Death Metal Music is valuable for its history of death metal, as it knowledgeably jumps from band to band and provides helpful descriptions that will likely lead readers to discover new bands. However, in Chapter 3 (pp. 39-49), which describes the lyrics of death metal, the author makes some surprising mistakes that soil her credibility and call into question how accurate her findings might be.
The biggest problem occurs during her discussion of the social messages in death metal. She writes, "Anti-abortion messages may be found in songs like 'Altering the Future'" (48). I have seen this mistake made before, but anyone who has heard this song by the band Death knows that the lyrics are not anti-abortion, but in fact pro-choice. The first verse describes the rotten life that follows for a baby born to a mother that is not capable of being a fit parent. The verse ends with this statement: "To exist in this world may be a mistake / The one who is with child, it's their choice to make." Clearly, Chuck Schuldiner is advocating a woman's right to choose. The second verse describes the necessity of capital punishment for murderers, but the chorus makes a clear distinction between abortion and murder. The chorus goes, "Abortion, when it is needed / Execution, for those who deserve it." The whole point of the song is that sometimes lives need to be ended to improve the future. To call it anti-abortion is to deny part of the legacy left behind by a death metal giant, and if any band should be well represented in this book, it is Death.
Chuck described his views on abortion in a 1995 interview as follows: "It should be legal. If I was a woman surely I would like to have a choice to have a child or not. In [the] U.S. [a] lot of new-borns are killed because they were unwanted. It is better to solve it immediately when a woman finds out about the pregnancy and she doesn't want a child. Better to go for an abortion than to kill a baby. That is terrible. Men cannot force women to keep a child when they themselves feel they can't." See http://www.emptywords.org/SparkMagazine07-95.htm for the whole interview.
Another statement suggests an ignorance of the metal bands that prefigured death metal. The author writes, "Mysticism and the occult accented the lyrics of major 1970s bands like Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Witchfynde, Iron Maiden, and others" (40). Iron Maiden? Iron Maiden was formed in 1977, yes, but did not release its first album until 1980, and even then its lyrics were dedicated to reality and to retelling classic stories; mysticism and the occult did not become part of Maiden's repertoire until a few years later in songs like "The Number of the Beast" and "Revelations." To group Maiden with Sabbath and Zeppelin, both of whom recorded their most important material in the early 70s, suggests a shaky understanding of metal history.
The author makes another glaring error concerning time, again on page 40. She brings up H. P. Lovecraft because his horror stories of chaotic gods and hoary magical secrets influence the lyrics of bands like Morbid Angel and Nile. Unfortunately, she refers to him as "a 19th century author" (40). Lovecraft was born in 1890, and though he wrote a couple stories as a child, the bulk of his writings came from the final ten years of his life (1927-1937), obviously making him a twentieth-century author.
These may seem like small points, but they are all easily documented facts that the author was simply too lazy or too careless to get right, all in the course of ten pages. How many other mistakes did she make? Can her scientific studies later in the book be trusted? I enjoyed the history she provides of death metal, but I'm not going to keep a book on my shelf when the author cannot summon the respect to correctly write about Death or Lovecraft.