Metal purists and longtime scene haunts Howie Abrams and Sacha Jenkins have assembled an unconventional (and frequently hilarious) book on the ethos of heavy metal that calls for an unconventional mode of review. Metalheads and punkers, more so than any other type of music fan, have historically been compelled by nature to create lists to somehow organize their obsessive inner babble about outsider music seldom few actually get, much less care about. In here, Abrams and Sacha methodically list the best of the best and of course, the not so best in heavy metal music. Yet there's much more to their compendium of chaos that not only includes a forward and afterword by Kerry King and Phil Anselmo respectively, there's a reckless, no-rules ethic presiding that reflects the core of its topic at its most authentic. Opinionated, brash, occasionally annoying yet ultimately comprehensive, Abrams and Sacha have assembled one of the nuttiest yet most entertaining examinations of metal culture delivered in compact fashion.
I couldn't think of a more appropriate way to analyze a book entitled The Merciless Book of Metal Lists than to follow suit in list fashion.
10 Questions My Five-Year-Old Son Asked While I Reviewed The Merciless Book of Metal Lists:
1. "Dad, could Pirate Mickey Mouse take Spiderman in a fight?"
2. "Is that a boy or a girl in that picture, Dad?"
3. "Why do you like loud music so much, Dad?"
4. "Is that grown-up drink you're putting in your cranberry juice?"
5. "Was the Scarecrow (from The Wizard of Oz) ever a baby, you know, like a Scarebaby?"
6. "What's a Sepultura?"
7. "Did you interview that band, Dad?"
8 "What's a cassette tape?"
9. "What are those things on that scary guy (Lemmy Kilmister)'s face?"
10. "Can animals toot like us, Dad?"
10 Things From The Merciless Book of Metal Lists That Put Me On the Floor:
1. Richard Christy's "Quadruple Poople."
2. Richard Christy pissing his pants three times during a Maiden show so he wouldn't miss a minute.
3. Richard Christy cooking his own shit in an oven.
4. "10 Observations From Lemmy's Warts." (alone, this sells the entire project)
5. "What Would Varg Vikernes (Burzum) Do?"
6. "Half-off trip for two to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. with Varg Vikernes," from "10 Heavy Metal Livingsocial/Groupon Deals You Never See."
7. "The Very Best Qualities of Metallica's Load and Reload Albums."
8. Candlemass' "Bewitched" video roasted in "Thoroughly Embarrassing Metal Videos."
9. "10 Illegible Black Metal Logos (Rorschach Tests?)"
10. "Best iTunes Playlist to Set On Repeat for a Drive of Eight Hours or Longer," by Danny Lilker (totaling "around eleven seconds of playtime.")
10 Things The Merciless Book of Metal Lists Gets Spot-On:
1. Including the mighty Voivod in many categories. To do less would make this book a sham.
2. Proposing that Led Zeppelin is "JNM" (Just Not Metal).
3. "Completely Unnecessary Heavy Metal Subgenres"
4. "The Very Best Qualities of Metallica's Load and Reload Albums" (lampoon genius)
5. "25 Great Hardcore/Metal Crossover Albums"
6. "Glorious Paul Baloff Stage Banter"
7. "All Hail the Original Man - Some Metal Bands That Have, Or Have Had, Black Members" (also "10 Things You Should Know About Being Black in a Metal Band," by Hirax vocalist Katon W. De Pena)
8. "Some Non-Metal Artists Metalheads Love" (perfecto list DESPITE omitting Killing Joke and Can)
9. "The 10 Best and Worst Things About Being a Female Fronting a Metal Band," by Betsy Bitch.
10. "20 of the Greatest Metal Voices"
5 Things The Merciless Book of Metal Lists Shanks:
1. While agreed that Def Leppard's Pyromania is not a metal album, but a melodic hard rock album, it's hardly the "turd dropped from pop music's ass." Pardon me, gents, but that dishonor goes straight to the shameless huckstering that was Hysteria.
