From the Minds of Madness: The Origins of Heavy Metal Band Names
Blair E. Gibson
I had a lot of misconceptions about the whole music making process as a wee youngun. Among them was the mistaken belief that bands stood together in a studio and recorded albums straight through in order. Perhaps with a short break between the A-side/B-side of the cassette or record version. Another of my misconceptions was that bands actually put a lot of thought into a name to come up with something unique and personal and meaningful (I'm still fascinated by the power of band names). Blair E. Gibson of Regina, Saskatchewan, must have had that same inquisitiveness about metal nomenclature because he's done a yoeman's job of gathering together the stories behind hundreds of band names in his self-published book From the Minds of Madness: The Origins of Heavy Metal Band Names.
Having done my fair share of interviews, I can imagine the hours of labor involved, but after reading through the first dozen or so you realize most metal bands didn't dig that deep when the time came to pick a name. Many of them, as they relate, literally picked a name out of a hat. Others just went for some combination of somewhat scary sounding words. The book also skews heavy toward stoner metal bands, who, unsurprisingly, have stories that probably sound way more entertaining when stoned.
However, when Gibson does get a band to open up, such as Coalesce's intra-band squabbling after they realized the name Breach was already taken, Jucifer's connection to the O.J. Simpson murder trial or Kylesa's Buddhist demonology, that's when things get interesting. Stephen O'Malley's laconic pronouncement that droning doom band Burning Witch was "named after the sound of suffering" or Danny Lilker's restatement of Brutal Truth's rather obvious name, by contrast, don't add much. And while Gibson is to be praised for casting as wide a net as possible, does anybody really care how cock rockers Autograph or Great White settled on their nom de glam?
But those are superficial complaints compared to the glaringly amateur formatting of the book itself. For example, the entirety of pages 16 and 88 are blank as a result of a page break positioning error. And beyond a brief introduction from Gibson and Aaron Stainthorpe of My Dying Bride, there is no other context given and which is sorely missed. The book, which clocks in at less than 150 pages, is an alphabetical recitation of bands and a brief paragraph describing how they arrived at their name.
Fundamentally, I think From the Minds of Madness is a failure of formatting. This would make for a great blog idea (and Gibson does have a blog) but as a book it's briefly diverting skimming material, but I'm not sure anybody will care enough to read it cover to cover, particularly given the omnivorous swath he cuts through metal's multifarious niches.
However, if you're interested, From the Minds of Madness is available for order as an e-book or a paperback here.
[Full disclosure: Gibson sent me a review copy.]