Neil Anderson

'Signing on for the Devil'

(ACM Retro)

MARK: 79/100


Sheffield, the protagonist of this book, had been the 1980s Metal capital, a fact that many non-UK Metal fans ignore.
It was desperate times for the South Yorkshire region back then: deep recession had thrown tens of thousands on the dole and its traditional steel industry lay in ruins.
Far from accepting its plight, it became a UK leader in the NewWave of British Heavy Metal and attracted one of the most loyal and steadfast following the Rock era has ever known.
Sheffield's stairway to hell was led by Saxon but nobody could have predicted the unrivalled success of Def Leppard, a band that became, and continue to be, one of the hottest properties in the USA.
The city's own Brice Dickinson helped turn Iron
Maiden into one of the biggest forces in the Heavy metal universe and a pair of former miners, The Bailey Brothers, became two of the most influential voices of the movement right across Europe as well as becoming widely recognised as the originators of the 'air guitar' phenomenon.
The book analyzes the changes happened in the last 30 years and pridely shows the scene keeps thriving thanks to a new generation of acts such as 65daysofstatic and Bring Me The Horizon.
Although all the photos - old and new - are in black and white, the value is priceless, considering most of them are quite rare and show excerpts of famous DJs, musicians at the very beginning of their careers, along with fans and other people dealing with the scene who've been real hardcore part of that.
The explanation might be right apparently: Sheffield is an industrial city, bleak and certainly offering less than London or other big British cities, so it might seem natural many young residents tried the way for a rebellious, loud and unpredictable music and lifestyle. Notwithstanding, no-one can explain why just there among thousands of similar cities in Europe where the humus was already as fertile as in the UK tough city.
Besides the pictures, the discographies, the data, the characters close to the bands who aren't musicians, the clubs, the old and the new bands from that local scene, you'll find anecdotes and stories that brought to the birth of the above-mentioned bands and other less fortunate ones; or that led to a line-up change or an occasion that dramatically changed the band's future.
144 pages in a small book that won't take more than a week to read might make you so amped that you could be enticed by other recent guides or essays from ACM Retro about other aspects of Sheffield, all from the same author, yet this remains his finest book.

MARKUS GANZHERRLICH - 20th January 2011

Official site: