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SOUND OF THE BEAST: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal, by Ian Christe

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“The first book to chart the vector of not just metal’s origins, but the myriad mutations through which it continues to infect the planet. Your children will not be spared.”—LA Weekly, Best of 2003

Product Description

“Still definitive”—Time Out New York, May 2013
Eight Must-Read Heavy Metal Books, Phoenix Sun-Times, June 2013

Published by HarperCollins, the classic chronicle of metal’s tireless crusade. Over 100,000 copies in print in thirteen languages worldwide. A primary source and inspiration for countless documentaries, metal television shows, academic studies, die-hard fans, and metal musicians. The pages of Sound of the Beast are now taught in heavy metal courses at Miami University of Ohio, University of Rochester, West Texas A&M University, and wherever metalheads gather.

The Headbanger’s Bible:

  • Over 400 pages of metal history
  • Based on 100+ original interviews
  • 94 black & white photos, plus exclusive color insert
  • Dozens of special genre boxes
  • The evolution of heavy metal explained
  • Metal era graphic timeline 1970-2003

“Brilliant”—Rob Halford, Judas Priest
“Required reading”—Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles
“Excellent”—Guitar World
“Damn good”—Revolver
“Hugely entertaining”—Maxim UK
“A whirlwind ride”—Austin Dispatch
“Amazing”—Boston’s Weekly Dig
“Amazing”—Record Collector UK
“Rekindled my faith”—Metal Maniacs

“The first book to chart the vector of not just metal’s origins, but the myriad mutations through which it continues to infect the planet. Your children will not be spared.”—Greg Burk, LA Weekly, Best of 2003

Additional Information

Weight 2 lbs, March 2004
If you haven’t read Ian Christe’s excellent book, “Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal,” shame on you. It’s the best, most knowledgeable and all-encompassing book you’re likely to find on the subject.

Phoenix New Times, March 11, 2004
Coming from a true metal-dude perspective and covering the most arcane foreign scenes and subgenres, Ian Christe’s Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal may be the ultimate metal tome… Recently released in a very affordable updated paperback edition ($13.95), Sound of the Beast begins with the story of Black Sabbath told just as it should be — with charming bombast.

LA Weekly, Best of 2003
The first book to chart the vector of not just metal’s origins, but the myriad mutations through which it continues to infect the planet. Your children will not be spared.

Boston Herald, Books of 2003
Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne get their due in this ‘Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal,’ which takes its often absurd subjects just seriously enough.

Metal Maniacs, Best of 2003
Rekindled my faith in true metal love…

CMJ, Best of 2003
“There are tons of music books, and more than a few about metal. Why this one? Ian Christe can write, so he can convey what the rise of Black Sabbath and Metallica felt like, not just what it means.”

Maxim UK, August 2003
[Four stars] From Anal Cunt to ZZ Top, Sound Of The Beast is a methodical and authoritative chronicle of the metal scene Black Sabbath kick-started in 1970 with their self-titled debut album. As you’d expect, the likes of Metallica and AC/DC loom large, but the real fun comes in discovering metal’s secret history: the acts that have existed out there on the genre’s fringes…All in all this is a hugely entertaining romp through metal’s great, good and ghastly. A must for all fans of an oft derided but incredibly resilient and adaptable musical form that has given us some of the best music of the last 30+ years…

Metal Hammer UK, July 2003
What Ian Christe doesn’t know about metal music surely isn’t worthy of an umlaut or a raised diablo sign.

Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles, June 2003
[9/10] If you’re into any form of metal whatsoever, Christe’s bible is required reading on all fronts., June 6, 2003
He was in a tennis racket wielding Kiss cover band at the age of seven. He was a metal DJ at the age of 14. His music is featured on the movie Gummo. And finally Ian Christe has unleashed upon us one of the first heavy metal history books, titled ‘Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal’. Covering everything from Sabbath to Slayer to the Sex Pistols to the Scorpions, no stone is left unturned. Metal Update had a chat with Ian about this fascinating read and the man’s impressive heavy metal background.

