MARTIN POPOFF – Wheels of Steel: The Explosive Early Years of NWOBHM
"Wheels of Steel: The Explosive Early Years of NWOBHM" is perfect if you enjoy discussing metal music with your lousy friends and want to know as much about as many (British) bands from the 70s and early 80s as possible by means of a single book. I can barely imagine how much research went into crafting this thing, but it was worth it, simply because the amount of trivia, anecdotes, obscure stories, and charming trips down memory lane relating to such acts as Iron Maiden, Tygers of Pan Tang, Fist, Tank, Venom, Diamond Head, Quartz, Angel Witch, Samson, and Praying Mantis (among countless others), are to die for. Getting so many different perspectives on how things developed and unfolded as well as how both classic heavy metal and hard rock (i.e. Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Rainbow, Judas Priest, etc.) paved the way for Saxon, Sweet Savage, raven, Witchfynde, Def Leppard, and so on and so forth, is a marvelous thing.
The most prosperous and vital years of NOWOBHM, more specifically 1979 and 1980, are discussed and dissected in more detail than the ones preceding them, but in terms of style and structure, "The Explosive Early Years of NWOBHM" is similar to 2015’s "Who Invented Heavy Metal?" by Popoff, which means that we move effortlessly from 1970 to 1980, so those early and pioneering works by the forefathers of metal leading up to NOWOBHM are neither glossed over nor neglected here. There are bands and albums that one feels the author should have elaborated on or perhaps devoted more pages to, but that is more or less always the case when dealing with literature such as this one; one cannot have it all. The similarities and contrasts between punk rock and heavy metal are quite fascinating and thought-provoking, and it is interesting to note that even though many heavy metal acts rebelled against punk and considered it somewhat lame, they nevertheless adopted the entire DIY ethos and took matters into their own hands with respect to recording and releasing self-financed demos and EPs and whatnot. That whole phenomenon has always appealed to me greatly, and Popoff covers that topic beautifully.
"Wheels of Steel" tells the unique story of one of rock ‘n’ roll’s greatest and most riveting brands of riff-based madness, and it documents the facts and figures of that particular era perfectly while simultaneously taking the reader through the recording sessions, gigs, grinding tours, and timeless records that came out of Britain back then. I very much look forward to reading the next chapter in the NWOBHM saga – the one that will be entitled "This Means War: The Sunset Years of NWOBHM". A must-have for those of you who treasure glorious metal music.