Wednesday, October 12, 2011

G&P Book Review: From the Minds of Madness

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.]


Full Metal Attorney said...

I love that some of them literally took their name out of a hat. I wrote a somewhat humorous post about the topic of metal band names, providing several strategies. I have to believe that Panzerchrist put a bunch of words in a hat and picked out two of them. Because, well, if not, that's a weird concept. It makes me smile every time.

DesiccatedVeins said...

I mean, Jesus as a tank isn't the weirdest concept I've ever heard. I think it speaks to most people's idea of the predatory nature of religion. To me, Noisear is one of the most inexplicable in recent memory. I guess I get where it came from, but the real question for me is who exactly thought that that name was a good idea?

Bill Willingham IV, Esquire said...

I thought I read somewhere that it is pronounced "noise-ar."

Or is it supposed to be more like "noisier?"


Andrew Childers said...

jesus built my panzer.

true story*

*not intended to be a factual statement.

Perpetual Strife said...

I always look at Noisear as a funny pronunciation/play on nosier; the ear is circumstantial.

Chainsaw to the Face and Hacksaw to the Throat need to have a fight to the death because i'm tried of mixing those two dumbass names up.

Panzerchrist is cool because german+anything=cool name.

I'd like to hear the rational for Eyehategod and Cripple Bastards. Two awesome bands with two awful names (the former especially).

DesiccatedVeins said...

The explanation of Cripple Bastards' name was published in Decibel's "grind issue" (which wasn't that good, aside for pieces on DxAx, PxDx and 324); essentially, the band was formed by two guys, one nicknamed "The Crippler" because he threw stuff at people out his window while he was driving, and another nicknamed (take a guess) "The Bastard." I'd just have typed it verbatim from the article, except that I only recently rediscovered my copy of that issue and lent it to a friend for the piece on DxAx.

amalgamated fishhooks said...

"we listened to a ton of carcass, you know..."

Perpetual Strife said...

stupid fucking italians

Andrew Childers said...

straight for dorian rainwater himself: it's pronounced like noise-sear. ie, searing noise. thus the great noisear pronunciation controversy of 2011 has drawn to a close.