Rating:
7.9
Metal - The Definitive Guide


Metal - The definitive Guide is a large, heavy, rather well written book, covering 273 metal bands across genres and categories. Each of these 273 bands has an entry where you'll find the history and discography of the band in reasonable detail.

Entries vary in length - most bands get approximately 1½ pages and that seems in most cases to be fine. A few get as little as half a page and some of the major and/or historically important bands get substantially more. I have not bothered counting allocations, but Black Sabbath probably gets the most with a whopping 21 pages - which keeping in mind their importance to metal history seems fitting.

Each entry contains a discography listing official album releases with mention of release year, label and number and for most bands one or two photos has been included as well. Some entries are liberally sprinkled with lengthy quotes from various current and former band members.

The writing style is matter of fact, but not overly dry, although it is somewhat fact-dense. It is obvious that the author, Gary Sharpe-Young knows his stuff and that this is a serious effort, that quite a lot work has gone into.

273 bands is not a lot, when one thinks of the zillion and one bands out there. But you have to make the cut somewhere in order to make it a manageable book of a reasonable size. It is an impossible task and you are bound to disappoint as you can only fit so many entries into the book. Still, I must say that I think the authors succeed admirably here, the selection are very solid and covers the important bands in each category. It comes across as rather complete, balancing the historical and current scenes well and in this respect at least, deserving of the "Definitive guide" title. There are glaring omissions of course - but hey - I could probably not have done nearly as good a job myself, so who am I to complain?

The book is divided into chapters like Heavy metal, NWOBHM, US Trash Metal, UK Trash metal etc. While this approach in some way serves to place each band into a larger context, it is not always logical and can make using the book somewhat confusing as many bands could fit into more than one category and no cross-indexing is applied. As an example of this: while it is fitting that a band like Therion is listed in the special "Innovators" chapter, they could equally well be placed in the Symphonic Metal or Swedish Metal chapters.

This is a problem, because a book like this very much invite use as an encyclopaedia rather than a cover-to-cover read. And this organization of bands together with the total lack of any kind of alphabetical index what so ever, makes it unnecessary hard to use.

Each chapter starts with a short introduction of ½-1 page of length. This introduction attempts to give the reader an overview of the category and serves to tie the book together as a guide rather than an encyclopaedia. In my view this aspect of the book is by far the least successful, as you cannot really achieve much in so limited a space. I would have loved to see these introductions expanded to 5-10 times the length.

Another failing of this book is the lack of focus on the music. While the book does a very good job of telling the story of an album release with information on contributors, label issues etc., it often lacks information on the actual music and how each album differs from each other.

(Ever read the Classic Rock mag? They have a format where they go through a bands discography and labels albums in categories like "essential, good, fans only, avoid etc. While this has its own pitfalls, something along these lines would have made the book an absolute winner.)

Reading through my review I realize that I come across as rather critical and the reader could easily get the impression that I don't like this book. That is neither correct nor deserved. This is actually a very good book, compiled and written by somebody who knows his subject. I just feel that it, with a few improvements, could become so much more useful. Nevertheless, I can recommend it to everybody who enjoys reading about metal bands and metal music.


Isbn: 9781906002015
Author: Garry Sharpe-Young
Jawbone Press 2007


 


written by Jan | 06.11.2009


Guest review disclaimer:
This is a guest review, which means it does not necessarily represent the point of view of the MS Staff.



Comments

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GT - 06.11.2009 at 10:03  
A really well written review Jan. Seems like a really interesting book and I'm actually considering buying it after this.
DayFly - 06.11.2009 at 12:31  
Bummer. I wish you had reviewed a book I had not already read.
Marcel Hubregtse - 06.11.2009 at 16:37  
Sounds interesting so will have to try and hunt it down.
Ellrohir - 07.11.2009 at 02:04  
I find a little bug encountering this review - i have RSS from MS activated on my homepage (local web news server and browser www.seznam.cz) and there it is "- ()" when it comes to this review...the link works, i am here, but the parameters completely missing...i know this is a special review of a book, so there is no band profile and so, but it looks a bit odd...
Jan - 07.11.2009 at 09:45  
@Dayfly: How utterly inconsiderate of me. Sorry mate, will try to do better next time.

@Ellrohir: I'm getting the same bug on my rss feed. I'll mention it on the appropriate thread.

@others: Glad you liked it.
Jan - 07.11.2009 at 09:51  
Written by Jan on 07.11.2009 at 09:45

@Ellrohir: I'm getting the same bug on my rss feed. I'll mention it on the appropriate thread.



erm... It seems one should make a thread for each bug. I can't create threads, so can't do this now.
DayFly - 07.11.2009 at 10:43  
Apology accepted. This time.

Seriously now, I do have something more worthwhile to say. The bit pretty much at the beginning in which the author and Rob Halford discuss what heavy metal is and where it comes from actually makes sense as opposed to almost any other definition.
Ellrohir - 07.11.2009 at 17:52  
Written by Jan on 07.11.2009 at 09:51

erm... It seems one should make a thread for each bug. I can't create threads, so can't do this now.

you need 100 posts for creating topics...you are pretty close to this

i would start it, but i doubt we can discuss there anything useful...the "bug" comes from the simple fact, this isnt review about an album but about a book, so there is no band profile to connect it with it in database...
Hermann Langke - 07.11.2009 at 17:53  
I will buy it.
GT - 10.11.2009 at 11:58  
Written by Jan on 07.11.2009 at 09:51

Written by Jan on 07.11.2009 at 09:45

@Ellrohir: I'm getting the same bug on my rss feed. I'll mention it on the appropriate thread.



erm... It seems one should make a thread for each bug. I can't create threads, so can't do this now.

It should be fixed now according to Ivan
Jan - 10.11.2009 at 12:07  
It is - excellent! (we really need a Mr Burns smiley)
Warman - 10.11.2009 at 14:30  
It seems interesting and I liked the review. To bad that we actually never can have a complete Metal encyklopedia in book form. Would look good in the shelf.
BoxCar Willy - 30.11.2009 at 18:33  
Written by Jan on 10.11.2009 at 12:07

It is - excellent! (we really need a Mr Burns smiley)

so true!!!!
BoxCar Willy - 30.11.2009 at 18:34  
I thhink I am going to buy this book. good review!

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