Book Review: ‘Rusted Metal: A Guide To Heavy Metal and Hard Rock Music In the Pacific Northwest (1970 – 1995)’

Exhaustive. Definitive. Massive. Impressive. I could go on. Rusted Metal: A Guide To Heavy Metal and Hard Rock Music In the Pacific Northwest (1970 – 1995), a new 900-page (you read that right) self-published book from NW Metalworx Music, is the only book about the Pacific NW metal scene—from British Columbia, Canada, to Oregon, Washington and Idaho—you’ll ever need. It’s a beast. But, more importantly, it thoroughly documents from every angle one of America’s longtime hotbeds for heavy music.

Though grunge is certainly part of this history—Soundgarden, Melvins, Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Mudhoney, Green River and others are included here—it’s just one interlude in a broader arc. And that’s largely because Rusted Metal doesn’t focus solely on Seattle. My own formative metal years were spent in Oregon, attending shows in Portland, Salem, Eugene and even Coos Bay, and I’ve always thought that the state never got its due in the larger metal world.

In the early ’80s when American metal was surging, you could find Portland bands on Metal Blade’s Metal Massacre and Shrapnel’s U.S. Metal compilation albums (among others), but most Rose City rockers with ambition felt like they needed to relocate to L.A. to get signed to a major label, like Black ’N Blue or Malice. Today the state’s odd metal legacy lies, in many ways, with the cult bands that self-released (Crysys, Mysstress, Lazarus Sin) or released short-run albums and EPs on foreign or lesser-known indie labels (Culprit, Glacier, Wehrmacht, Gargoyle).

Thankfully, all NW metal bands from 1970 to 1995 are given equal treatment here—though, obviously, some band listings are longer and more detailed than others—so no region or state is favored over another, and even very, very obscure bands such as my own short-lived, Hollow Instinct, are included. Which would explain why this damn thing is 900 pages long!

It will come as no surprise that the four gentlemen who put this together— James R. Beach, Brian L. Naron, James D. Sutton and James Tolin—are incredibly knowledgeable about NW metal. (You can read Joseph Shafer’s excellent interview with Beach here.) Three of the four are partners in NW Metalworx Music, which has been slowly releasing compilations of archival NW metal tracks, as well as reissues (with bonus tracks) of out-of-print and previously unreleased albums from TKO, Heir Apparent, Cruella and Overlord. The quartet, like myself, came of age in the late ’70s and early ’80s in the NW and immersed themselves in the burgeoning scene. Between the four of them, there’s probably one degree of separation from nearly every one of the thousands of musicians in this book.

While this encyclopedic knowledge of the 25-year history covered here is certainly a strength, it also results in what one might perceive as the only flaw: there’s almost too much here. While I wouldn’t argue that, for instance, certain bands shouldn’t have been included, but detailed lists of what bands they played with and what clubs they performed at goes a little deep for most readers. Additionally, some of the numerous Q & A interviews in the book (full disclosure, I’m one of them) could have been edited for length and conciseness. But, hey, there’s a ton of really interesting trivia to be found in them, as well, and the interview with Kim Harris, who “discovered” Queensrÿche, is loaded with great material.

The book is primarily divided into a handful of sections, with the “Bands and Musicians” listings constituting, not surprisingly, two-thirds of the content. However, equally interesting are the listings of the venues, recording studios, record labels and even fanzines and magazines of the era. Quite remarkably, there’s nearly a hundred pages dedicated to concert listings, including old flyers, from 1970 to 1995. And, as noted above, there are dozens of interviews sprinkled throughout each section.

To be clear, this is a guide, not a history with a narrative arc. So, if you want to have a tidily laid out description of how all the pieces fit together in the history of NW metal, this isn’t the book for you. But, man, diving into this and discovering how far and wide the tendrils of region’s scene spread (Gargoyle guitarist, Pat Lachman, played guitar in Halford and sang in Damageplan, for instance) is really enlightening. In the same way that Malc MacMillan’s The N.W.O.B.H.M. Encyclopedia is the ultimate resource for that era, Rusted Metal is the definitive documentation of Northwest heavy metal. It’s all here. And at $34.95, plus shipping and handling, this is a steal.

Order your copy directly from NW Metalworx Music.

BONUS: Five essential tracks from bands featured  in Rusted Metal

Glacier “Speak No Evil”

Mayhem (PDX) “Tear Down the Walls”

TKO “Give Into the Night”

Culprit “Guilty as Charged”

Sacred Blade “The Alien”