A surprisingly average overview of the early years of Metallica
I’m not quite sure what it is about authors from England and their fascination with Metallica. Five of the nations biggest metal-scribes have all written books about Metallica; Malcolm Dome, Joel McIver, Paul Stenning, Mick Wall and now Neil Daniels. No matter. Someone needs to write about the band, it might as well be these fine gentlemen.
However, on sober second thought, we ought to ask a more critical question…do we need another book about Metallica? There are at least 17 books about the band already and Daniels new title, METALLICA-THE EARLY YEARS AND THE RISE OF METAL adds to the growing mountain of literature. In his introduction Daniels says that “…this is the only book to detail the most important era of their history.” I’m afraid I don’t agree. McIver’s benchmark Metallica tome JUSTICE FOR ALL-THE TRUTH ABOUT METALLICA extensively covers the early era of Metallica, in fact, likely in more detail than Daniels new title. METALLICA-THE EARLY YEARS AND THE RISE OF METAL is quite a short book, the actual part covering Metallica is about 150 pages. By way of comparison the chapters in McIver’s book that cover the same timeframe, 1980-1989 are almost 200 pages long, in smaller font no less. Don’t get me wrong, Daniels does a great job and gives ample credit, (and makes references) to McIver’s books but to say, this is the only book that covers the early era might be over-stating the matter.
In the spirit of Metal we will assume that ‘too much is never enough’ and give the book the benefit of the doubt. It’s a nice looking paperback about 200 pages long, with the core of the actual text being 150 pages. There are many good bonus features, a Foreword by Brian Tatler of Diamond Head, an introduction by Daniels, quite a few black and white photos of cool memorabilia, timelines, a discography, lots of references and additional materials and an Afterword by author and NWOBHM expert, John Tucker. The most interesting bonus feature (above and beyond the biographical account of the 1980-1989) is an appendix with a collection of succinct and well-written mini-biographies about various American bands that (for the most part) were part of the rise of Thrash Metal. You know who they are, I don’t need to list them.
Daniels research into the early years is extensive and thorough and he does unearth a few new tidbits of information but for the most part the script is a conventional retelling of the story of the band. The book follows a logically, follows a linear sequence. Each chapter covers and album-tour cycle chronicling the first four records. Daniels is quite astute is noting that the cries of ‘sell-out’ were heard as far back as RIDE THE LIGHTNING and he acknowledges (on several occasions) that there are fans (like myself, as noted in the introduction to this review) that only find value value in the first three albums. He calls these people the ‘hard-core’ fans, which I would disagree with his choice of words. The ‘hard-core’ fans are the ones who stayed loyal and with the band on it’s 30 years journey, not the thrash fans like me who pretty much gave up on them when the self-titled album came out. That is just splitting hairs. We know what he means. There are the two types of Metallica fans; the thrash fans (first three albums only), and everyone else on the planet. The pattern of prose in each chapter follows the same pattern: some history, some recording history, a song-by song analysis, some tour info, a bunch of quotes from various authors/journalists about each album relating to it\’s influence and/or merits and some documentation of mainstream critical acclaim for each album.
I get the impression that this book was rushed or maybe not very well-edited. There are quite a few mistakes. At one point Neil says there are five members of Metallica. He calls a Saxon album, STRONG ARM OF THE LEATHER. (not ‘Law’) He says Venom have songs called ‘Back Diamond’ and ‘Cold Gin’. I could swear those are Kiss songs. He refers to the webzine that journalist Justin Horton writes for as ‘Hellhound’ when it is actually Hellbound (with a ‘b’). The most glaring mistake is Daniels constantly getting the name of Metallica\’s 1987 EP incorrect. He constantly refers to it as GARAGE DAYS REVISTED. The sub-title of the 1984, Creeping Death single was \’Garage Days Revisited\’. The full title of the 1987 EP is ‘THE $5.98 E.P. GARAGE DAYS RE-REVISITED. It is the second release of a batch of cover tunes they used to play in the garage, hence the awkward ‘re-revisited’ phrase. It\’s a common mistake made by the average Metallica fan so it is not an unforgivable sin, but I expect better from Daniels.
I’d suggest that any book about Metallica is a good book however the law of averages states some of these books will be better METALLICA-THE EARLY YEARS AND THE RISE OF METAL feels rushed, lacks new info, is pretty brief and is scattered with mistakes. His main thesis that early Metallica is influential on Metal is like saying, ‘the sky is blue’. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed everything that Daniels has done in the past and it pains me to suggest this, but I feel he missed the mark on this one. My average score of 2.5 out of 5 reflects an another ‘average’ book about Metallica. If this is your first purchase of a book about Metallica I would bump up my rating considerably higher. For a die-hard (or hard-core!) fan of the band who has read every book about the band, you may not see the immediate merit of this biography, despite being well-done.