By Bob Nalbandian

The Top 500 Heavy Metal Albums Of All-Time
The Top 500 Heavy Metal Songs Of All-Time
Author: Martin Popoff (ECW Press 2004/2003)

I decided to combine these two books together in my review since essentially they are the same format (with the exception, one consists of songs, the other consists of albums). What can you say about Martin Popoff? When it comes to metal, he's like the Professor on Gilligan's Island - he's got all the answers! These two books are great...very entertaining and an absolute blast to read. There's been times I've picked up these books for reference, and end up reading into it for an hour out of pure enjoyment. Rather than Popoff's usual technical phraseology and vocabulary, he gives readers like myself (i.e.: working class metal fans, not Harvard Scholars) a break from reaching for Webster's every 2 minutes. [I love your work Martin, but you gotta ease up on the technicality. Remember, we're metal fans, not brain surgeons!]

In all seriousness, this is a fabulous book about true heavy metal. Sure, it's a simple idea...poll thousands of metal fans, journalists, and artists, and compile the top 500 songs and albums. But it's the approach Popoff takes which is so rewarding. Not only does Martin list the album with the cover picture, he gives a brief yet precise synopsis of the album or song and also includes a quote from the artist (or a certain artist involved in that recording) describing the recording process and their frame of mind at the time of the recording. Very brilliantly done. Also, throughout the book Popoff includes top 10 lists from various notable metal artists. Popoff also includes eight textbook quality appendix's, from the entire top 500 list at a glance to the artists sorted alphabetically, by country, and a point system compiled from all the people he polled. He also includes his "freewheeling" observations and his own top 25 list (Love/Hate? Good, but not that good.)

What strikes me most about these two books is the fact that neither book reflects the commercial success of artists, nor is the ranking tarnished by the over-exposed media hype that is so predominant these days (this isn't your VH1 or E Entertainment poll! These rankings are based on substance, not hype nor "hip-ness"). Whether it be glam, thrash, or nu-metal fans/artists that were polled, when all is said and done, there is no denying the true groundbreaking metal albums and songs. These are the albums and songs that perpetuated a certain attitude, intensity and originality, not just a reflection of commercial success and record sales. That is what heavy metal is all about, and, whether or not you agree with the ranking, these two books certainly capture the true spirit of metal.

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