Essential Heavy Metal Books

Listening to heavy metal is the best way to enjoy it, but it's also fun to read about the artists and songs that make up the genre. Here's a list of books that can be enjoyed by both newbies and hardcore fans of metal.

'Lords Of Chaos' - Michael Moynihan

'Lords Of Chaos' - Michael Moynihan
'Lords Of Chaos' - Michael Moynihan. Feral House

A disturbing story of the Norweigan black metal scene, where churches are burned and people are murdered, Lords Of Chaos is a combination of true crime and heavy metal. Moynihan delves into the backgrounds of the major players in the Norwegian scene, where their actions ended up overshadowing the music.

Make sure to get the newer edition that updates some of the legal proceedings.

'Choosing Death: Improbable History Of Death Metal & Grindcore' - Albert Mudrian

Choosing Death
Choosing Death. Decibel Books

Albert Mudrian is the editor of Decibel Magazine and has the credentials to write this book. Choosing Death is a history of death metal and grindcore, featuring interviews with those that were there at the beginning. It's great way for new fans to learn more about the genre, and for veterans to discover some interesting new information.

An updated hardcover version of the book was released in 2015 that includes many updates from the original book along with numerous new interviews.

'Sound Of The Beast' - Ian Christe

'Sound Of The Beast' - Ian Christe
'Sound Of The Beast' - Ian Christe. Harper Collins

One of the best general histories of heavy metal, Sound Of The Beast covers all the different genres and is organized very well. It also features easy to digest lists and bullet points about the various subgenres of metal.

This is a book that's a great read for both those new to the genre that want a general background of heavy metal and more seasoned fans that want to delve a little deeper into the history of metal.

'Louder Than Hell' - Jon Wiederhorn and Katherine Turman

'Louder Than Hell' - Jon Wiederhorn and Katherine Turman
'Louder Than Hell' - Jon Wiederhorn and Katherine Turman. Igniter

Louder Than Hell is an oral history. The massive tome starts at the beginning of metal and covers many different genres. The stories are told by dozens of musicians, which gives it an insider perspective with some really interesting stories.

It's a wide ranging book with many different viewpoints, although there are some genres not covered. For an overview of metal from those who lived it, this is an excellent read.

'Metalion: The Slayer Mag Diaries'- - Jon Kristiansen

'Metalion: The Slayer Mag Diaries'- - Jon Kristiansen
'Metalion: The Slayer Mag Diaries'- - Jon Kristiansen. Bazillion Points

Metalion: The Slayer Mag Diaries gives a firsthand look at the early days of extreme metal, especially in Norway. It's a collection of every issue of the Norwegian 'zine. The publisher, Jon Kristiansen, became friends and confidants with many of the musicians in the Norwegian black metal scene, including Euronymous.

Just the zines alone would make this book a must own. What makes it even better is the biographical information Metalion includes, such as what went into creating each issue and many personal adventures with metal bands. His perspective and insights on the whole early '90s Norwegian black metal scene with church burnings and murders is very interesting.

'Fargo Rock City' - Chuck Klosterman

'Fargo Rock City' - Chuck Klosterman
'Fargo Rock City' - Chuck Klosterman. Scribner

Klosterman grew up in small town North Dakota as a heavy metal fan. This is a combination autobiography and lesson in metal history. The stories are compelling, sometimes funny and always entertaining.

Coming from the same area of the world and growing up in the same era made this one really hit home for me. He's gone on to write numerous other books, many which are music related, but this one remains his best.

'The Dirt' - Motley Crue

'The Dirt' - Motley Crue
'The Dirt' - Motley Crue. Harper Collins

It's hard to believe the members of Motley Crue are still alive, let alone making music, after you read their escapades in this book. The Dirt is packed with nonstop debauchery and amazing stories of decadence. From their early days on the Sunset Strip to their implosion in the late '90s, this is a fascinating book.

Many of the band members including Nikki Sixx, Tommy Lee and Vince Neil have written their own autobiographies. While they are all worthwhile reads, they don't measure up to the awesome The Dirt.

'Swedish Death Metal' - Daniel Ekeroth
'Swedish Death Metal' - Daniel Ekeroth. Bazillion Points

If you want to know the history of Swedish death metal from those who lived it, Swedish Death Metal is a mandatory read. It was written by Daniel Ekeroth, a Swedish musician who is in Insision and Tyrant. He experienced the birth and growth of Swedish death metal, first as a fan and then as a musician.

Many music books don't really say much about the music, but focus mostly on personalities. Swedish Death Metal does an excellent job with both. Ekeroth has interviewed most of those who were there at the beginning of Swedish death metal's birth, and their perspective and memories are invaluable. More »

'Dark Days: A Memoir' - D. Randall Blythe

D. Randall Blythe - Dark Days: A Memoir
D. Randall Blythe - Dark Days: A Memoir. Da Capo Press

 In 2012, Lamb of God frontman Randy Blythe was arrested in Prague, Czech Republic when the band arrived there for a concert. He was charged with manslaughter in the death of a fan at a show a couple years earlier. Blythe writes about his incarceration in Dark Days: A Memoir.

Blythe is a gifted musician, and also a gifted writer. He wrote the book without a collaborator or ghostwriter, and though nearly 500 pages long, is a fairly quick and extremely engrossing read. He touches on other aspects of his life that give insight on his Czech experience, but this is not a typical autobiography that chronicles his entire life.

'Black Metal: Beyond The Darkness' - Various Authors

'Black Metal: Beyond The Darkness' - Various Authors
'Black Metal: Beyond The Darkness' - Various Authors. Black Dog Publishing

There have been numerous books and countless articles published on the early Norwegian scene, with murders and church burnings overshadowing the music. Black Metal: Beyond The Darkness moves beyond that and explores other aspects of the genre.

The best essay in the book is the first one: “South of Helvete (And East of Eden)” by Nathan T. Birk. He examines the overlooked but extremely important black metal scenes in Eastern Europe and Southern Europe in the ‘90s. 

'Justice For All: The Truth About Metallica' - Joel McIver

'Justice For All: The Truth About Metallica' - Joel McIver
'Justice For All: The Truth About Metallica' - Joel McIver. Omnibus Press

Unauthorized biographies tend to give a more balanced picture than officially sanctioned versions. McIver interviewed dozens and dozens of musicians, friends, family members and associates to get a really detailed history of Metallica.

Metallica have had a ton of books written about them over the years, and there are a lot of good ones. McIver is an outstanding writer and this one is one of the best.

'The Top 500 Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time' - Martin Popoff

'The Top 500 Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time' - Martin Popoff
'The Top 500 Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time' - Martin Popoff. ECW Press

Popoff is probably the most respected metal journalist out there, and has interviewed almost all of the artists covered in the book. The Top 500 Heavy Metal Albums Of All Time is a subjective list that's a great topic for debate.

It's also an excellent source for newer fans to discover some of the best albums in the genre's history. Popoff has also written a book about the 500 best metal songs, along with several other books about the metal genre that are well worth finding and reading.