"some music was meant to stay underground..."

"Heavy Metal Thunder" (Book)

 - "Heavy Metal Thunder" Book cover image

Reviewed by on August 12, 2006

"One of the most essential compilations of metal history available. "

Every metal fan has a story about how they were brought into the fold. Some discovered Black Sabbath while thumbing through their parents dusty records. Many caught Korn and Staind on TRL. Others had strange babysitters that played Cannibal Corpse and Bathory late into the night. One of the most common but overlooked portals into the world of metal however, is album cover art. The importance of album art to metal music can not be overstated. For more than 30 years, fans have been picking up metal records based purely on aesthetic. Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian has noted that his life may have turned out very differently had he not been lured into the art of Kiss’s “Alive” album. When one goes about cataloging the history of metal and it’s countless offspring genres, mistakes and omissions are easy to make, very nearly impossible to avoid. However, authors James Sherry and Neil Aldis have clearly done their homework. Heavy Metal Thunder boasts more than 250 glossy, full color pages documenting the birth, maturation and overwhelming variety inherent in metal music and the art that it has inspired.

Heavy Metal Thunder begins as many historical documents of metal do; with Black Sabbath. Nearly 40 years later, the cover of Black Sabbath’s self title debut still resonates. Bands such as Burzum, Carpathian Forest and Isengard have clearly taken their lead from Sabbath’s early visual imagery. What follows is a more or less, chronologically faithful documentation of album art stand outs. Jarringly colorful and timely covers by glam acts such as Motley Crue, Cinderella and Tigertailz are offset by intricate and immortal cover art from thrash titans Megadeth, Testament, Celtic Frost and Metallica. What substantiates this book beyond most is its success in documenting underground acts. From Nuclear Assault to Therion, few artists are left out in the cold. More than 60 pages of the book are devoted exclusively to Death Metal, Grindcore and Black Metal. Heavy Metal Thunder singles out acts that consistently deliver impressive (Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath) or disturbing (Kreator, Death, Obituary) artwork while detailing the bands thematic and sonic evolution as well. The book even takes odd detours into Alternative, Grunge and Stoner Rock, noting both the common themes and vast departures between metal and it’s black sheep sub-genres. Heavy Metal Thunder concludes with a chapter that delves into metal of the present and recent past. This particular chapter is long on exposition but short on album art. Crucial artists both popular and underground from the last seven years, are woefully absent. Stranger still, is the inclusion of a six page afterward devoted entirely to Manowar. All told, these are minor faults as this book is one of the most essential compilations of metal history available.

Highs: Little is missed in this extensive collection of album art. The essentials are all here in full color glory.

Lows: Every metal fan will find a few covers that were overlooked. Metalheads between the ages of 18-25 will find the late 90's to present coverage somewhat lacking.

Bottom line: This book is the National Geographic of metal. You get the good, the bad and the ugly in a largely unbiased but lovingly assembled collection.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls


Key
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)