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"The Merciless Book Of Metal Lists" (Book)

 - "The Merciless Book Of Metal Lists" Book cover image

Reviewed by on April 11, 2013

"Everybody loves a good argument that a list can generate, and what better way to start a dozen of them by getting some friends together to rip apart a whole book dedicated to lists."

There are books about musicians, genres, movements, events, and legacies for metal music. So why not one about lists? Lists of all shapes and sizes. Lists about the best songs; the best styles; the best album covers. 200-plus pages of lists, including those written by notable figures in metal. “The Merciless Book of Metal Lists” gives us all of that and more. Written largely by Howie Abrams and Sacha Jenkins, two guys who have been around the NYC scene for a while, “The Merciless Book of Metal Lists” puts a humorous spin on the redundancy of list gathering.

The authors make sure to keep a tongue-in-cheek approach to writing the book, highlighting the goofy attire of metal heads and openly mocking the likes of Dave Mustaine. It can get childish at times, especially when a whole list is named “10 Reasons Dave Mustaine Probably Declined to Participate in this Book.” More times than not, they nail the humor down pat. These guys are passionate about metal, and a good amount of research was done to make sure that it’s not just two fan boys spouting nonsense for a few hundred pages.

Abrams and Jenkins gathered many acclaimed people in metal to provide their own lists. The guest contributors include Scott Ian (Anthrax), Max Cavalera (Sepultura, Soulfly), and Metal Blade founder Brian Slagel. It would have been helpful to explain who some of the contributors are, as there are names that will be unfamiliar to the average metal fan. They also got Slayer guitarist Kerry King to provide a Q&A for the foreword and Phil Anselmo for a well-written essay in the afterward. Anselmo’s piece is a highlight, only behind the laugh riot drummer Richard Christy produces about the craziest things he’s done on tour.

The book is missing more personal angles, like the one that Anselmo and Christy give. Many of the lists are just light-hearted time wasters, like “10 Observations from Lemmy’s Warts,” while others are just standard lists of favorite bands of all time that will obviously cause much debate. Everybody has their own opinions about that, so there won’t be universal agreement on their picks. However, they pool from multiple genres to give an informed opinion.

In the early pages, Abrams and Jenkins outright say what they feel is metal and what is not. That is important to get a glimpse into their mindset while writing this. Some dissension may come out of this from the reader. They do give a shout-out to contemporary bands like Nachtmystium and Gojira, but have a clear love for everything ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. Their definition of “metal” is a little wonky though. Nails, Ghost, and Motley Crue are all good, but Scorpions and Europe are excluded.

“The Merciless Book of Metal Lists” is not a perfect book, as the authors’ picks deflates some of the more interesting topics (three Metallica songs as the the top three best instrumentals). Having a bunch of noteworthy metal heads contributing is the best part, and gives legitimacy to the other lists by the primary writers. Everybody loves a good argument that a list can generate, and what better way to start a dozen of them by getting some friends together to rip apart a whole book dedicated to lists.

Highs: Humorous look at metal, lots of variety in the list, some notable guest contributions from well-known figures in metal

Lows: More of a personal touch like the Phil Anselmo and Richard Christy contributions would have been appreciated, some childish mocking, better descriptions of some of the lesser-known contributors should have been written up

Bottom line: A book with enough lists to start a dozen arguments, though its attempts at humor occasionally fall flat.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)