Ever pre-order something way in advance and then totally forget you had done so, only for it to arrive unexpectedly on your doorstep deluging you in happiness when you trudge home from work?
Defenders Of The Faith: The Heavy Metal Photography of Peter Beste, really wasn’t one of those. I’ve been on tenterhooks for ages, rushing home every day expectantly since it shipped from Sacred Bones Records, quite literally champing at the bit. Neigh.
Defenders Of The Faith, bearing a back cover endorsement by everybody’s favourite Canadian, Jon Mikl Thor and a foreword by Biff Byford, is a celebration of the tribe via the medium of the heavy metal vest.
Lovingly photographed by Peter Beste this book is an absolute treasure trove and although nobody involved would say anything so remotely pretentious, I think it makes a strong case for the HM vest as folk art. I get fascinated by the point at which all these logos and images, something essentially corporate and commercial in nature, fuse into something far more primitive and tribal, something very much other.
The vests are incredible, my favourites are the ones which have been painted or designed by the owner, and as much as I love a vest promiscuously splattered with lots of band patches, I have a real weakness for the single artist one – there are great KISS and Saxon ones in evidence.
It isn’t just vests of course, Beste documents all the glorious and daft excesses of everything in the fan scene affectionately and with a lot of wit. My fave shot here is one truly brilliant photograph of a fierce-looking audience at a German festival waiting for a band with, I suspect, a very spiky logo to do their thing, while a little girl dressed entirely in pink, wearing big ear defenders draws rainbows with felt tips sat on a step behind.
If you have any interest in heavy metal, cultural studies and/or great social photography, or just excellent photography then I would say that Defenders Of The Faith, which I have owned for approximately 4 whole hours at the time of writing, is just the book for you. It completes me and I’m the sort of wimp who only had 4 patches on his denim jacket. True story.
Buy it, you won’t regret it.
958 Down (still).
PS: Go to the Sacred Bones website, there are proper galleries of non-shite photies there.