Metal Maniacs Celebrate New Book at Idle Hands

Manhattan-20130418-00690Ray LemoineHowie Abrams and Tommy Carroll

Howie Abrams and Sasha Jenkins don’t rock the long hair or the sleeveless denim jackets, and their new book, “The Merciless Book of Metal Lists,” manages to embrace the spirt of heavy metal without taking it too seriously or making it cartoonish. Maybe that’s why a party for the book at Idle Hands last night drew such a diverse mix of closet and confessed metal heads, including rapper Mr. Kaves, SNL’s Vanessa Bayer, and Michael Malbon of Frank’s Chop Shop.

The Queens-born authors aren’t your typical metal heads or punk rockers: they’re the last of the analog set, absorbing every genre available to them. They were students of studying every available zine and record, and attending matinees at CBGB and lesser know venues like the Pyramid and the Gas Station.

Mr. Jenkins actually made his name in hip-hop, working as a founder of Ego Trip magazine and creating VH1’s “The (White) Rapper Show.” Meanwhile, Mr. Abrams was among the first in the music industry to understand the reach and power of hardcore and its appeal to metal fans. In founding hardcore label In-Effect Records in the 1980s and then bringing its sound to Roadrunner Records as head A and R, he saw the connection between the heaviness of metal/hardcore and the attitude of rap years before it was watered down and marketed as Nu-Metal.

The two met through Ego Trip and, after realizing they had many mutual friends and loves, went on to channel their many years of experience into a playful, poignant book on heavy metal.

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Though last night’s launch party took place blocks away from CBGB, one of the few venues in Manhattan that would tolerate underground metal shows in the ’80s and ’90s, Mr. Abrams stressed that metal wasn’t exactly endemic to the East Village of that era: “As vibrant as it was, there was not a lot of metal going on anywhere down there,” he told The Local. “Metal was considered mainstream and suburban and uncool, which is what kids who hung out in the East Village were trying to disassociate from. Plenty of people liked metal, but it was almost a faux pas to represent it down there in the early ’80s. Punk and hardcore ruled, and that was that.”

Last night’s party didn’t lure the types who wear their oldest vintage concert tees to be judged like the rings of a tree stump. In fact there was hardly a long hair or a leather jacket in sight, and there were only a few young metal groupies. Perfumed, tattooed Hannah Townsend, 21, wore a slink-tastic gold dress with animal-print undergarments open to public view. “It’s so awesome for a music fan,” she said before pointing to a section titled “Top 11 Conversation Starters by Scott Ian of Anthrax” and shouting, “Oh my god, ‘Can I touch your beard?’ — that’s the best!”

Indeed, “The Merciless Book of Metal Lists” successfully captures what’s endearing, rather than shocking or kitschy, about heavy metal. Few diehards will be left pounding their fists in rage after reading “10 Reasons Why Everyone Loves Slayer’s Reign In Blood” (Slayer guitarist Kerry King wrote the book’s foreword) or “15 Metal Albums Featuring Goats,” because the authors aren’t just extremely knowledgable, they’re also metal fanatics. Coming from a time when metal was threatening and did actually scare people, they can lampoon its seriousness without sounding smarmy or ironic, something common in metal writing today.

“Now, all of the sudden, metal is cool and every hipster is walking around in their older sibling’s Venom t-shirt, trying to act as if they’ve been down all along,” said Mr. Abrams. “I’m no hater, but you can just tell many of these new-jacks don’t possess any passion for the music.”