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:: Spotlight :: Book Review - Mustaine: A Life In Metal – Hello Me … Meet The Real Me

By: Justin Donnelly

Mustaine: A Life In Metal – Hello Me … Meet The Real Me, written by Dave Mustaine And Joe Layden (HarperCollins Publishers)

A year and a half after first announcing that work had commenced on his upcoming autobiography, Dave Mustaine has finally unveiled his long awaited life story told in all its gory glory.

Co-authored alongside New York Times journalist Joe Layden, ‘A Life In Metal’ is a frank and detailed account of the life and times of the infamous vocalist/guitarist/song writer, both as a founding member of Metallica, and the driving force behind his own successful band Megadeth. The story opens up interestingly enough in Texas in January 2002, where Mustaine was once again doing another stint at rehab (His seventeenth visit by his count), and the very place where an unfortunate accident occurred to his left hand while taking a short nap. The twisted sleeping position resulted in a pinched nerve injury that almost spelled the end of Mustaine’s ability to use his left hand, and for all intents and purposes, could have almost certainly ended his career. The event was obviously a major turning point in Mustaine’s life, on a personal level, a spiritual level and from a professional point of view. And while the story is a short one, it’s certainly a captivating one.

From here, the three hundred and fifty page book reverts back to the start, with Mustaine speaking openly about life growing up in a family of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and life on the run from an alcoholic father. The story itself is quite fast paced, and essentially an easy read. Mustaine’s story is told candidly, but not to the extent where the reader feels bogged down in pointless details.

The story behind Mustaine’s early childhood clearly shows just how much his experiences helped to shape and guide the life he chose to pursue, and goes some way to explaining why the same lifestyle choices would inevitably lead to his downfall throughout most of his adult life. The book obviously delves into Mustaine’s involvement in his first real band Panic, which then inevitably leads to his role within the early formation of Metallica. Mustaine isn’t afraid to point out the many mistakes he made while he was within the band, but he points out that the other members of the band were no angels either. His eventual dismissal remains a scar that has far from healed from Mustaine’s point of view, but by the way the story is portrayed here, it’s clear that Mustaine has come to terms with a lot of his past anger and betrayal, or at least enough to admit that a large part of the fault lies squarely upon his shoulders.

From here, Mustaine recounts the formation of Megadeth (Including a comprehensive detailed account of the many members that filtered through the band’s ranks before the eventual release of their debut effort ‘Killing Is My Business… And Business Is Good!’ in 1985), the group’s growing success within the burgeoning thrash scene, and Mustaine’s own growing chemical dependencies.

Mustaine’s account of Megadeth’s early years is told with humour, and with real honesty. Despite the drugs, the line-up changes and the emerging feud between his old band and his new one, Mustaine doesn’t pull any punches in telling the story how it was, and going to great lengths to reinforce what was already obvious, but never really confirmed throughout that time – Mustaine may have been the mastermind and driving force behind Megadeth, but he was also the architect for a lot of his own personal downfalls, and the band’s own in-house problems.

Mustaine comes across as quite humble, and more often than not, freely admits that he was to blame his own bad behaviour towards fellow band members and his family (Both while on drugs and while sober – regardless of how short that particular time frame might have been). He’s also quick to point out where he’s made amends to those he’s done wrong by, which in some ways shows just how much Mustaine has matured over the years.
He also goes to great lengths to explain his path towards spiritual redemption throughout the book, with the near paralysing accident with his left hand proving to be the catalyst – the point at where Mustaine finally decided to re-evaluate his life (Both from a band perspective and on a personal level), and wholeheartedly give himself to (Christian) faith, reconnect with his family and rid himself of the additions that had long dominated his life.
But while ‘A Life In Metal’ is a riveting read, it does have some problems. First and foremost, the book rarely delves into the mechanics behind the music of Megadeth. As the title suggests, ‘A Life In Metal’ is generally centred on Mustaine’s life, rather than focussing primarily on the music of Megadeth (And Metallica to some extent).

While the book goes into some detail about Mustaine’s song writing contribution to Metallica’s debut effort ‘Kill ‘Em All’ (1983), there’s no mention made of his song writing efforts on ‘Ride The Lightning’ (1984). Given the anger and venom dished out to Metallica over the use of his songs, the lack of coverage over the two songs on the band’s follow up effort (The title track and ‘The Call Of Ktulu’) just seems odd. The book also brushes over Megadeth’s latter era efforts, in particular ‘The World Needs A Hero’ (2001), ‘The System Has Failed’ (2004), ‘United Abominations’ (2007) and ‘Endgame’ (2009). While not all of the albums are quite up to the classic of the band’s early era, they do seem to be brushed over rather quickly, with their coverage virtually non-existent for the most part (Which is strange given how much of the book is devoted to 1999’s rather savaged and rather risky sounding ‘Risk’).

Other notable absences include Ed Repka’s involvement in the band’s history (The infamous artist who created many of the band’s early album covers and associated merchandise artwork) and guitarist Chris Poland, who returned to the band as guest guitarist on ‘The System Has Failed’. Perhaps it was due to legal reasons (The book was heavily edited before going to print), or Mustaine’s unwillingness to give the pair any extra exposure beyond what was already mentioned. Either way, the lack of involvement in Mustaine’s life story gives the book a bit of an incomplete feel in places. Overall, ‘A Life In Metal’ is a fascinating read, and one that reads like an expanded version of Megadeth’s ‘Behind The Music’ (1991) documentary D.V.D. in printed form.

If you’re a fan of Megadeth, then ‘A Life In Metal’ is a must have. While the book primarily focuses on Mustaine’s own personal life, and generally skims over the majority of Megadeth’s recorded works, there is more than enough within this book to keep fans enthralled and satisfied.

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