Book Review: Greg Prato – Survival Of The Fittest: Heavy Metal in the 1990's

Book Review: Greg Prato – Survival of the Fittest: Heavy Metal in the 1990's
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Greg Prato - Survival of
the Fittest: Heavy Metal in
the 1990s
The party was over for glam-metal and more traditional metal acts weren't having such a good time of it either, their days in the sun darkened by dour, flannel-clad hordes from the Pacific Northwest intent on making everybody as depressed as they were.

Once and for all, a new lengthy examination of metal in the '90s by author Greg Prato completely eviscerates the wrongheaded party line that grunge was some kind of powerful insecticide that wiped out the entire genre as a whole, even if it did seem to, at the very least, harsh headbangers' buzz for a time. Still, after grunge's cleansing purge, heavy metal – beaten to a pulp in the press and, for a time, left for dead in record label boardrooms – miraculously recovered and even thrived, its durability enhanced by its own evolution.

Utilizing the oral history format that served him so well with other tomes, such as "Iron Maiden: '80, '81," "The Eric Carr Story" and "Grunge Is Dead: The Oral History of Seattle Rock Music," Prato covers a great deal of territory here, interviewing close to 90 subjects – Eddie Trunk, Riki Rachtman, Def Leppard's Joe Elliott, Overkill's Bobby Blitz, Les Claypool from Primus, Phil Anselmo, Cinderella's Tom Kiefer, Scott Weiland and others too numerous to mention – for over 600 pages of candid, insightful observations and memories from those who experienced one of the biggest sea changes in rock history. Along the way, Prato chronicles the splintering of metal and hard rock into seemingly a thousand sub-genres, as metal seemed to merge with "alternative rock."

In his forward to Prato's work, ex-Pantera bassist Rex Brown writes, "Back in the '90s, us and quite a few of our peers were doing something that was off-the-cuff, and you had to make it your own brand and style." Innovation was the order of the day, as bands like Pantera, Nine Inch Nails,Sepultura, Fear Factory, White Zombie and Kyuss expanded the possibilities of a genre that had gone stale, and Prato takes great pains to chronicle the onset and development of stylistic shifts that resulted in prog metal, extreme metal, funk metal, industrial metal, stoner metal and, of course, nu metal.

At the same time, Prato attacks the subject from all angles, painting a well-rounded picture of just what the hell happened in metal's most perplexing decade. It explores, in depth, Guns 'N Roses' increasingly grandiose aspirations and precipitous decline, the explosion of Nirvana, band break-ups, changes with KISS, Rush and Aerosmith, the "Gary Cherone Years" of Van Halen, and other earth-shattering events. Even with such a prodigious page count, "Survival of the Fittest: Heavy Metal in the 1990's" flies by, the conversational tone of the book resulting in a fairly quick read. Because of that, and the massive amount of interview material it contains, it's a work that owners can go back to again and again and still find it worthwhile to do so. For ordering information for paperback and Kindle, go to and for Nook, visit
– Peter Lindblad

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