Revolver, August 2003
A damn good job…the book covers every aspect of the music we love, from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal to black metal to nu-metal, and everything in between. Hundreds of interviews with bands like Metallica, Slipknot, Slayer, and Judas Priest help trace the history of heavy metal while exploring the context in which the genre’s various forms evolved…

Chicago Reader, May 15, 2003
The book’s greatest value is its broad perspective–stereotypes of sheltered white boys using metal to vent their rage at mommy fall away nicely as Christe discusses the prolific and passionate metal undergrounds of eastern Europe, Latin America, and southeast Asia; he also sketches a Middle East scene in which Israeli and Arab metal bands snipe at each other through their own blasphemous takes on ancient religions… But I love this book most because even in the dreaded Norwegian black metal chapter, the music still gets more play than the murder and arson.

Austin Dispatch, June 6, 2003
A whirlwind ride through the convoluted span of metal… Christe’s examination of not only the bands and their twin-Flying-V’s aural assault, but also the broader cultural context — i.e., Ronald Reagan has his finger on the button, so why not form a band and call it Nuclear Assault? — is eminently readable stuff.

Time Out New York, May 22, 2003
The obsessive nature of this sprawling tome might lead you to believe that it’s targeted exclusively at newsgroup-trawling fanatics who are able to pinpoint the subtle distinctions between thrash metal and speed metal. But anyone who’s ever been interested in this much-maligned and misunderstood genre will find it difficult to put down this Beast…

Boston’s Weekly Dig, May 28, 2003
…Other books might have come first, and there are a few great ones, but SOB really hits the nail on the head. It’s obvious that whoever wrote this was on a mission to kick ass, toscream his lungs bloody to tell the world the how, why, when and what it is that makes metal such a bigger than life culture…Go buy two copies of this amazing book., February 2004
While additional insight, opinions and stories (a favorite being Exodus frontman Paul Baloff using his “helicopter trout” to trim the teased locks of a King Diamond roadie) are provided by the many of the studded and sauntering stars themselves (Rob Halford, Ronnie James Dio, Dave Mustaine and Dee Snider to name but a few), the real Metal God here is Christe. His writing style is very matter-of-fact and to the point. At no time does Christe talk down to the casual fan or waste the time of the full-on metal fanatic. Far too sporadically does Christe’s sarcasm wriggle free, but when it does it is sheer delight. His rhetoric on Bathory (“…whose guitars sounded like sewing machines and whose drums seemed to be built of wet cardboard.”) and New York black metallists Havohej’s BLACK PERVERSION EP (“…seemingly recorded in the back of a van with a microcassette recorder, using low-grade samples of a dangerously neglected basement trash incinerator.”) alone earn Mr. Christe the open invitation to honor this very site with his scribblings whenever he damn well pleases. READ FULL REVIEW

Pop Matters, May 2003
For its grand, inclusive scale, Christe’s book is simply extraordinary… Sound of the Beast is a meticulous book as dense and pummeling as the music it chronicles.

RevelationZ, June 16, 2003
Sound of the Beast is one book that defines generation after generation of headbangers without skipping a beat, providing an unbiased view of all things Heavy Metal…you almost get the notion that you are there back in time and throughout out the journey, when it all happened while it continues to happen.

Florida News-Press, July 2003
Christe’s wizardry of colorful wording, intense imagination and love for music earns him the throne of Metal God. When many rock writers sharpen their tools to criticize or swallow years of research only to spit it out in their own words, Christe proves to be one of the chosen with music deeply embedded in their souls.

