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‘The Merciless Book of Metal Lists’ – Book Review

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If you’re one of those people who can hardly contain a groan of dismay every time you’re faced with a definitive LIST of some kind — never mind an entire book filled with them — don’t run away screaming just yet, because ‘The Merciless Book of Metal Lists’ is definitely worth a read.

That is, of course, as long as you happen to enjoy heavy metal music as much as authors Howie Abrams and Sacha Jenkins — a pair of music scene veterans who took advantage of considerable connections they’ve accumulated over the years to jam their book with enticing celebrity cameos.

The actual lists are contributed by an impressive parade of metal gods, which ranges from universally recognized names like Max Cavalera, Scott Ian, Kerry King and Philip Anselmo (who provides the afterword) to underground heroes such as Danny Lilker, Hirax’s Katon de Pena and Raven’s John Gallagher). But what makes this book special is the authors’ irreverent approach.

This sees them quickly moving past of the probably necessary, but endlessly subjective, rankings of bands and albums to poking good, informed fun at the very music they obviously worship, via endlessly intriguing trivia. Plus, there’s plenty of lists devoted to amusing subjects such as embarrassing album covers, shark-jumping albums, illegible black metal logos…even “Observations from Lemmy‘s warts.”

Sure, the authors are pretty set on the top metal bands of all time (Sabbath, Maiden, Metallica, Slayer, Motorhead and Priest) and tend to top most every list with a several of these acts. But they also open the floor to less ubiquitous key contributors (Exodus, Cannibal Corpse, Manowar, etc.) and showcase more extreme sub-genres while crowning the top metal movies, books, demos, fanzines, you name it – often with the help of music business insiders like Metal Blade Records founder Brian Slagel and Roadrunner A&R veteran Monte Conner, among others.

Another serendipitous element working in the book’s favor is the fact that metal happens to be going through an unusually healthy phase in its long, 40-plus year history, with bands of all metallic stripes, big and small, young and old, able to connect with their particular audience via the Web.

One of the only knocks on this book is that it’s such a perfect stocking-stuffer, it really should have been rushed out before the holidays, and into the eager hands of hapless relatives who never know what to get that denim & leather-clad loved one for Christmas.

In any case, the fact remains that Abrams and Jenkins have successfully compiled a highly worthwhile and entertaining collection of heavy metal minutiae, and that’s no small feat.

‘The Merciless Book of Metal Lists’ is now available at Amazon.com and booksellers everywhere.

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