At the time of writing this book is only available as a Kindle eBook. It is a new release by an author with a background of music journalism who lives in New York. He has a number of books on metal, on The Scorpions, Rainbow and Iron Maiden among others.
Now the problem with a term such as Heavy Metal is that it is extremely slippery. Where does rock end and hard rock begin? What is the difference between hard rock and metal, and are hair metal, grunge and death metal components of the same or different beasts altogether?
It is the belief of this reviewer that heavy metal’s birth came from The Beatles with “Helter Skelter” on the White Album (1968), which actually makes it into this book at number 37. I would have placed it a lot higher, but the whole thing with these lists is that it is all highly subjective. Personally I feel “Paranoid” is far more significant than “Iron Man” as its range of appeal is far greater, going far beyond Sabbath fans and the metal community.
I will try to define metal first, characterizing it by its aggressive sound, distorted guitars, powerful drums, and intense vocals. It is known for its high energy, fast tempo, and a thick, heavy sound that often incorporates elements of blues and classical music. The music typically features complex guitar solos, intricate riffs, and a strong emphasis on instrumental virtuosity. The lyrics of heavy metal songs often explore themes such as rebellion, personal struggles, fantasy, mythology, and social or political issues. The vocals in heavy metal can range from melodic singing to aggressive, growling, or screaming styles, known as “harsh vocals.” Some of the iconic bands that helped define the heavy metal genre include Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, and Pantera. Heavy metal has since evolved into various subgenres, including thrash metal, death metal, power metal, black metal, and progressive metal, each with its own distinct characteristics and fan base. It has a powerful and intense nature as well as a rebellious and countercultural spirit. It continues to be influential and popular worldwide, with numerous bands and subgenres constantly pushing the boundaries of the genre.
There are several problems in trying to do a book like this, for example – do you have to acknowledge the back history at the detriment of the current day? “Smoke on the Water” (number 2) is one we all know, as are the top ten; but there are no new bands from the last 15 years in these numbers. Are we saying a track has to be 20+ years old to achieve greatness? What about Baby Metal or Avenged Sevenfold (“Hail to the King” deserves top 100 surely)? And, also, did the writer have a list of bands first, or a list of songs? Because if there was the thought that Guns n’ Roses need to be in there, was there then the look around to place a track in the list? Kiss are in there with “Detroit Rock City” (13) and “God of Thunder” (32), absolute classics, but are those songs heavy metal or just classic rock numbers? Now, Kiss influenced the grunge movement (and grunge does not appear in the lists) and sometimes had metal tracks, “Unholy” would be an example, so surely “Unholy” should be here? Equally Queen were not a heavy metal band, but “Stone Cold Crazy” is a heavy metal song and deserves its place in the list. And I have to say the choice of “Crazy Horses” by The Osmonds is a real controversial choice, apparently loved by Ozzy Osbourne. So there is a lot of interest to delve into, and read the justification. I am going to be more disruptive here. For unexpected hard rock of damn fine quality have a listen to Boy George’s 1995 album “Cheapness and Beauty.” I remember playing it for friends in the nineties without telling anyone who it was and they were blown away.
What can I say about this book? It’s an easy read, costs next to nothing on the Kindle and each song is described in enough detail to make the reader want to hear it again. It’s main purpose, however, is to generate debate – it has got me debating it here for example! It’s what it is, subjective, a little too heavily leaning on the classic rockers of the past and some pictures would have helped compliment the text, it is a basic text. If you like metal give it a look, and feel free to use our comment section to agree (or disagree) with me here!
By Mark C. Chambers
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