Heavy: How Metal Changes the Way We See the World – The sublimely ridiculous

Review: Dan Franklin’s heavy metal quest is highly entertaining, with a few caveats

Cradle of Filth: pushed metal quite naturally towards gothic pornography. Photograph: Mick Hutson/Redferns

Cradle of Filth: pushed metal quite naturally towards gothic pornography. Photograph: Mick Hutson/Redferns

I recently went to a metal concert in Berlin with a distinguished English author. It was all billowing smoke, dark cloaks and clenched fists. Midway through he retreated to the bar, objecting to the music because it was ridiculous. I loved it because it was ridiculous. This indicates your likely response to Heavy, Dan Franklin’s paean to metal. If you’re happy to be swept along with Franklin’s take on songs such as Metallica’s Fight Fire with Fire (“It’s not so much with fear, but with relish, that [Hetfield] concludes each chorus: ‘We all shall die’ ”), you’ll have a ball.

Heavy, rather than presenting a history of metal, riffs on themes. The opening chapter, for example, covers the originators Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Judas Priest; the next looks at metal as a response to nuclear war. Through this approach Franklin aims “to define what heavy music means to me, what it means to others, and how it binds other parts of culture to metal music”. Culturally nods are given to cinema, philosophy and the like in the casual, playful manner of a well-researched blog. Alongside this there’s not always a lot of critical analysis.

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