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Sound of the Beast


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A freelance journalist who has written extensively on technology and music, Christe might as well drop the "e" from his name because he has just delivered the gospel of heavy metal. Starting with its British roots, he draws on his expert background and numerous interviews with the likes of Black Sabbath to trace heavy metal's journey through 30-plus years of long hair, loud sounds, and lawsuits. While other histories have dwelled on the scene's decadence (e.g., David Konow's recent Bang Your Head), Christe's concentrates on the cultural and social significance of trends like the underground tape-traders who spread the metal message and extreme metal subgenres that became an outlet for young subversives spurning the 1990s mainstream. And though this encyclopedic take on metal's growth is pleasantly conversational, its hallmark is that Christe ignores critical convention to acknowledge finally that 1980s hair bands like Poison and Warrant were not heavy metal practitioners. Instead, definitive thrash metal masters like Megadeth and Metallica and underground legends like Saxon and Venom are given ample treatment. Not just an expert's guide, this book includes explanations of metal's subgenres, lists of pertinent bands, and the 25 "best" heavy metal albums of all time that should enlighten metal newcomers. Essential for all performing arts collections. [Stay tuned for a "Behind the Book" on Christe in LJ 3/1/03.-Ed.]-Robert Morast, "Argus Leader," Sioux Falls, SD Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Adult/High School-MTV's Headbanger's Ball, which debuted in 1987, was canceled in 1995-metal was officially "over." But it has returned to the schedule, and metal is making a comeback. In Christe's exhaustive history, readers watch metal rise, fall, change, and splinter into a massive number of genres (death metal, black metal, thrash metal, and more). As in David Konow's Bang Your Head (Three Rivers, 2002), the story begins with Black Sabbath (as if there would be any other choice); but while Konow kept to the well known, Christe gives just as much attention to the fringes. Also unlike Konow, he eschews gossip for almost scholarly explanations of the musicians' creative process and their works. Through it all, he shows the impact of competing forces (like punk, grunge, and rap). Chapters are arranged chronologically but also by genre, and each one is packed with black-and-white photographs and "genre boxes" that list the definitive recordings, ending with the author's choice for the 25 best metal albums of all time. The book is well indexed. New metal fans will run to the music store not only because of the knowledge gained from this volume, but also because of the enthusiastic (though sometimes a little overwrought) way the author shares it.-Jamie Watson, Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Few books on heavy metal music can compare to Christie's thoughtful and passionate history of the music of the beast. There is little argument that heavy metal began in earnest with Black Sabbath (though the Beatles' "Helter Skelter" is considered by some to be the first heavy metal song), and Christie holds to convention and begins his metal timeline in early 1970. Following in the jamming, bluesy tradition of the Yard Birds and Cream, Sabbath (then called Earth) wrote "Black Sabbath"-a song that changed not only the band's name, but the face of rock and roll. Black Sabbath set the pace, but bands like Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple "fleshed out the edges and gave it sex appeal." The next wave, the new wave of British heavy metal, saw the emergence of Motorhead, Saxon and Iron Maiden among many others. The movement then spread through America and found most bands cropping up out of L.A. (although many migrated from the Midwest). Van Halen, Ratt and Mtley Cre grew out of the then underground club scene. Christie doesn't get bogged down in anecdotes about bands and their groupies, but instead documents the music and its different genres. Each chapter contains helpful "genre boxes" giving a brief description of the style (e.g., Power Metal, Death Metal and Nu Metal). If Christie is to be faulted, it is on the grounds of hero worship: he's a metal fan, scribe (a music writer living in Brooklyn) and practitioner (in a digital metal band called Black Noerd), and readers might wish for more critical analysis about the culture of fans. But this is a minor point in a book otherwise worthy of having its dog-eared and beer-stained pages passed among friends and placed in motel-room bedside drawers. 94 b&w photos, and 16-page color insert not seen by PW. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.

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