Dave Mustaine - Mustaine: A Heavy Metal Memoir
It Books

Release year: 2010
Reviewed by Steve
Major event

I have broken a man’s leg with a dark arts hex.

I’ve done every drug there is – shit-tons, in fact.

I’ve screwed as many chicks as any one man can handle. Often more than one at once.

I kicked Chris Poland’s ass.

I kicked James Hetfield’s.

I kicked Armored Saint’s ass.

I kicked some random dude’s ass when James Hetfield pussed out on me.

I made Metallica what they are.

I made Slayer what they are.

I invented thrash metal.

I am a bad motherfucker!

These are bold claims. Amazingly, in Dave Mustaine’s case, most of them are actually, or probably, or at least maybe, mostly true. Depending on who you ask, of course. The man is not bashful, that’s for sure, but hey, if you have even a passing interest in metal music, you haven’t read anything here that you didn’t already know. And that’s the problem with Mustaine’s recently released memoir, there’s really not a lot of news broken and hardly any insight into Mustaine’s music writing process. The majority of the pages in this book are devoted to cliché tales of hedonism, petty score settling, and the eternal axe-grinding over his unceremonious termination from employment with an early Metallica. The overwhelming sensation one encounters when finished reading the book is sadness. It’s just too bad that Dave hurt as many people as he did, too bad he can’t get over something that happened so long ago, and too bad that, as unquestionably excellent and foundational as his early musical output was, we’ll never know how much better it could’ve been or what other wonders he might have produced because he was an alcoholic, heroin junkie, and cokehead through all of the 1980s and for some time after that.

There are occasional glimmers of humility, such as “Chris Poland was an incredibly dexterous guitar player – better than I was time, at the time, for sure,” or Dave writing that he crumbled from the realization that Marty Freidman was “more talented, more committed, more … everything” upon meeting and playing with him. There is also Dave’s admission that he was devastated by the death of Metallica bassist Cliff Burton, crying for hours upon hearing the news, and that, while the Lyrics were inspired by a love interest, musically, In My Darkest Hour was informed by that tragedy. At one point, Mustaine writes “After all those years of being the invisible, skinny redhead in school, I had become the coolest guy in the room.” That sentence tells us more about who he really is than the rest of the book combined.

However, these little bits of vulnerability are far outweighed by gems like this: “Without my songs and my solos – without my energy – I don’t know that Metallica ever would have become the band that is was.” Or this one: “The day after I was dismissed from Metallica, Kirk Hammet was in New York, taking my place at the Music Building, auditioning for my role in the band, and mimicking the blistering lead guitar solos I had created, solos that stand today as the genesis of thrash metal.” Now, many musicians from the birth of the sub-genre will testify that Dave’s work was indeed the key to unlocking the riches that flowed from the hall of thrash metal. But it seems like more than a small stretch to take any credit for Ride the Lightning, Master of Puppets, or … And Justice For All. That’s why Dave’s bitterness at not being invited to appear on stage at the induction of Metallica into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame seems so ridiculous. Here’s a guy who is really the only person who ever got rich off of Megadeth (because he always got the publishing royalties, something he claims resulted from record labels preferring he write the band’s material) bitching about not getting credit for the black album, when he was gone before Metallica even released their first record. Megadeth will likely be inducted into the Hall one day as well. It will be very interesting to see how many of the band’s twenty three members are on stage with Dave that night! While Dave does allow that “there’s also no way to rationalize or explain my obsession with success, recognition, respect,” he also writes that “You had to be there to understand what it was like, to feel like your changing the world. And then to have it pulled out from under you and to see and hear reminders of what might have been every single day, for the rest of your life. And you know – you just fucking know – whatever you accomplish somehow it will never be quite good enough.”

There are funny parts in the book, although since Dave had a coauthor, you can’t be sure whose voice you’re really hearing. Then there are the parts that are unintentionally funny, like this: “Using a martial arts move known as the Eagle Claw, I grabbed him by the throat, locking my left thumb against his windpipe and cocking my right arm at the elbow.” Sometimes Dave comes across as a real-life Napoleon Dynamite.

For casual fans, Mustaine: A Heavy Metal Memoir may very well be an interesting or entertaining read. Serious fans, though, will find it sorely lacking in the musical department. “Yeah, yeah, Dave, we heard you” They will say. “You taught Kerry King the tritone. But where did you learn it?” While Mustaine writes a fair bit about his lyrics, he writes almost nothing about his guitar playing. The book definitely won’t be worth the price if that’s what your after, or if you read even half the Mustaine posts on Blabbermouth.

Personal note: For me, the best part of reading this book was listening to Megadeth’s albums as I read it. From Peace Sells … but Who’s Buying? to Countdown to Extinction, the man truly is a god among metal musicians. I mean, Death Magnetic was cool, but Endgame fucking smokes that record. I spent a weekend in the summer of 1991 painting my porch ( I was thirteen) and I had just bought a used CD of Rust in Peace because I liked the cover art! Imagine my face when I played it. Holy shit! I was blown away. I played it all day nonstop that week and it wasn’t long before I had Rust in Peace poster in my bedroom. The rest is history, of course, but the point is, I worship at the throne of Megadeth. This book, to me, was rather lackluster. Just don’t mistake me for a Mustaine-hater.

Killing Songs :
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