Wednesday, May 21, 2003

The BC pulp and paper industry breathes a collective sigh of relief, one-industry towns rebound from years of recession, beleaguered workers vie for nightshift hours at the mill and start paying off their pickup trucks in droves. Our dour province brightens with the bracing economic domino effect.

Wha’ happen? Well, Martin Popoff has a new book out; another Farmer’s Almanac/Atlas Shrugged/Bible-sized treatise on heavy metal. Forests shudder in fear. The Top 500 Heavy Metal Songs of All Time is a workmanlike title for a workmanlike book, but Popoff’s knack for churning out the wordage has already blistered my fingertips from page flipping.

As the title says, this is a big MFing list of songs, each with a Popoff analysis and a quote by the artist in question from Martin’s archives. What really brings the book alive, though, is that this isn’t the author’s personal list. He has compiled (with some help from his dad) the top 500 from lists submitted by punters like you and me. I recall sending him my list—I can’t remember my final tally at all, but I’m positive it was a pretty hapless attempt to encapsulate everything metallically Mulish.

Luckily for the reader, Martin doesn’t necessarily approve of the results, and he expresses his dismay hilariously throughout (caveat: I’m only 1/3 of my way through the book, so maybe he calms down after a while…after all, it’s not really worth getting too worked up over #378). “Stairway to Heaven” (#35) “would have made a good b-side,” while (ugh) “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'” (#29) is Judas Priest’s “Gene Simmons tribute, sweaty leathers, percussive retardation post-Peter Criss…” Heh-heh and amen.

Popoff punctuates the list at various points with top tens from musicians he’s talked to, which throw up the occasional surprise. Marty Friedman (ex-Megadeth) favours Cheap Trick, Mahogany Rush and The Donnas, while Paul Di’Anno gives credit to noted rivethead Gary Numan (“Cars”—didn’t Fear Factory cover this?) and Acmac’s former idoles Trust (“Antisocial”).

The quotes connected to the songs occasionally cough up some new behind-the-scenes info. I’d like to think Popoff has selected them with a keen sense of insight into exactly who his audience is. He knows we’ll get it when John Paul Jones says, “Robert, sometimes, just to get a song going, would use lyrics that he knew, and then he would change them; sometimes not.” He knows that we’ll roll our eyes at all the Metallica quotes, which seem to have been procured during the Load/Reload lean years, and which offer nothing but lame excuses as to why they’ll never pen anything as good as “Trapped Under Ice” ever again.

It’s adequately proofread—I’ve come across a few clunkers, and something goes very awry in the introduction. It’s one of Martin’s better-presented books once you get past the cover and dive into the guts of the thing.

Basically I’m having a riot reading it, and I have an overwhelming urge to get my records out and compile a 500-song CD-R of the tunes dissected within. If only I had some UFO albums, I’d be set.

If you'd like to know what number one is, you'd better buy the book.

No comments: