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Choosing Death: The Improbable History of Death Metal and Grindcore Paperback – October 1, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Mainstream rock fans may not be familiar with Cannibal Corpse, Napalm Death or Carcass, but over the past 20 years these groups' blend of punk and heavy metal—their grisly lyrics, mile-a-minute rhythms and macabre album art—have found an enthusiastic, loyal fan base of mostly young, almost exclusively male listeners. Mudrian, editor-in-chief of Decibel magazine, condenses painstaking and lengthy interviews to create this informative history of death metal, covering the genre's origin in small clubs and basements on two continents; its spike in popularity and major-label interest circa 1992 ("Godflesh could be the next Nine Inch Nails"); the relative obscurity that followed; and the music's rebirth in recent years. What's astonishing is how normal so many of the featured players seem: behind the facade of Satan-worshipping, gore-flinging aggression, they're mostly a bunch of hardworking dudes who love the music and the outlet it provides for pent-up anger and energy. Mudrian aims largely at fans, and his exhaustive research may tire readers who bring nothing but curiosity to the book. New death metal fans, conversely, will read with an eye to expanding their collections, while older listeners will undoubtedly enjoy the memories and the gossip, along with the fanzine-quality band photos that complement text throughout. John Peel, one of Great Britain's most respected and influential DJs, offers an entertaining introduction.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Mudrian details two of the more esoteric subgenres of heavy metal in appropriate fashion, that is, with photos of the bands, but not definitions of and distinctions between, say, death metal and black metal, abounding. By and large, Mudrian treats grindcore and death metal as interrelated approaches to the verbally gloomy, power-chording world of heavy metal that are leavened by a stiff dose of the punk do-it-yourself ethos and created by musicians who "grew up on traditional heavy metal, thrash and speed metal, punk, industrial and hardcore." Taxonomic considerations aside, Mudrian provides conversational histories of such bands as Cannibal Corpse, Darkthrone, and Sepultra and highlights of interviews with leading subgenre movers and shakers. Altogether, the book is similar to the three Decline of Western Civilization documentaries of outsider music, minus those films' endearing footage of substance abuse and other suicidal behaviors. An excellent shelf mate to Moynihan and Soderlind's Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground (1998)--not as scary for fans' parents but just as insightful and comprehensive. Mike Tribby
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Feral House (October 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 193259504X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1932595048
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #102,449 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Dave on October 18, 2004
Format: Paperback
Having not caught the death metal bug until 1991, there was a lot of pre-90's groundwork that was being laid while I was in high school listening to Slayer, Megadeth, Testament, Anthrax, etc., thinking they were the heaviest bands on the planet. This book shows exactly what was going on under the radar during those formative years, which led to the death metal explosion in the early 90s. This book tells you exactly who made what happen and how some of my now favorite bands came to be, and how they first got their exposure. It details how the major label feeding frenzy of 93-95, combined with other factors, almost destroyed death metal, and who kept the genre going after the dust had settled. It documents how the genre was reborn in the late 90s and covers some of the key players who now carry the torch into the new millenium. Tons of interviews with bands, label execs, producers, and others involved in the scene and lot of never-before seen photos to add to the visual component. I read it all in one sitting, couldn't put it down. Get it.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Nicholas J. Hart on September 8, 2004
Format: Paperback
My copy of CHOOSING DEATH arrived in the mailbox last Tuesday. I cannot recommend this book enough to both fans of death/grindcore and people who are not as familiar with this type of metal. I have been an avid fan of death and grind now for over 5 years and I still learned a lot about this book. For instance, I had no idea how important Napalm Death really are/were to death metal. After reading this book I have a better idea just how important Napalm Death are. The author also does a great job in covering bands from the late 1990s to the present day who are pushing the envelope in every sense of the word by combining other influences (Opeth, Nile, Slipknot, In Flames) and bands who continue to push the envelopes of speed and brutality, (i.e. Krisiun and Hate Eternal). Over 2 years of collected interviews make this book something special. Plus, at the end of the book the author provides a list of essential death metal albums throughout the years. To conclude this review, CHOOSING DEATH is essential reading. You will not be disappointed.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By susky on September 13, 2004
Format: Paperback
As a teenager in the early 90's craving the most extreme metal sounds available, I was a huge fan of the death metal underground. Having just read Choosing Death, I can honestly say that there exists no substitute to capture the thrill and intensity that filled the minds of so many listeners in those days. This book transported me straight back to those golden years where so much excitement abounded within the death metal scene. Having just finished the book, I'm all fired up!! I'll be digging out all my old CD's from the attic tonight!! This isn't a fan-based death metal bio is the story of the music from its earliest rumblings through to its international buzz told by the major players in the scene. The story is spun through the words of band members, label owners, record executives, artists, etc... Mudrian does a fantastic job at letting the band members, etc tell the story themselves. It's a perfectly balanced take of the death metal scene from all vantage points. Loaded with incredible photos. Tons amazing stories. I have been hoping someone would do this genre some justice and put out the definitive story. The wait is over!! The definitive story has arrived!!!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By John Humphrey on February 20, 2008
Format: Paperback
I bought Choosing Death last Christmas after seeing the quarter-page plug in the back of every issue of Decibel magazine (Decibel's editor-in-chief is Albert Mudrian, author of this tome of death metal history). After literally years of seeing this ad, I decided it was time to give it a chance and see if the book was really up to snuff or not. Even though my taste in metal doesn't lean too far into death metal territory, I still thought it would make for an interesting read, and maybe turn me on to some bands I hadn't heard of before. Choosing Death turned out to be a perfect choice for opening my eyes--and soon after, ears--to all the extreme music I'd been missing out on.