2. Maiden's Somewhere in Time, a shark-jumping record? No arguments with Celtic Frost's Cold Lake, which Tom G. Warrior himself told me directly was "an abomination." Ditto for Load and Reload, but Somewhere in Time? Bull to the fucking shit.
3. The Merciless Gay Bashing of Rob Halford. Seriously, a joke's a joke and funny once, but a persistent flogging of the man? The rest of us have let Halford off the hook, for Christ's sake. He is the Metal God, period, the end. Having interviewed him, I say the man is a king who doesn't know he has a crown. Just leave him alone.
4. The dismantling of Overkill while listing them as a candidate to make "The Big 4" of thrash a 5. While maybe straying for a couple albums, this is one of the most consistent bands speed metal's ever seen. Suggested Listening only for the Power in Black demo? Groan. Horrorscope, The Years of Decay, Taking Over, Feel the Fire...even their last two albums have been faster than just about anyone outside of Slayer or grind tech. C'mon, brothers.
5. Picking on Grim Reaper has been fashionable since Beavis and Butthead torched the "See You In Hell" video long before Abrams and Jenkins do so here. It's passé. While the video does betray a cheese element relative to the time in which it was conceived, Grim Reaper was a damned fine band also relative to their time. It's just lame getting on their asses about this video.
10 Coolest Guests Appearing in The Merciless Book of Metal Lists:
1. Betsy Bitch
2. Danny Lilker
3. Katon W. De Pena
4. Kerry King
5. John Gallagher
6. Phil Anselmo
7. Brian Slagel
8. Jon and Marsha Zazula
9. Paul Baloff (vicariously through the authors and Gary Holt)
10. Hoya Roc
11. Max Cavalera (okay, make it 11 Coolest Personalities Appearing On the Guest List of The Merciless Book of Metal Lists, sue me)
10 Things I Learned From The Merciless Book of Metal Lists:
1. Producer Flemming Rasmussen's recount of jumping from 12 hours a day in the studio to 14-16 hours during the recording of Metallica's ...And Justice For All. I wonder how Jason Newsted would tally it.
2. My editor at Blabbermouth, Borivoj Krgin, is considered a master guru of the pre-internet tape trading days that I cherish and miss dearly.
3. Max Cavalera and Sean Lennon did a duet together, "Son Song."
4. Ron Fair, who engineered Slayer's Hell Awaits, is responsible for the discovery and production of Christina Aguilera. Strange cosmos.
5. The Goo Goo Dolls and Cannibal Corpse played shows together in their beginnings. Um, wow...
6. Ace Frehley ordered a tuna fish sandwich at an upscale restaurant in Manhattan in the company of Jon and Marsha Zazula.
7. Jaromir Jagr is a metalhead. Dammit, wish I'd known that when I was covering the NHL.
8. The intro to Raven's "Rock Until You Drop" consists of the band "stamping on plastic coffee cups in a stone bathroom."
9. There are idiots in the world who truly believe Scott Ian is Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
10. Betsy Bitch laments not having a boob job. As if one was needed, crikey. She's still hot.
10 Albums That Were Played While I Reviewed The Merciless Book of Metal Lists (when my son wasn't up my crawl):
1. The Cramps - Psychedelic Jungle
2. Killing Joke - Absolute Dissent
3. The Return of the Living Dead soundtrack
4. Slayer - Haunting the Chapel EP
5. The Ocean - Pelagial
6. Can - Ege Bamyasi
7. Bitch - Be My Slave
8. Raven - Life's a Bitch
9. AC/DC - Flick of the Switch
10. Voivod - Dimension Hatross
5 Things I Plan To Do After Wrapping On This Review:
1. Pour myself another cranberry and vodka.
2. Watch some Stanley Cup, Phantasm II and Frank Zappa: The Torture Never Stops in succession.
3. Knock out a review for Blabbermouth, starting with the new Kylesa joint.
4. Attempt to convert my wife to heavy metal for the 2,397th time before asking for a shag.
5. Say hello to Mr. Happy Hand when # 4 fails royally.