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Choosing Death: The Improbable History of Death Metal and Grindcore

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This exciting history, featuring an introduction by famed DJ John Peel, tells the two-decade-long history of grindcore and death metal through the eyes and ringing ears of the artists, producers, and label owners who propelled them.


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This exciting history, featuring an introduction by famed DJ John Peel, tells the two-decade-long history of grindcore and death metal through the eyes and ringing ears of the artists, producers, and label owners who propelled them.

30 review for Choosing Death: The Improbable History of Death Metal and Grindcore

  1. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    A decidedly minor sub-genre of rock gets the mainstream treatment in "Choosing Death," a book whose lucid storytelling and good humor almost succeed in camouflaging the fact that its subject is bands obsessed with genocide, cruelty, violence and, well, death. This book was loaned to me by a friend who's the assistant concertmaster in the local symphony; I have another friend who's an executive at a non-profit who listens to the Liquid Metal XM channel; and I've recently met yet another friend wh A decidedly minor sub-genre of rock gets the mainstream treatment in "Choosing Death," a book whose lucid storytelling and good humor almost succeed in camouflaging the fact that its subject is bands obsessed with genocide, cruelty, violence and, well, death. This book was loaned to me by a friend who's the assistant concertmaster in the local symphony; I have another friend who's an executive at a non-profit who listens to the Liquid Metal XM channel; and I've recently met yet another friend who's a scary smart medical professional and also a death metal fan--the variety of Death Metal Heads in my own small acquaintance demonstrates that the music has broad appeal, but what is the appeal? Why lavish such genial warmth on a history of music that wants to destroy the world and/or stay angry forever? The genre's comically miserable adolescent male practitioners don't really recommend it (tellingly, only one female performer even comes up in this thirty-year history); nor does their annoying vocal aesthetic, in which the lead singers often sound like the Jolly Green Giant with a mouthful of chunky peanut butter trying to recite the Gettysburg Address; and the songs too often focus on bodily functions, the grotesque and society's hypocrisy, which can make the whole genre seem merely nostalgic for high school. But the book doesn't let the thematic limitations of the genre trouble it: it skips merrily through the history of punk and then hardcore before covering the intricacies and sub-sub-sub-genres of modern Death Metal. When you actually listen to the songs listed in the generous Essential Discography at the end of the book, it's hard to escape the feeling that it's all either a joke or an obsessive inability by the bands to shake the simple fact that people aren't angels and that we're all going to die, probably gruesomely, despite/because of the wonders of modern medicine. So what gives? For all its limitations and grim posing, the music finally did hit me this morning: I was feeling quite low, and I couldn't shake the feeling that I was stuck in place by my own stupidly uncontrollable emotions, and I had to find some way to assert my will, somehow to break the pattern of my own thoughts and take a new direction. But how? Murder a pawnbroker (Crime and Punishment), harpoon a whale (Moby-Dick), kill my mother and everyone else I can reach before the poison does me in (Hamlet)? Well, better not... so I put on Napalm Death's goofy descent into hell "When All Is Said and Done," which I had previously only found ridiculous, and I suddenly realized that these barmy men were trying to personally transform the violence inherent in reality by channeling it back into the abyss--with guitars! They were asserting their will, denying their helplessness and just effing rocking out their pain. The whole game of "Choosing Death" is redeeming noisy adolescent fury with mainstream critical techniques. The genre remains patently ridiculous in its self-chosen limitations (may I please request a Death Metal Christmas album??), but I see how this music can expose grim realities succinctly and violently, and cathartically. Personally, though, I'll stick with Sly and the Family Stone...

  2. 5 out of 5

    Nigel

    Hard to give a rating to this one. Some of the interviews, especially the stuff with the guys from Siege and the engineer who did their sessions, have some really interesting quotes and give some great insight into the early days of extreme metal. I'd probably give the first few chapters a 4/5. However, around chapter 4 or 5, the focus shifts drastically, and the remainder of the text plods along with an excruciatingly in-depth account of major label death metal shenanigans and a vomit-inducing Hard to give a rating to this one. Some of the interviews, especially the stuff with the guys from Siege and the engineer who did their sessions, have some really interesting quotes and give some great insight into the early days of extreme metal. I'd probably give the first few chapters a 4/5. However, around chapter 4 or 5, the focus shifts drastically, and the remainder of the text plods along with an excruciatingly in-depth account of major label death metal shenanigans and a vomit-inducing focus on Digby Pearson, Earache and post-Dorrian Napalm Death. If you're expecting to read anything about a grindcore band formed after 1990, good luck; it seems that Mudrian's brain has split the periods of extreme metal into [Epoch 1] Everyone played fast [Epoch 2] Everyone played death metal. Black metal barely gets a mention, except to say something akin to, "After everybody liked death metal, they listened to Emperor." Most criminally of all, however, is the complete lack of text about Discordance Axis; I don't care if Chang (or Witte, Marton, or anyone involved with the band in any capacity) wouldn't give him an interview (just as likely, though, he didn't try) there's really no excuse not to mention something about a band that essentially redefined the limitations of a genre. The book contains a "landmark albums" section, in which The Inalienable Dreamless as well as the first two Pig Destroyer records are mentioned, but it's more of a concession than anything, especially since these are practically the only grindcore albums recorded after 1990 that he includes (no, those Napalm Death records do not count.) Cutting a few of the Digby Pearson/Morrissound chapters would certainly have been no crime, and would've left ample room for a chapter or two on grindcore in the fourteen years preceding the book's publication. Even a tiny bit more on Relapse would've been acceptable, if only to temper the tragicomic monotony of Earache's fantastic mismanagement. Mudrian also ignores non-Western grindcore almost completely; S.O.B. are only mentioned because the Japanese tour that Lee Dorrian organized with them was the impetus for his departure from Napalm Death, and then only briefly as a "Japanese hardcore" band. As a grindcore and death metal fan, I can't say that I don't recommend that you read this. Just don't expect anywhere near the full story from its 200-some pages.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    Well researched account of the history of Death Metal and Grindcore, I'm not the biggest fan of either but know about the major players (Napalm Death, Carcass, Death etc) which are given a lot of attention here. One thing I found interesting was how "analogue" the scene was back then, something that seems totally alien to today's MP3 sharing culture where you can hear music from kids in West Africa and South America just as easily as the latest Lady Gaga release - the Grindcore scene especially Well researched account of the history of Death Metal and Grindcore, I'm not the biggest fan of either but know about the major players (Napalm Death, Carcass, Death etc) which are given a lot of attention here. One thing I found interesting was how "analogue" the scene was back then, something that seems totally alien to today's MP3 sharing culture where you can hear music from kids in West Africa and South America just as easily as the latest Lady Gaga release - the Grindcore scene especially seemed to be built on tape sharing, where certain demos would attain legendary status; passed around and redubbed countless times - blowing young minds with music they'd genuinely never heard anything like before. Chance encounters in record shops (no online forums or social networks to meet likeminded fans) led to bands being formed. The book loses its way a little by the end with the music becoming less interesting and popular as the initial shock of the new fades away but I doubt there'll be a better book written on this subject. Enjoyed many of the little tidbits of information too - how the production on early Grind releases was so raw as no producers or engineers had ever heard anything like it before so didn't have a clue how to master it, how Earache Records was started basically as a benefits dodge (and how they passed on Fear Factory and Sepultura just before they both blew up) and the term "Death Metal" was coined by a bored high school student. Foreword and several quotes from the late, great John Peel too - he amusingly (and correctly) compares the initial grind recordings to 90s Happy Hardcore which would undoubtedly annoy hardcore metal heads. Recommended for any fans of the music.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    As I said to some friend of mine or another when I was reading this, I never thought I'd see the day where I'd utter the phrase, "this historical account of grindcore and death metal is kind of underwhelming." As I said to some friend of mine or another when I was reading this, I never thought I'd see the day where I'd utter the phrase, "this historical account of grindcore and death metal is kind of underwhelming."

