Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Mustaine: A Heavy Metal Memoir

Even if his leering mug didn't greet you on the cover, any headbanger worth his horns could tell who wrote this book from the first sentence of its first real paragraph: "James Hetfield, who used to be one of my best friends, as close as a brother, once observed with some incredulity that I must have been born with a horseshoe up my ass."

The irascible Dave Mustaine never forgot that he was expelled from Metallica years ago, and he won't let anyone else forget, seemingly unable to get through an interview without mentioning his former bandmates. It's also the tip of the iceberg for Mustaine, whose brashness, ego, insecurity and flat-out craziness makes him one of metal's most fascinating figures, and makes his memoir a blast to read. "Meet the real me," indeed.

Calling Dave Mustaine a drama magnet would be an understatement. From growing up under an abusive father in California to a nearly-fatal amount of drug use to an arm injury that nearly ended his career, he's had anything but a smooth ride. He fires musicians the way that George Steinbrenner fired coaches, seems to get in at least two fistfights per chapter, tags groupies like he's competing with Mötley Crüe and stands by his refusal to play with Satanic bands. Somehow he finds time to lead one of the greatest metal bands in history and reshape modern music with albums like Rust in Peace, but music is secondary here. Mustaine focuses more on debauchery and an almost comical amount of trash talk.

Few characters make it to the end of the book unscathed. Aerosmith, Howard Stern, Billy Ray Cyrus (!?) and scores of bandmates, girls, producers and music biz folks are subjected to Mustaine's venom. Poor Dave Ellefson is labeled "a pathetic, ungrateful asshole." Some of Mustaine's rants seem fair (imagine Jello Biafra being a long-winded moonbat!) and some of them probably aren't, but it never stops being entertaining.

Of course, there's plenty of bitterness about the other "M" word. Mustaine can't resist calling "Enter Sandman" a ripoff, enlightening us that he banged Kirk Hammet's "semiserious" squeeze, reminding us that he wrote the best songs on Kill 'Em All and going out of his way to detail more unflattering James and Lars stories than necessary. Maybe he needs to let go, but remind yourself that his desperate need to compete with Metallica resulted some astonishingly great music. Could there be a Rust in Peace if he weren't trying to outplay ...And Justice for All, or a Countdown to Extinction is he weren't trying to outsell the Black Album?

Unlike The Dirt or I am Ozzy, Mustaine isn't revelatory enough hold much interest to anyone who isn't already a fan. But for those of us who grew up in awe of MegaDave's talent and embarrassed by his tactlessness, Mustaine is a perfect summer read.

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