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Branigan, Paul & Winwood, Ian
Into The Black (Book Review)
January 2015
Released: 2014, DeCapo Press
Rating: 3.0/5
Reviewer: JP

When I reviewed the first part of the two volume series I had this nagging feeling that the authors weren’t really Metal fans. As it turns out more and more evidence mounts to show that my suspicions were correct and that the pair of gentlemen were perhaps not the best pair to write the history of Metallica. I’ll expand on this in a moment but as it stands London based authors Paul Brannigan and Ian Winwood have written Volume II of their Metallica biography, entitled INTO THE BLACK.

The first book was called BIRTH SCHOOL METALLCIA DEATH-The Biography Volume I. For some reason this book which is Volume II is called INTO THE BLACK-THE INSIDE STORY OF METALLICA 1991-2014. There is no consistency in title, cover art, style and little to no connection between the two books. Would it have been that hard to come up with a thematically consistent presentation? No matter. It is still a nice hard cover with a smattering of colour photos on glossy plates and a nice glossy, embossed dust jacket. Otherwise the 290 book is pretty streamlined, no foreword, no bibliography or special features.

In my first review I said I was really looking forward to Volume II as the territory covered in Viol I was so common and so familiar it was not really that interesting to read. As I had not seriously followed Metallica since about 1990 I hoped to glean new and interesting information. The results were mixed. Branningan and Winwood have interviewed Metallica many, many times for such mainstream (non-Metal) magazines as Rolling Stone and Mojo and other such publications that are generally not interested in Metal at best or deliberately anti-Metal at best. After the self-titled album, Metallica became so big the mainstream virtually no choice but to pay attention to the band they had ignored and/or derided for the first decade of the bands existence. So the stage is set, two high profile writers get golden passes and get flown to various high-profile Metallica gigs around the world for mainstream non-Metal magazines and results are predictable…they really haven’t got a clue.

Branningan and Winwood epitomize the worst tendencies of the mainstream UK press; they are cynical, critical, negative and the writing is laced with mean-spirited humour. At one point they were flown to a Metallica concert in a stadium in the US and getting plied with free drinks (on Metallica’s dime) and they are complaining…yes…complaining (!) about the attitude of the person serving them free drinks backstage! Unbelievable. Not only did that anecdote add nothing to the history of Metallica it served to expose just how jaded and entitled these guys are. There are many stories like this, such as how one of them felt ‘dismay’ that he didn’t get to be in the Metallica movie! There are constant repeated attacks on Heavy Metal, bands and musicians demonstrating that the authors were cut from the same cloth as their employers…they aren’t really Metal fans, just corporate journalists getting paid to interview one of the biggest bands in the world without really having any concept about the band.

I cannot believe the inherent strain of total denial and complete misunderstanding about Metallica massive failures and their role in Heavy Metal. I cringed and winced so many times reading this as they placated their corporate overlords by defending Metallica absolutely horrible post 1990 output. I can honestly say I have never, ever met a Metal fan (not rock fan, a METAL fan) who has liked LOAD, RELOAD, ST. ANGER or LULU and somehow the authors defend those albums, because the authors have to, somehow, placate the band and the magazine or they would never be granted an interview again and the advertisers don’t like that! The history in INTO THE BLACK is sparse, they leave out many, many, many Metallica releases choosing only to focus on the studio albums. The information they provide on post 1991 Metallica is very limited, it could be found on Wikipedia, except for the amusing personal anecdotes. They admit that this book is drawn more form personal experiences meeting the band many times, but the thrust switched from the history of the band to looking at the foibles of each member of Metallica.

Sweeping all of that criticism aside, INTO THE BLACK, much like Vol I, is a very good book. It’s readable, well-paced, well thought out, and hits all the minimum mandatory highlights. The target audience is the mainstream rock crowd, not true Metallica fans. If a person was not familiar with the band, nor had watched SOME KIND OF MONSTER or THROUGH THE NEVER, they will get an enormous amount of pleasure and the book does live up to it’s sub-title, ‘The Inside Story of Metallica’. It is a bit of insiders glimpse into the machinery behind one of the world’s biggest bands. In my review of the first book I was more generous and tolerant of the flaws but those same flaws got progressively worse and amplified in Volume II, hence the less than stellar rating.
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