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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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It's HIS view of Heavy Metal, not necessarily mine

Would you try another book written by Andrew O'Neill or narrated by Andrew O'Neill?

Yes, possibly. I would have no preconceptions about that book, I'm sure.

What could Andrew O'Neill have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

Well, nothing really, his view of metal and mine clearly differ, and the only reason I don't like the book is because it covers bands I'm not really interested in.

What does Andrew O'Neill bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

Putting inflection on the words, I guess.

If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from A History of Heavy Metal?

I'd have spent more time in the 1970s on the way the genre grew there. By chapter 2 he's into the 1980s and already talking about bands like Venom. I clearly think what he describes as rock bands are heavy metal and maybe that's the hook, but it's not really the subject matter I am interested in. Clearly if he wrote a book called "The history of hard rock" I'd be more keen.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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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 of 2 people found this review 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 of 2 people found this review 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)

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Excellent, but.....

So, it is a history and a very comprehensive and funny (in places) one at that, but it's also a massive self righteous rant which could be summarised as "if the author likes something, then that something is good and if he doesn't, then it isn't". And that's not just restricted to bands and genres, he also lectures or derides anyone who doesn't share his political views or dares to commit the sin of eating meat or does or thinks anything he doesn't sanction. The further you go into this book, the more you feel like you're being chastised and corrected, unless of course you happen to be the author's clone and share his exact viewpoint on everything. I stuck with it because I really enjoyed the information element but I felt increasingly like I was living under martial law. You need pretty thick skin to listen to this book, but it's worth it... just !

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Heavy Metal's Deuteronomy

....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.

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A book of two halves

Firstly read this book if you have any interest in the subject matter even if metal isn't your thing (it is mine).

It covers well a subject that is unlikely to ever receive a full scholarly review and is well researched. The energy it is delivered in is incredible and it is funny throughout too.

He confesses early on to a bias to his style of metal and embraces it throughout so a filter needs to be placed on what he is saying if you disagree with his preferences as well as spotting sarcasm ranging from blunt to subtle.

It starts more matter of fact and jumps from detail to vague reference in the pre 90's era roughly and goes into more detail when he hits the age he becomes "involved". This however is the best part of the book and the reason I use the two halves cliché.

The rest of the book becomes more of an opinion piece. While it still ticks most of the important boxes to be considered a history to date of publishing it focuses heavily on what he likes and ignores anything else really that doesn't fit into this or what he hates.

However what I found most frustrating was his political bias as well as the inevitable contradictions that his leaning to socialism from a fairly comfortable background entail. It slips from humour into serious commentary in this field many times but fails to differentiate between his opinion and fact stating the former as the later far too often. He has a problem with successful bands which basically comes down to you cant be great unless you fail to make a living from your music anything else is selling out and that if you don't consider yourself a misfit and this your safe harbour which outsiders should leave as sacred, these are sweeping generalisms I accept but at least I am pointing it out rather than portraying it as a truism. I don't want to go into detail and examples as this review is already wordy but I feel the need to make it so to roughly explain why its a good book that should be read but will make you mad occasionally.

In summary enjoy the book but ignore as much of the opinion, however it is clothed, and you will be satisfied.

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  • Daisy
  • Devon, United Kingdom
  • 18-06-18

Loved it

A comprehensive and very entertaining waltz though the far reaching world of heavy metal. Andrew's commentary is a joy.

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This guy knows his stuff

Wow did he take a breath narrating this book, Mr O'Neill has certainly researched his book, overall brilliant, but a few things on my personal level I didn't get.... his hatred of glam metal, yeah ok thats his dislike, but thats when rock/metal was most in peoples faces. He mentioned Rammstein as his favourite gig ever, but then no mention of them anywhere else,or the Hardcore German scene, or the Ministry / Rev Co. Now I know this sounds a little arsey and I never even liked the music of that time but where was the mention of the British second wave GUN, Wolfsbane, Little Angels, Quireboys, Dog's etc no mention of New Model Army or the Levellers but we get a mention of Skyclad.
Overall I think this book would of been better titled How we got to extreme, death, black metal through all the shit of the 70's and 80's but overall I laughed my bollocks off at it, just you can't dismiss the 80's dooooooooooood :) and as Scatter Brains once sang....Hey dude don't call me dude !

Enjoy I did though :)

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Needs more history

A promising start. Unfortunately lacking comprehensive detail as author ignores the bands he doesn't like.

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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 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Andrew Watkins
  • 19-07-18

awesome

Absolutely phenomenal performance by Andrew. The book had a good cover of all things metal from the beginning of time to today.

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  • Nancy Gardner
  • 18-07-18

Opinions Alert

See that? I warned you. Andrew O’Neil does not warn you - at least not in the title of this book. It should be called “My Opinions About Metal And Its History”. He knows a lot. Of course he does. His opinions about the taxonomy of the different genres ( I hate that word and thankfully he refrains from using it very much) are interesting, but highly critical of anyone who thinks otherwise. I can deal with that because he’s hilarious. I’m offended - and I’m 100% certain that it would make him very happy that I am- that he has a fairly anti-American attitude. I’m sick of that. I’m sick of people bashing my country while simultaneously extracting American dollars from its citizens. Other than that, the humor is worth the time spent.