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Hell Bent For Leather: Confessions of a Heavy Metal Addict written by Seb Hunter

Review by Lisa Palmeno

Hell Bent for Leather is Seb Hunter's account of his love affair with heavy metal music. He details the courtship beginning with AC/DC's "Let's Get It Up", and chronicles what he calls metal's "golden years" from 1969 with Led Zeppelin's first album to 1991 with Nirvana's second album, Nevermind.

Early in the book, Hunter recounts his first concert experience with near total recall. The embarrassment of having to wear a school uniform to see Ratt, ending up in the nosebleed section, and the aftershock of the permanent hearing loss caused by Ozzy's show are all faint reminders of the rites of passage endured by metal's followers.

The writer goes on to successfully relate the appeal of metal music on youth in the 1970s and 1980s. He displays the effect the music had on him, spurring him to start a band and reach for the dark star of metal fame. Never attaining stardom himself, Hunter shares a wealth of information about metal hair and clothing styles, proper attitude, and types of metal, all explained and described with plenty of examples. The pages are highlighted with photos of Hunter and friends, cool-shaped guitars, and famous musicians, including an interesting shot of Rob Halford outside of his mom's house.

Judas Priest being one of the big dogs on the block in the metal world, Hunter gives them a lot of coverage (notice the title of his book), along with first love AC/DC, KISS, and the gods of metal music, Iron Maiden. His belief, however, that Halford's gayness was a surprise is comical. You blokes might have been fooled by the Harley, but not us birds. As stated in the book, his hair was way too short for a straight guy at the time. Besides, that leather getup just looked too fitting on him.

It's nice that Hunter included Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin and Uriah Heep in the story. Along with discussions of Deep Purple, Rainbow, and Black Sabbath, he gives the rhythm and blues-based hard rockers their due as the founding fathers of metal music. Further into the book, though, Hunter slams blues hard, especially in the section on metal soloing.

Hunter's little criticisms are his way of recreating the adolescent arrogance that led him to London, glam metal, money scams, and a fake marriage. In retrospect, Hunter is brutally honest about his father's alcoholism, the pretentiousness of the music scene, and the serious long-term effects that experimenting with acid had on his health.

Hunter decided to exclude anything after 1991, and at first I thought it was possibly because his life took a turn into adulthood. Later, he asserts that Kurt Cobain "killed" heavy metal music. While it's true that grunge supplanted heavy metal in the minds of the younger crowd, it seems more like Hunter was just growing tired of the same old thing, jumping off of Guns n' Roses' night train and onto the Cobain band wagon.

After the release of Nevermind, the author cut his hair and donned baggy jeans and a cardigan, leaving his band (Cat Ballou) and metal behind for good. Sadly, the chance to feature those metal bands that became extremely popular in the 1990s was missed. In that category, he could have included Nine Inch Nails, Jane's Addiction, and Marilyn Manson.

Still, Hunter certainly knows enough about the genre, and perhaps he'll include newer groups in a second book. He states at the beginning that those looking for "Slipknots and Limp Biscuits" should look elsewhere. Using an exceptional vocabulary, his commentary separates the men from the boys: He verbally skewers keyboard users and pop metal and takes a compelling peak at a few of thrash metal's monsters and their shockingly sick lyrics.

Raised in England, Hunter offers a cool, European perspective on the subject matter, sprinkled with British witticism. The book is an easy read and waxes nostalgic. It will certainly resurrect the memories of youth for those of us who basked in the glory of that "golden age."

Maybe the memoirs will help Hunter get the fame and fortune he once craved. Although the limelight of true metal is fading faster than a high-speed guitar solo, keep the faith, Seb: There's still a little room left in the gloaming.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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