The Most Metal Books of 2011
Chris “Howard's End” Krovatin is the author of two young adult novels, Heavy Metal & You and Venomous. He is currently working on multiple new writing projects, as well as new material with his local New York metal band Flaming Tusk. He is a freelance writer for Revolver and generally comes off as a good-natured pain in everyone’s collective ass.
An idea exists that metalheads don’t like to read, that we’re too busy pounding brewskis and sacrificing housecats to Satan to enjoy a good book, or that our stimuli-raped brains can’t take in media more intelligent than Robocop. Which, of course, is bullshit. Any hesher who has spent a night hunched over some Lovecraft knows that literature is metal as fuck, it’s just that a lot of “highbrow” literature is not terribly exciting, and a lot of it was forced on us in school. (I, for example, will never like E.M. Forster thanks to having to read Howard’s End in high school.) But headbangers shouldn’t despair—there are plenty of options out there. So for the discerning literary metalhead, I present these, my picks for the Most Metal Books of 2011, each one matched up with a song from 2011 that suits its atmosphere.
1. The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan The Berliner is dead—Jake Marlowe is now the last werewolf on earth. And even if he’s not being attacked by government-funded monster hunters and vampire illuminati, he still has his ever-present hard-on and nonstop diet of good scotch and smokes to deal with. In this smart, sexy, and darkly grandiose novel, Duncan (who looks like he just survived the goth apocalypse) brings us a charming definitive take on one of horror’s most underappreciated monsters. (Recommended Listening: The Black Dahlia Murder, “Moonlight Equilibrium”).
2. Black Metal Vol. 2 by Rick Spears and Chuck BB In the follow-up to last year’s graphic novel sensation, Spears and BB continue the story of the Brothers Stronghand, twin corpse-painted Hell barons who wield an ancient sword they discovered by playing a black metal record backwards. But now, in their attempts to reclaim the throne of Hell, they are faced with an unexpected foe: Satan himself. This slim volume of cartoon violence and mayhem is a fitting tribute to black metal’s ravishing grimness. (Recommended Listening: Midnight, “You Can’t Stop Steel”).
3. Crimes In Southern Indiana by Frank Bill America is not all cheesesteak and NASCAR. In the bubbling ancient cauldron of Heartland USA, terrible things go down—lovers murder each other brutally, meth is sold and consumed by the pound daily, guns go off randomly, human life is weighed cheaply. In this collection of short stories, Bill (gotta love an author with two first names) paints a picture of the dark means of survival that run through the gritty cut-throat underbelly of our own backyard. (Recommended Listening: The Atlas Moth, “Perpetual Generations”).
4. Murder In The Front Row: Shots From The Bay Area Thrash Metal Epicenter by Harald Oimoen and Brian Lew In this photographic diary, Oimoen and Lew chronicle their upbringing at Ground Zero of the thrash-metal movement in California, giving readers an insightful glimpse of a gritty, too-real world of speed and rebellion that created the entire concept of extreme metal. Includes words by Gary Holt and Machine Head's Rob Flynn, as well as rad pictures of everyone’s favorite headbangers—Holt's band, Exodus, Slayer, Testament, Anthrax, Vio-Lence, Possessed, Megadeth, and, of course, Metallica. (Recommended Listening: Toxic Holocaust, “Nowhere To Run”).
5. Zone One by Colson Whitehead Spend three days in the life of Mark Spitz, a lone disillusioned marine attempting the clean up of Chinatown in New York—now known as "Zone One"—after the zombie apocalypse. But sometimes it’s not even the walking dead that are the problem, but the infrastructure, the sponsor corporation’s new rules, the gossip between your fellow sweepers (though, in the end, it’s really the walking dead that are the problem). In a bold attempt to make a lowbrow genre literary, Whitehead presents a new kind of horror story, one drowned in great drifts of mediocrity, depression, and inevitable doom. (Recommended Listening: Machine Head, “Locust”).
6. Metalion: The Slayer Mag Diaries by Jon Kristiansen In late-'80s and early-'90s Scandinavia, one zine ruled the scene: Slayer, a thorny DIY mag dedicated to only the darkest of underground metal. Showcasing bands like Mayhem, Emperor, and Napalm Death long before they were big names, Metalion made Slayer a huge sensation among extreme metal’s forerunners; now, these awesome relics of extreme metal’s history can be yours in one fat, badass volume. (Recommended Listening: Ash Borer, “Rest, You Are The Lightning”)
7. Overkill: The Untold Story of Motörhead by Joel McIver McIver, author of books about Slayer, Cliff Burton, Randy Rhoads, and a number of other metallic subjects, here takes on the tale of the original speed-metal band, chronicling their rise to stardom in the '70s and '80s and the high-octane life and habits of its frontman, one Lemmy Kilmister. Full of humor and insight, Overkill is an intelligent and well-worded telling of a band’s life outside of the spotlight, accentuating the seamless merge of hilarity and personal drama that too often epitomizes the life of a band. (Recommended Listening: Skeletonwitch, “Of Ash and Torment”)
8. Everybody Loves You When You’re Dead by Neil Strauss The author of Hammer of the Gods and The Dirt takes you on a whirlwind tour of the rock climate, pulling unpublished excerpts from interviews with everyone from Lady Gaga to Slayer's Tom Araya. Ride dirty with Snoop Dogg, rants mindlessly with Clown from Slipknot, take a white power walkabout through Skullbone, Tennessee, or just kick back and listen to Julian Casablancas from the Strokes give The Worst Interview Ever. It’s all right here, in this hyperactive ransom note of rock’s favorite reporter. (Recommended Listening: Necrocomicon, “Everybody Wants To Rule The World”)
9. We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver In this exciting and saddening family drama, we follow the unfolding story of Eva, a woman trying to get a glimpse into the mind of her son Kevin, who has just committed a brutal school massacre. The book looks into the horror and insecurity of being near, but unable to reach, a sick and terrifying mind, and let’s the reader get a bit more tangible grasp on the inner workings of both a poisoned family and a sociopathic killer. (Recommended Listening: Tombs, “To Cross The Land”)
10. Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven and Hell With Black Sabbath by Tony Iommi and T.J. Lammers In this tell-all volume, the guitarist who invented heavy metal tells the story of how it all began. Though a little light on the journalistic facts and sometimes maybe too forgiving (Iommi’s cocaine use in the '80s is often written off as a little bit of fun), Iron Man is a familiar and engaging story about the all-too-human life of one of metal’s gods. (Recommended Listening: Hammers of Misfortune, “The Grain”).