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Rock Reads: Louder than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Metal by Jon Wiederhorn & Katherine Turman

Reviewed by Kevin Wierzbicki

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Here's the story of metal --- every kind of metal --- as told through the voices of those who made it and are still making it. The book is structured as a series of themed chapters consisting of brief (one paragraph) commentaries from the appropriate characters and begins necessarily with a chapter on proto-metal called Kick Out the Jams where luminaries like Jimmy Page, Iggy Pop, Wayne Kramer of the MC5, Ted Nugent and Lemmy Kilmister talk about the first heavy bands they got into and the nascent days of metal. That introductory chapter is immediately followed by a segment dedicated to Black Sabbath, widely regarded as the first metal band. You'll find out here how the genre got its name as Sabbath's Geezer Butler recalls a reviewer's derogatory take on the band, "This isn't music. It sounds like a load of heavy metal crashing to the floor." Subsequent chapters cover the Hollywood hair metal scene, thrash bands, and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands, discussed by stars like Rob Halford of Judas Priest, Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden and players like Dave Grohl and Glenn Danzig who were highly influenced by the classic metal bands. There are also chapters on every metal sub-genre such as hardcore, nu-metal, death metal, industrial, black metal, metalcore and so on. That means that readers truly get a look at metal from A to Z with commentary coming from Abbath of the band Immortal to Rob Zombie and everyone in between and there's a "cast of characters" list included to help keep the participants sorted; even the most avid of metal fans may not know John Tardy (Obituary), Ryan Clark (Demon Hunter) and Malfeitor Fabban (Aborym). The super famous mingle nicely with the lesser-knowns here though; Louder than Hell is very well edited making for a pleasant read presented in a conversational style. That means that even when there's a rather mundane segment, like Front Line Assembly's Bill Leeb giving his definition of industrial music ("six guys on stage with shaved heads, pounding viciously on metal drums") there's someone right behind with a titillating comment on sex, drugs, or rock'n'roll weirdness. A fast and fun read, but at nearly 700-pages and stocked with several impressive photo segments Louder than Hell will keep metal heads and students of rock in general busy for quite a while then make for a good reference source after.

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