Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Heavy Metal By Jon Wiederhorn and Katherine Turman It Books, 736 pp., $32.50
Damn, this book is big.
But then again, everything about heavy metal -- from its beginnings with the Stooges and Blue Cheer, through Black Sabbath to Exodus to Motley Crue to Slipknot, has been big. And, though no surprise to headbangers, there is a lot of territory to cover and subgenres to explore in what is considered "metal."
Authors Weiderhorn (senior editor of metal mag Revolver) and Turman (producer for the radio show "Nights with Alice Cooper") conducted interviews with more than 400 mostly musicians for the book. One-name wonders like Dio, Ozzy, Axl, Eddie, Vince, Lars, Lemmy, Trent, Phil, and Robs Zombie and Halford show both the evolution of the music and the bands' individual stories.
But Louder Than Hell presents an interesting embarrassment of riches. On one hand, it is the first person, one-volume book on the music that every fan should have.
On the other, because it is so detailed and covers everything from the doom of Sabbath to the thrash of Metallica to the pop of Ratt, industrial sounds of Ministry, and even that lovable Norwegian black death metal -- a genre where the guitarist of one band made Mexican stew with a chunk of his successfully suicidal vocalist's brain -- readers will likely find themselves skipping over sections no of interest or unfamiliarity to them.
No matter. Even if you've read bios of these individual bands and know many of these stories retold here, to read their reflections here are seen as part of a larger tapestry, and in some cases they even get to snipe at each other.
And the sex and drugs? It's here aplenty with some mind-boggling stories, like Megadeth bassist Dave Ellefson digging through his own vomit to find a bag of heroin he'd swallowed to avoid arrest, then using the heroin to celebrate his good fortune.
We also learn that legendary groupie "Sweet Connie" Hamzy (immortalized in Grand Funk Railroad's "We're an American Band") has successfully sucked the dicks of two members of Rush, and still holds out hope to pleasure Neil Peart for the trifecta.
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"The development of metal is like the evolution of a virus," Weiderhorn writes in the afterword. Not in the sense that it's a "bad" form of music, but that it has over the ensuing decades morphed, absorbed things around it, and (in the words of Anthrax) "spread the disease" into many different styles. Louder Than Hell seems to cover them all.