Heavy Metal Box Set
The Heavy Metal Box Set (Rhino) 2007
"The Heavy Metal Box Set" is a 4-CD box set that briefly chronicles the history of heavy metal from 1968 to 1991. The set comes in an amp shaped box complete with a volume knob that "goes to 11", which is a nod to the awesome "This Is Spinal Tap." Taking on a project like this must have been quite the chore, especially with having to keep it down to only four discs. A set like this easily could have been two or three times this size. Unfortunately there are some very obvious omissions, apparently because some bands refused to be included. This includes two of the biggest godfathers of heavy metal, Zeppelin and Ozzy-era Black Sabbath. Most would credit these guys with being the true fathers of the style, along with Deep Purple and Uriah Heep, who are included. A few others I thought obvious were Uli Roth-era Scorpions, 70's-era Aerosmith, AC/DC, Budgie, Riot, Anvil, Gamma Ray, Exciter, and a few others. However, what is missing is a minor point as obviously not every band that should be included could be included.
Disc one is the late 60's proto-metal bands (Blue Cheer, Iron Butterfly, Hawkwind, Alice Cooper) leading into the 1970's heavy metal bands. Unfortunately many younger heavy metal fans these day deny that these bands their part in heavy metal history. Sadly, many deny that heavy metal even existed until the 1980's. These history revisionists will insist that their opinion is fact despite the historical evidence from books on the history of heavy metal, periodicals from the period, fan testimony, shows like VH-1 Classic's "Metal Evolution" and collections like this. In fact bands like UFO, Judas Priest, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Uriah Heep, etc. were the first wave of British heavy metal. There could not have been a NEW wave of heavy metal if there wasn't a first wave. Several of these bands are represented. A minor flaw with this disc is "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" is the edited version, obviously to save room on the disc. Frankly I'd rather a different Iron Butterfly song would have been included than an edited version of a classic. The very end of the disc touches on the early 80's NWOBHM movement with bands like Maiden, Girlschool and Angel Witch. Ending with the 1980 classic "Neon Nights" by the Dio-led Black Sabbath is an excellent way to finish it off.
Disc two continues with the history lesson in NWOBHM with songs by Raven, Diamond Head, Rose Tattoo, Michael Schenker Group, Fastway, Saxon, Tygers of Pan Tang, Venom and a surprising inclusion of Blitzkrieg. One of the more popular bands missing is Def Leppard. Judas Priest' "You've Got Another Thing Comin'" gave Judas Priest new life in the early 80's and a huge following in the United States. Priest have two songs included on this collection, as does Iron Maiden and rightly so. Both bands are cornerstones of the movement. Unfortunately the German metal movement of the 80's isn't really represented here, save for a track from Accept and Helloween. Missing are bands like Grave Digger, Rage, Gamma Ray, Blind Guardian and Running Wild. Also sorely missing is the entire German thrash scene. Nothing from Kreator, Sodom or Destruction. The beginnings of the thrash metal movement are represented on this disc by Metallica's "Whiplash". This was the song that made me a Metallica fan back in 1983 when I purchased "Kill 'Em All" as new release. I have to say this is probably my favorite disc of the four. From "Ace of Spades" through "Whiplash" every song on this disc is essential 80's heavy metal. Great songs from Dio, Y&T, Queensryche, Fastway, etc.
More than half of disc three is made up of American bands. It's nice to see Stryper on a collection like this. Many consider them to be less than heavy metal, but this is just ignorance. Personally I would have went with "Surrender" or "Soldiers Under Command" but at least they went with "To Hell With the Devil" over the mega-hit and sappy ballad "Honestly". Thrash metal is represented on this disc by American bands Overkill, Megadeth and Anthrax. Obvious omissions are Exodus, Testament and Slayer, though the later two are represented on disc four. Spinal Tap is an odd inclusion, but that movie was hugely popular among heavy metal fans, even if the song chosen is a little cheeky. (Pun intended!) The Krokus track included was a poor choice. "Long Stick Goes Boom", "Headhunter" or even their popular power-ballad "Screaming in the Night" would have been a better choice than "Midnite Manic". I would have chosen a better song to represent Twisted Sister as well. Though "I Wanna Rock" was a hugely popular anthem, songs like "Shoot 'Em Down" or "You Can't Stop Rock n Roll" would be better choices to represent the bands sound.
Disc four offers some songs from the pop/glam metal era with tracks from Great White, Lita Ford, Poison and Faster Pussycat. Whitesnake are represented as a glam metal act, which they did become in the mid-1980's, though they had seven or eight excellent studio albums before this one that were more blues-based heavy rock, like Deep Purple. The later half of the disc touches on the early 1990's scene just before heavy metal became a dirty word in the media. Of course one of the few metal bands to actually survive through the musically depressed grunge era was Pantera, represented here by the excellent "Cowboys from Hell". "One" is an excellent choice for late 80's Metallica. I am sort of surprised this song was included over the more popular "Enter Sandman".
Despite my many "suggestions" as to what bands/songs could have been included, "The Heavy Metal Box Set" is a very nice collection and a testimony to a genre of music with great diversity, power and passion. Sure, there is more than enough essential material that could have been included so that this box set could have had, 5, 6, 7 or more discs. No collection like this will include everyone's favorites, but this one does a good job at summing up over two decades of the genre with just 70 songs and keeping the collection at an affordable price for consumers. Included in the box is a gorgeous full-color book with essays, interviews and track by track analysis by Martin Poppoff.