Metallica: The Early Years And The Rise Of Metal – Neil Daniels (Independent Music Press)
This is the second tome I have reviewed from rock scribe Neil Daniels, the first was a bite sized look at Judas Priest’s British Steel album, a band I admitted I knew little about (although a little wiser now of course). Next up however is Metallica: The Early Years And The Rise Of Metal, a far meatier affair and a subject I am better acquainted with.
Whilst no expert, I have been a fan of Metallica for nearly 20 years now and have been paying attention for at least some of this time, so approach the book with a certain amount of knowledge under my belt.
Charting Metallica’s evolution from Hetfield’s pre-‘Tallica Leather Charm, right up to the controversial (amongst Metallica fans at least) … And Justice For All album, this is a concentrated look at their pre-Black album releases and importance in metal folklore. Whilst a Metallica book is hardly a new concept, there is surprisingly little print on the early days so there is definitely a space on the Metal bookshelf for such a collection.
Neil has a good way of remaining detached and unbiased when it comes to retelling the stories, especially with regards to the often vilified Dave Mustaine who gets treated with an even, if slight, hand throughout. It is also interesting to imagine a time when Hetfield was a shy, reluctant front man, ill at ease with the spot light, rather than the strutting rock God we are more accustomed to these days.
There is plenty of input from a range of shady characters who were there/part of the Metallica bandwagon. Be it key players from the NWOBHM bands that influenced a young Ulrich like Saxon’s Biff Byford or Diamond Head’s Brian Tatler through to journalists from the day such as Metal Force’s Bernard Doe. These contributions all add colour and depth to the story and unearth plenty of anecdotes… none of which I am going to spoil; you’ll have to read the book.
It also serves as a timely reminder of just how hard Metallica worked for their success, it is easy to be snide about them these days but young bands could learn a lesson or two from Lars’ unparalleled dedication to music. Lest we forget he travelled half way around the world just to see the bands he loved live, most people I know won’t travel between Southampton and Portsmouth for a gig.
If I were to take issue with any part of the book, and let’s face it, you know I will, it has to be the discography section. Appealing to the barely contained geek in me, the discography section always gets my attention; however I beg to differ with the one provided.
Whilst it is only a cursory glance at the singles from the time, I would question why only the USA releases were given and I am pretty sure that Battery, Master Of Puppets and several others were never released as singles. Perhaps as some kind of college radio track but certainly never an official release, I could go into great details about the promo and commercial issues from these albums but fear I would bore more than normal, so just take my word for it.
Metallica: The Early Years And The Rise Of Metal offers a fantastic overview of the period before the Black Album, it clearly defines Metallica’s importance in the scene they helped create and pay homage to those that made it possible. Some interesting contributions from a range of their peers adds some colour and the archive quotes from the band are insightful and show the progression the band made from wannabes to world beaters.
An overview of the American thrash scene at the end is a nice footnote and a reminder that Metallica may have been torchbearers, but they were not alone in shaping the sound of the genre.
Once again Neil Daniels has put together an entertaining and informative collection, full of facts but suitably breezy so as not to overwhelm. Whatever your interest is in Metallica, this is sure to make you think again… even about And Justice For All. Well, maybe I won’t go that far.
To find out more about Neil Daniels and his other works, click HERE.
You can order your copy of the Metallica book HERE.