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Chirazi, Stephen (editor)
So What? (Book Review)
May 2014
Released: 2004, Broadway Books
Rating: 4.0/5
Reviewer: JP

There are all sorts of books, biographies, autobiographies, academic publications and many more but this is quite a unique idea. Back in 1993 Metallica started publishing a fan magazine, not just any old fan newsletter but a nice one. In fact in the intro of ‘SO WHAT’ James Hetfield says, “The idea being to break the myth that that a fan club can’t be more than something that demands $25.00 from eager fans and they get a merchandise flyer once a year.” A noble sentiment and by just glancing at this book, I think they succeeded.

Now after about the first decade of the magazine, the band published the highlights of the fan newsletters into the first ‘official’ Metallica book. This hard cover comes with a dust jacket and simple sleek, black layout and design. A generous 278 pages, all of it is printed on thick glossy paper in full-colour of course. It is very appealing to look at. To me the layout and design is very cluttered giving it the look and feel of a scrapbook with lots of overlaying things and a very busy, energetic look. The book is divided into 11 chapters with titles like ‘Kirk’s Sweaty Underwear’ or ‘Midriff-Glockenspiel-Fucking-Pot-Bullet-Part’ .

There is a ton going on in this book. There are hundreds, maybe even 100 photos or graphics of everything conceivable, related to Metallica. The book starts with a reprinting of an old article about Metallica written by Stephen Chirazi. The article first appeared in Sounds in 1984 and Stephan has been a part of Camp Metallica ever since. Chirazi serves as ‘Creative Director’ for the book. There is a tribute to Cliff Burton and then the book is off to the races with so much Metallica it would be futile to try to explain it all in this review. There are Q& A segments where the band answers fans questions, most of the time with a joke! There are countless candid and backstage photos, stills from video shoots, and lots of interviews, articles, sketches, lyrics, notes, jokes, it is the Metallica scrapbook from hell. There are a few candid and intimate moments but for the most part the book is upbeat and positive, but not afraid to let people have a peak behind the magic curtain.

Except for my minor dissatisfaction with layout and design, I enjoyed SO WHAT much more than I thought I would. As I’ve said often before, I lost track of Metallica, especially between 1993 and 2004 so this really brought me up to date. The candid photos, the humour, the memorabilia, the intimate look into the bands lives make this a real treat. If you already own the individual magazine issues this is in a sense a glorified re-printing of existing material. For the rest of us, the fact that they thoughtfully compiled this collection so fans don’t have to chase down rare and expensive original copies of the magazine, make this book an excellent addition to your library. Die-hard Metallica fans bump this score up to 4.5.
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