Rating:
5.9
The Top 500 Heavy Metal Albums of All Time


Compiling a list of the best of anything artistic - be it art, music or literature, is an impossible and to some extent pointless venture, even if the result can be interesting and a starting point for a good discussion.

Art really is very subjective, it is a matter of personal taste where no hard measurements can be applied. And if this book was one mans personal list, it would be a curiosity at best - not really all that interesting.

But this book is slightly different, a bit more "scientific" in its approach, as it is based on extensive polling, where thousands (I can't find an exact number anywhere, but "thousands" is mentioned in a few places, as is "hundreds upon hundreds".) of metal fans have sent in their lists of top metal albums. The result of these many contributions has then been compiled into this 450-page book listing the top 500 metal albums of all time.

(Apparently, there also exists a 500 metal songs book, which is made following the same m.o. - I have not read that.)

With each entry, you will find a short review or comment by the author, as well as a quote or interview snippet from a band member talking about the album. Ending the book is a number of appendixes, presenting the list sorted in various ways and with useful statistics.

So how did the selection turn out? Well, not all that bad, even if it is very different from my personal list.

On the top part we find the usual suspects; Metallica, Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Black Sabbath etc.
Overall I find the selection ok, but very heavy on 80ies albums and on melodic metal (& thrash) - the more extreme bands are mostly found at the bottom part of the list.

On the top 15, we'll find 7 entries also found on the current (Nov09) MS top 15 - most notably in its absence is Opeth, which the general metal public apparently do not rate as highly as is the case on MS.

But enough on the selection - as I said earlier, lists are subjective and should not be taken for more than they are, entertainment and a source of debate.

(A warning though: This book is definitely not for metal purists - the definition applied is very loose indeed, resulting in the inclusion of various hard rock, grunge and nu-metal bands. Don't say I didn't warn you!)


Books of this type are suited for discovering albums - learning about classic albums that went under your radar - at least if the comments are any good that is. So are they?

Meh - not uniformly. There is no doubt that the author, Martin Popoff, knows & likes metal and hard rock and has a long history with the genre. But it seems to me that perhaps he also overly much like to make cleaver puns and stilted sentences and therefore tend to come across as a bit pretentious.

The comments are often informative - but to be honest, also sometimes a bit strange and pretentious, "…AC/DC painting in primary colors the blueprint for the specifics of rock 'n' roll" - frequently hard to understand ("Rocked awake with a shot of discipline and a diminishment of their death wish, Crüe realize that metal's arc is too high to poop a pooch").

This kind of review/comment is just hard to understand and not very helpful. Personally I would have wished for a less "artistic", more matter of fact writing style, but perhaps that is just me.

I do also miss an effort to put the albums into a commercial and/or historical context. (This album that has just been voted the Xth best ever - how did it actually do at the time of its release - and historically.)

So what's the verdict? Well, overall this is an entertaining book and a solid attempt to compile a "best of" list, but it is far from the definitive say on the subject and it surely has some problems, the writing style being the major one of these. Buy it if you are curious and/or love to read about metal - but you shouldn't loose any sleep if you never get to read this book.

Author: Martin Popoff
ISBN: 9781550226003
Publisher: ECW Press


 


written by Jan | 20.12.2009


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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Richard - 20.12.2009 at 19:05  
Hmm, this may be worth a look, actually - although I heed your warnings, and realise it's probably not an essential purchase.

I've got Martin Popoff's 'Collectors Guide to Heavy Metal' from several years ago, which consists of a big number of short reviews by him - so I'm familiar with his writing style, which can be entertaining, can be informative, but as you say, can also be annoying!
Marcel Hubregtse - 20.12.2009 at 19:41  
Written by Richard on 20.12.2009 at 19:05

Hmm, this may be worth a look, actually - although I heed your warnings, and realise it's probably not an essential purchase.

I've got Martin Popoff's 'Collectors Guide to Heavy Metal' from several years ago, which consists of a big number of short reviews by him - so I'm familiar with his writing style, which can be entertaining, can be informative, but as you say, can also be annoying!


