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Review: Rotting Ways to Misery: The History of Finnish Death Metal
Book Review
Rotting Ways to Misery: The History of Finnish Death Metal
Publisher: Cult Never Dies
Author: Markus Makkonen and Kim Strömsholm
Year published: 2020
Pages: 300

Rating: 5/5

Review online: May 22, 2021
Reviewed by: Michel Renaud
Readers Rating
Rotting Ways to Misery: The History of Finnish Death Metal

Rated 5/5 (100%) (5 Votes)

This hardcover (yes!) book may weigh in at just under 300 pages (if you exclude the pages that don't really count), but it's so jam-packed with material (and they don't waste space with wide blank margins) that it feels like twice that. It's not so obvious these days, but Finland started rather small on the heavy metal scene, and the book starts off by introducing us to some history of Finnish heavy, speed and thrash metal before getting in the meat of the subject, an essential step as what is to follow often refers to the early days of the metal scene in that country. Things slowly build up to death metal in general and then most of the notable bands get their own chapter, chock-full of information relayed by the author and the multiple band members and other active members of the scene, conveyed in such a way that it almost feels like you were there yourself. A certain Luxi Lahtinen is often quoted and mentioned throughout the book. I don't know, that name sort of rings a bell, but I can't quite put my finger on it. ;) Kind of funny that I learned things about a guy who's been a very active staff member here for some 10 years.

It's interesting to see an almost universal trend of Finnish death metal bands back in the late '80s and early '90s: They were all very young, all looking for something more extreme than speed metal and thrash, and being introduced to the early bands from Sweden, Brazil and the U.S. for the most part, they found that and did their thing, but then a lot of them either had to cease activities because of mandatory military service, or being the curious youngsters that they were, started going into a different musical direction after releasing some still-revered demos, 7", EPs or albums. Death 'n' roll is a recurring genre that those bands veered into. There are so many of them that fell prey to either that it's almost surprising when you get to one that just kept chugging along with death metal, even when the short-lived first wave of Finnish death metal died, for a number of reasons that often included grunge taking over the world.

Toward the end, "less notable" bands are packed into a few chapters with some bit and pieces about each of them, with short tidbits not any less interesting than that of the bands that warranted their own chapter. The book ends with a list of recommended albums. This should be mandatory for books such as this one. I've been reading a lot of books that drop album names, making me go, "Hey, I should check this out" but, of course, I forget most of them. With a comprehensive list such as the one here, it's easy to go back without having to sift through the entire book (I'm lazy).

The authors, Markus Makkonen and Kim Strömsholm, having been part of the scene, obviously know their stuff and the amount of knowledge they share is invaluable and sometimes it's almost scary the level of detail that they know and remember about what was going on some 30 years ago. The writing style is rather engaging and it's really hard to put this book down. The book could have used some better editing, as I've noticed quite a few recurring mistakes, though I must say none of them is so bad as to make the text hard to read so, while I'd usually drop the rating a bit because of this, well... Rotten Ways to Misery is so good that I wouldn't feel right about it. If you have any interested in Finnish death metal, or even death metal in general, you owe it to yourself to read this book as it is a gold mine of a fascinating array of bands, many of which ended up influencing countless bands and no doubt many more to come.

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