Birth, School, Metallica, Death

Review by Steve Black

Steve Black and James Hetfield at the 2013 Orion Festival

When it comes to a good biography I'm only looking for a couple of things; I'd like to learn and be entertained.

the new book Birth, School, Metallica, Death delivers on both counts.

I became aware of Metallica in 1984, but honestly didn't really connect with the music until I saw Metallica open for Ozzy in 1986 on their Master of Puppets Tour. The raw energy and the power they summoned at Joe Louis Arena that night revealed a depth to me that made me re-listen to all of those early songs from a new perspective. In a way the book does the same thing.

Most of us know the story of Lars placing an ad in The Recycler reading "Drummer looking for other metal musicians to jam with" and that leading to James Hetfield meeting Lars and the formation of the band. but a deeper look at that historic moment on page 120 shows that the magic wasn't instant: "The blame for which lay at the drumsticks of Ulrich. Baldy put, the kid couldn't play. He could certainly talk - yap, yap, yapping constantly in a sing song accent which seemed to traverse the Atlantic Ocean without ever dropping anchor - but the task of holding down even the most rudimentary 4/4 beat seemed hopelessly beyond him."

the story of course builds as the music gets better and as some of the musicians are fired and replaced until the line up of James, Lars, Cliff and Kirk are assembled. With each album Metallica fight their way into the history books with unforgiving desire and a sound that had not existed before them.

The darkest part of the book of course was the loss of Cliff Burton in the bus accident that claimed him, in part because of bad luck. Page 227 "Inside the vehicle kirk Hammett and Cliff Burton drew cards in order to determine which member of the band would that night sleep in the bunk fitted with a window. 'The first card Cliff picked was the ace of spades and he looked at me and said "I want your bunk" Hammett recalls. 'And I said fine, take my bunk, I'll sleep up front, that's probably better anyway." - the final words Kirk would ever say to his friend.

In addition to the details of the stories I already knew it was cool to read about the stuff I didn't know, like Metallica's first tour was opening for a band I liked better than Metallica at the time; Raven, or that they moved from L.A. to San Francisco as a condition to Cliff joining the band.

If you like Bios, this will give you a great trip into the formation and rise of one of America's most successful rock bands of all time.




 


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