  5. 4 out of 5

    Vish Singh

    I originally did a write-up of this book on my blog, a little more than a year ago. Here's most of the text from my initial review. A link to the blog entry is provided at the bottom of this review. Two nights ago, Choosing Death: The Improbable History of Death Metal and Grindcore, by Albert Mudrian came in. I actually tore into it before she did. I really enjoyed the book. Years ago, when I read Lords of Chaos, I was really impressed by the writing. The authors, Moynihan and Soderlind, are both I originally did a write-up of this book on my blog, a little more than a year ago. Here's most of the text from my initial review. A link to the blog entry is provided at the bottom of this review. Two nights ago, Choosing Death: The Improbable History of Death Metal and Grindcore, by Albert Mudrian came in. I actually tore into it before she did. I really enjoyed the book. Years ago, when I read Lords of Chaos, I was really impressed by the writing. The authors, Moynihan and Soderlind, are both journalists and did a great job. Its a very objective and detailed work. It took me a little while to read though, because as much as the subject matter interests me, I’m not the biggest fan of black metal. Choosing Death, however went by much quicker for me. Its nearly as well-written as Lords of Chaos, and for me, it was much more readable (evidenced by my having read through it in one day). The subject matter is also near and dear to my heart, and reading it was like reliving history. I learned a lot of things about what was going on in the background with many of the pivotal bands and labels at the time as well, which I really like. A lot of the book focuses on interviews and background information from Napalm Death, Morbid Angel, Earache Records and many bands who were related in some way to the rising scenes in England and Florida. Major players like Chuck Shuldiner (Death), Glen Benton (Deicide), John Tardy (Obituary), Justin Broadrick (Godflesh), John Peel from BBC Radio and producers like Scott Burns are also featured. Of course, there are tons of interviews and historical snippets from other sources like Relapse Records, Roadrunner Records (who grabbed Sepultura & Fear Factory when Earache initially turned them down – I never knew this happened), members of Carcass, Cannibal Corpse, Brutal Truth, Extreme Noise Terror, Bolt Thrower, Entombed, Immolation, Vader and more. Background information from the bands also highlights bands like Seige, Discharge and Slayer, who were influential on much of the early grindcore movement. Its interesting to see how England and the United States influenced each other back and forth, especially with regard to the impact that Napalm Death (particularly Mick Harris’ drumming) had on Morbid Angel and that Mantas (proto-Death) had on a lot of European bands. Sweden is also looked at, but not quite as deeply as England and the US. It was interesting to see just how small the Swedish death and grind scenes really were at first, and how it grew into the whole Gothenburg sound that I personally take for granted today. I also never realized just how much tape trading shaped the sounds that became prevalent in these scenes. I’ve collected both tapes and CDs (demos and stuff that I have people bring back when they go abroad) but although I was aware of it, I hadn’t considered the potential that tape trading could have on not just fans, but musicians themselves. I have one or two small issues with the book, but its not enough to detract from its excellence as a historic snapshot of the genres during the 1980′s-1990′s. There are some small details that I think are incorrect, but they’re not specifically band- or music-related. For example, the Necronomicon is not a satanic work. The idea of it was birthed by HP Lovecraft (one of my favorite authors when I was younger) and it was later written by “Simon”. Its not a real occult book. But that’s really inconsequential to the overall work. It only stands out to me because I enjoy Lovecraft’s work. I’d actually love to see Mudrian write a follow-up to the book, as it ends at 2004. There have been changes to the bands that were featured since then and there have been changes in the scenes themselves (like the rise of deathcore and its relationship to death and grind, and wifey’s hot-button – the role of women in these scenes). I’d also have loved to see more input from prominent bassists from the time, but that’s a biased slant, of course. Alex Webster offers input in several places in the book, and of course Glen Benton and David Vincent are bass players, but it would be wonderful to see Steve DiGiorgio, Tony Choy, more from Jo Bench (as she’s both a bassist and probably the earliest woman to prominently figure in the scene) and even producers’ takes on the role of bass in the genres, both as it existed at the time and with regard to how it evolved and what their desires and expectations were when working on bass during mixing. ---------- Here's a link to my blog, where I wrote about this book before joining Goodreads. http://uglybass.wordpress.com/2011/12...

  6. 5 out of 5

    Katherine

    I was expecting a bit more from this book. Choosing Death was an entertaining read until the two remaining chapters. At first it was cool learning about the humble beginnings of record labels, but then it dragged on and on. It was really sad to read how shameless some of these record label executives are. Reading the reasons why they got rid of top bands for not producing enough albums. Or how bands like Immolation should have never been signed. Even though Dawn of Possession is an amazing album I was expecting a bit more from this book. Choosing Death was an entertaining read until the two remaining chapters. At first it was cool learning about the humble beginnings of record labels, but then it dragged on and on. It was really sad to read how shameless some of these record label executives are. Reading the reasons why they got rid of top bands for not producing enough albums. Or how bands like Immolation should have never been signed. Even though Dawn of Possession is an amazing album. Especially considering how some of these labels were started by fans who "claimed" they loved music and wanted to share it with the world. Or how some of these executives only saw metal as a gimmick so they signed mediocre bands like Pantera or Machine Head because they believed it was the "new next thing". Also I thought it was weird to end the book with nu-metal or to claim that extreme metal is dead. The ending was all over the place and the only reason why they included Arch Enemy is because of Angela; which is really sad because there are far better female musicians. The irony of it all is that Mudrian believes that Arch Enemy was the future of metal and they're god awful now. Black metal was also randomly thrown into the book near the end. Other things I heavily dislike about this book is that Mundrian mentions obscure bands from the Czech Republic, but doesn't even dedicate a page to Dismember or Bolt Thrower. Sure he mentions them, but not once does he cover them. The chapter on Swedish Death metal is basically Entombed this, Entombed that. Entombed, Entombed, Entombed. Entombed may have created the sound, but they only had two good albums. After Clandestine it was basically hot garbage. Grave is the only band who could remotely pull off death n' roll and even then it just sounded like hardcore punk. Dismember on the other hand has never had a disappointing album. Mundrain does mention Nihilist and Carnage so at least there's that. Grave and Unleashed are mentioned. But they deserve more than one paragraph. The section on British Death metal is the same. Bolt Thrower is briefly discussed. It blows my mind how the author can talk about Slipknot or record labels for two messy chapters, but can't even manage to talk to about Dismember or Bolt Thrower. I have the original of this book and Finland's metal scene is no where to be found. One or two years later, I can't remember, I read an updated version of this book at my friends house and found that this has been corrected. It would have been in poor taste if Mundrian did not include Demilich, Demigod, Sentenced, and Amorphis. Especially considering how different Finnish death metal is compared to American or Swedish death metal. Where is Rotten Sound? If the author can manage to mention Nasum I'm pretty sure he can include Rotten Sound. Mundrian mentions doom and melodeath, but doesn't go further than to name drop Paradise Lost or In flames. If you mention In Flames and Dark Tranquillity than you have to mention Soilwork or Scar Symmetry. Or at the very least mention Finnish melodeath like Kalmah, Insomnium, and Omnium Gatherum. There is also a page or two on blackened death metal for whatever reason. No mention of Belphegor and they're pretty mainstream now. I would have liked to see more on brutal death metal. Mundrian brings up Suffocation and Exhumed. What about Dying Fetus, Skinless, Benighted, Prostitute Disfigurement, Gorgasm, Lividity, or Inherit Disease. On the other hand... I enjoyed the hilarious quotes and stories. I loved reading how death metal got started. I was also filled with great envy because I would have enjoyed tape trading and writing letters with others who love death metal as much as me. All my older friends remember what it was like. As they have said there is nothing like it. It was physical proof that metal brought people together. This book also confirmed things that I already knew. Glen Benton has always been a jerk. David Vincent has always been a drama queen. Anders Friden is to blame for why In Flames is no longer listenable due to his stupid opinion that In Flames has never been a death metal band. Clearly, from day one he and Jesper were not on the same page. So much talent wasted, but hey at least Whoracle exists. All in all, if the reader already know about death metal and grind this book will be entertaining. At the very least it'll make you laugh.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Robert Beveridge

