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A History of Heavy Metal

Narrated by: Andrew O'Neill
Length: 8 hrs and 18 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (171 ratings)

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Summary

Based on the "absolutely hilarious" (Neil Gaiman) stand-up show.

The history of heavy metal brings us extraordinary stories of larger-than-life characters living to excess, from the household names of Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy, Iron Maiden and Metallica 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 cutthroat 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 lifelong 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 theatregoers 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.

©2017 Andrew O'Neill (P)2017 Headline Audiobooks

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Yes.

Andrew O'Neill is an excellent comic and evidently a great writer too. I loved the live show when I saw it a few years ago so I'm very happy that this massively expanded version exists.
I found it difficult to stop listening to it when I had to sleep or go for a shower or talk to people. I've finished it now but have a head full of smashing recommendations to keep me busy for ages and ages and I'll probably just put it on again tonight.
I don't expect I can swear here even though swearing is great and clever, so I shall finish by saying that I enjoyed the darn heck out of this book. Ten out of ten supportive death metal parents.

2 people found this helpful

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THE BIG 4!

If you could sum up A History of Heavy Metal in three words, what would they be?

YES! This book does tick those 4 boxes:

Funny? TICK!
Informative? TICK!
Modern? TICK!
Cool? TICK!

(I hope no one has confused my headline, with the other 'headline' of the Big 4 because that would be both unfortunate, sad and worrying).

This book is literally the best book on this subject, and indeed many other subjects.

What other book might you compare A History of Heavy Metal to, and why?

I might compare it to Society of the Spectacle as the cover of this book is black and red, and the book 'Society of the Spectacle' is published by Black and Red.

But I won't.

What about Andrew O'Neill’s performance did you like?

The 'asides'. Made it come alive.

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

A History of Heavy Metal - Why the Midlands is important.

Any additional comments?

Brilliant stuff!

2 people found this helpful

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Heavy Metal's Genesis (no not them!)

....and blues begat the Beatles, and the Beatles begat Black Sabbath, and Black Sabbath begat Judas Priest, and Judas Priest were betrothed unto Punk and begat the NWOBHM, and NWOBHM begat Venom and Thrash and Venom begat Black Metal and....you get the idea.

Too much of this book is lists of bands I've never heard of, that the author is mainly keen to recommend. There are cheaper and quicker ways of getting a recommended listening list.

What of course an audio version of this book is absolutely screaming out for is some samples of the music he's talking about - there are none. Presumably for licensing reasons, but it's a big missed opportunity.

To be fair, there's a lot more humour than that, and the book is at its best making fun of the more ludicrous personalities of heavy metal.

The author has a strong preference for death metal and black metal, and generally the extreme end of the genre. It's quite funny (unintentionally) when he's trying to reconcile his painfully right-on liberal left, vegan sensibilities with the politics and subject matter of his favourite bands - be they nazis, sadists, murderers in their real life, or just general obsessives about torture and death in their music. I mean, I'm a thrash fan but it takes a bit of effort now I'm also a grown up to listen to Slayer's Reign in Blood without feeling a bit queasy. And I'm given to understand that compared to some death metal, Slayer are tastefully restrained in comparison.

The author also basically dismisses anything more mainstream than thrash after 1982 as 'shit' apart from maybe Guns n' Roses who might be just about listenable. Glam metal in particular he abhors and excoriates (Excoriator - good name for a band?) mainly because apparently they put pursuit of fame, wealth, women and drugs above making good music. Maybe they did, but there was also some pretty good heavy metal music that came out of that scene, and it seems hypocritical to criticise those bands for their motivation whilst at the same time giving a free pass to death and black metal bands whose motivation was in some cases actually genuinely evil.

Overall, an amusing listen in parts, but skewed towards death and black metal, and too many boring lists of bands.

1 person found this helpful

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Death to all but metal

An entertaining romp through my nostalgia which has lead to me using one of those new fangled things to listen to some stuff I'd missed during my "grown up" years (now behind me)

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Dull thrash fan has a rant

Lasted to chapter 10 gave up!
This isn't written/read by a metal fan it's told by a thrash metal devotee with no love for anything else. I was happy to be taken along for the ride but it was so negative, shared no joy and argued it's case like a petulant teenager. I might have identified with this when I was 15 but 30 yrs later ... no thanks but waste of time

6 people found this helpful

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Not for me

The book started of well. Nice, factual, interesting. Half way through it became more like a book of the authors own opinions about the music genres and not hugely factual. I didn't finish the book, because I wasn't interested on the authors opinions. He read it well and did the voices which I did like.

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Sceptical at first but won me over.

To be clear, you are not going to agree with at least 50% of this work, but it's a well thought out and well positioned option, backed up with a lot of interesting fact. It's also very, very amusing, with a fair few (public transport cautionary) laugh out loud moments. Andrew is right, we are an opinionated bunch, and given that, I have to concede that I have come out of this experience, not just entertained, but also a little wiser. I still think Black Metal is shit mind, BUT I have made an internal commitment to actually listen to more than the first 30 seconds of a few tracks so I can maybe rebalance that bias a little.

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Interesting listen. Annoying author.

Don't get me wrong hearing a history of music like this is very interesting, I learned alot about bands I knew and didn't know. My problem is the author that is clearly more interested in genres and looking or acting 'metal'. Irritating and very single minded view on music past and present. So on one hand I'd maybe recommend it for its history but I can imagen people getting sick of the "I want to put everyone under a label" mentality.

