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Book Report: ‘The Merciless Book of Metal Lists’

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Brian Ives
Brian Ives
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(Courtesy of Abrams Image)

(Courtesy of Abrams Image)

October is Metal Month at Radio.com. Throughout the month, we’ll have artist interviews as well as mini-documentaries about metal, metal fans and the birthplace of metal. And book reports: reading is fundamental, even for headbangers, and we’ll have reviews of some of the best recent metal biographies and retrospectives. Horns up!

Last week, we gave you the lowdownon Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History Of Metal, which takes you from the ’60s to today. It’s a great history lesson, and a very readable one. On the flip side is The Merciless Book Of Metal Lists, which gets into a crucial part of the heavy metal culture, namely, arguing about who is great, who sucks, and who is a poser.

Written by Howie Abrams and Sacha Jenkins, the book harkens back to the pre-blog era where fanzines were a crucial part of the metal ecosystem. Jenkins knows his way around a list: He’s was the coauthor of Ego Trip‘s Book Of Rap Lists, but he’s a well-rounded guy, and knows his way around metal. He and Abrams love the genre, but never take it too seriously. There’s a lot of reverence for the founders of metal, namely Black Sabbath, who top several lists including Best Metal Band, Best Metal Album (for their 1970 self-titled debut), Greatest Guitarist, Greatest Bassist, Best Guitar Tones, Best Bass Tones and two entries on the Greatest Voices (Ronnie James Dio topped the list, while Ozzy Osbourne came in at #19), and two entries on the Greatest Drummers (Bill Ward came in at #2, Vinnie Appice at #20), Best Songs (a tie between the Ozzy-era “War Pigs” and the Dio-era “Heaven And Hell”).

On the other hand, Metallica, who get their due as a huge influence (they’re rated at the third best metal band ever, after Sabbath and Iron Maiden) are also called to task: a two page feature called “The Very Best Qualities Of Metallica’s Load and Reload Albums” is entirely blank.

Mötley Crüe is defended as a choice for the Top 20 Metal Bands Of All Time (on the list, they note, “YES – Mötley Crüe”). In conversation with Radio.com, Abrams defends that decision: “Mötley Crüe being on our top metal bands list, I hear about it all the time! How could they not be on that list? Every band takes twists and turns. When that band formed and they did Too Fast For Love, all the ingredients were heavy metal. With Shout At The Devil, I would say the same thing. After Shout At The Devil, it went in a different direction.” Meanwhile, includes Guns N Roses, Led Zeppelin and Alice In Chains are on the “20 Bands Often Considered ‘Metal’ But Simply Are Not!” list.

Other lists are just funny and fun: “10 Reasons Why Everyone Loves Slayer’s Reign In Blood,” “5 Shark-Jumping Recordings” (topped by Def Leppard’s Pyromania), and “200 Embarrassingly Bad Album Covers” (No. 1 is Anthrax’s Fistful Of Metal). Speaking of Anthrax, the band gets a bit of a beat down as Madball’s Hoya Roc contributes “10 Reasons Anthrax Should Never Be Associated With Hardcore” (never try to appropriate the NYHC symbol if you’re not certified New York hardcore band), but Scott gets his own platform with “Top 11 Things People Say To Start A Conversation With Me” (including “Hey, you’re Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers!”).

This book isn’t so much about teaching the entire history of the genre, it’s more about how to hang with metalheads and talk the talk. But even if you’ve been metal for decades, it’s still a blast to read, and is sure to inspire angry letters to the editor, or at least tweets to the authors, demanding to know why your favorite band didn’t end up higher on some list. Or why Mötley Crüe is metal and Guns N Roses are not.

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