Devil's Tome Review: Sound of the Beast The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal

I had been wanting this book for quite some time but just could either never find it at my local library or never got around to buying it at a book store. Well this past Christmas rolled around and I had given my wife a kindle for Christmas and was curious if it was to be found through that. Turns out it was cheaper just to purchase it through Amazon as a real book so I went for it. Sound of the Beast was written between 2001 and 2003 so by now the full title is a misnomer as it’s not been updated for going on 9 years now. But it’s still a sizeable chunk of time that is covered. What really got me inspired to go ahead and pick up SOTB was the current 11 part documentary by Sam Dunn for VH1 Classic entitled Metal Evolution. And after watching a few episodes I noticed some significant lack of coverage on certain areas. So I was curious if the holes would be filled by this book.

SOTB is a pretty comprehensive book clocking in at 375 pages of main text with some lists and other things in the back. And it’s a good read overall. The problems I had with it is that author Ian Christe has a tendency to over intellectualize by being too much of a scholar and not enough of being a down to earth fan. It’s not like I’m wanting a dude bro to write one of these but I also don’t want to see some words used liberally that I have to reference a thesaurus for when reading about about metal. Another issue is the balance in coverage for the book. At times It’s like SOTB is a history of Metallica with everyone else in metal being side stories. Even Black Sabbath, of which early in the book delved alot with, doesn’t get as much page time as Metallica does. While I acknowledge that Metallica has been extremely popular since Ride the Lightning, the world really didn’t revolve around the band as much as Mr. Christe would like it to be. Pantera in comparison barely gets a nod for being the face of extreme metal in the 90’s. The Gothenburg death metal and melodic death metal emergence is completely ignored in this book.

Occasionally Christe will put in opinions instead of fact as in the case of Dokken for example, claiming that Dokken’s music was manufactured when as a matter of fact Dokken went against the grain compared to other L.A. bands and actually wrote meaningful songs instead of party anthems and their ballads were among the best of the time. Terminology is always suspect as he claims that early thrash was called power metal and unless it’s a regional thing (Christe was born in Switzerland) I don’t ever recall Slayer or Metallica’s music ever being referred to power metal back then. Speed and thrash metal yes.

But these quibbles aside I did pick up some tidbits of information I was otherwise unaware of and alot of bands are referenced that I never gave attention to over the years and so checked them out. There really isn’t any other book out there of this type so it’s a good read if you really love your metal. Be aware that the last revision of this book was 2004, so events of more recent years are not there such as Dimebag’s death. I’d really like to see an addition to this be added since we’re coming up on 10 years of history since this book was released.


One response to “Devil's Tome Review: Sound of the Beast The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal

  1. I think I’d be suspicious of any book that calls itself “The Complete History” of ANYTHING.

    I don’t know a lot about Ian Christie, but I do know he’s sometimes on Liquid Metal {we have the Sirius XM music channels on the tv} and when he is, it goes from about a 5% chance they will play anything good, up to about a 20% chance. So presumably he at least has decent taste in metal. Also those are usually the times they play older stuff, probably there’s a correllation there.

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