Various Artists: The Heavy Metal Box

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Various Artists: The Heavy Metal Box

Much of the rock, some of the schlock

With delightfully cheeky packaging and four brimming discs, Rhino has nobly attempted to summarize the heavy-metal genre.

Struggling to tow the line between cartoonish smirk and deathly reverent seriousness, it generally lands on its feet, but not without some bruises. Obvious licensing obstacles aside (no Ozzy and only Dio-era Sabbath), the bigger ?aws here are editorial. After a thoughtful mapping of the genre’s origins and solid coverage of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, the set too deeply descends into the neon morass of hair-metal hell, lavishing excessive attention on Sunset Strip lesser lights at the expense of the genre’s undersung and less campy corners. Meanwhile, missing in action are any examples of grindcore (Napalm Death would’ve been nice), doom/stoner metal (e.g. St. Vitus or Sleep) or any of the genre’s current standard-bearers (Mastodon, for starters). Still, a healthy stock of essential favorites makes it a useful starting point for those seeking a meaty slab of the genre’s historical mainstream.