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Ingham, Chris
Metallica (Book review)
March 2017
Released: 2009, Carlton Books
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: JP

Many years ago Chris Ingham, in 2002, editor of Metal Hammer UK published a big coffee-table book called THE BOOK OF METAL. It was pretty poor. I reviewed it back in 2011 on this site. In 2003 he published a book about the lyrics of Metallica. I did not get it at the time and it was updated in 2009. In late 2016, I found an inexpensive copy of the 2009 updated version. Setting aside my reservations, I bought the book.

Simply entitled METALLICA, this book is a part of the ‘Stories Behind The Songs’ series that focuses on mainstream rock and pop artists. It is a smallish paperback, full colour, nicely appointed and makes a handy reference guide. It is a couple hundred pages long with tons of colour photos from across the ages. The whole point of the book is, as the subtitle might suggest, an extensive song-by-song analysis of the bands entire catalogue.

The book starts with about a 31 page conventional retelling of the influences, formation and history of the band. It’s adequate, nothing new, probably unnecessary because the story has been told 1000 times before, but it serves as a nice prequel for the one guy on the planet who has never read a book or has seen a documentary about one of the world’s biggest bands. Then we get to the meat of the book, the song-by-song analysis and description of the lyrics. It focuses on the studio albums, and skips most of the rarities, B-sides, covers etc. There is a lot of interesting trivia and as a causal listener since 1991, I did learn a lot. Much of it is backed up by quotes by the various members on the meaning behind the lyrics. There are a few little side-bars, injecting detail about line-up changes and so forth.

I’m certainly not the world’s biggest Metallica fan but I certainly enjoyed this book more than I expected too. I especially enjoyed learning about the lyrics of the bands later discography (post self-titled, 1991 album) that I never really related to on any cerebral level. I never thought that Hatfield was an especially good lyricist, but I gained some new respect for him after reading this book.

METALLICA was a nice surprise. Ingham, who was clearly out of his element tackling a big book about Metal does a very solid job on the much more mainstream and digestible band. METALLICA is worth getting for sure, if you are like me, a person that pays attention to lyrics and much as music.
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