    Albert Mudrian, Choosing Death: The Improbable History of Death Metal and Grindcore (Feral House, 2004) It is, quite simply, impossible to go wrong with any book that begins with a teenaged Mick Harris meeting up with a teenaged Justin Broadrick while trolling their local record store in the early eighties for Throbbing Gristle albums. History was made in a little English town when the two of them, along with a couple of pals, formed a band that would ultimately be named Napalm Death, and would s Albert Mudrian, Choosing Death: The Improbable History of Death Metal and Grindcore (Feral House, 2004) It is, quite simply, impossible to go wrong with any book that begins with a teenaged Mick Harris meeting up with a teenaged Justin Broadrick while trolling their local record store in the early eighties for Throbbing Gristle albums. History was made in a little English town when the two of them, along with a couple of pals, formed a band that would ultimately be named Napalm Death, and would start both the death metal and grindcore scenes. (Ironically, both of them would ultimately go on to be stars in the electronica field, as Scorn and Jesu, respectively.) This is where Albert Mudrian beings his tale of the history of the twin movements—a history different from those you've already read (Legs McNeil's Please Kill Me and Steven Blush's American Hardcore chief among them) in that, for one brief shining moment, death metal and grindcore got huge. We're talking Columbia Records huge. Arena tours huge. If you know anything about death metal and grindcore, you've probably wondered why. After reading this book, you'll be scratching your head a whole lot harder. Choosing Death is, at its heart, a tale of utter incompetence on the parts of almost everyone involved. At least half the interviewees are quite forthcoming about their inability to play instruments, even after being drafted into various bands. (And not just outliers, either. We're talking Carcass and Morbid Angel-level here.) There's a good deal of footage from Earache Records, of course, and when you find out what shoestrings were holding that entire operation together, you'll wonder how they ever managed to put an album out at all, much less handle the demand generated when John Peel first discovered Napalm Death. The whole story of the disintegration of the classic Napalm Death lineup is got at from as many angles as possible, though the consensus is that it was all Mick's fault. (History, on the other hand, raises the question: if he was such a hard guy to work with, why did ex-ND member Nik Bullen start working with him again in Scorn?) Pretty much everyone comes off as an asshole to work with, except Chuck Schuldiner. The question isn't why the scene ended up getting so big for so brief a time in 1994; the question is how the scene managed to stay together long enough to make it to 1994 to get big in the first place. This is one of those books where you turn each page and wish you didn't know the things you learned on the page before, but it's so utterly fascinating to read about so many self-destructive people exploding in one scene that you just can't stop. I kind of understand the appeal of reality television right now, except that no sane person would contend that Snooki is one percent as interesting as Trey Azagthoth. If you're a fan of the music now, or if you ever were, this is a must. *** ½

  8. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    A Must Read for anyone coming into the genre of metal after the 90s & 00s, as well as those who were around during it. I belong to the former, but through some of the interviews I definitely get a taste of the nostalgia for those returning or wanting to relive that era. Choosing Death gives all the building blocks, brick, and mortar for essentially all the current metal genres currently being played. It's fascinating to see the intertwining threads of musicians, record labels, and personalities a A Must Read for anyone coming into the genre of metal after the 90s & 00s, as well as those who were around during it. I belong to the former, but through some of the interviews I definitely get a taste of the nostalgia for those returning or wanting to relive that era. Choosing Death gives all the building blocks, brick, and mortar for essentially all the current metal genres currently being played. It's fascinating to see the intertwining threads of musicians, record labels, and personalities as they bounce around from band to band, place to place, bringing their experience, talents, and visions with them. The book is also an incredible tome of reference, with a comprehensive list of who's who, and a catalogue of essential albums by year. My copy is ear marked from cover to cover. However it is quite daunting to a newcomer, with the breadth of names and bands that go back and forth and attach themselves to other labels, bands, and more names. I should've been making a scorecard on index cards as I went along. It's hard to keep them all in mind. It didn't help that the ideas weren't broken up enough within the chapters. There are changes from one band to another, from one location or label to another, without so much as a line break or pause to catch your breath. I had to reread a lot to understand there was a change of venue happening. Though I suppose that could've been the author's intent, to show the inherent stream of events as the music evolved. To me it just made it a bit harder to digest. And, possibly because I didn't share in the genre's early years, the final few chapters didn't hold me nearly as much. It seemed to be redundant on an aesthetic level and I ended up just skimming through them. I'd give the book higher marks, as it is a great font of information, but all-in-all it ended up being a slightly daunting read. Again, that may be chalked up to my relative newness to the subject's history. But it is still a book I'd highly recommend to any metal head, be it as an educational tool , a nostalgic read, or somewhere in between.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Danny

    Revised and Expanded Edition (2015). This book met my expectations for a history of death metal, but did not blow me away. The cycles of birth, death, and revival of the genre were presented quite clearly in chronological order, often delineated by chapter, and the long view of the overall journey of extreme metal was pretty interesting. What really bogged down the narrative was the seemingly endless list every chapter of founding band members, who left the band, who replaced them, how much they f Revised and Expanded Edition (2015). This book met my expectations for a history of death metal, but did not blow me away. The cycles of birth, death, and revival of the genre were presented quite clearly in chronological order, often delineated by chapter, and the long view of the overall journey of extreme metal was pretty interesting. What really bogged down the narrative was the seemingly endless list every chapter of founding band members, who left the band, who replaced them, how much they fought. It was impossible to keep straight the 100 new names mentioned in each chapter, let alone throughout the whole book. It seems like in an effort to name every "essential" group (and not leave anyone out) and their place on the death metal timeline, the author sometimes lost the flow of the story. I'd have preferred this level of detail for just a few examples of bands in each era. All of that said, it's packed with information and first-hand sources. The label wars with Earache and the growth of extreme metal around the world were especially fascinating sections. Recommended for diehard metalheads, but it's probably not worth a read for anyone else. The Essential Discography at the end is excellent for anyone looking to get a sampling of stand-out albums each year throughout the history of death metal and grindcore.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    This is definitely one of those books that is written for fans, so unless you have an interest in metal to begin with or are currently working on your dissertation regarding youth/underground/extreme movements and the socio-economic/political ramifications of such movements, skip this one. However, even if you have just a passing interest in death metal this is required reading. this book isn't trying to change the world or pick apart the relevance of death metal and what it says about human nat This is definitely one of those books that is written for fans, so unless you have an interest in metal to begin with or are currently working on your dissertation regarding youth/underground/extreme movements and the socio-economic/political ramifications of such movements, skip this one. However, even if you have just a passing interest in death metal this is required reading. this book isn't trying to change the world or pick apart the relevance of death metal and what it says about human nature, but it is a fun look at the people and ideas that shaped one of music's most extreme, sometimes scary, sometimes unintentionally funny, sometimes tongue-in-cheek, more often than not sincere generes. it also reminded me of not only several of the gaps in my record collection, but why i fell in love with metal in the first place.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Dale Jr.

    An incredible read and comprehensive history of death metal, grind metal, and its various contributing genres. You get history and stories from all the major players surrounding the genre both here in the states (specifically the California and Florida scenes) and in Europe. Mudrian did an excellent job here and you'd be hard pressed to find a better book on the subject. An incredible read and comprehensive history of death metal, grind metal, and its various contributing genres. You get history and stories from all the major players surrounding the genre both here in the states (specifically the California and Florida scenes) and in Europe. Mudrian did an excellent job here and you'd be hard pressed to find a better book on the subject.

  12. 5 out of 5

    A.

    Interesting in the beginning, but soon turns into a Napalm Death worship, it got quite annoying at the end.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kit

    Superb synthesis of tons of information, interviews, etc. I could have used a little more analysis of the music itself.

