Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Metal
By Jon Wiederhorn and Katherine Turman (HarperCollins)
In summary: An initially intriguing look at how a music genre was born quickly gives way to a story that repeats itself every hundred pages. Various sorts of metal musicians (thrash, glam, nu, etc.) discuss—in an impressive collection of interviews from multiple sources—their inspirations, beginnings, rises, falls, in-fighting and drug abuse within chapters that have hard titles like “Youth Gone Wild” and “In the Nightside Eclipse.” One of the main takeaways of Louder Than Hell is how many of these bands share similar origin stories and trajectories. It is like the monomyth of metal music: A band forms from divergent backgrounds, encounters initial resistance from predecessors and unfamiliars, becomes famous amongst in-fighting and rampant drug abuse, then settles into mediocrity, death or legend. Many of the musicians do not understand how their highly disruptive behavior paints them as really tall children with poor impulse controls. In one instance, Motley Crüe’s Vince Neil plays the pity card after it is revealed he was responsible for the death of Hanoi Rocks’ drummer, Nicholas Dingley, when he drove drunk. Neil was sad that his bandmates didn’t support his sobriety on tour, you know, after spending only 15 days in jail. The most fascinating part of Louder Than Hell is reading these people poetically describe their music immediately after they try to justify keeping photo albums of women who are in the process of sucking their dicks. It’s amazing.
Akin to: National Geographic via Groundhog Day.
Author fun fact: Members of Alice in Chains threatened to kick Wiederhorn’s ass after his Rolling Stone cover story depicted frontman Layne Staley as a total junkie. Six years later, Staley died weighing less than 90 pounds.
PW's Music Issue 2014