‘Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Metal’ – Book Review
Journalists Jon Wiederhorn and Katherine Turman have just unleashed a comprehensive book for all metalheads, aptly titled ‘Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Metal.’
Starting from the very beginning of the origins of the genre, Wiederhorn and Turman weave a narrative of stories told by the artists and experts who experienced them first-hand. From Black Sabbath and Judas Priest to Ministry and Nine Inch Nails, all the way to Slipknot and Tool – with more than a few bands sprinkled in between – ‘Louder Than Hell’ covers it all in an easy to consume and super memorable fashion.
Anthrax‘s Scott Ian opens the book and sets the stage for what is to come. “Stories in this book about forty-plus years of metal – some of which I lived through, others of which are new to me – give me the same kind of teenage excited-dork feeling I get when I’m onstage,” the Anthrax guitarist says in his foreword. “No matter how old you get, you never outgrow [metal].”
Keeping that in mind, Wiederhorn and Turman pack a complete history into over 730 pages, and believe it or not, it’s a blast to read for all ages. Like Ian says, “you never outgrow metal.” Fans young and old will find surprising anecdotes in ‘Louder Than Hell,’ discover new things about their favorite bands and discover some obscure acts they’ve most likely never even known about.
With over 400 interviews inside, fans can expect to run into some tales they’ve heard before, like Ozzy Osbourne biting the head off of a dove or Ronnie James Dio‘s personal history with the iconic devil horns gesture. But, be ready for some stories that will leave you shaking your head in disbelief.
One such story involves some people you may have heard before, including Alice Cooper, Jim Morrison, David Crosby and a whole cast of other characters dabbling in a little, harmless Satanic ritual. Neal Smith, former bandmember with Cooper, recalls the incident like this:
We paint a pentagram on the floor and all sit around the pentagram…This chick is trying to conjure up spirits on the other side. Believe me, even though everyone had been drinking and smoking, it was embarassing. She was screaming and moaning and groaning, and everyone was like, “What the f–k is with this woman? She needs some serious medication.” She’s probably still f–king crazy.”
While that story isn’t necessarily mind-blowing, what is so exciting is reading it from someone who was there and was part of it. Imagine sitting around a pentagram with Alice Cooper and Jim Morrison. Because of ‘Louder Than Hell,’ you’ll never feel closer to the world of metal.
The story that shocked us the most came from ex-Pentagram member Joe Hasselvander, who is now in Raven.
I found these tarot cards dating back to the Salem witch trials that were at a house in New York where we lived with Raven, and they were coated in human blood. They were horrifying. I took about ten of them and they almost destroyed my life. A spirit was found in two of these cards, and the person who was bound to them had invoked demons and was probably responsible for the Salem witchcraft hysteria.
After explaining how he finally got rid of the spirit – which included an exorcism to cleanse his house – Hasselvander reveals the most shocking statement of all.
I’m a very religious person because of it today. I won’t go into it any further, but I will say that Cliff Burton from Metallica had the other half of the artifacts that I had, and I really believe they killed him.
Stories like that take ‘Louder Than Hell’ to a level of intimacy few books, if any, have ever gone before. The book – can we call it a metal bible? – contains story after story that will keep you flipping the pages until you’re finished. Reading about Geezer Butler‘s first acid trip, finding out that Paul Stanley was a New York City cab driver, realizing it took Brian Johnson just 10 minutes to write ‘Hell’s Bells’ and hearing about Tool’s record label trying to send kids t-shirts to radio stations to promote their single ‘Prison Sex’ are just a handful of what you’ll unearth.
We could go on and on for days about cool stories from the book, but the best way to enjoy the incredible metal anecdotes is to pick yourself up a copy. While reading may not be the most metal thing to do in the world, when you have ‘Louder Than Hell’ in your hands, you won’t want to do anything else. And don’t worry, there are tons of killer photos in the book, too.
This is a flawless authoritative history of metal straight from the mouths of the men and women who lived it, and you’ll feel like you are right there beside them. It only makes sense that none other than Rob Halford closes the book. “Metal was not born; it evolved from other existing sounds, ideas and technologies,” he says in his afterword. “It can therefore never die.” Amen, Mr. Halford.
‘Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Metal’ is available in hardcover and as a Kindle edition through Amazon.com. We highly recommend it for any metalhead or anyone interested in learning about the history of metal.