The Merciless Book of Metal Lists
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There is often an urge amongst those writing about heavy metal to over-intellectualize. The reason is simple: this genre of music, though vastly popular and nuanced, has been labeled ‘dumb’ by the Art Crowd since its inception, and so we strive to describe it in such a way as to display our literary knowledge and analytical prowess (see, even I’m doing it). However, good music rarely needs an explanation. More often than not, one’s bar buddies do a better job at summing up the strengths of a given album than one’s Music Theory 201 professor. This is the strength behind The Merciless Book of Metal Lists: it reads like it was written by someone you know, someone you drink beer with, someone who likes to hang out and shoot the shit about metal.
The lists herein range from predictable to absurd and funny; you can read about the greatest guitarists in all of metal, but you can also find a collection of hypothetical quotes from Lemmy’s warts. The grossest Cannibal Corpse titles of all time are here, but so are the top 10 Judas Priest lyrics that would make a teenage fan uncomfortable upon realizing that Rob Halford was referencing homosexual sex therein. On top of that, the tone of the prose is hilariously laid-back and familiar; in the previously mentioned Priest list, the authors comment that Halford “had PENIS on his mind” (emphasis theirs, not mine). In their intro to a list of hipster metal T-shirts, they hate on Liturgy, as one does. There is a section about “The Very Best Qualities of Metallica’s Load and Reload”—featuring two blank pages. These immediately smack of a beery basement or the parking lot outside of a concert, which bears its own adolescent charm. This book might as well have been written in the library after English class (the fact that they have lists about album covers featuring goats and Dave Mustaine sucking suggest that their research fell upon the works of the Casserole himself—in which case, Howie and Sacha, let’s get 50 drinks some time).
For some, that might make the book a little ridiculous. This is a good old fashioned metal bro-down here, with Metallica, Slayer, and Iron Maiden dominating most pages. The straight-forward and somewhat tactless way lists on being black or a woman in metal are confronted can feel a little cringe-worthy, coming off as more Revolver than Decibel by and large. But overall, the voice present within this book overwhelms this, making them feel trivial. This is not an in-depth exploration of metal as a movement, it’s a High Fidelity-style collection of the kind of lists we mentally compile anyway. Even in its most graceless moments, this book is damn entertaining, easily digested, and incredibly relatable, much like a Motörhead song.
Jenkins and Abrams may not have reinvented the wheel with The Merciless Book of Metal Lists, but they’ve created something fans of all flavors of metal can at least have a hearty guffaw over. For a fun afternoon and a consistently satisfying bathroom read, this book rocks a strong voice and a solid grasp on metal culture—even if Invisible Oranges isn’t on the list of the best metal blogs.
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