PandaI doubt the author or anyone else for that matter expected the entrails of this particular panda to spread so far. Don’t run away if you are of a delicate disposition, this is not a report on a nasty Mondo movie but a look at the life and trials of an honest and hardworking Reading based band. No point looking them up on Metal Archives or searching for their latest album review in Terrorizer (although they do indeed get one here) as they are entirely fictional. Not that anyone reading so far through 5 volumes and 2 offshoot books (the very metal diaries of Cleo Howard) would think of them as such, as Tipper has breathed such life into the characters of the band and their associated associates, friends, family and supporters, that by now it is hard to think of them as a work of fiction.

Part V – So Far So Good So Panda (and if you have missed that pun you are probably not the biggest fan of the sort of music this band play) continues following the Panda’s dogged determination to survive and even get a foothold in the music industry. It’s as many will contest a very difficult job getting anywhere in it and we could easily quote Hunter S Thompson here as many have but that’s the truth of the matter. One that sees a band playing their own material (along with the odd cover) having to contend with everything from getting gigs, fans, exposure and competing with life itself. There is plenty of life here to compete with too and the characters are all exposed along with their innermost thoughts as Tipper skilfully gets into their hearts, heads and very souls and lays it all bare for the reader to voyeuristically disseminate.

As for the Panda’s themselves, to say their passage is slow would not be unfair. They are one of countless bands going nowhere fast but that is not to say that their tale is not an interesting one; far from it indeed. The gigs are still occurring in their hometown and places such as Coventry and London where they hook up with other groups such as Over-Revved Engine, Horror Frog and Nightshade Milkshake. They even spread their wings and play a bike rally benefit show at a donkey sanctuary this time around whilst dreaming of being on the line up at Wacken. Reading also has another band wanting to emerge from the shadows called Deep Red Mistress (and yes they are of a gothic persuasion). Their lead singer Victor again proves one of the books most interesting characters and affects personal relationships with dramatic gravitas for all involved.

Most importantly, despite all the trials and tribulations the band manage to get that all important second album ‘Antidote’ recorded and successfully wow local audiences with their new songs. Could they be on the verge of taking things to the next level? Well naturally certain spanners are very much thrown in the works and true to life but without spoilers that would be far too easy for all involved including the reader who is by now surely a fan of the band themselves and awaiting to follow the path through further instalments.

This is the biggest volume so far in the saga and my one complaint really was that it is a frustrating read as you want to devour it but don’t want to get to the end. After consuming one part and finding yourself being left with a bit of a cliff-hanger of a situation, that inner voice in your head is going to be niggling away and urging you on to read “just one more chapter.” It’s a voice I found myself obeying all too often.

You don’t have to be a fan of bands like Motorhead, Pantera and Megadeth (who the Panda’s no doubt sound like a mixture of) to love this and the way it is written, although naturally that will help. If you like fiction based around music with quite a lot of sex, words like “moist” (plus plenty of bigger ones thrown in for good measure) and biscuits this will hit all the right spots. No doubt if you have read the other parts you are going to be grabbing this at the very first opportunity and eating your way through it along with a packet of Jammie Dodgers. If not, well you have the pleasure of starting at volume one ‘Eviscerated Panda – A Metal Tale’ and getting hooked from the beginning. With ‘The Nearly New Millennium Diary Of Cleo Howard 1999 poised for publication and book VI of this particular opus fast approaching the future is bright, the future is panda.

Panda to your needs at the following links.

(Pete Woods)