Musings on heavy metal and hard rock, Metallica to Poison, from a die-hard fan.
Jensen was an 8-year-old living in a small Ontario town when he first discovered KISS. The band, with its shock-rock imagery and over-the-top theatrics, was perfectly crafted to capture the attention of boys like Jensen, bridging the gap between his “interest in comic book superheroes and [his] developing interest in music.” For Jensen, KISS was like “headbanger kindergarten,” forming the foundation for a life-long obsession with heavy metal and its various musical relatives. As Jensen grew older, bands like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden took over his turntable, offering an escape from his boring small-town life. Jensen faithfully chronicles his evolving fandom, from more accessible bands like Mötley Crüe and gradually moving on to abrasive thrash metal from the likes of Metallica and Slayer. But Jensen doesn’t just focus on the big, MTV-friendly names. Like a true fan, he revels in showing off his knowledge of more obscure bands, such as Raven and Underdog. While the names may not always be familiar, any music fan who was around in the pre-Internet era will relate to Jensen’s anecdotes about digging through record store bins in search of the latest new releases and faithfully reading magazines (in Jensen’s case, British publication Kerrang!) to find out about up-and-coming bands. His analysis is so thorough that he even takes time to explain why he never really got into certain groups, such as Motörhead, Megadeth and Tesla. While Jensen’s passion for the music is undeniable, nonfans may be bewildered by the pages spent evaluating Black Sabbath’s extensive catalog or the subtle distinctions between hard rock and heavy metal. (Mötley Crüe, for those keeping score, falls into the former category.) Also, Jensen too often veers into pseudo-academic philosophizing, which can detract from the music-loving pulse at the heart of the book. Jensen is much more successful, however, in his considered evaluation of Canadian heavy metal band Anvil, the influential group that seemed poised to make it big but never quite broke through, and his thoughtful observations on Guns N’ Roses’ strange career arc. While the book occasionally meanders, anyone considering him or herself a metalhead will find plenty to enjoy—and argue with—here.
A passionate, informed take on a distinctive genre.