Eight Must-Read Heavy Metal Books

Metalheads are some of the most devoted music fans on the planet. No--I mean we really love our music. Oh, you memorized Lady Gaga's music video dance moves? Check out my Kreator Coma of Souls back piece, and meet my friend's daughter, Sabbath. Later we're going to karaoke to cover Pantera and Motorhead. Wanna come?

But seriously. Not only do metalheads carry a voracious appetite for new music and bands, no matter how obscure, they also devour as much history, knowledge and insight about their beloved music as they possibly can. It's a lifestyle and obsession, and unlike many types of popular music, metalheads tend to embrace their favorite bands and follow them for decades. It seems like lately there's a new metal-related book, documentary or television special every time I turn around. Not that I'm complaining--it just goes to prove how many incredible fans there are out there.

A couple weeks ago I received this monster of delicious metally goodness in the mail.

Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Metal is a 736-page monster that I'm currently addicted to. As in, huddled under-the-covers, bottle of Makers Mark by the bed type of addiction. It's a colossal collection of more than 400 interviews with metal legends as well as a chronological examination of the cultural phenomenon that is known as metal.

It's told by the men and women who created metal, composed it, played it and re-invented it, and examines just about everything--the creation of Black Sabbath, Judas Priest's development of the leather-and-studs look, the introduction of thrash, glam, punk and death metal, Faith No More accidentally creating the first hybrid of rap and metal, and the destruction surrounding Norwegian black metal.

This book has been added to my bookshelf with my other favorite heavy metal reads, from essential guides to biographies, and seeing those inspired me to compile a list of must-reads for any metal fan. Pour yourself a glass of whiskey, and settle in with one of these bad boys.

The Merciless Book of Metal Lists By Howie Abrams and Sacha Jenkins (2013)

This book could start any number of conversations--or fights. It's pretty much a book in the form of dozens of factual, random and outrageous lists, calling out the best and the worst, and the triumphs and failures in metal history.

Its 200 pages span everything from 20 of the Greatest Metal Voices and Most Important Metal Demos of All Time, to 20 Bands Often Considered Metal But Aren't and the Top 11 Things People Say to Start a Conversation with Me by Anthrax's Scott Ian.

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With a foreword by Slayer guitarist Kerry King, and an afterword from Pantera/Down frontman Philip Anselmo, the book also has contributions by Scott Ian, Gary Holt (Exodus), and Max Cavalera (Sepultura/Soulfly.)

Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground By Michael Moynihan and Didrik Soderlind (1998)

This book details the sad-yet-true early Norwegian black metal scene in the early '90s. Satanism, murder, betrayal--it's all in here, alongside such names as Mayhem and Emperor.

It's a classic page turner, and although the author provides a rich history of the scene, the detailing of violence and church burning is what really widens the eyes.

Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal By Ian Christe (2004)

This exhaustive work provides a rundown of the key subgenres of heavy metal and the history that ties it all together.

Sound of the Beast covers 30 years of metal, with more than 100 interviews with members of Black Sabbath, Twisted Sister, Slipknot, KISS, Megadeth, Public Enemy, Napalm Death, and more.

This one's full of the nerdy tidbits that metalheads live for.

True Norwegian Black Metal By Peter Beste (2008)

Undoubtedly the most deranged coffee table book of all time, the cover of this book is what will make you stop in your tracks in curious wonder: It's Nattefrost of Carpathian Forest in full black metal makeup, covered in blood, looking right at you and thrusting an inverted cross in your face.

After you pick up the four-pound monster, you'll enter the world of American documentary photographer Peter Beste, who spent eight years hanging out around black metal's most controversial figures snapping photos.

It's a collaboration between the hipsters at Vice Magazine and powerHouse Books, and it's stocked with lots of behind-the-scenes photos and different perspectives on the typical black metal promo shots.

White Line Fever: The Autobiography By Lemmy Kilmister and Janiss Garza (2004)

There are so many autobiographies of musicians out there, and they all have a place in the world of music. Who doesn't want to get inside and poke around their favorite musician's brain? Tommy Lee, Vince Neil, Rex Brown, Zakk Wylde, Slash, Duff McKagan, Tony Iommi, Dee Snider....they're all a part of the heavy metal library.

But one that stands out in particular for me is by Lemmy Kilmister. It's written in a comfortable, informal manner, and it provides interesting insight into the early sixties music scene in England and the British Invasion. He was there for it all: the Beatles, the Stones, Hendrix, Black Sabbath, Led Zep, and more.

This book gives the fans a look at his personal life and interests, which actually include history and politics. His vibrant life as a part of Motorhead (and as someone who has helped keep the Jack Daniels name afloat) definitely warranted attention and a lot of laughs from this metalhead.

Running With The Devil: Power, Gender, and Madness in Heavy Metal Music By Robert Walser (1993)

This is a book I read early in my youth, and I always wished it had been used as a guide in some of my American music classes. Musicologist, musician and cultural critic Robert Walser gives his analysis on the musical, social, and cultural side of heavy metal.

He explains why even though this genre has been condemned by parents, politicians and academic professionals, the legions of loyal fans go to show why and how heavy metal actually works in society.

It's a book that will make any reader confront their prejudices about heavy metal, its musicians, meaning and audience--perfect for that condescending friend or family member.

What Are You Doing Here? A Black Woman's Life and Liberation in Heavy Metal By Laina Dawes (2012)

Being a chick in the metal world, it's pretty normal to have guys shoot sideways sneers, posing the questions, "What are you doing here?"

Canadian critic and music fan Laina Dawes gives a voice to females in this part autobiography, part socio-cultural history as she walks readers through her passion for metal, her ostracism in the black community and the very real racism and sexism she and others have come across in the metal community.

Peppered with interviews with academics, black female musicians, and fans, it displays positive and negative experiences in the metal, rock and punk world, with an overriding theme that the minority groups in this world--women and other races--kick major ass.

Mosh Potatoes: Recipes, Anecdotes, and Mayhem from the Heavyweights of Heavy Metal By Steve Seabury (2010)

If you're a fan of cooking and metal, this is the cookbook for you. And this isn't just a lesson on how to sear a shot of bourbon into your burger. Divided into "Opening Acts" (appetizers), "Headliners" (entrees), and "Encores" (desserts), this tasty read has more than 140 recipes from some of rock and metal's biggest stars.

It's got everything from Joey Belladonna from Anthrax's to Zakk Wylde's family-recipe Spaghetti Sauce and Meatballs to Dave Ellefson from Megadeth's favorite cookie recipe. It also comes with backstage stories, liner notes, and on occasion, drink pairings for dishes.

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