Metal and books. Basically my two favourite things in the world. (Add cats to the equation and you have the Steff trifecta.) Books ABOUT metal are still pretty rare, but there have been a few awesome ones in recent years. Here are some of my favourites:
Lords of Chaos: The bloody rise of the Satanic Metal Underground, Michael Moynihan and Didrik Søderlind
“An unusual combination of true crime journalism, rock and roll reporting and underground obsessiveness, Lords of Chaos turns into one of the more fascinating reads in a long time.”—Denver Post
An account of the rise of black metal as a genre in Norway, and the crimes that followed in its wake. Sure, it’s a bit sensationalised, and while personally I enjoyed the first ¾ of this book, I felt it fell down a bit during the kind of analysis section at the end. There’s no arguing that the events of the nineties left their mark on the metal genre, and this book was one of the first texts to really attempt an analysis and document of that. Definitely worth a read, although bear in mind there are more balanced views of the black metal scene out there now.
Hell Bent for Leather: Confessions of a heavy metal addict, Seb Hunter
Part primer for the early glory days of metal, part memoir of misguided youth, Seb’s story will have you nodding with agreement and nostalgia. That is, when you’re not cracking up laughing. This dude is hilarious, and I love the way he describes bands and the war of the pointy guitar stocks.
My main problem with this book occurs after Hunter discovers hair metal, becomes part of that scene and then, when the scene crumbles away, kind of loses it with metal. So much amazing music has been made on the flip-side of the hair metal craze that it drives me a bit mad when people talk about the death of metal falling at that stage. Ultimately, this is a book about falling out of love with metal, which is not something I relate to, but I don’t think it detracts from the awesomeness of the writing or the story.
Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Metal, Jon Wiederhorn and Katherine Turman
This 736-page behemoth incorporates literally hundreds of interviews with some of the biggest names in metal, organised with a chronological dissertation on metal’s history and influence. What I love about this book is that it doesn’t have an omnipresent narrator. We’re not seeing metal through a lens. Instead, we are experiencing the history of the music through the people who create it, who shape it, and who live it.
That image doesn’t always gel from one interview to the next. This is a hefty book to wade through, and can come off a bit academic at times. But it’s filled with awesome stories and great genre breakdowns. Aside from a battered copy of Lord of the Rings, it should be the first book on any metalhead’s bookshelf.
Mosh Potatoes: Recipes, Anecdotes, and Mayhem from the Heavyweights of Heavy Metal, Steve Seabury
Cooking and metal – two elements you don’t normally jam together. That is, until you’ve seen me making cornbread while belting out the lyrics to Sabaton’s “Panzer Battalion.” I own this book and I regularly cook several dishes, my favourite being Liv Kristine’s Swedish Apple Cake. There’s some awesome recipes here and some hilarious stories. You won’t believe the recipe Lemmy added. It is called “Krakatoa Surprise” and makes me smile every time I read it.
The problem, of course, with a cookbook filled with recipes cobbled from different sources is two-fold. 1. While there is a lot of variety in the recipes, there are definitely a lot of overlaps (too many burger recipes, for instance). 2. There can’t be a real consistency between recipes, ingredients, or processes. One recipe might do something one way, while the other does it another way. There’s a distinct lack of cohesion that can’t be helped but makes the book difficult to navigate.
This book also has an additional problem in that it doesn’t contain images of the food, which I vastly prefer. Mostly because I wanted to see Lemmy’s Krakatoa Surprise in the flesh. Aside from these minor details, this is an awesome book and if you enjoy cooking you’ll definitely find some gens.
Running with the Devil: Power, Gender, and Madness in Heavy Metal Music, Robert Walser
I did an anthropology paper at university that required me to write an essay about heavy metal. I’d never looked at subcultures in an anthrological sense before, so off I went to the library to see what I could uncover.
Walser’s book was the first academic text I read looking at metal. He approaches the genre from a socialogical and cultural criticism corner. He asks what makes heavy metal appeal, and uses metal to explore identity, community, gender, and power.
Remember when reading that this book came out in 1993, so it is very rooted in the metal of that time and what had come before. It’s an interesting read if you enjoy cultural criticism. He does focus mainly on metal as a white subculture and doesn’t explore scenes in countries outside of the main centres (done very well in the documentary Global Metal) and there’s only a cursory note about women in metal. Very much of its time, but for one of the first academic texts on metal, it’s well worth a read.
Metal Cats, Alexandra Crockett
You know how I said at the beginning of the article that if you added cats to the mix, you’d get the ultimate trifecta. Well, that’s just what photographer Alexander Crockett has done. This book features full-colour images of hardcore and metal musicians with their adorable fuzzy friends. The photographer approaches her subject with respect and dark humour. The cats are adorable. There are lots of epic beards.
