Sweating Bullets: The Deth And Rebirth Of Megadeth (Book Review)
Released: 2014, PowerChord Press
One of my greatest disappointments about the Dave Mustaine autobiography (MUSTAINE) and Dave Ellefson’s autobiography (MY LIFE WITH DETH) was that neither book was really about Megadeth. Both books had massive gaps in information about the band. In fact, in my March 2014 review of Ellefson’s autobiography I stated that the ultimate Megadeth book has yet to be written. Martin Popoff has now written that book and it’s called SWEATING BULLETS. It is another first for Popoff. Popoff has been the first to write books about at least a dozen bands from Dio to the Scorpions and now he is the first to write a book about Megadeth that isn’t just a comic, collection of photos or Guitar tab book. In hindsight it’s strange it took someone this long to write a biography about one of Metal’s most popular and enduring bands.
SWEATING BULLETS is a standard PowerChord press production, a nice oversized paperback that is a generous 340 pages long. It comes with a discography and follows a now familiar format, namely each chapter is dedicated to a Megadeth album/tour cycle. Martin follows the history of the recording sessions, the line-up changes, and then analyzes the album, song by song. Each album get equal and fair treatment, with his now legendary enthusiastic and quirky prose. It's nice to see the band get the detailed analysis they deserve. The bulk of the info comes directly from countless interviews that Martin conducted with not only Dave and Dave but also many, many other members including Toronto lads, the Drover brothers. Interesting to think that at one point Megadeth was 50% Canadian. Martin has interviewed Mustaine and Ellefson so man times they could almost classified as friends. You are not going to get a more detailed account of the band.
It’s interesting to think that after over 40 books SWEATING BULLETS is really Popoff’s first book about a heavy, contemporary Metal band. Don’t get me wrong I love all his work on the classic bands (UFO, Rainbow, Rush, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Ted Nugent etc) but his prior biographies have always been firmly rooted in the 70’s. Even though by 2014 standards, Megadeth is not really all that contemporary, but by the track record of publications by Popoff, Megadeth is one of the more ‘modern’ bands he has written about. He even speaks to this fact in his introduction. Popoff even says in the introduction that it was refreshing to write about a real ‘Metal’ band again. In fact, Megadeth is probably the ‘heaviest’ band he has written about. He also says he truly appreciates the more current Megadeth material, perhaps even more so than the albums that are widely regarded as superior, ie the first four albums. I think it takes a bit of courage to admit that but also in doing so he gains a huge advantage to be able to provide an enthusiastic and balanced perspective on the later era, an era that might normally be glossed over by a more traditional fan (like myself) who gave up on the band in the mid-90’s.
When reading SWEATING BULLETS I actually made a point of seriously re-listening to the last six studio albums again, just as Popoff suggested in his introduction and as Martin observed, they are not as bad as some people suggest. However, I just could not bring my self to listen to RISK again, sorry Martin. A man has to draw the line somewhere. I fit the profile of a ‘traditional’ Megadeth fan, namely, I loved the first four albums, was surprised but respected COUNTDOWN TO EXTINCTION, disappointed with YOUTHANSIA and then gave up on the band for almost 20 years, not following them in the media anymore and only occasionally checking in with the new studio albums. That is why I really enjoyed the second half of the book. I knew most of the stories from the first ten years 1984-1994 but most of the information from the next two decades was pretty new to me. This book was a bit of a turning point for me where I am now embracing the band again with renewed enthusiasm.
To summarize, Popoff covers all three eras of Megadeth equally, competently and most of all fairly. SWEATING BULLETS really is a masterwork, possibly his biggest and best biography to date. I can’t imagine any Megadeth fan, or even any thrash fan, not owning this important work.