  14. 5 out of 5

    John

    Here's the review on Choosing Death that I wrote for Amazon.com, namechecks and all. I seriously doubt any of my Goodreads friends whill EVER be inclined to read this book, but if you're looking to brush up on your extreme music trivia, look no further. Awesome (unintentionally hilarious) promo photos, too! I bought Choosing Death last Christmas after seeing the quarter-page plug in the back of every issue of Decibel magazine (Decibel's editor-in-chief is Albert Mudrian, author of this tome of de Here's the review on Choosing Death that I wrote for Amazon.com, namechecks and all. I seriously doubt any of my Goodreads friends whill EVER be inclined to read this book, but if you're looking to brush up on your extreme music trivia, look no further. Awesome (unintentionally hilarious) promo photos, too! I bought Choosing Death last Christmas after seeing the quarter-page plug in the back of every issue of Decibel magazine (Decibel's editor-in-chief is Albert Mudrian, author of this tome of death metal history). After literally years of seeing this ad, I decided it was time to give it a chance and see if the book was really up to snuff or not. Even though my taste in metal doesn't lean too far into death metal territory, I still thought it would make for an interesting read, and maybe turn me on to some bands I hadn't heard of before. Choosing Death turned out to be a perfect choice for opening my eyes--and soon after, ears--to all the extreme music I'd been missing out on. Starting out in Birmingham, England in the early 1980s, Mudrian examines the formative roots of death and grindcore (hardcore punk and crust), before moving into death metal's heyday (popularity explosion in the Floridian and British scenes), its worldwide spread (Swedish death is given a chapter-long examination) and its gradual demise in the late 90s. The final chapter of the book, Altering the Future, recognizes the influence formative extreme music bands have had on current death and grind acts like Nile, Nasum, Arch Enemy, etc. One of the greatest features of this book is how Mudrian's smart and seemingly effortless writing style compliments the exhaustive interviews he's conducted with members of the death metal scene. The unique thing about this book is that the vast majority of its content is all culled from interviews from the musicians, promoters, producers, and artists who were there, making the scene. This gives the book a very genuine, omniscient feel, which at some points lends itself to humor. Another great thing about Choosing Death is the inclusion of so many old flyers, album covers and band photos. It's hard to turn a page without getting another glimpse at what these bands looked like during their prime. As some reviewers have pointed out, Mudrian's scope of death metal does skew a little heavily toward four biggies in the scene: Carcass, Death, Morbid Angel, and Napalm Death. But I don't feel this was an unfair decision; realistically, these four bands are what defined the genre from an early stage, and its story could not properly be told without giving these acts due credit. Second-wave bands like Entombed, Deicide, At the Gates, Obituary, et. al are also given a close look over, but the real gem in this book is learning about all the underground DM bands I might never have heard of without reading this book. Peripheral metal groups like Repulsion, Autopsy, Grave, Siege and Nihilist are all given several pages (instead of a few cursory sentences) examining their contributions to the genre. Whether you've heard of these lesser known acts or not (most of them were new to yours truly before this book), Choosing Death is your key to unlocking more than you probably ever wanted to know about death metal's woolly history. One great decision Mudrian made was the inclusion of three appendices in his encyclopedia de metallica. The first one, Cast of Characters, is in the beginning of the book (just before legendary radio producer John Peel's fascinating introduction), and is there to help the reader keep track of the many names that occur again and again in the book's 284 pages. Following the body of the book is a 'Life After Death' section which keeps tabs on where the scene's living causalities wound up after leaving the underground, as well as an awesome 'Choosing Death Essential Discography'. I have actually taken my copy of Choosing Death into my local record shop more than once to remind me of which classic death metal albums my collection is missing (trust me, based on their list alone, my collection is looking pretty shrimpy). The only gripe I have about Choosing Death is its lack of focus on grindcore. With the notable exception of Napalm Death, whose storied career acts almost as a sturdy timeline as the book progresses, few grindcore acts are given much in-depth coverage. Some important bands get a brief shout-out or two (Brutal Truth, Extreme Noise Terror, Pig Destroyer/Agoraphobic Nosebleed), but after the first couple of chapters, the book focuses almost solely on the advancement of the death genre, and grindcore progenitors are left unexamined toward the end of the book. Another disadvantage of this book is its publishing date; since being published in 2004, extreme music has experienced quite a resurgence, and some of the cream of today's death metal crop weren't even formed or widely noticed four years ago. Then again, this is a slight shortcoming at best, since the book is really meant to offer an in-depth examination into what paths the genre's first and best acts took, and in that sense, it delivers the goods on every page. Before reading Choosing Death, I had a moderate interest in a few of the bands covered within, and a passing knowledge on those I wasn't so crazy about. After reading the book, I feel much closer to being a bona fide headbanging expert to this interesting cult of popular music history. Whether you just bought your first Carcass album, or were one of the dudes in the pit at those formative Napalm Death shows in Birmingham, there's guaranteed enjoyment in picking up this book. I'd also recommend the superb Choosing Death soundtrack cd as the perfect companion piece. This book would also make an awesome gift for any self-respecting metalhead who does not currently possess it! Bottom line, Choosing Death is extremely informative, flawlessly written, and a ton of fun. What are you doing without it?

