I picked this book up by donating to the Kickstarter campaign we told you about last year, and although Gareth did send me an early copy on PDF I held off until getting the proper dead tree version before settling in to read and review it. Well, I let it sit there for a couple of months because I had a huge stack of other books. Then I settled down to read it. And then pretty much read it in two sittings.
Half A Ton Of Heavy Metal isn’t a tome. It’s a nice, slim volume which is still packed with information and opinion. It’s easy to read and raises as many questions and arguments as it answers. The task Gareth set himself was this: metal is arguably fifty years old, with the seminal of all seminal works, Black Sabbath, being released in 1970. How has it grown and what albums really help tell that story? His limits were one album per year, and one per artist over the fifty year period.
This is more tricky than you would expect, and in his closing notes he does say that he could rewrite the book with fifty entirely different choices, and this is the beauty of the book. It’s his opinion, but they’re well argued. He’s genuinely open to discussion – perhaps on the book’s facebook group – and that was the point. As well as informing, Half A Ton… aims to get people talking.
Heavy metal is a beautiful, huge, many-horned beast with more subgenres than pretty much any other style of music. We’re a welcoming bunch, but we’re also fiercely tribal within ourselves and the fact that two albums from two separate schools of metal could both arguably be representative of, say, 1986 or 1997 is our strength. And both sides would argue till they’re blue in the face (and drunk with all the beers they’d been sharing during said argument) about it.
I’m under strict instructions not to name any of the bands and artists featured, and I wouldn’t anyway as that’s a huge part of the fun. When I was reading it, I was holding pages at an angle so I couldn’t accidentally gaze at what next year had to offer! The only one I can let slip in good conscience is 1970, and that’s obvious from paragraph 2 above. I could argue many of them. I could agree with many of them. I could honestly put my hand up and say I’ve never heard a few of them (or heard of a couple!) but this just proves how vast our musical ocean is, and how much more I have the pleasure of discovering.
Reading Half A Ton… had me digging through the old CD/MP3 collection and also heading to YouTube and Spotify for the ones I didn’t own just to see what I was missing. It’s not perfect, though this is mainly down to the writing style. Gareth’s set himself a tricky task of essentially writing about 50 of the top bands of their time and there are only so many superlatives one person can come up with, so there was a little bit of repetition in the writing.
But this is really my only issue. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and I’m glad I paid for it and that my name is in the back!
Half A Ton Of Heavy Metal is on general release now, if you missed the Kickstarter, and I really do recommend it. It’s not a long read, and you can dip in as and when you like. Perfect bathroom fodder (and I mean that in the nicest way!).
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