I also need to check this one out. I own his Top 500 Albums and the collector's guid, but the one in three volumes, one on the 70s, one on the 80s and one on th 90s. And true his writing style is quite annoying at times.
tulkas - 20.12.2009 at 22:20  
Like I've said before, I'm not fond of "best of" lists or compilations, specially when they're as wide as this one. And also, considering your warning of his "strange" and not-all-that-good-writing, I wouldn't really go through the trouble of trying to get my hands on the book. In fact, it doesn't really call my attention that much.
Richard - 21.12.2009 at 04:43  
What interests me about this book is the supposedly "extensive polling" that went into creating it. So at least it's not just all about Martin Popoff's own opinions and ego..!

The thing about his other book, the aforementioned 'The Collectors Guide to Heavy Metal', is that it was all from Mr. Popoff's perspective. He can be an entertaining writer, even when he's insulting an album that the reader really likes... But he gave Mayhem - De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas and Darkthrone - Transilvanian Hunger 0/10! I mean, even if the reviewer hates that kind of music, I think they should at least try and review it properly and fairly, and acknowledge its certain significance, rather than utterly ridicule it and condemn it as worthless.

But then again, his honesty makes him kind of interesting to read. And he really likes some of Paradise Lost's stuff, which wins him back some credibility!
BreadGod - 21.12.2009 at 05:24  
Honestly, I think that such a thing would only work if the list was in no particular order. With this in place, instead of the most popular band getting the #1 spot, each band will have equal footing. Sure, some people will complain about how their favorite band wasn't added, but at least there won't be scores of people objecting to a band getting a #1 spot.
DayFly - 26.12.2009 at 01:02  
This kind of review/comment is just hard to understand and not very helpful. Personally I would have wished for a less "artistic", more matter of fact writing style, but perhaps that is just me.


I absolutely hate it when people do that. An inside joke, a tongue-in-cheek reference or similar are just fine and adds up to a more entertaining read but I totally galls me when reviewers/authors use "art" (to me metal will forever remain entertainment, though that is a completely different issue) as a vehicle to their own artistic self-fulfillment instead of giving the reader the information he is looking for.

Liked the review btw. But I'm sure you that anyway
THE_BLACK_GOD - 26.12.2009 at 05:03  
Written by Richard on 21.12.2009 at 04:43

What interests me about this book is the supposedly "extensive polling" that went into creating it. So at least it's not just all about Martin Popoff's own opinions and ego..!

The thing about his other book, the aforementioned 'The Collectors Guide to Heavy Metal', is that it was all from Mr. Popoff's perspective. He can be an entertaining writer, even when he's insulting an album that the reader really likes... But he gave Mayhem - De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas and Darkthrone - Transilvanian Hunger 0/10! I mean, even if the reviewer hates that kind of music, I think they should at least try and review it properly and fairly, and acknowledge its certain significance, rather than utterly ridicule it and condemn it as worthless.

But then again, his honesty makes him kind of interesting to read. And he really likes some of Paradise Lost's stuff, which wins him back some credibility!

true, all reviewers have to be fair! even in our site.
Doc Godin - 17.10.2010 at 22:27  
2 reasons I'll agree with the review:

1) No one should charge another person money for a "best of" list.

2) Martin Popoff should not charge people money for his work.
deadone - 28.01.2014 at 03:05  
I like this book. Always interesting comparing ones own tastes and collections to lists compiled by some of the leading journos or publications.

Quote:
Overall I find the selection ok, but very heavy on 80ies albums and on melodic metal (& thrash) - the more extreme bands are mostly found at the bottom part of the list.


To be fair the 1980s were heavy metal's golden era with all the major genres being invented in that period and creating the bands that would have the genre's biggest commercial successes by 1991-92 (i.e. Thrash's Big 4, the Glam bands and Pantera).

Also the extreme genres have far less appeal than the commercial ones and are also far more polarising in terms of fan loyalty.
Karlabos - 29.01.2014 at 00:15  
"On the top part we find the usual suspects; Metallica, Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Black Sabbath etc.
Overall I find the selection ok, but very heavy on 80ies albums and on melodic metal (& thrash) - the more extreme bands are mostly found at the bottom part of the list. "

Suddenly I lost my interest

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