  15. 4 out of 5

    Diogenes

    I just spent two wondrous weeks off the grid on the Big Island and Choosing Death was my beach book. This is a phenomenal read chronicling what I would call, in fine art terms, the post-modern zenith of metal as those predominantly teenage souls back in the mid and late 80s pushed metal to its outermost limits, bringing it to the very cusp of pure chaotic noise, then burning itself out just as quickly, mutating, convulsing, and morphing into so many other veins stretching out from the heart-musc I just spent two wondrous weeks off the grid on the Big Island and Choosing Death was my beach book. This is a phenomenal read chronicling what I would call, in fine art terms, the post-modern zenith of metal as those predominantly teenage souls back in the mid and late 80s pushed metal to its outermost limits, bringing it to the very cusp of pure chaotic noise, then burning itself out just as quickly, mutating, convulsing, and morphing into so many other veins stretching out from the heart-muscle of Metal. This is a book about the fringe of the Fringe, and I’m not sure why so many readers are giving it mid-to-low ratings. What else is there to compare it to? Mudrian is a gifted writer who went out of his way to interview 150+ folks who were actually in the trenches during this time period, and he goes beyond the late 80s and early 90s to show how metal music has continued to burn brightly across the spectrum. My death metal indoctrination was around 1990, when—living in the far suburbs of Chicago—Columbia House Music had a one-page Death Metal supplement. I loved the names and the brief descriptions someone wrote, so I ordered three albums, on cassette tape: Coroner’s “No More Color”, Bolt Thrower’s “War Master”, and Napalm Death’s “Harmony Corruption”. At that time I was listening to mainstream metal (Judas Priest, Megadeth, Metallica, Overkill, WASP, etc.) and really got into outliers (for me) like Nuclear Assault, Powermad, and Suicidal Tendencies. The death metal albums were awful; I hated them all, thinking how could such rabid noise be considered music, and I actually tossed the tapes away. Now, over 30 years later, my “ear” has developed WAY beyond those days and I can truly appreciate what these bands were doing in the context of the times, and I am a huge fan of heavy bands like these and so many more now. The metal scene nowadays is phenomenal, and we will always be the Fringe. I actually have an essay I’ve been working on, which I hoped to get published on some site some day, but after reading two similar pieces last year (2018) . . . - https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2... - https://theconversation.com/explainer... . . . I’ve decided to just crap this out and deposit it here, for any chance of posterity, even though Amazon will most likely shit-can Goodreads because it is unprofitable and goes against the Amazon-customer-fed reviews on its web-devouring site. This essay is not finished, but it’s good enough; so, awaaaaay we go . . . "What Metal Music Means to Me" I’m thinking that the objective of this is part-memoir, part-philosophical exegesis of a genre, and part-wild-eyed, fist-shaking testament to what, for many of us, is the nature of our abstract lives psychologically, spiritually, and emotionally. I sense that I am not alone, because our genre is strong and invincible, but I feel completely alone, and this essay might be both my natal and fatal swan songs. While posting anything to the web is an exercise in futility from the Beasts of Mindless Criticism, just know that this is coming from my mind’s heart, my damaged soul, and that empathy is an extremely rare but potently beautiful thing. In essence, I am asking for empathy, but to each their own. My middle finger is just as straight and defiant as yours, but that is in essence what we are as metalheads: middle fingers extended to the skies. I guess this is as good as a place as any to articulate the diversity of what it means to be a “metalhead” and maybe flesh out some terminology early on, so the muddle in my head is more precisely what you see in this confessional. Metalheads come from all corners of a society, and crawl out from just about every crack and crevice of the human herd, but we are almost exclusively the Outsiders. We have always been outsiders, and we will always be outsiders. While fads now favor ink and beards and looking tough and being dickheads, we had that first, and it will always be ours. In the mesmeric words of Tyler Durden, “Self-improvement is masturbation; now self-destruction. . . ?” I have no doubt that many of you have been unflinchingly faithful to your spouses, and have tried damn hard to raise your children as best you can. You read to understand the inner workings of the world, and you can enjoy a glass of wine as much as a shot of rotgut. I also have no doubt that some of you are racists, misogynists, and xenophobes who never read books and probably shoved firecrackers up frogs’ butts just to watch them explode. Some have burned churches down, many have served time for various crimes, others start fights to feel strong and be brutal upon weaker folks. I’m not casting judgement here, just using such polar examples to hopefully illustrate that even among us Outsiders, we have a spectrum of diversity that is not easy to summarize simply. No group of people ever are, and Metal clearly—to me—is a genre of diversity, critical perspectives, and alternative outlooks. You might wave a flag and pray to some grey-bearded god, or you might burn flags and worship horned devils. It doesn’t matter here; that’s YOUR thing. We are nerds and bullies, brainiacs and artists, accountants and mechanics, and a whole slew of other labels you get to pick and choose all on your own to define who you think you are, and how you wish to be seen as. What matters for me in this essay is that we are all bound together in some elemental way. Even in concerts, you have the writhing, sweaty masses of the mosh like wild animals in a pen, and you have those clinging to the outer walls bearing witness to the spectacle and feeling the thrumming sonic waves reverberate through their bones like being adrift at sea surrounded by sharks. While there are probably spoiled rich kids who crank up Fit For An Autopsy just to piss off their parents, I’d like to think most of us came from the lowest classes, had awful childhoods, and probably a shitbag parent or two. We embraced metal because, like a drill bit, it just dug deep into our psyches and resonated at the core of our young souls flailing in the maelstrom of early life. We are the flotsam of the social order; we didn’t fit in with the popular cliques; we were shunned and ridiculed and mocked, and that identity began—most probably for each and every one of us—in junior high/middle school, or high school—some maybe earlier, but very few later in life. Black is our color. It goes back through the ages. When Bruegel’s “The Misanthrope” is analyzed, Joseph Leo Koerner writes that the main figure is “dressed in black to indicate his rejection of the world.” YES! Minus those who are colorblind, we are a species with vibrant color detection and expression, and metal wholeheartedly embraces the antithesis of that palette to favor the inky-rich darkness of Oblivion. Even for those who are colorblind, black is the sinkhole of all grays and the yang to that yiny white. It is our color. From Darth Vader to all those cowboy villains of ancient television, black is the absorption of all other colors—or the utter absence of colors—in the electromagnetic spectrum. It is deep space and Hell holes; it is the crucible of monsters that keeps many kids pissing themselves in the midnight hours. As a Spotify analytics review showed a few years ago (https://insights.spotify.com/us/2015/...), we metalheads are the most loyal genre listeners on planet Earth. I’m proud of that, and I think that’s because metal rooted itself deep into our being early on, and while our ranks see attrition happen to many because they “grow up” and decide to favor more tame and lame styles of music, for some of us, metal never lets go. It never can. It doesn’t matter what era you grew up in because we each had that “cutting edge” sound to suck us into the event horizon. This isn’t about Radio Rock, for all its good and bad over the past few decades, and we must acknowledge that there is a HUGE grey zone between radio rock and radio metal that can—in some cases—be tough to parse (looking at you Metallica, post-Black album). What I aim to focus on here is Metal—true, disturbing, frenetic metal. The music that you blare from your vehicles and people turn and cringe, thinking you’re a violent prick with an AR-15 in the trunk, some black and blood-red D&D dice rolling across the floorboards, and a headless animal corpse nestled into the back seat. While some may pigeon-hole themselves into a certain sliver of the vast spectrum that is metal music, people like me embrace the large swaths of the spectrum and mix it beautifully in the cauldron of our playlists. That’s OK. We are as tribalistic as any other music listeners, but the confederation of metalheads is what makes us unique in comparison to the pop-pap masses twisting and twerking their way through life. You see a dude/chick wearing a black tee with a goat skull and some nearly indecipherable font declaring the band’s name like ancient runes and you know s/he is kin on some abstract, epigenetic level. You know there is a rare soul who has even heard of that band, let alone seeks it out having seen the shirt. We are, by and large, fed by curiosity for more loud, savage sound, and there is SO much of it out there, struggling in shithole bars and on https://bandcamp.com/, trying to hack out a living immersed with the extreme fringe of worldly music, doing exactly what they love most, and we are their faithful flock trying to find them, to spread the Word, and get them upon the Altar of Greatness, just like us kids were back in the 1980s with tape-trading, and our Iron Maiden and Napalm Death patches on our crappy leather jackets with the stupid Road Warrior studs in them. I won’t bother to give a history of metal as a genre and its evolution (just look to Ian Christie’s The Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal and you’ll be in expert hands), but I will say that growing up in suburbia in the 80s had me as a direct—albeit minuscule—participant in that evolution, and it was all of us individual microbes that kept the host alive and gave it the strength and momentum to thrive. I saw Judas Priest and Megadeth twice at the Rosemont Horizon, and drove through Chicago in an ’81 J10 pickup to the Milwaukee Metal Fest of 1989 to see, above all else, Nuclear Assault, who I was apeshit for at that time. FM radio couldn’t control what we true Outsiders craved, and in Valparaiso, Indiana, some brave soul at the local university radio station played an hour of the most raucous, obtuse, and offensive music he could find late every Saturday night. I had to drive all the way to Merriville just to track down the tapes at a local mom & pop store called Hegwisch. Any way, it was out there, percolating across the thinest of airwaves, shared by kindred spirits across the country, and around the world, and we were united under that great mystery that was Metal music. My toe was dipped into the ocean of metal in junior high, where Van Halen’s “1984” and Chicago’s channel 50 on the UFH dial gave me Twisted Sister’s video for “We’re Not Gonna Take It”. I rode my bike to the Kmart and bought my first compilation cassette titled “Heavy Metal Thunder”, which had Twisted Sister, Judas Priest, Dio, Accept, W.A.S.P., the Scorpions and a few others on it. This blew the doors off my mind and pulled me into the world of metal thereafter as the “big hair” bands of the late-80s monopolized FM-radio rock stations, seemingly to pinnacle with Guns ’N Roses, before the “grunge” gold rush (https://www.npr.org/sections/therecor...) became the norm. I slammed upon air drums, wailed the air guitar and worked that whammy bar, screamed silently into an invisible mic . . . because it was ALL I HAD to barely keep control within the chaos of my childhood. I was born and raised in the long shadow of Chicago, to an alcoholic Vietnam vet and an emotionally stoic Russian mom. Childhood PTSD, a dash of OCD, historic anger issues, marriage to the Tank-Girl Queen of my Dreams and her Selfishness, divorce and self-medicated alcoholism-as-salve, a tour in Iraq in 2004 and the carnage of experiences there, marriage to a beautifully devilish Betrayer, the nuclear fallout of divorce and the entrenchment of suicidal ideation, and now the creeping doom of the obsolescent, dirt-wisdom sense of middle-age as the sand sifts and the second-hand ticks and the half-circle cycle from the womb to the tomb descends towards the Other Side that awaits with its maw agape. A future of Metalocalypse is wonderful in its phantasm, but that’s the whole point. Our Elysian Fields are an open-air concert filled with black tees, with each one of us paired to the perfect Other, lost in the music of our mortal existence, hand in hand, with the rest of the world set on fire to burn in their collective myopia, and here’s the prime point I wish to make: metal is the most topical music in existence. Nowhere else, since the late-60s folk scene, has music tackled consistently, dissentingly, and poignantly the very nature of humankind, and all the candy-wrapped hypocrisies of Us, and done so from the first chords of Black Sabbath in 1970. This is why Metal matters most to me. I’m too lazy to do the research and site the sources, because all such info is out there already, but let’s start this thematic thread with Sabbath’s “War Pigs” of 1970—hold on, let me click it back one notch. I think it’s fair to say, abstractly, that Sabbath was influenced by the Stones and the Stones were influenced by Delta Blues, and Delta Blues were direct kin to the slave songs of the Deep South, harkening back to true Outsiders in the horrendous era of racial exploitation and institutionalized slavery. Now, making this linkage is in no way trying to compare anvils with apples. What I mean is that there could be seen—on some primeval level of the subconscious—a relation with feeling on the fringe of Society. In 1970, the Vietnam war had already ripped huge rifts in the societal fabric of the U.S. (nevermind the abhorrent carnage of war in southeast Asia [disclosure: my father was with the 1st ID there in ’71]), and this was palpable on the world stage. Britain wanted nothing to do with the effort, while nuclear annihilation was a monstrous shadow hanging over the Earth, and Sabbath cued in on that faraway view with a new sound and a poetically direct polemic to all those responsible for waging such senseless warmongering. Sure, Sabbath gave other musicians plenty of freedom to spread out into new branches from this sapling, from which all Metal originates; however, it is this finger on the pulse of humanity that hits me hardest as a fan. All in one song are the titanic themes of war, geopolitics, avarice, religion, power over the mindless sheep, mortality, and the End of Days encapsulated into a potent black anthem. From this sonic dirge, innumerable others over the decades have carried the banners forward, and they continue to do so, now more than ever as the proliferation of Metal expands like brushfires across the globe, and as the turmoil of the world reaches new heights and levels of complexity. More often than not, a Metal band will address some facet of this malicious gem, and do so poignantly. Think of all those “A Farewell to Arms”s by Machine Head, the “Go Forth and Multiply”s by Sublime Cadaveric Decomposition, and the gorgeously precise “Fuck You Donald Trump”s by Sharptooth. Anger is our primary weapon, and through it we scream at the injustices of humanity, the ignorance of overwhelming issues, the hypocrisies of history and idiocies of religion, and the philosophical wonderings of spirituality, mortality, and the primal nature of the human soul. I have the bulk of two playlists, some 1,500 individual songs and constantly growing, that tackle these subjects head-on. To list them would be laborious, but if you’re a true metalhead, you should already be aware on some level, and the more aware the better, in my book. We should certainly go back to the forefathers, those tenebristic pinpricks of elucidation cast in harsh light and grim darkness, clanging the bellwethers on so many existential issues. The “Beyond the Realms of Death”s by Judas Priest; the “Orgasmatron”s by Motorhead; all those literary “For Whom the Bell Tolls”s by Metallica; the “The Last in Line”s from Dio; the “Peace Sells . . . But Who’s Buying”s from Megadeth; the “The Headless Children”s by W.A.S.P.; the “How Can I Laugh Tomorrow When I Can’t Even Smile Today”s by Suicidal Tendencies, all weave their ways through the minds and souls across generations, and attempt to pry deep into the psyches of we soldiers of Life, because Life is hard for many of us. We lose comrades every single day to Loneliness and Apathy and Addiction and Hate. Life is our battlefield as much as our Enemy, strewn with bodies and craters, razor wire and shell casings. During the day the sun oppresses us, yet at night the tapestry of stars shimmers with Hope, and gives us a reason to trudge onward. It is the blackness between the stars that comforts and empowers us. We feed from it. Looking at Metal now, I am wonderstruck by the diversity and depth we are blessed with, thanks to the “freedom” of the internet, despite the painful paradigm it has caused the music industry and bands as a whole. There is such a wealth of constantly new music to discover, as much as there is an ease in finding lost bands that never got their fair shake with MTV or FM radio of yesteryear (thinking of you, Sacrilege). Kids today have no idea how tough it was to find new music back then. Now, in this Paradox-of-Choice Age, we can be supersaturated with awesome new discoveries. Internationally, it seems metal scenes are flourishing too, from Brujeria to Au Champ Des Morts to Sepultura to Alien Weaponry to Coffins to the juggernaut Wacken Festival—the largest Metal Fest in the world, and the community is growing. We are multicultural; we are multiethnic; we are global. This is phenomenal, and I encourage you all to spread your leathery wings and constantly discover the new and different and wild and raucous. It is out there, waiting for you with vampiric thirst. My hope is that in time, streaming services will force paying customers to embrace their allegiance and reliance on the music they love with higher monthly fees, so the bands we support get the capital they need to live and thrive and keep the dark dreams alive. I couldn’t give two shits about billionaire pop stars whining about their lost pennies. I am focused here on our Metal Militia, the rank and file of devoted disciples across the grim and gorgeous globe. I was at the Slayer show in Sacramento this past May (2018), watching the gyres of humanity swirl and the whale-spouts of weed blow in the chill wind as the pyrotechnics from the stage were hungry for human flesh. Nothing spiked my adrenaline more fantastically than being apart of some 10,000 fans screaming “GOD HATES US ALL!” over and over, defiantly to the deaf and dead-eyed heavens. Metal survives and thrives because we give the artists and all their support the means to do so. It takes money to make any artistic endeavor persevere. Of course, not every band makes it. I’d guess the overall attrition rate is pretty high, never mind the premature deaths, but the fact that Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and Iron Maiden are still making music lets us all know that longstanding careers can be forged in the Crucible of Metal. If you believe in it, give alms to your idols. PS: I purchased this directly from Bazillion Points Books (https://www.bazillionpoints.com/produ...#). Thanks for reading!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Alejo