Martin Popoff, Record Collector [UK], March 2003
I must say, Mr. Christe has done an amazing job here. Lining up hundreds of salient points, in some sort of chronological and/or subject-specific order, on a genre 30 years old is a tough task. But Christe has conquered it, getting the story right (with virtually no errors) and writing intelligently and perfunctorily…it’s inconceivable that any one guy on the planet, given this perfectly acceptable page count, could have done a better job., May 2003
…just go buy the damn thing! You won’t be sorry and it is fully worth it; a nice addition to any music library.

Guitar World, May 2003
Also Excellent is The Sound Of The Beast: The Complete Headbanging History Of Heavy Metal, by Ian Christe. Funny and opinionated, this fast-paced timeline starts with one of the most insightful pieces ever written on Black Sabbath and gets better from there, providing a rousing three-dimensional account of metal and the people who made it legend….

Infernal Combustion, April 29, 2003 the end of the day, SOUND OF THE BEAST stands, banging head and denim-bedecked shoulders, above anything of its ilk on the market, at least anything I’ve seen. Newcomers and non-metalheads will enjoy Christe’s witty, clear prose and the entertaining history lesson enclosed, and true punters will smile in recognition when they get to the part of the story where they came into the scene. Tape traders, ex-bassists who’ve cut their hair and settled down, unrepentant lifers, and casual fans alike will enjoy the hell out of this meaty, fast-paced, fact-soaked tome. It’s a wild, improbable trip from the slums of Birmingham to the basements of the Bay Area to the Grammies, and Christe ropes it all in, retaining every ounce of exuberance found in a crunching power chord and a fist held high. A great read…

Library Journal, 2/15/03
[STARRED REVIEW] A freelance journalist who has written extensively on technology and music, Christe might as well drop the “e” from his name because he has just delivered the gospel of heavy metal. Starting with its British roots, he draws on his expert background and numerous interviews with the likes of Black Sabbath to trace heavy metal’s journey through 30-plus years of long hair, loud sounds, and lawsuits. While other histories have dwelled on the scene’s decadence (e.g., David Konow’s recent Bang Your Head), Christe’s concentrates on the cultural and social significance of trends like the underground tape-traders who spread the metal message and extreme metal subgenres that became an outlet for young subversives spurning the 1990s mainstream. And though this encyclopedic take on metal’s growth is pleasantly conversational, its hallmark is that Christe ignores critical convention to acknowledge finally that 1980s hair bands like Poison and Warrant were not heavy metal practitioners. Instead, definitive thrash metal masters like Megadeth and Metallica and underground legends like Saxon and Venom are given ample treatment. Not just an expert’s guide, this book includes explanations of metal’s subgeneres, lists of pertinent bands, and the 25 “best” heavy metal albums of all time that should enlighten metal newcomers. Essential for all performing arts collections.

School Library Journal, September 2003
MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball, which debuted in 1987, was canceled in 1995 – metal was officially “over.” But it has returned to the schedule, and metal is making a comeback. In Christe’s exhaustive history, readers watch metal rise, fall, change, and splinter into a massive number of genres (death metal, black metal, thrash metal, and more). As in David Konow’s Bang Your Head(Three Rivers, 2002), the story begins with Black Sabbath (as if there would be any other choice); but while Konow kept to the well known, Christe gives just as much attention to the fringes. Also unlike Konow, he eschews gossip for almost scholarly explanations of the musicians’ creative process and their works. Through it all, he shows the impact of competing forces (like punk, grunge, and rap). Chapters are arranged chronologically but also by genre, and each one is packed with black-and-white photographs and “genre boxes” that list the definitive recordings, ending with the author’s choice for the 25 best metal albums of all time. The book is well indexed. New metal fans will run to the music store not only because of the knowledge gained from this volume, but also because of the enthusiastic (though sometimes a little overwrought) way the author shares it.

DigitalMetal, April 2003
The content, frankly, is top-notch. Christe is a skilled writer who conveys insight without losing the reader in a deluge of pseudo-intellectual wankery or wordiness…if you’re into any form of metal whatsoever, Christe’s bible is required reading on all fronts.

