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The debut from pop culture essayist Chuck Klosterman is a harrowing memoir in which Klosterman attempts to redeem a genre of music most people scoff at: '80s heavy metal. In a scene straight out of a movie, Klosterman recalls his introduction to metal as the day when an older brother brought home a cassette tape of Mötley Crüe's Shout at the Devil. From that point on, Klosterman asserts, he was fully engrossed in the world of metal.
Part memoir and part music criticism, Klosterman's book is a very entertaining read. Ultimately, he wants readers to realize that, contrary to popular belief, metal was not an "empty" genre with nothing to say. He argues, quite well, that metal had to have meant something to kids growing up in the Reagan '80s because it was so popular. Being so young at the time, I was not conscious of my surroundings growing up in the '80s, but by Klosterman's accounts the decade would have been one in which it was easy to be attracted to metal.
Through his odyssey, Klosterman addresses many historical events with ties to heavy metal, including the premiere of Headbanger's Ball and the formation and controversy that would follow Guns N' Roses. One of the best sections in the book discusses the issue of suicide and metal, in particular the 1985 case of Raymond Belknap - the 18-year-old Nevada youth who, two days before Christmas, shot himself after absorbing supposed subliminal messages from a Judas Priest song. Klosterman takes note of the influence of advertising in the United States, citing the obvious fact that Judas Priest (like any other commercial artist) is marketed to influence, but the author will "never understand why music that only made [him] want long hair is the same product that made some kids want to die." When searching for something to blame, music is not the be-all and end-all. Klosterman points the finger at society at large, making the reader look past the easy answers.
The book starts and ends with Klosterman's love, Mötley Crüe. Throughout the work, he uses humor and common sense to defend metal and examine the time in which it thrived, pointing out that for a kid growing up in North Dakota (or anywhere in the Midwest), metal was something exciting and different. It provided an outlet for all the kids who did not fit in. The same thing happens today, except today's youth call it emo or goth. I highly recommend this book for any music fan, as it just might change your outlook on metal altogether. SEE ALSO: www.simonsays.com
Hailing from Indianapolis, Indiana, Nate Logan is a contributing writer to LAS who will be going to Minnesota in the fall to pursue a MFA in poetry. He hopes to develop some weird accent as a result of his time in the North.
See other articles by Nate Logan.
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