In past episodes, we have briefly touched upon the fact that is important to know where your music is coming from, and in Episode 22, I (Brian) mentioned a book called Choosing Death. This is just one of a few books that I think should be required reading for metal-head, despite what styles you are into. We all know Black Sabbath started it all, and we are all aware of classic bands like Metallica, Maiden, and Priest as well as other “classics” like Napalm Death, Carcass and Death…or Mayhem, Bathory and Immortal, if you are into Black Metal. But how did it all come about? How did one thing lead to another? Well, luckily some people already did the research for us and presented these non-fiction tales into interesting reads.
The books below will entertain and inform you so you don’t sound like a complete moron when you are talking metal with the random dude in the denim vest you are standing next to during set change at your next show.
Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal by Ian Christe: This book starts with the formation of Black Sabbath and takes you all the way to Slipknot and beyond, while covering everything in between. There is a strong focus on the American metal scene (particularly in the 80’s), but this is Heavy Metal 101: a comprehensive guide of where the music you love comes from.
Choosing Death: The Improbable History of Death Metal and Grindcore by Albert Mudrian and John Peel: The title says it all. Starting with English hardcore-punk bands of the early 80’s and guiding you through the the “popularity boom” (or at least what the major labels tried for) in the early 90’s, bringing you to today’s extreme, this book gives you the gritty details of DM and Grind’s trials and tribulations.
Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground New Edition by Michael Moynihan and Didrik Soderlind: Lords of Chaos takes a different approach than the previous two, but is no less important. The book focuses more on the Black Metal scene (particularly in it’s early years). It takes you through tabloid-ian actions of the church burnings in Norway and the murder of Euronymous (Øystein Aarseth) and all of the other mayhem (pun intended) that surrounded the scene. Later in the book, the authors cover some of the similarly extreme actions (cult rituals, killings, suicides, etc.) that surrounded the Metal scene in America and other countries. This book is disturbing as it is fascinating.
Swedish Death Metal by Daniel Ekeroth and Chris Reifert: While I have not read this one myself yet (I read the last three…haven’t gotten around to buying it), Swedish Death Metal, whether it be Entombed, Dismember, or At The Gates, played an important role the development of extreme music. My understanding is that the book doesn’t quite get into the depth of where the music came from (like Choosing Death) but it provides a strong insight into the movement and paints a picture of it’s formation, growth, and influence on metal today.
Here are some additional reading materials, if one was so inclined to educate themselves further and dive a little deeper:
Extreme Metal: Music and Culture on the Edge by Keith Kahn-Harris