A lot has been written about Metallica, ranging from scathing criticism to fawning praise. The truth, as always, lies in between. The band is composed of three-dimensional human beings, just like you and I both. This here is a fine update of Joel McIver’s best-selling book on Metallica, named after what I consider to be their last Master-piece (pun intended!).
McIver is a fine writer and a decent human being, something increasingly rare in this business, but we can put that down to the influence of the internet, an invention that makes people feel they can say whatever they like, no matter how nasty, from a safe distance. Old school is always the best. He is just the man to write this book, as it is a very human story, it is all about human feelings, and whether positive or negative, Metallica stir plenty of strong feelings!
McIver’s fair, knowledgeable straight-talking makes him the ideal writer to cover Metallica. The fact that he is a musician gives the book an added dimension, and helps him give balanced opinions. Still, McIver doesn’t pull any punches. He talks about the dire St Anger ‘album’ (I use the term loosely, a group of dysfunctional millionaires jamming does not an album make, and I still want my money back. What a rip-off!), He describes James Hetfield as sounding like a “whining child”. Of Death Magnetic, much trumpeted in the metal media, he describes it as respectable, but this is being too charitable. It’s an improvement on St Anger, but an album so creatively redundant as to feature a song entitled ‘Unforgiven III’ is, pun-intended, unforgivable.
Of Some Kind Of Monster, McIver writes: “Lars comes across like a spoilt millionaire child who can’t express himself and sulks instead; James seems unreasonable for imposing his schedule on the rest of the band.” I think you have to laugh at the self-important arrogance of the very concept of Some Kind Of Monster. If you or I have a problem with friends, workmates, family, whatever, we have to either sort it out ourselves or tolerate it. The egotism of not only getting a ‘performance coach,’ but actually expecting to make money out of the long-suffering fans by filming it, is an arrogance that defies belief. The scene of Lars sipping champagne backstage at an art auction whilst his art sells for millions is a graphic illustration of the grand canyon size abyss that exists between Metallica and the fans who have made them rich. On their latest attempt to conquer the world of cinema, McIver writes, “without wishing to sound jaded, ‘Metallica: Through The Never’ is just fine; a mildly gripping couple of hours of entertainment that you need to see if you’re new to Metallica- but if you’re already a fan you can live without.”
If you buy only one book on Metallica, make it this one. I’ll leave the final words to McIver:
“The greatest heavy metal band in the world? Yes-once upon a time. But no longer. The challenge that Metallica now have before them is to show is whether they can return to their previous form: and the profound evolution which they have endured in recent years, as shown to us so clearly in ‘Some Kind of Monster’, provides us with a small spark of hope.”
Also, “Death Magnetic’ was a promising step in the right direction, even if it lacked the superhuman qualities of Metallica’s 1980s material: the challenge now for the band is to deliver music that comes even closer to that legendary, far-off era. We can only hope.”