Sent to me by Headline in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: 13/07/17
Format: Paperback, 320pp
Summed up in a word: Evolution
I was ecstatic when I saw this up for review on Bookbridgr. I am a huge fan of O’Neill’s, his live shows are phenomenal (I have seen him perform 3 times) and he is a true scholar of Heavy Metal. This was a unique opportunity to review a book that celebrates all my favourite topics. Heavy Metal, History and Comedy all coming together in one place.
Surprisingly I have to say that AHOHM may not be every metal fans cup of tea. I would say to all hardcore Glam metal and Nu-metal fans out there should probably tread carefully 😅. If you have a wider appreciation of Heavy Metal and all of its sub-genres then come and get involved.
The history of heavy metal brings brings us extraordinary stories of larger-than-life characters living to excess, from the household names of Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy, Bruce Dickinson and Metallica (SIT DOWN, LARS!), to the brutal notoriety of the underground Norwegian black metal scene and the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. It is the story of a worldwide network of rabid fans escaping everyday mundanity through music, of cut-throat corporate arseholes ripping off those fans and the bands they worship to line their pockets. The expansive pantheon of heavy metal musicians includes junkies, Satanists and murderers, born-again Christians and teetotallers, stadium-touring billionaires and toilet-circuit journeymen.
Award-winning comedian and life-long heavy metal obsessive Andrew O’Neill has performed his History of Heavy Metal comedy show to a huge range of audiences, from the teenage metalheads of Download festival to the broadsheet-reading theatre-goers of the Edinburgh Fringe. Now, in his first book, he takes us on his own very personal and hilarious journey through the history of the music, the subculture, and the characters who shaped this most misunderstood genre of music.
Andrew O’Neill has lived and breathed heavy metal (mainly black/death metal) for as long as he can remember. O’Neill has been schooling the masses on the correct definition of Heavy Metal in his comedy shows and now he has brought the essence of the shows to the written page.
“This account of heavy metal is a deeply personal, opinionated one. Metal is a huge subject and whole books could easily be written about each and every band herein. So tracing a line through the history is a matter of editing. Every key band could be substituted for another. While this book makes no claim to be comprehensive, this is my history of heavy metal. I hope you dig it.”
Exploring his deep appreciation of metal in an informative and entertaining style, Andrew O’Neill takes us through the progression of heavy metal from its creation to the new wave of British heavy metal, the golden years that followed and the excellent genres that were created in its aftemath. Every genre gets involved, though his main focus is Blues, Rock n Roll and Heavy/Thrash/Death/Black/Glam Metal.
Starting at the beginning of humanity and our primal instinct to make a lot of noise, AO’N takes us through the creation of music, instruments and beyond. Building up a clearly defined history is difficult but O’Neill did a great job. His passion is evident and he humanises (and takes the piss out of) modern metal legends. (Though the SIT DOWN LARS gag did get a tad eye-twitching by the end of the book). Bringing us the origin stories of the biggest and most influential bands such as Metallica, Slayer, Venom, Darkthrone and many more; I couldn’t begin to list the amount of bands covered inside these pages, there is a band for everyone!
I thought O’Neill’s balance of objective and subjective was spot-on. Giving a general world view on each era of metal and the bands that defined them. What made it more interesting was the scope of his history of Heavy Metal. From musical ability, intrumental technique and cultural influences/differences to fashion, language and political views.
O’Neill’s own personal views and analysis of certain points in the history of metal and the bands associated with that time is frustrating fair. I could have easily flown off the handle in petulant rage when he brutally tore into Glam metal and Nu-metal (two of my favourite genres). But having been raised in the most important period for HM, his standards are ridiculously high and I think that a lot of modern metal bands don’t meet that infectious energy that was present in the creation of the genre. My perspective on HM is drastically different to O’Neill’s (due to age difference) but the crossover between our opinions is abundant and it was easy to connect with his writing. I am glad he left my all time favourite metal bands alone. Municipal Waste, Rammstein, Parkway Drive, While She Sleeps, Devildriver and Cancer Bats are safe 😅.
In terms of comedy, this book is hilarious. Bringing in plenty of his stage banter and hilarious witticisms into the fold, making this books enjoyment value increase exponentially. AHOHM has jokes, funny observations, personal stories and insights and AO’N shows an impressive knowledge of heavy metal and all of its layers and sub-genres. Andrew’s narrative ability, honed by years on the circuit, is impressive and it makes this book immensely readable. Though I would recommend taking your time reading AHOHM as it is packed with so much information that reading it in one go left my brain feeling like golden syrup.
There is so much going on in this book that it is a must read for any music fan. It even has a heavy metal playlist to go with it on Spotify (I was a tad disappointed when he didn’t follow through with the free Cockney Rhyming Slang lessons). O’Neill’s worldly intuition is superb, which is why he is such a successful comedian, and its application to the world of heavy metal is something to be applauded. I couldn’t think of anyone more perfect to have written this book.
About Andrew O’Neill
Andrew O’Neill is an award-winning comedian and heavy metal guitarist.
His comedy show Andrew O’Neill’s History Of Heavy Metal has received universally glowing reviews in the heavy metal press, as well as rave comedy reviews.
He has appeared on television in Saxondale, Never Mind The Buzzcocks, and 50 Years Of Rock Excess and his own award-winning BBC Radio 4 stand-up show Pharmacist Baffler. He has written for The New Statesman, Terrorizer and Time Out.
His neck is so thick from headbanging that standard shirt sizes do not fit him.