An Editor's Thoughts - Metal on Ice

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An Editor's Thoughts - Metal on Ice

Posted on January 13 by Sean Kelly
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Today on the blog we have a guest post from Allister Thompson, editor of Metal on Ice.


The Metal on Ice project was many years in the making. Author Sean Kelly has been a friend of mine for over twenty years — in fact, we were in a band together for several of them. Well, we still are, because the band never officially broke up!

I worked for a number of years for a small press, Napoleon, and one of the ideas we pursued there was music books. We had a line of fan tribute books started, but the time for a project like a social history of eighties metal hadn’t quite come. When I started working with Dundurn, I decided to revive the idea. Sean and I met several times to come up with a framework for the book. We wanted this to be different to the standard music book, most of which simply tell linear stories, often salacious, to please a band’s fans and give some small insight into their minds and creative processes.

With Metal on Ice, our goal was more ambitious. We wanted to start telling the story of Canadian rock in its proper cultural context. Which sounds ambitious, but really, it’s quite simple. There are certain things recognized as culture in this country, and in rock music terms that means certain artists and scenes are discussed to death, their impact on our society analyzed and fêted to the skies. Meanwhile, other music and musicians that have been very important to the lives of a large number of Canadians are left out in the cold, seemingly culturally insignificant.

Sean and I vigorously dispute that way of thinking, and this book is the start of our campaign to explain the relevance of these half-forgotten genres to Canada’s culture. These aren’t just songs on classic rock radio stations — they represent important times in people’s lives.

Metal on Ice doesn’t just tell a story about a scene, it investigates all angles of what it meant to be a musician or a fan of homegrown hard rock from the eighties onward. What does it mean to be a Canadian rocker? What does it mean for a music listener to have his or her own Canadian heroes to go see at the local bar or arena? What obstacles must these musicians overcome in the search for success, when the world’s largest English-language entertainment market is lurking to the south? What’s it like to tour the world’s second-largest country in a rickety van? What adventures await in those isolated towns you pass through on your journey? And when the fickle gods of rock turn their backs on you in favour of new trends and genres, what does a Canadian boy or girl in their new, more obscure life?

Not only are these musicians’ stories interwoven in a skillfully rendered narrative, but Sean’s personal voice as a fan adds a moving element to the story. He has a gift for doing something very difficult: explaining just what it is about any particular kind of music that moves us, how it improves our lives and how it can even change the choices we make and the direction of our lives.

Through the voices of many prominent musicians in this genre, we learn not only about the excessive lifestyles and the hit records, we get a snapshot of life on a scene in a certain time — a time that hundreds of thousands of Canadians will remember well as some of the best days of their lives.

I’m convinced this book is a new way of telling these stories that restores this kind of music to its proper place in our musical history, and there are many more such stories to be told.

It’s time to recognize that there is more to Canadian music history than the Mitchells, Cohens and Youngs who have made it really big and to remind Canadians of all the great, unheralded musicians this country has produced in the rock ‘n roll era.

Sean Kelly

Posted by Kendra on December 6, 2014
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Sean Kelly

Sean Kelly is the billboard-charting guitarist of his own band, Crash Kelly. He has released several classical guitar albums, and tours as lead guitarist for Grammy Award-winning superstar Nelly Furtado. Kelly has also performed with Helix, Carl Dixon, Gilby Clarke, and Carole Pope, among many others. He lives in Toronto.