Metal Judgment, April 2003
[Five Skulls] Ian Christe has made his mark of the beast by telling the fascinating story of the devil’s music, and you should make yours by reading it.

Booklist, April 2003
For the possible hole in your collection that AC/DC, Slayer, and Bathory ought to fill, this is a dandy plug. And if there is no such hole, add it anyway.

Sleazegrinder, April 2003
Metal thrashing headbanger types will be absolutely enthralled with “Sound of the Beast”, and even casual fans of heavy music will find much of interest here. Somebody was ultimately going to have to get the whole terrible true tale down on paper, and I’m glad it was Christe, because he nailed it all down with the heart of a true believer and the skills of a seasoned journalist. Highly recommended.

Sioux Falls Argus Leader, April 4, 2003
Ian Christe’s sensational book “Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal,” came out this week. Any fan of metal should rush out and buy it right now. The most comprehensive book on heavy metal ever written, “Sound of the Beast” is the bible of a genre renowned for satanic sounds.

Publishers Weekly, 1/27/03
Few books on heavy metal music can compare to Christe’s thoughtful and passionate history of the music of the beast. There is little argument that heavy metal began in earnest with Black Sabbath (though the Beatles’ “Helter Skelter” is considered by some to be the first heavy metal song), and Christe holds to convention and begins his metal timeline in early 1970. Following in the jamming, bluesy tradition of the Yard Birds and Cream, Sabbath (then called Earth) wrote “Black Sabbath” — a song that changed not only the band’s name, but the face of rock and roll. Black Sabbath set the pace, but bands like Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple “fleshed out the edges and gave it sex appeal.” The next wave, the new wave of British heavy metal, saw the emergence of Motorhead, Saxon and Iron Maiden among many others. The movement then spread through America and found most bands cropping up out of L.A. (although many migrated from the Midwest). Van Halen, Ratt and Motley Crue grew out of the then underground club scene. Christe doesn’t get bogged down in anecdotes about bands and their groupies, but instead documents the music and its different genres. Each chapter contains helpful “genre boxes” giving a brief description of the style (e.g., Power Metal, Death Metal and Nu Metal). If Christie is to be faulted, it is on the grounds of hero worship: he’s a metal fan, scribe (a music writer living in Brooklyn) and practitioner (in a digital metal band called Black Noerd), and readers might wish for more critical analysis about the culture of fans. But this is a minor point in a book otherwise worthy of having its dog-eared and beer-stained pages passed among friends and placed in motel-room bedside drawers.

The New York Sun, 4/29/03
…prose as bombastic as the music itself…a mastery of heavy metal’s details that would make Metallica drummer…Lars Ulrich grunt with envy.

Vice Magazine, Vol. 10 No. 2
This is both a fascinating survey and a passionate fan’s account. Christe’s cultural savvy, deadpan sense of humor, and deft use of interview material make for a sweeping story with Scorsese-like scope. Black Sabbath birthed the beast; Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Motorhead spread the sound; and in the 80s and 90s, subgenres proliferated. The spectrum covered in Sound of the Beast stretches from Hollywood hair bands to thrash metal to Celtic Frost’s and Voivod’s experimentalism to Norwegian black metal, nu metal and more. No outfit receives more attention here than Metallica. Christe’s detailed account of their rise from teenage metalheads to irritating cultural institution winds its way throughout the book. Metal’s undying quest for more extreme sounds, its popularity despite a frequent lack of mainstream acceptance, and its durability are other key themes. In the era of The Osbournes, Sound of the Beast unearths metal’s past and gets a blowjob from its future.

Rolling Stone, May 1, 2003
…breezy and highly opinionated.

Blender, April 2003
“…well-versed in the codes of metal.

Book Magazine, March/April 2003
Full-fledged heavy metal enthusiasts will appreciate the care Christe takes with the music. Sound of the Beast contains everything anyone could possibly want to know about heavy metal, and much, much more.


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