Starting out in Birmingham, England in the early 1980s, Mudrian examines the formative roots of death and grindcore (hardcore punk and crust), before moving into death metal's heyday (popularity explosion in the Floridian and British scenes), its worldwide spread (Swedish death is given a chapter-long examination) and its gradual demise in the late 90s. The final chapter of the book, Altering the Future, recognizes the influence formative extreme music bands have had on current death and grind acts like Nile, Nasum, Arch Enemy, etc. One of the greatest features of this book is how Mudrian's smart and seemingly effortless writing style compliments the exhaustive interviews he's conducted with members of the death metal scene. The unique thing about this book is that the vast majority of its content is all culled from interviews from the musicians, promoters, producers, and artists who were there, making the scene. This gives the book a very genuine, omniscient feel, which at some points lends itself to humor.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Corey Mitchell on December 15, 2006
Format: Paperback
Albert Mudrian, editor-in-chief of Decibel magazine, one of the best music magazines out there today, pens an excellent celebration of the darkest, fastest, and most intense music out there: death metal (and grindcore). Mudrian's format is simple, for a reason. It streamlines the vast reams of information within these genres and pares it down to the true essence of the keys bands - Napalm Death, Morbid Angel, Carcass - and the key record label - Earache Records.

I used to spin records for the imaginatively titled "Metal Show" at the University of Texas college radio station, KTSB (now KVRX), from 1988-1990, right when the grindcore/death metal movement first appeared in the United States. CHOOSING DEATH brought back numerous amazing memories for me such as the time I received the Napalm Death SCUM LP at the radio station; when I saw Sepultura's first U.S. show at the DK Zone at the CMJ Music Fest in NYC; and also when I met Digby Pearson and Martin Nesbitt of Earache Records at the same convention. As one of the first college radio DJs to spin the majority of these bands that appear in this book, I loved learning even more about these groundbreaking musicians. And I thought I knew it all!

Mudrian's research is impeccable, his writing is tight, and his subject matter rules. CHOOSING DEATH may not please every metal fanatic out there, but then we're a picky and bitchy lot, aren't we?

Kudos to Mudrian for an excellent piece of work.

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