    Defnitively worth getting the expansion. The only thing I miss is the inclusion of the first wave of goregrind bands that the kept the flame alive in the 1990's, that were covered in Mudrian's Decibel "Carcass Clones" article. Anyway, a great read and a great source for DM/GC fans. Defnitively worth getting the expansion. The only thing I miss is the inclusion of the first wave of goregrind bands that the kept the flame alive in the 1990's, that were covered in Mudrian's Decibel "Carcass Clones" article. Anyway, a great read and a great source for DM/GC fans.

  17. 5 out of 5

    James Andre

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Albert Mudrian knows his death/grind audience, and doesn’t fuck around here as he delivers them the scene bible (or should that be the Necronomicon) with Choosing Death - The Improbable History of Death Metal and Grindcore. Never condescending and always respectful, the book travels the history of the genre from badly recorded cassette tapes swapped around the world leading to the rise of scene giants such as Napalm Death, Carcass and Morbid Angel. In the early 80s, punk was dying a slow death a Albert Mudrian knows his death/grind audience, and doesn’t fuck around here as he delivers them the scene bible (or should that be the Necronomicon) with Choosing Death - The Improbable History of Death Metal and Grindcore. Never condescending and always respectful, the book travels the history of the genre from badly recorded cassette tapes swapped around the world leading to the rise of scene giants such as Napalm Death, Carcass and Morbid Angel. In the early 80s, punk was dying a slow death as it blended into synth music pop. Mass culture was eating away the music’s more aggressive elements, and leaving behind the catchiest bits for record companies to repackage. But there was still, as always, large groups of frustrated young people looking for morbid musical thrills. It’s in this area where Mudrian pushes down the scalpel and digs his hands into the guts in a way that hasn’t been done before. Yeah, there are numerous books about Metallica, Motley Crue and Iron Maiden on the shelves, but really who cares? What’s really needed is a document to chronicle the real metal underground. Those bands that never had any real commercial support, but still managed to gather cult followings whilst scaring the still warm shit out of the in-crowd. The best thing about Choosing Death is the stripped down writing style. Mudrian uses a straight forward pacing and language that matches the music he talks about. It’s free from flourishes that may have made it too ‘fancy’, instead he sticks to a ’just the facts’ approach; often letting the interviews from the musicians themselves tell the story. Unlike, Louder than Hell: A Definitive Oral History of Metal, which gathered seemingly thousands of pages of anecdotes about sex, drugs and inappropriate pranks involving bodily fluids, Mudrian takes a more interesting path as he focuses on how the bands (and the sound itself) formed, multiplied and evolved. In doing this he manages to weave the narrative across the many countries such as England, America and Sweden, depicting how the different groups influenced each other in a quest to become the most brutal, fastest and grossest while they wallowed in an ocean of gore movies, hardcore punk, early metal and bad comic books. Speaking of influences, John Peel provides the introduction. Surely, one of the biggest supporters of alternative sound, Peel provides some excellent reasoning as to why this genre is important as he recounts the story of taking his young family to see Extreme Noise Terror and Intense Degree. A decision that led him to record several of the bands for his show, where the recordings again led to the spawning of more groups. Finally, Mudrian tops everything off with a huge selection of rare gig flyers, tape covers and candid photos. None are reproduced in colour, and all look like the they’ve been photocopied several times, cut out and pasted in a serial killer’s scrapbook. This of course, just adds to the effect. Choosing Death - The Improbable History of Death Metal and Grindcore should be handed out in office team building exercises. It’d teach people from a diverse range of backgrounds how to take their negative feelings and work together to transform them into something beautiful and productive. Unfortunately, that’s not likely to happen, but fuck those people anyway. This book is for those of us who like to eat their cornflakes to Brutal Truth, and count sheep to Deicide. If you want to peer behind that funeral curtain and see how the heaviest sounding thing in your life came about, then you’ll need to read this book.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Brannan Hayes

