Metal is not a musical form that is easy to write about. In Louder Than Hell, Jon Wiederhorn and Katherine Turman took what is probably the only reasonable approach to the task: they let the artists speak for themselves. The book contains quotes from over 250 interviews conducted with many metal artists over 25 years, talking about every aspect of metal music and the metal lifestyle.
It is a very good thing that there is a directory of names in the back to tell you who played what part in what band, because no metal fan could possibly be familiar with all these people. For those of us who are curious enough to read 640 pages but not so fanatical that we’ve followed bands from around the world from original heavy metal through black metal, nu metal, death metal, and every other permutation of the genre, it is very hard to keep them straight and even to remember which ones are still alive. It was disconcerting at times to read the interviews with someone and then be informed of that person’s death some pages later.
The book makes it very obvious why so many of these musicians are dead. If you ever were under the impression that some of the stories about heavy metal rock stars might be exaggerated or that the music might be violent and brutal but the musicians themselves probably were not, this book will prove you wrong.
I admit that I was not able to read every word of it. The violence, drugs, drinking, murder, suicide, destruction, and drunk driving—that I could handle. But the treatment of women was too much to take. Just because someone is willing to let you do something to them does not mean you should. There are things in here that are so much worse than anything one would care to imagine that I skipped those parts after a while.
The best part of the book is the earlier section about the groups who started it all, such as Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, etc. The parts about black metal and death metal are every bit as depressing as one might imagine they would be. After awhile all that violence and degradation gets pretty repetitive and boring for anyone who does not really love that scene.
Nevertheless, for metal fans this really is the only book you’ll ever need, and the most honest book about any form of music that this reviewer has ever read. If you are prepared to pick up a book this size, then you probably are enough of a fan to be glad that you did.