Mciver, Joel – Justice for all: The Truth About Metallica (Book Review)

Spread the metal:

Reviewed: July 2012
Released: 2009, Omnibus Press
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: JP


The biggest and best Metallica biography to date.

For about 20 years (1988-2008) I had pretty much given up on Metallica. After AND JUSTICE FOR ALL I felt they got bogged down in arena rock, covers albums, symphonic albums, self-indulgent grunge albums and poorly produced garage rock albums. Of course, my opinion is in the extreme minority as the band catapulted to the stratosphere to become one of the most influential, most popular, best-selling bands of all time. With the resultant fame there came all the peripheral products: DVD’s, a movie and of course books. Lots of books. There are photo books, academic books, historical books and several biographies. I felt it was high time that we got caught up on some of the many Metallica books that have been published in the past decade or so. This month I am featuring and reviewing six titles about Metallica and a bonus book about the origins of Bay-area thrash. They are (listed by authors last name)

-Daniels: Metallica-The Early Years (2012)
-Halfin: Metallica (2006)
-Irwin (ed.) Metallica And Philosophy (2007)
-McIver: And Justice For All (2004/2009)
-McIver: To Live Is To Die (2009)
-McPadden: If You Like Metallica (2012)
and the bonus book, Oimoen/Lew: Murder In The Front Row (2012)

Please feel free to read and enjoy all the book reviews for Metallica Month. This list is by no means comprehensive there are many more books about Metallica for you to enjoy.

I’ve had this book for quite a long time but never wrote a review because JUSTICE FOR ALL: THE TRUTH ABOUT METALLICA is so well known, and so respected that years later it seemed like a moot point to throw my pithy little commentary into the fray. There are so many reviews of this book and they all (pretty much) say the same thing, it’s the best of the best of the Metallica biographies. However, doing my Metallica feature I couldn’t leave it out so I’m going to throw my two-cents into the ring. First published in 2004, updated in 2006 and again in 2009 this is the third edition. McIver comments about the evolution and state of the band between 2004 and 2008 in his preface to the 2009 edition. This thing is massive, over 400 pages of quite small font. There are about 45 black and white photos, some real rare gems for you to enjoy as you read. There is a nice Foreword by T.G Warrior and a sincere introduction from McIver. He said he didn’t try to get the book authorized because he didn’t want to compromise his ability to tell the story. He says Metallica made ‘mistakes’ (No kidding! Under-statement of the year!) and yes, McIver is critical and doesn’t pull any punches. I think the readership (now 40,000+ strong in five languages) appreciates the fact that McIver tells the whole story…the truth about Metallica. Besides, Ulrich has complimented McIver on his book and Hammet agreed to write the Foreword for his next Metallica book about Cliff Burton (TO LIVE IS TO DIE) after the publication of this title, so obviously the band wasn’t that annoyed with this ‘unauthorized’ biography. There are many and this is the best of the bunch.

McIver personally conducted 70 interviews spanning 1996 and 2003 and he says that no more than 5% of the material inside JUSTICE FOR ALL has been previously published. So essentially, this is all new material. For the 2009 edition there are about 60-70 pages of new material making an upgrade of your original version well worth-while. This covers naturally the Metallica movie and the Death Magnetic Era and fixes a few, little technical errors that were scattered around the earlier editions.
In a bit of a lame, cop-out on my part I’m not going to extensively discuss the bulk of the book. As I implied earlier there are countless reviews of the book floating around on the internet (and as of time of publication of this book review in July, 2012) there are almost 30 on, 17 on and another 8 on, so there are at least 55 reviews of this book to go read if you want. Instead, I’m going to layout the contextual framework McIver choose for the book. The sub-title ‘THE TRUTH ABOUT METALLICA is telling. McIver takes 13 ‘myths’ as he calls them and addresses each one separately as they fall chronologically through the timeline of the bands existence. They are…

-Myth 1: Metallica were the first thrash Metal band.
-Myth 2: Metallica’s first album KILL ‘EM ALL was the first thrash Metal album.
-Myth 3: Lars and James run Metallica and always have.
-Myth 4: Lars and James write all the songs and bring the best musicianship to the band.
-Myth 5: With MASTER OF PUPPETS Metallica made the finest thrash album of all time.
-Myth 6: The Ljungby coach crash was caused by black ice.
-Myth 7: If Cliff had lived, Metallica’s future path would have been different.
-Myth 8: METALLICA is variously Metallica’s best, worst, best-sounding, best-produced, sell-out, breakthrough or definitive album.
-Myth 9: The (METALLICA) album changed the face of Metal.
-Myth 10: The (METALLICA) album is massively over-rated.
-Myth 11: LOAD and RELOAD were the innovative sound of Metallica growing up and stretching out.
-Myth 12: By 2001, Metallica had simply become a bunch of money-obsessed, corporate business operators. With the Napster case they demonstrated that they had completely lost all respect for their fan-base.
-Myth 13: The case was much more than Napster vs. Metallica: many fundamental issues such as freedom of speech were called into question.
-Myth 13: (Bonus myth) Metallica are and always have been the best Heavy Metal band in the world.

McIvers methodically deconstructs these myths in a fair and even-handed way. He also adds quite a bit of insight, opinion and analysis of Metallica, the Metal scene and Metal in general, all in relation to Metallica of course and I felt this extra input added dimension and character to the book instead of just regurgitation of facts, encyclopedia style. Despite not having interviews with the members of the band for this title I feel this is the best Metallica biography on the market. Author Mike McPadden in his recent Metallica book characterizes JUSTICE FOR ALL as ‘Obsessive, exhaustive and epic.” I have to agree.

Track Listing:

Technical Details:
Format Reviewed:
Publisher: Omnibus Press
Pages: 410