This books makes a great gift for the “metalhead who has everything.”
Hellbent for Cooking: The Heavy Metal Cookbook, Annick Giroux
Yes, there is another Heavy Metal cookbook. Yes, it features recipes from Kreator, Anthrax, Pentagram, St Vitus, Death, Autopsy, and Gorgoroth. With this delicious collection of favorite basic recipes by heavy metal bands from around the globe, Annick “The Morbid Chef” Giroux declares war on junk food, and fires up the flame for a special heavy metal feast.
Hellbent for Cooking feeds voracious appetites with a varied menu of over a hundred recipes from thirty countries, including Yorkshire Pudding from England, Beer Pizza Crust from Germany, Spaghetti Barracuda from Italy, Fårikål from Norway, Country Lamb Exohiko from Greece, Churrasco from Brazil, and Mushroom Steak à la Jack Daniel’s from the United States.
Again, this cookbook suffers from continuity issues, because you’re talking about recipes from different countries where different types of products are available. However, this book DOES have wonderful food photography, as well as little bios about the bands. I found a couple of new favourite bands from this book. Food + Metal = nom nom nom.
Metallion: The Slayer Mag Diaries, Jon Kristiansen
Founded in 1985 in Sarpsborg, Norway, Slayer Magazine quickly rose to prominence by championing countless unsigned death metal pioneers. The pages of the magazine became a written gospel for the fledgling extreme metal underground, combining eye-ripping graphics, brutally honest writing, and a relentless and sick sense of humor.
As black metal rose to prominence in Norway in the 1990s, Slayer Magazine remained the final word on the moods and motivations of those dark times. Its editor, Jon “Metalion” Kristiansen, became a prominent voice within the fledgling scene.
If you’re a fan of extreme metal, this book will be particularly interesting, because it explores through an underground publication the early ideas and development of extreme genres, right at the epicentre of the music. There are a ton of early photographs from bands like Morbid Angel, Kreator, Emperor, and Mayhem, as well as rare archival material and unreleased interviews and artwork. It’s a fascinating look at the way music writing from “within the trenches” can inform and grow a scene.
Confessions of a Heretic: The Sacred and the Profane – Behemoth and Beyond, Mark Eglinton, Adam Nergal Darski
“Rebellion is a part of youth. Sometimes it’s dangerous. Instead of a sword, I hold a guitar in my hands. I’m in the same, rigid world but instead of Molotov cocktails, I’ve got a computer. It’s a much more powerful weapon.”
Confessions Of A Heretic is the forthright and erudite memoir of the front man and driving force behind the Polish heavy-metal group Behemoth, following the release of their 2014 album The Satanist.
Presented as a series of interviews (the blurb calls them interrogations) by friends and associates, the book reveals a complex man of great contrast. This is such a fascinating study of a creative mind. Nergal is personable, health-conscious, hyper-intelligent, rigid in his views, dedicated to his art, unflinching in his convictions.
The interview-transcript format of the book makes it a bit hard to get through, but if you’re a fan of the band or just enjoy getting inside the head of a fascinating (if not occasionally terrifying) man, then this is an interesting read.
Swedish Death Metal, Daniel Ekeroth
There are a lot of books out that attempt to be some kind of definitive guide to the history of metal. Unfortunately, in an attempt to encompass the scope of the genre in a single book, the subtleties of smaller, localised scenes is usually lost.
That’s why books like this are so interesting. Here, Ekeroth has created a written and visual record of the Swedish Death Metal movement, tying the music intrisically to its roots in the social, cultural, political, historical, and geographical context of Sweden. More than the fascinating history of the more than a thousand extreme metal bands from Sweden, is the tremendous sense of place and atmosphere Ekeroth conjures from his archives.
Over 500 images accompany the text, which includes scores of exclusive interviews with members of Nihilist/ Entombed, In Flames, At the Gates, Dismember, Grave, Hypocrisy, Opeth, Unleashed, Marduk, Morbid, Mob 47, Deranged, Edge of Sanity, Merciless, Therion, Liers in Wait, Carnage, Carcass, Tiamat/Treblinka, Afflicted, Repugnant, the Haunted, and other central characters. Expect to discover a ton of new bands to enjoy.
OK, now, I realise there are scores of other awesome books about metal, so I intend to continue this list with a part 2, (and probably a part 3). What I want to know from you is what are YOUR favourite books about metal or metal musicians. Sound off in the comments or on my Facebook page!
When I’m not reading books about metal or sending fan letters asking Chelsea Wolfe to get her ass to New Zealand, I write dark urban fantasy novels. My latest book, Petrified City, first in the new Chronicles of the Wraith series, is out now. Grab your copy from Amazon, or join my mailing list to stay up-to-date with the series.