    For my book i read " the history of death metal and grindcore" I was very happy to find a book about something i love. I learned that death metal originated from punk, and people in death metal only got their stuff out by tape trading unless they were sighned. Which meant people actually recorded demo cassette tapes and had pen pals they traded them with. It was very underground. One band named called Napalm Death, originally sounded like Clash, but they wanted to be faster, so they sped it up. For my book i read " the history of death metal and grindcore" I was very happy to find a book about something i love. I learned that death metal originated from punk, and people in death metal only got their stuff out by tape trading unless they were sighned. Which meant people actually recorded demo cassette tapes and had pen pals they traded them with. It was very underground. One band named called Napalm Death, originally sounded like Clash, but they wanted to be faster, so they sped it up. This was in the 1980s I learned a lot from this book. It helped me discover new death metal bands. Morbid angel, from North Carolina also started early in this music scene. This book is full of interesting facts, and I am a huge death metal fan, but I learned some brand new things from this book. It took several interviews from, band members and put them together. It is by far a very good book. I had no idea death metal was around that Long. Any death metal fan should totally read this book. It will increase their understanding of where the genre originated. But metal has become way less underground than it use too be. It use to be very very uncommon. Now it is alot common. But the band Possession was the first to throw in a growling, and it kind of stuck. Many of the drummers in the bands kept talking about how they tried to play faster than all the other bands. I wish more metal heads read this book to understand true oldschool death metal. People talk about how later, many of their songs were influenced by slasher films. Then the gore, and brutal element of it started to come in with cannibal corpse in the 1990. Before cannibal corpse. A band named death was around. I already knew who they were. But I did not know that their original name was mantis. So as you see, many interesting facts for people that don't know about old school death metal, are in this book I totally enjoyed this book. I never thought reading something could be so interesting. Once I started reading it again i got hooked. It is just pure awesomeness. It's one of the most brutal books I've read. If you're a metalhead....read ....this....book!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Simon

    Maybe this felt as something of a disappointment because I've already been spoiled by the bits and pieces I've read from Daniel Ekeroth's book on the Swedish death metal scene, but I didn't find this very enlightening. This book might be a useful primer on the history of death metal to beginners, but having been a fan of the genre since high school it didn't really tell me much I didn't already know. Most of the new information concerns the business side of how things worked behind the scenes, a Maybe this felt as something of a disappointment because I've already been spoiled by the bits and pieces I've read from Daniel Ekeroth's book on the Swedish death metal scene, but I didn't find this very enlightening. This book might be a useful primer on the history of death metal to beginners, but having been a fan of the genre since high school it didn't really tell me much I didn't already know. Most of the new information concerns the business side of how things worked behind the scenes, as well as the usually negative impact the music careers of the interviewed artists had on their private lives. I had hoped there'd be more about the music and creative process behind the songwriting. I'm also disappointed by the strange Anglocentrism on display. The UK/US death metal scenes get way more page space than any of the Continental European ones that contributed just as much... to say nothing of Asia, Latin America and so on. Even then, there's a general emphasis on width rather than depth in how the music scenes are described - be it sociologically or artistically. That would be less of a problem, if like with Jim Derogatis' book on psychedelic rock history "Turn on Your Mind" Albert Mudrian would in the process at least unearth a number of good but obscure records in the genre. The issue is just that even more so when compared to not just Danny Ekeroth's Swedeath book but also Jens Rasmussen's yet-to-be-translated-into-English history of the Danish metal scene, "Choosing Death" suffers from a lack of similar insider first hand knowledge about a specific music scene at its heyday. As much as Michael Moynihan's "Lords of Chaos" showed an outsider-looking-in perspective on this time black metal, Moynihan clearly being more of a goth/industrial person than a metal fan, at the very least its narrow focus on Norway in the early 1990s allowed it to go in depth. "Choosing Death" I might recommend to a person just getting into death metal, but if you're a veteran fan of the style you'll find very little new.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Laura Méndez

    Music has always fascinated me. Its power to infest our human brains and drive us through emotions as diverse as the patterned (even unpatterned) arrange of sounds and silences that is possible. (What is music and what is noise?) I became interested in any form of extreme music since I first discovered the feeling of being somehow disgusted, terrorised or appalled by music content. These fascination goes along with the captivation with extreme, sociopathic, violent and raging behaviour and/or id Music has always fascinated me. Its power to infest our human brains and drive us through emotions as diverse as the patterned (even unpatterned) arrange of sounds and silences that is possible. (What is music and what is noise?) I became interested in any form of extreme music since I first discovered the feeling of being somehow disgusted, terrorised or appalled by music content. These fascination goes along with the captivation with extreme, sociopathic, violent and raging behaviour and/or ideas. Do I endorse them? NO. Do the people that create this music endorse them? Not really. Why the interest then? Why giving these ideas space? Why this obsession with death and murder? Well... is it the always appealing provocation to societal standards? is it the goosebumps derived from the downtuned guitars, the growling, the fuzz bass, the blast? Personally, I'm picky, I don't like every death or grindcore band there was or is, I'm not remotely one of those diehard fans, I cannot listen to it the whole day, but damn I find it fascinating that it exists and that people have so much passion for it, but often when I listen to some Death song I just get the freaking goosebump. So, I came across with this book. I enjoyed reading about the conundrum of having been a progenitor of this genre (there are a lot of Napalm Death, Morbid Angel, Death, Carcass stories). How it intrinsically is an underground scene but still there will always be people that resonate in a weird way with this artistic expression. Very enjoyable report. Oh and the Introduction by DJ Peel, exquisite.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Robb Bridson

    This book goes back and forth between interesting and dull. It takes a stance that is neither a macro-level view of the death metal phenomenon or a biopic of its key players-- it's more like a VH1 documentary, fueled by clips of interviews. It's focus is very heavy on the business. It doesn't help that death metal bands are, for the most part, normal guys. They started the bands as teenagers and acted like teenagers. The Americans were just suburban kids with different tastes, like I was. The Brit This book goes back and forth between interesting and dull. It takes a stance that is neither a macro-level view of the death metal phenomenon or a biopic of its key players-- it's more like a VH1 documentary, fueled by clips of interviews. It's focus is very heavy on the business. It doesn't help that death metal bands are, for the most part, normal guys. They started the bands as teenagers and acted like teenagers. The Americans were just suburban kids with different tastes, like I was. The British were angry, political working class punks... but most of this is untold because the story focuses almost entirely on the business... which is sometimes fascinating. However, I think a story about Napalm Death, more in-depth, would be more interesting. That said, in a way, it's the normality of it all that kind of makes it interesting, and it is fun to see how it starts as kids screwing around, grows into almost a successful genre, then becomes somewhat commonplace, outdone by new extreme metal types and becoming part of many new sorts of music-- with varying reactions from the ones who inspired it all. Overall though the parts with bands you care about get your attebntion and the parts without them don't. Still it's hard not to walk away with a better respect for the guys from Napalm Death, Carcass, and Obituary, and not to come away realizing "Wow, Trey Azagthoth is a bigger flake than I thought."

