Mustaine: A Heavy Metal Memoir (Book Review)
By Aniruddh "Andrew" Bansal
Almost exactly a year ago, Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine released his autobiography titled "Mustaine: A Heavy Metal Memoir", which he wrote along with Joe Layden. Even though the book was released last year and I had a copy of it since the very first day of its release, I couldn't find time to read it, due to a variety of reasons. But finally, just a few days back I decided to pick up the book and give it a read. It has provided me with a fascinating journey over the past week or so, and after finishing what has been a riveting read, the first thing I want to do is to to express my thoughts on it.
This is the story of Mustaine's life, starting from the beginning, from his childhood days, right up until just before the release of their latest album "Endgame" in 2009. The part about his childhood offers a great build-up to his start as a musician, but he doesn't dwell on it for too long and quickly moves to the Metallica days. The pace of the story-telling is the most outstanding feature of this book, as Mustaine succeeds in saying what he wants to say without it seeming like a drag to the reader at any point during the book, holding the reader's attention as a result. The Metallica portion, of course, is an amazing read, and solely by itself, it's reason enough for anyone to savor this book. From then on the story focuses on the formation of Megadeth, the drug and alcohol problems, the subsequent successes and failures of the band, while briefly touching on personal topics like marriage, parenting and religion. The book has everything you would have wanted Mustaine to say in an autobiography. Well, almost everything.
I love the way he has described every relevant detail from his Metallica days, the formation of Megadeth, the process of hiring as many as 17 band mates, and the story behind the writing and recording of Megadeth's massively influential albums. Some of these experiences were clearly not pleasant, and it must have been hard for him to recall them in order to write this book. So, I would like to give huge props to Mustaine for being honest and thorough with his story, giving fair and equal treatment to the good, bad and ugly memories from his life. Upon reading, you would genuinely feel that he's speaking the truth, telling it like it is, because he hasn't thrown dirt on anyone and given credit where credit is due. His story-telling comes across as very mature, and he proves himself to be a complete pro all over again. Yes, one thing that might be off-putting for some people is the detailed and highly graphic description of the drug use that ran supreme for the majority of his early career, but he hasn't glorified drug use at all, in fact it's the opposite and over the course of the story, he has highlighted the negative impact drugs had on his life. And even though Mustaine doesn't hold back on the serious stuff, the book also has its fair share of lighter, hilarious moments, which add further to the reader's fascination and endearment for it.
Besides the words, there are plenty of photos that brilliantly complement the story and make it a greatly enjoyable experience for the reader. The likes of Bill Hale, Brian Lew, Robert Mathieu, Harald O, Rob Shay and Ross Halfin have contributed some great pictures to this book, but Bill Hale definitely takes the cake for the most classic pictures. He is the one who got the old school stuff, dating back to Mustaine's Metallica days. He was the one who got backstage and photographed the earliest Metallica and Megadeth line-ups, and has an enviable place in the history of rock music photography. I consider myself fortunate enough to have interviewed Bill and known him as an online friend.
The book has only two things missing, in my opinion. Dave doesn't talk about the death of Gar Samuelson and how he felt about it at the time it happened. And there is no mention of the brief reunion with Chris Poland for "The System Has Failed" album, even though Poland contributed music only on a contractual basis and never rejoined the band. But still, 2004 was the first time I got into Megadeth, and this was the first album I heard, the song "Kick The Chair" to be more specific. So I was looking forward to reading more about how they came to work together after parting ways several years ago. But nonetheless, these are very minor shortcomings in what is otherwise a terrific book. If you are a person who thinks of autobiographies as boring, aimless ramblings, well this ain't one of them and you should give it a read. One thing that I also wanted to mention is that Mustaine did signing sessions across the country to promote this book last year, and I'm sure thousands of Megadeth fans purchased the book to get to meet their hero. But often as it turns out, people buy the book just for the sake of getting that wristband to stand in line for the autograph, and don't touch the book after. This is absolutely fine in the sense that promotions like these push the book sales along, which keeps the authors happy, and people get to attend the signing, which keeps them happy. But please don't treat the book as a mere souvenir because that's an insult to the book, and I would urge you to pick it up.
A stunningly brilliant read, Mustaine's autobiography is a gem of a book.
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