Neil Daniels - Metallica - The Early Years and the Rise of Metal (Independent Music Press)
By: Ken McGrath
[6/10] There have been countless words written about Metallica. As the world's biggest metal band (letís not split hairs about what constitutes metal), everyone with even a passing interest in heavy music has an opinion on them. In fact, itís probable that anyone with an interest in music at all has had some experience of Metallica. Letís be honest, your granny more than likely knows their name even if sheís never heard a note. So with that in mind, Neil Daniels has taken a very smart approach in focusing only on the early years of Metallica, specifically the first four albums 1983s Kill ĎEm All, Ď84s Ride The Lightening, Master of Puppets in 1986 and concluding with Ď88s ÖAnd Justice For All. Those were the formative Metallica albums, the ones where they went from being young kids out to jump in the fire and create something new, to a Grammy nominated, world touring metal institution.
And in fairness thereís plenty of ground to cover in that decade, from the initial days of the band, to the ousting of Dave Mustaine through to the death of Cliff Burton and the recruitment of Jason Newstead. Then there are the musical changes they went through during, beginning as one of the bands who defined the thrash sound, to recording ďFade to Black," through to the extremes of Justice, in terms of the length of the songs and the questionable production. What they did afterwards, the further deviations from their original sound, the cutting of the hair, the touring on Lollapalooza, the Napster issue, the playing with an orchestra, THAT album and subsequent documentary, THAT album with Lou Reed Ė all these things donít come into play at all and by choosing to end his story at the close of the 1980's Mr,. Daniels allows the focus to be untainted by views of what the future would bring.
And whatever your opinions on those choices (good or bad) you cannot deny the impact those early albums had in shaping not only the sound of heavy metal to come, but also how it was perceived, helping to bring if out of the ghetto until it was bothering the mainstream. If youíre honest with yourself the very fact youíre reading this website at all means that you must have some experience of Metallica.
This then is a fertile period for investigation, which makes it disappointing that what we get tells a story most people are already overly familiar with and which never really manages to get under the surface enough or reveal more than you likely already know. In fairness to him, Daniels has done his homework and clearly put in the time researching and getting interviews with the likes of Diamond Headís Brian Tatler and respected journalists Joel McIver and Martin Popoff, itís just that what we end up with is a potted history, fattened up wit second hand information. How many times do we need to be told for that Metallica were influenced by Diamond Head (often followed by Motorhead in brackets straight away)? A more careful read through from an editor wouldnít have gone astray either.
It would have been interesting if more attention had been paid to the fact that the conditions which created Metallica can never happen again, thanks to the internet, downloading and the easier access to music. We do get some good stories though about how Lars Ulrich introduced pretty much everyone in L.A. to the British and European metal of the time. Thereís no denying that this is interesting stuff, itís just not giving anything new.
Rightly or wrongly we donít get much of the Dave Mustaine story, of the rivalry with Megadeth and the reviews/dissections of the albums themselves are too short and barely give enough detail. They do make you want to go back and listen to each album as youíre reading about it though, so thatís a definite positive. The passion for Metallica does come across and itís great to get a look into what they were for those first ten years or so and how that sense of pushing boundaries/never repeating themselves was always there from the start. An interesting read but one thatíll leave you hungry for more information.