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Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Metal - Book reviews

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Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Metal by Jon Wiederhorn and Katherine Turman
(It Books)
Paperback, 768 pages

If there were a PHD-level class in heavy metal Louder Than Hell would be the textbook.

Intimidating in size, coming in at nearly 750 pages, this oral history of society’s favorite whipping boy musical genre is as fascinating as it is comprehensive. Beginning with the numerous bands who have been credited with founding the genre (from Black Sabbath to Iron Butterfly) and delving into just about every imaginable subgenre – from hair metal and thrash to death metal and metalcore, this book serves as reference book to anyone who has ever been even the least bit curious about metal.

Told in the musicians’ own words, Louder Than Hell’s cast includes a who’s who of hard rock past and present with interviews of hundreds including commentary from Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie James Dio, James Hetfield, Lemmy Kilmister and just about anyone else who ever put on leather and studs (or faded jeans and a black concert T, or a pentagram and upside down cross… you get the point). The only piece of reporting on this genre that even remotely compares to this book is the brilliant four-part documentary Heavy: The Story of Metal that first aired on VH1 in 2006.

Louder Than Hell is divided up chronologically and by sub-genre, giving equal weight and coverage to the remarkably popular New Wave of British Heavy Metal (1980 – present; including bands like Iron Maiden and Def Leppard) and Thrash Metal (1981 – 1991; Anthrax and Slayer) to the not so popular like Nu Metal (1989 – 2002; Limp Bizkit and Korn) to the downright scary like Black Metal (1982 – present; Mayhem and Darkthrone).

From decade old feuds and controversies to rock stars confessing and gushing over their idols, Louder Than Hell is crammed with everything you ever wanted to know about the genre and plenty you probably didn’t (be it cannibalism and church burnings or spandex and hairspray), not since Legs McNeil tackled punk rock in Please Kill Me, has one book been so exhaustive in its study of a single musical genre.

“The development of metal is like the evolution of a virus,” co-author Jon Wiederhorn begins in the book’s afterword. “…As long as there is anger, disenfranchisement, corruption, abuse, and angst, the heavy metal microbe will continue to multiply and seek new, willing hosts.”
(John B. Moore)

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