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Mishap

    Readers may be surprised to find Mudrian tracing grind and death metal’s roots to Discharge and other political punk. I was surprised that so many early European death metal outfits had punk and hardcore as their starting points in the underground. One can imagine a different outcome, a future where death and extreme metal became political and community minded rather than misanthropic, gory, and often misogynist. Ah, well, and it isn’t a surprise that in the United States bands went for the sick Readers may be surprised to find Mudrian tracing grind and death metal’s roots to Discharge and other political punk. I was surprised that so many early European death metal outfits had punk and hardcore as their starting points in the underground. One can imagine a different outcome, a future where death and extreme metal became political and community minded rather than misanthropic, gory, and often misogynist. Ah, well, and it isn’t a surprise that in the United States bands went for the sick right off. Anyway, a fairly entertaining read is found in this fanzine of a book. I would have liked a little more critical analysis, placing death metal and grindcore within social, political, and cultural reality rather than just musical niches. For instance, what draws a privileged person from relatively well off Northern countries to the gore of some death metal versus what draws a poor person from the Southern Hemisphere. At any rate, the book isn’t an analytical history but it serves as a fan-driven account of the paths that grindcore and death metal bands have hacked.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Nosmo

    A really in-depth look at the scenes that founded modern death metal. The focus on particular bands while passing over other bands is a little frustrating (particularly the soft touch Death are given), although I can't imagine remedying this being possible given the scope of the task. The writing style is very accessible and the tone is quite fitting for music journalism generally. The extensive use of photos of bands etc helps showcase how incredibly young some of the bands were, and also some A really in-depth look at the scenes that founded modern death metal. The focus on particular bands while passing over other bands is a little frustrating (particularly the soft touch Death are given), although I can't imagine remedying this being possible given the scope of the task. The writing style is very accessible and the tone is quite fitting for music journalism generally. The extensive use of photos of bands etc helps showcase how incredibly young some of the bands were, and also some really shockingly poor hairstyles. That said, some of the effects applied to the photos for variety really don't work and obscure the content. The book's true strength is the sheer number of pivotal figures that are interviewed, and the incredible level of detail they go into. Possibly a bit too deep a dive for those who aren't already invested in the genres but mandatory reading for even occasional fans.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Karl

    I thoroughly enjoyed the majority of this historical account of the early days of death metal and grind core. It was nicely supplemented with a couple hundred interviews with many of the key players in the US, UK, and Scandinavian scenes. My only complaint was the heavy emphasis on Napalm Death and Carcass. I would have loved the second half of the book to transition away from Earache and into modern death metal and grind core.This scene is 40 years old and a lot of new music is happening right I thoroughly enjoyed the majority of this historical account of the early days of death metal and grind core. It was nicely supplemented with a couple hundred interviews with many of the key players in the US, UK, and Scandinavian scenes. My only complaint was the heavy emphasis on Napalm Death and Carcass. I would have loved the second half of the book to transition away from Earache and into modern death metal and grind core.This scene is 40 years old and a lot of new music is happening right now. It should be noted that I’m an aging punk and not a metal head. This doesn’t discount my review but it puts it into perspective. I like extreme music and also had a great time reading Ekeroth’s Swedish Death Metal and Patterson’s Death Metal. I used YouTube as an accompaniment and was able to find 99% of the bands featured in these ( and Choosing Death) books to enrich the reading experience. My next reading adventure is Ian Christie’s Sound of the Beast.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

    A well-researched and smartly-written book. Rather than just plodding along chronologically, Mudrian focuses intently on a handful of bands and labels that shaped these genres. Napalm Death, Morbid Angel, Earache records, and the people and groups surrounding them are the backbone of this history, and he quotes liberally from face-to=face interviews with those involved. The first hundred pages are pretty fascinating, as you're able to witness an entire genre of music being born. It's easy to for A well-researched and smartly-written book. Rather than just plodding along chronologically, Mudrian focuses intently on a handful of bands and labels that shaped these genres. Napalm Death, Morbid Angel, Earache records, and the people and groups surrounding them are the backbone of this history, and he quotes liberally from face-to=face interviews with those involved. The first hundred pages are pretty fascinating, as you're able to witness an entire genre of music being born. It's easy to forget that death metal and grindcore were once courted by major labels as the "next big thing" and Mudrian documents that corporate influence on the scene quite well. The last 20-30 pages seem unnecessary, but overall this really is an informative and entertaining piece of music writing.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    Highly reccomended for anyone who is curious about the history of extreme music. I feel weird giving 5 stars to a music book (I mean, it's not like it changed the discourse on modern artistic expression or anything), but given the limited appeal of the subject matter at hand I don't see how the author couldn't have done much better. There are a few bands mentioned briefly that probably could have been left out all together, but that's nitpicking. Very well-researched, but yet written in a style Highly reccomended for anyone who is curious about the history of extreme music. I feel weird giving 5 stars to a music book (I mean, it's not like it changed the discourse on modern artistic expression or anything), but given the limited appeal of the subject matter at hand I don't see how the author couldn't have done much better. There are a few bands mentioned briefly that probably could have been left out all together, but that's nitpicking. Very well-researched, but yet written in a style that still makes it fun to read (always a challenge with music books, which easily degenerate into lists or collections of quotes). The selected discography at the end is a nice touch.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Patrick

    Choosing Death is a functional, if not thrilling, introduction to the cross-pollinated genres that emerged in the early 1980's as thrash began influencing hardcore punk and vice versa. With Napalm Death effectively inventing grindcore in England and a handful of bands in Florida pushing technical metal to its limit, extreme metal had a very swift rise -- grind bands played on BBC radio, for crying out loud -- and fall from grace in the 1980's. This book is a bit dry and full of quotes by the mai Choosing Death is a functional, if not thrilling, introduction to the cross-pollinated genres that emerged in the early 1980's as thrash began influencing hardcore punk and vice versa. With Napalm Death effectively inventing grindcore in England and a handful of bands in Florida pushing technical metal to its limit, extreme metal had a very swift rise -- grind bands played on BBC radio, for crying out loud -- and fall from grace in the 1980's. This book is a bit dry and full of quotes by the main players themselves, but it's provided me a good discography and background information on the web of influences in the music I listen to today.

  28. 4 out of 5

    MacDara Conroy

    An easy, breezy read about the biggest bands that defined extreme metal, much of it in their own words. It’s focused on a select few names, which is both good and bad: good in that it doesn’t get bogged down in enyclopaedic details (it doesn’t pretend to be a comprehensive history) but bad in its Euro-American bias, more or less footnoting the contributions of bands and scenes in Asia and South America, not to mention lesser-known acts in the regions it does cover. Perhaps some of that is rectif An easy, breezy read about the biggest bands that defined extreme metal, much of it in their own words. It’s focused on a select few names, which is both good and bad: good in that it doesn’t get bogged down in enyclopaedic details (it doesn’t pretend to be a comprehensive history) but bad in its Euro-American bias, more or less footnoting the contributions of bands and scenes in Asia and South America, not to mention lesser-known acts in the regions it does cover. Perhaps some of that is rectified in the updated edition (I read the original, from 2004) yet in any case, it leaves room for someone else to write that history unwritten here.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Spencer

    Reading this book, the trajectory of the extreme music genre of death metal arcs like a Roman candle. Sparks singe your skin and smoke burns your eyes, but you don't care; your eyes are wide. Writer and fanboy Albert Mudrian constructs a narrative through interviews and quotes that put the reader right in the middle of the death/grind explosion. Perhaps this book is for fans only, but it is also for anyone who asks "whatever happened to 'real' punk music?" Provided is a recommended discography w Reading this book, the trajectory of the extreme music genre of death metal arcs like a Roman candle. Sparks singe your skin and smoke burns your eyes, but you don't care; your eyes are wide. Writer and fanboy Albert Mudrian constructs a narrative through interviews and quotes that put the reader right in the middle of the death/grind explosion. Perhaps this book is for fans only, but it is also for anyone who asks "whatever happened to 'real' punk music?" Provided is a recommended discography which accurately reflects the brutality, speed, and heaviness that are hallmarks of the (sub)genre.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kurt

    This is a book that covers the rise (and somewhat fall) of Death Metal and Grindcore. If those terms don't mean anything to you (or have negative connotations), there's nothing much here of interest (unlike, say, The Lords of Chaos). If you do have an interest, then it's a decently detailed accounting of many of the seminal bands from those genres (and those that inspired or were inspired by them). There's also quite a bit of detail on the early days of Earache Records. Some of the other labels This is a book that covers the rise (and somewhat fall) of Death Metal and Grindcore. If those terms don't mean anything to you (or have negative connotations), there's nothing much here of interest (unlike, say, The Lords of Chaos). If you do have an interest, then it's a decently detailed accounting of many of the seminal bands from those genres (and those that inspired or were inspired by them). There's also quite a bit of detail on the early days of Earache Records. Some of the other labels that released albums from the bands covered are touched on, but not nearly as in depth.

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