Martin Popoff

Martin Popoff (born 1963)[1] is a Canadian music journalist, critic and author. He is mainly known for writing about the genre of heavy metal music. The senior editor and co-founder of Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles, he has additionally written over twenty books that both critically evaluate heavy metal and document its history. He has been called "heavy metal's most widely recognized journalist" by his publisher.[2] Popoff lives in Toronto, Ontario.


Born in Castlegar, British Columbia, Popoff's interest in heavy metal began as a youth in Trail, British Columbia, in the early 1970s, when bands such as Led Zeppelin and Iron Butterfly were in the collections of the older brothers and cousins of Popoff and his friends. Black Sabbath played even heavier music, and became the group his circle of friends thought of as "our band, not the domain of our elders".[3] Other heavy rock albums of the era, such as Nazareth's Razamanaz and Kiss' Hotter Than Hell, further shaped his emerging musical tastes. Angel City and April Wine were among Popoff's favourite bands as a teenager.[4]

Of popular music magazines around at the time, Popoff recalls being a regular reader of Circus, Hit Parader, and later, Kerrang! blew our minds." Popoff does not identify any specific writers as being particularly influential on his own writing style, saying "it never registered who wrote what."[4]

Popoff received a B.A in English from the University of Victoria in 1984 and an MBA in marketing at McMaster University in 1987, working for Xerox before co-owning a print brokering company.[1] For a while in the 1980s he also played drums in a bar band called Torque. In 1993 he released his first book, the independently published Riff Kills Man!: 25 Years Of Recorded Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, a collection of 1,942 critical reviews of heavy metal records. Shortly after its publication he co-founded Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles, which released its first issue in 1994. He soon returned to his reviews book, releasing a revised and expanded version in 1997 titled The Collector's Guide To Heavy Metal, which almost doubled the original book's number of reviews to 3,700. In the book he identifies three major stages in the early development of heavy metal. The first stage, "invention", took place in 1970 with the release of Deep Purple in Rock coinciding with debut albums from Black Sabbath and Uriah Heep. Stage two, "re-invention", occurred in 1976 with Judas Priest's Sad Wings of Destiny. The third stage, "re-intensification", happened in 1984 with the release of Metallica's Ride the Lightning.[5]

In the 2000s Popoff revised and expanded his Collector's Guide one more time, splitting it up by decade into three separate volumes comprising a total of 6,763 albums spanning three decades of heavy metal.[6] Volume 3: The Nineties was published in 2007.

Popoff has stated that he considers the greatest record of all time to be Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti, followed by Black Sabbath's Sabotage.[7] He has also named Queen's self-titled debut as his personal favourite record of all time,[8] and often regards Max Webster as his all-time favourite band.[9] Newer groups that Popoff has spoken highly of include Mastodon, Opeth, Lamb of God and Dark Tranquillity.[10][11] His Collector's Guide became rather notorious in some circles of rock fans for a particularly scathing review of Def Leppard's worldwide smash hit glam metal album Hysteria, to which he awarded a score of zero (out of ten). Popoff continues to defend his opinion of it years later, citing "just awful production, lyrics, singing, clichés of every musical and lyrical sort."[12]

A number of Popoff's other books are biographies of notable metal bands, including Black Sabbath in Doom Let Loose and Dio in Light Beyond The Black. While the biographies are usually not officially authorized, a large amount of research consists of interviews between Popoff and members of each band. Popoff has said of his relationship with his subjects: "I censor myself because I don't want to write something to hurt people. You write a book on Sabbath and you don’t want to write something to hurt (their) families - I love those guys."[13] A Judas Priest biography, Heavy Metal Painkillers, was published in 2007.

