesn’t happen, but in 30 years of meeting metal musicians, interviewing/photographing them, hanging out/partying, riding their tour bus or staying at their homes, I’ve met some of the friendliest people, who like to discuss politics (left or right), art, literature, world events, even religion. None of that comes through in this book. Odd that some of the most locquacious characters (David Lee Roth, Dee Snider, Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth, Blackie Lawless, Kory Clarke) are basically no-shows. The final chapter deals with the likes of LAMB OF GOD and SLIPKNOT, yet most of today’s headliners/ biggest sellers come from overseas (predominately Germany, Sweden and/or Finland) and are also conspicuously absent. As they used to mark papers in school, given them as A for effort, but C for content.