Book Review: “Heavy Metal Movies”

“Heavy Metal Movies” catalogues a surprising collection of lost gems and campy stinkers, all lovingly curated by McPadden.

KB_hires_cover Review by David Feltman

Mike “McBeardo” McPadden likes his music as extreme as his movies. It’s a passion that shows in his writing. “Heavy Metal Movies” compiles 666 movies in a Leonard Maltin capsule style review guide. Not limiting himself specifically to horror films, McPadden opens his guide up to live concert films, documentaries, sci-fi, fantasy and generally any movie in which a metal musician is referenced or makes an appearance.

“Heavy Metal Movies” catalogues a surprising collection of lost gems and campy stinkers, all lovingly curated by McPadden. He reminisces in the introductory essay about a scrapbook filled with clippings of movie advertisements he kept as a kid and this guide is a natural extension of his childhood collection. McPadden peppers his capsule reviews with trivia illustrating the films’ connections to metal. Some are interesting, like Mario Bava’s “Black Sabbath” inspiring the hippie blues band Earth to change it’s name and approach, effectively creating the dawn of metal music. And some are amusing, as in the “Star Wars” capsule where McPadden links each character to a specific metal genre (Chewbacca is stoner and Obi Wan is progressive). But other connections are a little tenuous. “300” is added because the onscreen action kind of looks like a Manowar album cover and “Back to the Future,” a movie generally associated with Huey Lewis and Chuck Berry, is tossed in because of a Van Halen reference.

These latter inclusions raise some eyebrows, especially in considering some of the omissions. When linking French extreme horror to the French metal bands of the same era, McPadden completely neglects the seminal “Them” while merely referencing “Frontier(s)” and “High Tension.” Likewise, he includes the comic book movie “Dredd” but never references “The Raid: Redemption,” the movie from which “Dredd” steals its story. That plus the fact that “The Raid” was scored by Mike Shinoda for its US release should warrant at least a mention. Maybe dropping a couple of the five “Saw” reviews could have made some room in the 666.

But personal fanboy prejudices aside, it’s these very nitpick arguments and discussions that make “Heavy Metal Movies” a fun read. McPadden especially shines in the introductory essay. His writing is personal and funny and endearing. Heavy metal fans can only hope he follows up this guide with a second, perhaps more direct commentary, on the symbiotic relationship between these movies and the metal music it inspires.

You can find the book on Amazon and on the official website.

Book Review: “Tales From the Stage Volume 1”

Tales From the Stage: An insightful collection of stories that tracks the careers of these ’80s era musicians all the way to present day

Review by David Feltman

The concept behind Michael Toney’s “Tales From the Stage” is so simple and effortless that I’m envious I didn’t think of it first. Compile interviews from various hard rock and heavy metal musicians and voila, instant book. The result is an insightful collection of stories that tracks the careers of these ’80s era musicians all the way to present day.

Many of the interview questions are generic form questions posed to everyone, including: “When is your birthday?” “Marital status?” and “What’s your craziest groupie story?” As a result of these cookie cutter questions, the interviews start out a little dry and unconversational. But all of the interviews really start to open up once Toney gets into the subject specific questions. These are the questions that present the most provocative tidbits of life on the road. Who knew so many bands kept squirt guns filled with piss on stage as a form of self-defense or that Tracii Guns drinks a glass of chocolate milk after every show?

The most fascinating aspect of rock and roll life revealed in “Tales From the Stage” is the secret economies of a professional musician. From who has to pay for strings to how publishing rights are split on songs for different groups glimpses an aspect of the rock and roll world that’s often closed to outsiders. It’s no surprise to learn that Gene Simmons will scoop up the lion’s share of publishing rights if you work on a song with him, but it’s more interesting to see how many of these guys still have joe jobs and gig with cover bands to make ends meet. “Don’t give up your day job, dude!” advises Megadeth guitarist Jay Reynolds as he laments over having sold his condo in Redondo Beach. “I should have never sold it. It’s probably worth a couple million bucks today.” In short, getting a record deal and making it as a musician doesn’t translate to making it financially.

The structure of the book is a bare-bones Q & A style approach that makes the overall product feel a little thin despite its interesting content. Toney inexplicably forgoes any sort of introduction for his interviews, robbing them of some much needed background information not to mention context. He also completely misses some great opportunities to tie all of the interviews together with some common themes. In the introduction, he points out that almost everyone interviewed mentions the grunge era choking out 80s metal unsolicited. But if that was such an unexpectedly shared perspective, why wouldn’t you press deeper on the subject? Toney also mentions a sort of fraternal fandom shared between his subjects and that bleeds through in some of their responses. Guns even gives a shout out to Birmingham-based indie band beitthemeans. But Toney fails to take advantage of this in the interviews and push it to the surface.

There are some definite shortcomings to “Tales From the Stage.” Despite crediting over 25 photographers, the photos are sparse and occasionally recycled. But this book is a lot of fun in spite of these complaints. There is plenty of room for improvement for “Volume 2,” but Toney has definitely discovered a winning formula for metal nerds of all stripes.