Researching metal

I’ve received more than one email from someone who is researching metal for a thesis, paper, or some other academic pursuit. Typically, the person who’s sent the email does not know where to start and is looking for help/advice. I’ve decided to address this topic in my post today.

First, let me say that I have no inside connections to the metal world. I was never in a band, or worked for a record label. So I can’t put anyone in contact with anyone on the “inside”. I started from scratch, so that’s all I can talk about.

I’ve read several books on metal, two that I thought were good enough to mention here. First is
“Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal”. It tackles the entire history of the genre, albeit with a an emphasis on some subgenres and less on others. Glam and thrash get a lot of ink, and death and black not as much. On the whole, though, it is an excellent starting point. It has all the basic facts and dates correct as far as I could tell.

The next book I thoroughly enjoyed was “Choosing Death”, a book that chronicles the history of grindcore and death metal. The author, Albert Mudrian, gives a blow-by-blow account of early death metal and gridcore – how bands broke apart, reassembled, and managed to record albums. Keeping all the names straight is difficult at times, but like “Sound of the Beast”, it serves as a valuable reference tool when looking for hard facts.

Now, onto the internet. When I needed to compile an authoritative list of heavy metal bands, I thought I was in for a long and brutal search through hundreds of sites, cross checking sources and digging through extinct band sites for information. Wikipedia turned out to be unreliable, and the well respected Allmusic.com had only the major players. Then I found the glorious Encyclopaedia Metallum. This site offers band information (such as every LP, EP, demo released, current and past members) for every single band that could ever have been called “metal”. I was not surprised that a site like this existed, but I was surprised at the breadth and accuracy of the site. Every cross check was accurate, and no other site I had visited has a fraction of the bands that this site has. The site is managed by a few dedicated metalheads, with a membership of over 100,000. Members can submit band information, contribute album reviews and ratings. The information is carefully screened, and bands deemed unworthy are rejected. After double-checking the information on this site a number of times, I decided that I was going to use Encyclopaedia Metallum exclusively as my source for band info.

That is pretty much all the information I’ve gathered for my research. I did use Allmusic.com and Wikipedia when writing up the subgenre descriptions for my Subgenre Interactive piece, but that’s it. I hope this has been helpful.

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~ by mikehill25 on August 25, 2008.

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