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Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Metal Paperback – April 29, 2014
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“Whether you’re the sort of man who knows everything from who first threw the Devil Horns to the correct pronunciation of Yngwie Malmsteen, there is something fascinating to learn from Louder Than Hell . . . Shed[s] new light on the making of Satan’s Music.” (Esquire)
“Presents the collective memory of heavy metal through the ages and eras in the voices of the men who lived it . . . It’s an aficionado’s delight.” (New York Daily News)
“Louder than Hell is a love letter to the misunderstood genre of heavy metal music, written by trusted companions who had a front row seat on the devil’s rollercoaster. The definitive chronological testimony by the people who were there, including some who are no longer with us.” (Mark McGrath, Sugar Ray and co-host Extra)
“A great read and an instant classic.” (The Onion's A.V. Club)
“This is the best oral history I’ve read since Please Kill Me. Louder than Hell is the first book that really delivers the brutal truth from the mouths of the artists and key players themselves! I couldn’t put it down.” (Matt Pinfield)
“Two devil horns up!” (USA Today)
A compelling, first-person account of a seemingly unstoppable force . . .the book reads like an extended, uncensored, shockingly satisfying episode of VH1’s Behind the Music. (Washington Post)
“An amazingly comprehensive book on all eras and genres of hard rock and heavy metal. The stories and attention to detail make it an instant must for anyone who ever was or is a fan.” (Eddie Trunk, DJ and host of That Metal Show on VH1 Classic)
Often hilarious, occasionally, ‘God, I wish I hadn’t read that!’, sometimes profound, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes infuriating . . . no one holds back on any subject. . . you come away from this book with a crystal-clear vision of this world (The Huffington Post)
“The authors inclusiveness give this examination a weight that is just as heavy as the music.” (Publishers Weekly)
From the Back Cover
Louder Than Hell is the definitive oral history of heavy metal, crafted from more than four hundred interviews with icons of the genre from its inception to today, including Ozzy Osbourne, Eddie Van Halen, Tommy Lee, Lars Ulrich, Vince Neil, Axl Rose, Corey Taylor, Dave Grohl, Trent Reznor, Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie, and Dimebag Darrell. From groundbreaking innovations such as the dawn of distortion and the birth of cookie monster vocals to amazing tales of destruction and wild sexcapades, Louder Than Hell is packed with raw, unflinching stories, eye-opening admissions, and the truth behind some of metal's wildest moments.
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This book is 685 pages, and something that is quickly apparent is that is not nearly enough.
I'll start with the bright spots.
Lemmy Kilmister (Motorhead lead singer/bassist) doesn't have a bad quote in the book. I think I laughed out loud at everything that was attributed to him. Unfortunately he is pretty much in and out within the first 100 pages, and a lot of his quotes are familiar. I'm not quite sure if he just kind of ran through his gamut of great lines with the authors, or some of his stuff was pulled from previous interviews.
The section dealing with the Florida death metal scene of the late-80's and early-90's was something that I had not read very much about despite an interest in bands like Death, and the scene associated with the "Morrisound". The book does a pretty good job delving into the depth surrounding the bands and the scene. Members of Morbid Angel, Deicide, Hate Eternal, etc...provide an interesting look at how the bands are connected, the thrash roots, and a lot of the mindsets that drove the musicians to their extremes.
The black metal section had a little bit of value to it. Much of it was a very simple rehash of the book Lords of Chaos, but it did provide some more information from Varg Vikernes, on his murder of Euronymous. Whether he is entirely to be believed is another matter, but I really had not read his point of view before. There is a depth to how the whole issue is tackled from the view of other members of Mayhem, as well as others in the scene. The way it was covered could have benefited other sections dealing with issues like the deaths of both Cliff Burton (Metallica) and Dimebag Darrell (Pantera).
The highlight of the book is the part dealing with the 80's thrash scene. While it doesn't tackle much new information all while putting a very large focus on Metallica, it really seems to have the most feeling put forth by those interviewed. Still, it's not enough to make this worth purchasing.
Entire sections could have been left out of this book.
The nu-metal chapter really doesn't add much to define the scene. Great, guys were getting blowjobs and the members of Coal Chamber liked meth. So what? In a book about metal, dealing with a genre that I think (sometimes) gets a terrible rap (no pun intended), this could have been a perfect opportunity to try and explain where the artists were coming from. There really is none of that.
I also found the last chapter on the current American metal scene to not portray an interesting future, but a drab, lifeless, radio-driven mess. There is still a thriving underground scene nationwide that has the opportunity to find more people than ever through our fascination with the Internet, and social media. This book really could have helped drive that. Instead it put the focus on bands like Tool, and Mastodon. While both bands are proven, and important, this book really didn't shed much light on anything that isn't commonly known. It also tries hard to convince the reader bands like Godsmack, and Rob Zombie matter. Eh, they're radio fodder, but never going to be the flag bearers going forward. I think this part would have been the perfect place to namedrop and generate some excitement for the future.
At the end of the day anyone who has any knowledge of the genre will probably not find much in this book that makes it worth reading the whole thing. I'm not going to completely blame the authors; they took on a gigantic subject within a limited context. There is some value to pieces of history covered within this text, but it is sparse and definitely not worth the price of admission.
The definitive book on the history of metal has yet to be written. I'm not convinced trying to cover it in one place will even work.
While the book isn't perfect, with very little time spent on doom metal, it nonetheless avoids the standard ass kissing of Metallica, giving other bands equal time. Unfortunately I learned more about my favorite music's personal histories than I really wanted to. While the old axiom of sex, drugs and rock and roll is alive and well, even after hearing infamous tales of sordid adventures some of the deeds done by far too many rockers went past traditional "partying" into deviant psychotic and enormously addictive episodes that would kill an average person. It is indeed a wonder some rock stars are even alive.
Parents, this is touchy material. While I am an enemy of censorship and believe stories should be truthful, the examples by some of these interview subjects, like Dave Mustain and Megadeth, who were absolutely wasted for several years and horrendous heroin junkies to boot, to tales of sexual exploits that sink to new lows in disgust, "Louder Than Hell" will no doubt be seen as an affirmation of the party life to youngsters looking for answers or some kind of approval in some of the worst places they could possibly look. There is balance, as some who were a breath away from death lament their close calls and enjoy life on the sober side now, but clean and sober stories are not as fun to read about. Metal fans must understand that their heroes can be enormously talented and gifted artists, but at the same time playing with mortal fire by delving into every intoxicant and drug their bodies can take. These people will pay for their excesses - you can't abuse your body the way some of the people in this book have and not expect major heart problems and God knows what else as they age. Rock and roll is fun, but it is not the ticket to immortality.
The history of metal is up to date and accurate, and when they do focus on music, it's quite informative. "Louder Than Hell" is a good book that one hopes the reader will regard as a positive experience and not imitate some of the incredibly stupid behavior their heroes possess. It is one of the most personal books about the metal life written so far and valuable for that fact alone.