[Books] Louder than Hell – The Definitive Oral History of Metal by Jon Wiederhorn & Katherine Turman


Metal is now more accepted in academic milieu thanks to the growing popularity of black metal and interest from web magazines such as Pitchfork or Vice. A culture that was before associated with boneheaded behavior is now appealing for publishers looking to sell books to the long haired fans of these genres of music. However, this volume does not deal with the analysis of the genre but with the history of its multiples factions told through the words of the musicians and people involved in the scenes that kick started whole movement.

From The Stooges and Hawkwind (Lemmy Kilmister’s first band) to Black Sabbath for a first, moving on to Venom and Metallica and then to Nine Inch Nails, Fear Factory and Repulsion, Cannibal Corpse and Burzum, Louder than Hell is an entertaining read that tries to give a compelling look into every major evolution metal has gone through to become the complex we know.

However, that also means that even if a lot of bands are mentioned, some do get pushed under the rug. For example, even if Jon Wiederhorn is proudly sporting an Entombed shirt on the back of the book, the swedish legends are never mentioned whereas Fear Factory gets several page about the story behind their break-up.

Also, it’s worth noting that even if the first chapters balance music stories with drug stories, later chapters (especially the ones involving nu metal bands from Limp Bizkit to Slipknot, for some reason…) are more about the excess rather than the passion. However, there is much to enjoy in other parts, especially when it comes to the early days of the metalcore scene with Overcast and later Shadows Fall whose dedication to music can be clearly felt in their words. The chapter about death metal and grindcore is also telling considering how little drugs and women were involved in the road life of these bands compared to hair metal, thrash metal and nu metal band.

Women are also quite rare in these pages. Metal is now only slowly moving away from being a boys club and the litany of anecdotes about the band’s orgies explains why. Homosexuality is also very rarely a subject in the mouths of the musicians. For a genre that’s always considered itself as an outsider, it’s telling that the history of the genre is dominated by heterosexual male. However, it’s also worth noting that most bands also tell of having to deal with economic problems before finding the road to a form of stardom and some recognition.

By assembling these anecdotes together, the authors have made a thorough exploration of the history of the genre that will satisfy as much as it will frustrates his fans. Nevertheless, it’s still a great way to explore a lot of band’s personal history and find some truth in the mythology that has been created around them.

Louder than hell: The definitive oral history of metal is published by Harper & Collins


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