In 2014 Popoff stated that he is working on a new book, entitled Who Invented Heavy Metal?[14] On March 6, 2015 Popoff told Metal Shock Finland's Chief Editor, Mohsen Fayyazi that he had finished writing the book and it will be published in approximately a month's time.[15]

Partial bibliography

Collector's Guide series

  • 20th Century Rock and Roll: Heavy Metal. Burlington: Collector's Guide Publishing. 2000. ISBN 1-896522-47-5.
  • Southern Rock Review. Burlington: Collector's Guide Publishing. 2001. ISBN 1-896522-73-4.
  • The Collector's Guide to Heavy Metal - Volume 1: The Seventies. Burlington: Collector's Guide Publishing. 2003. ISBN 1-894959-02-7.
  • The Collector's Guide to Heavy Metal - Volume 2: The Eighties. Burlington: Collector's Guide Publishing. 2005. ISBN 1-894959-31-0.
  • The Collector's Guide to Heavy Metal - Volume 3: The Nineties. Burlington: Collector's Guide Publishing. 2007. ISBN 1-894959-62-0.
  • The Collector's Guide to Heavy Metal - Volume 4: the 00s (with David Perri). Burlington: Collector's Guide Publishing. 2011. ISBN 1-926592-20-4.

Ye Olde Metal series

  • Ye Olde Metal: 1968 to 1972. Power Chord Press. 2007. ISBN 0-9697707-2-3.
  • Ye Olde Metal: 1973 to 1975. Power Chord Press. 2007. ISBN 0-9697707-3-1.
  • Ye Olde Metal: 1976. Power Chord Press. 2008. ISBN 0-9697707-4-X.
  • Ye Olde Metal: 1977. Power Chord Press. 2008. ISBN 0-9697707-5-8.
  • Ye Olde Metal: 1978. Power Chord Press. 2009. ISBN 0-9697707-6-6.

Rock biographies


  • Goldmine Heavy Metal Price Guide. Iola: Krause Publications. 2000. ISBN 0-87341-811-5.
  • The Top 500 Heavy Metal Songs of All Time. Toronto: ECW Press. 2003. ISBN 1-55022-530-8.
  • The Top 500 Heavy Metal Albums of All Time. Toronto: ECW Press. 2004. ISBN 1-55022-600-2.
  • The New Wave Of Heavy Metal Singles. Scrap Metal Records. 2005. ISBN 0-9762133-0-3.
  • Run for Cover: The Art of Derek Riggs. Aardvark Publishing. 2006. ISBN 1-4276-0538-6.
  • All Access: The Art and History of the Backstage Pass. Los Angeles: Cleopatra Records. 2009. ISBN 0-9636193-7-3.
  • Worlds Away: Voivod and the Art of Michel Langevin. Spider Press. 2009. ISBN 1-4276-3788-1.


  1. Popoff, Martin (1997). The Collector's Guide To Heavy Metal. Burlington: Collector's Guide Publishing. p. 538.
  2. "Martin Popoff". Retrieved 5 May 2019.
  3. Popoff, Martin (2006). Black Sabbath : Doom Let Loose : An Illustrated History. Toronto: ECW Press. p. ix.
  4. Popoff, Martin (July 2000). "Martin Popoff... On heavy metal, rock criticism, and carpal tunnel syndrome". (An E-Mail Interview). Steven Ward. Archived from the original on September 7, 2011. Retrieved November 5, 2017.
  5. Popoff, Martin (1997). The Collector's Guide To Heavy Metal. Burlington: Collector's Guide Publishing. pp. 280–281.
  6. "Collector's Guide to Heavy Metal - Vol.2". Retrieved 5 May 2019.
  7. Popoff, Martin (2006). Black Sabbath : Doom Let Loose : An Illustrated History. Toronto: ECW Press. p. 114.
  8. Popoff, Martin (2003). The Collector's Guide To Heavy Metal Volume I: The Seventies. Toronto: Collector's Guide Publishing. p. 221.
  9. Popoff, Martin (2014). Live Magnetic Air: The Unlikely Saga of the Superlative Max Webster. Toronto: Power Chord Press. p. 13.
  10. "Maximum Metal Interview Results". Retrieved 5 May 2019.
  11. "GET READY TO ROLL!". Retrieved 5 May 2019.
  12. "Popoff Defends Some Of His Reviews". Retrieved 5 May 2019.
  13. "Rock Eyez - Martin Popoff (Bravewords & Bloody Knuckles) Interview". Retrieved 5 May 2019.
  14. "Future Plans". Retrieved 7 March 2015.
  15. "Martin Popoff: "Who Invented Heavy Metal"; The Answer Will Come Soon". Metal Shock Finland. March 6, 2015. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
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