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All hail to Metal 🤘

Really enjoyed it. Narration is great. The history goes way back to the roots of it all & it was super how he described the different styles of Metal through the years. Audiobook was of decent length & I still wanted more.

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Interesting, opinionated, thrash-heavy

This audiobook is like an extended one-man stand-up show. I think from the title I was expecting a more historically balanced, less personal take on the subject. The book reads at least to a large extent like an obsessive's categorisation of all the bands he likes and dislikes, and the minutiae of reasons why this is so. I was expecting more time dedicated to the classics (Maiden, Metallica, Megadeath, Sabbath, Priest, etc) and much less dedicated to thrash and offshoots of extreme metal sub-genres. It reads quite like a primer in black metal with nodding acknowledgements to influences. Which is fine. It's a personal book and that's my personal response to it. The author performs the book in an engaging way and there are plenty of laughs to be had.

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  • Outpostlarry
  • 10-04-19

Entertaining but very Biased

This book details the time line of Heavy metal very well. It’s very entertaining however the author is extremely biased. Most of the book is spent on the beginning of what he calls metal and it’s very very detailed on the stuff he likes (black metal, death metal, British punk rock) anything that was recorded after 1999 is just glanced and skipped over. He mentions pretty popular modern metal bands and either calls them sh!t or passes right over them. I liked the book it kept me entertained but I would’ve liked it to be a bit more comprehensive on a lot more bands than just the ones he liked.

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  • James McIver
  • 02-04-18

An excellent choice to learn more about metal

Very engaging and fun. The author is at his best when approaching the subgenres he loves most, but his history remains relatively broad and he does a good job of at the very least briefly touching upon any bands that were influential in the broader genre, whether he enjoyed them or not. I learned about a lot of bands I'd never heard of before, and now expect to have listening material the length of this book many times over. Some people may disagree with his opinions (they're generally pretty fair and rooted in skepticism over the commercialization of music), but unless you are extremely thin-skinned and opinionated about metal already, I very highly recommend you buy this audio book. Otherwise, I only highly recommend it.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-04-20

A funny and opinionated look into metal history

The book could be reviewed as two separate parts that make the whole; the comedy and the history. The comedy should deliver for those who enjoy the dry and sarcastic British approach to comedic delivery. I found the author to generally be rather funny and likeable, and his reading of the work is very excitable and engaging. The historic aspect of the book is quite solid, though one could argue it does seem to be slightly imbalanced in some parts. I was quite surprised that Iron Maiden for instance was merely breezed by as a side notion of the NWOBHM timeline, where as some other sub-genres (particularly death and black metal) receive considerable attention. As a friend of extreme metal, this was not too much of an issue for me, but this could be disappointing for some listeners.

As is mentioned in many of the reviews, the author certainly doesn't shy away from making his own views heard in the book. This may be an issue to some, but I mainly thought it brought more flavour to the text. If you are looking for an entertaining look into metal history filled with comedic personal stories and anecdotes, this one is for you.

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  • Harry P.
  • 04-04-20

A MUST READ FOR METAL HEADS

I gave this book a 5-star review. It's funny, highly entertaining and well written. I'm 46-years old and a life long metal head. Andrew O'Neill does a phenomenal job looking back through the origins of heavy metal and beyond. He even introduced me to bands I had never heard of and I have added them to my play lists. Let me say this: he is biased towards Death Metal / Black Metal. He seems to skirt past the fact these bands paint their face, live with their parents / grandparents and sell a significantly smaller amount of music. If the vocals sounds like a painful colonoscopy, he seems to adore the band and lavish them with praise, even if a dozen people have purchased their album. Know that going in and all is well. I still love this book - I have the written and audible versions. - Harry Psaros

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  • Michael DeLorge
  • 09-12-19

Heavy metal 101

Great listen, very informative and interesting. You will learn some thing new about Heavy Metal. Awsome job narrating love British humor.

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  • danny
  • 27-11-19

Lars, sit down!!!

I thoroughly enjoyed this book! I didn't however, agree with some of his musical choices, but metal has a wide variety of bands and styles of metal to choose from. Overall, I would recommend this book to any metal head and will probably listen to it several times. Thumbs up!👍

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  • Madeira Darling
  • 21-11-19

Brilliant, Hilarious

This is a very personal, opinionated and highly entertaining history of metal. I personally wouldn't call myself a metal head (I like glam metal... and a certain amount of black metal) but I date a lot of metalheads and I find the history of the genre FASCINATING and as a Satanist I certainly have some affection for the genre. I love this author's politics and sense of humor, Andrew brilliantly confronts many of the difficult aspects of metal while maintaining a sense of wry humor and a true fan's enthusiasm and opinionatedness.

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  • Vilmaldor
  • 29-06-19

Best epilog ever

Loved it! I highly recommend it and it's a laugh to boot. Give it a try and enjoy.

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  • D. TRIPPLER
  • 05-04-19

I love this

This book kept my attention and cracked me up at times when I didn't agree with his opinion. I think thr time line for metal was well written and executed.

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  • Marisa Janke
  • 23-12-18

Fuck yeah

FUCKING stellar. -0.0001 star for unconvincing Quorthon impersonation, +several billion for smoothest burn on The Eagles of Death Metal. Weren’t they just touring with Mastodon? Chronos’ therapy session made me burst out laughing and frightened my coworkers with a revelation that I sometimes possess emotions.

This was so brilliant. Thank you kindly.