MARTIN POPOFF – Aces High: The Top 250 Heavy Metal Songs Of The ‘80s
July 27, 2019, a year ago
(Power Chord Press)
Man, it just doesn't get better than this, author of countless books on metal Martin Popoff polling the long-haired masses to get their opinions on what the top 250 metal songs of the '80s were and then opining on each cut, adding quotes from band members to each song write-up for extra trivia and heft. I love the nitty gritty (the story behind the recording of Quiet Riot's take on “Cum On Feel The Noize” blew my mind), love both the journey down memory lane and being reminded of how great some of these songs still are today. There are some surprises—hello, Armored Saint, great to see you; what's goin' on, Riot?—but mainly it's what you'd expect, a whole bunch of songs from the main players, old dogs passively aggressively complaining about publishing-royalty disputes with their fellow band members, reminders of why these songs are basically the anthems to our lives.
I was bummed when reading in the intro that this is a sort of rejigged version of some of the material from Popoff's incredible The Top 500 Heavy Metal Songs Of All Time book, but, luckily, that book came out a long time ago and either Popoff has rejigged enough or I just have no memory left from a lifetime of brain-obliterating heavy music, but none of this seemed familiar, so rest assured, Popoff devotees, this can be enjoyed as an entirely new experience. And what an experience it is, reading about these songs being damn near as enjoyable as listening to them, Popoff analyzing, critiquing, pulling no punches (indeed, often being quite critical), getting to the heart of the metal matter of them all. I just enjoyed the hell out of this book, every reading session making me the happiest hesher on the block as I savoured counting down to number one, thinking, man, I need to re-listen to that song, over and over and over again, Popoff's academic analysis wholly enjoyable, giving me new things to ponder about a huge chunk of these songs that I kinda thought I knew inside out at this point.
A few typos that shouldn't be there get in the way and some of the photos just didn't reproduce all that great, although on the other hand, they do kinda make you feel like the band's hitting your mid-size town for a rare small-arena appearance in 1986, Dio practically holding your hand as you dissect and analyze one more time the songs that help make life great. Also love studying the numbers here, the metallic bell curve narrowing as we get into the top 40 or so, a select few bands (you know the ones) dominating with track after track of pure metal glory, this really acting as hard statistics of what bands rocked the hardest, wrote the songs that stuck with us now that we look back through a beery haze, squinting at the wonder and majesty of it all, preparing to make one hell of a playlist outta this one day, but first, hold my drink, I've got to dig out some records I've been neglecting.