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« June 21, 2013

Louder Than Hell

Heavy metal both epic and breezy
Review by Michael Toland

Louder Than Hell

by Jon Wiederhorn & Katherine Turman
It/Harper Collins, 736 pp., $32.50

The Merciless Book of Metal Lists

by Howie Abrams & Sacha Jenkins
Abrams Image, 208 pp., $18.95 (paper)

Louder Than Hell bills itself "the definitive oral history of metal," and these interviews certainly demonstrate breadth. Revolver senior writer Wiederhorn and writer/radio producer Turman move through proto-metal, thrash, extreme metal, industrial, the so-called New American metal movement, and more, quoting seminal figures and unsung heroes alike. And yet, where this oh-so-serious book succeeds in scope, it falters in execution. Discussions of artistic development get swallowed up by explicitly – sometimes nauseatingly – detailed stories about the usual rock star indulgences. The constant litany of debauched episodes, recounted most eagerly by various hair metal, nu-metal, and metalcore mainstays, attests to the selfish, privileged lives these power-chord merchants lead. The tedious descriptions of bad behavior seem to indicate that the chief requirement to play metal is being an asshole. By contrast, The Merciless Book of Metal Lists revels in the cartoonish bad vibes and sneering irreverence associated with headbangers. Throwing down a gauntlet by insisting Kiss and Van Halen aren't metal (sacrilege!), the authors slamdance through everything from "70 Songs About Metal" to "Thoroughly Embarrassing Metal Videos" and "Completely Unnecessary Heavy Metal Subgenres." Musicians contribute, too, though the best celebrity-related bit is "10 Reasons Dave Mustaine Probably Declined to Participate in This Book." Like most tomes of this ilk, The Merciless Book of Metal Lists blares a geeky hoot.

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