Precious Metal: Decibel Presents the Story Behind 25 Extreme Metal
Edited by Albert Mudrian
Da Capo Press
I’d always written off Decibel as yet another in a long line of z-grade glossy metal rags along the lines of the pretty awful Revolver or Metal Edge. However, on the strength of the top-shelf music journalism with a capital “J” that fills the anthology titled Precious Metal, it appears I was very wrong. Petty doubts aside, Precious Metal is an entertaining collection of metal historical writing in an unjustly empty field; I’m talking maybe Choose Death and Bang Your Head as the only two other serious entries that readily come to mind. Edited by Decibel’s EIC Mudrian, also the author of the stellar death metal retrospective Choose Death, who picked and chose the 25 best pieces in the mag’s monthly “Hall of Fame” series to present a behind-the-scenes look at several high watermarks in the heaviest of metal. The wording in the subtitle — “extreme” — means that, thankfully, titles that always tend to clog traditional metal “best-of” lists like Van Halen and Metallica are skipped over in favor of an altogether darker overview.
Their list is the stuff of teenage delinquent dreams, including such essential spazz-bursts and depresso-dirges as Sleep’s Jerusalem, Darkthrone’s Transylvanian Hunger, Carcass’ Necroticism (SAVVY choice), Eyehategod’s Take as Needed for Pain, and Obituary’s Cause of Death (savvy choice, II). Though I have to salute the wisdom of writers who chose Carcass’ earth-shaking album Necroticism over the more successful Heartwork and included Repulsion and Kyuss in the final lineup, I do question giving the nod to the all-sound-and-no-fury Meshuggah, the awful Cannibal Corpse (although that chapter is worth it for the “We’re going to the Super Bowl” anecdote), and the too-cult Botch — a slot that might have been better used for Death or Godflesh.
The premise of a “Hall of Fame” article is simple: choose an overlooked classic, assemble the lineup of the band that created said classic, and feed them questions aplenty to get all their memories of the album and the time. It’s a premise that hardly ever ends up disappointing in this book. Indeed, the more extreme the album, the more chatty and engaging the interviewee, Fenriz from Darkthrone, Tom G. Warrior from Celtic Frost, and Trey Azagthoth from Morbid Angel are incredibly entertaining, funny, and they remember events from over ten years ago as if it was yesterday. And Eyehategod, despite being shrouded in darkness, drugs, and personal tragedy, has a seemingly limitless reservoir of slapstick anecdotes and memories. Everyone’s pretty down-to-earth and grounded, if not a little dubious of their music being considered worthy of any sort of hall-of-fame accolades. The questions are open-ended enough that they allow the musicians to pull back the curtain on the creative process, personal interactions, and outside events that ended up birthing so much wondrous, transcendent clatter. A successful publishing venture, then.