Dave Mustaine: A Heavy Metal Memoir – Review

IMG_5743_1Why in God’s name is Dave Mustaine a complicated man to so many? To me he’s always been simple as fuck. He’s a man with a dream. A dream that came true. But a dream that was almost lost due to his own behavior in Metallica, and to Hetfield’s and Ulrich’s Machavellian approach to handling the situation. What that did is unleash an already angry man (due to his upbringing) into a raging beast bent on revenge against those that spited him, and a passion to succeed no matter the obstacles, both within and without.

I don’t read autobiography’s. I can’t even remember the last one I read. But I’m glad I read this one. What compelled me to do so? Well, since I started Metal Mofos I began to have a need to further explore that magical metal era known as the 80’s, especially the establishment of metal in its purer form, of which Thrash Metal was the leading force (along with NWOBHM, but that is a different animal altogether). Though there are many areas, bands, and individuals from which one could gather important information of that era, there are few more important than Dave Mustaine. He lived it. He was one of its founders. Many say he’s the one that established Thrash as we’ve come to know it (I won’t quite go that far). Whatever accolades, praise, recognition, or hatred you wish to impart upon the man, what can’t be denied is that he was one of the driving forces that led metal to where it is today. I mean, come on, the dude was a founding member of Metallica, as well as the early musical driving force behind their move towards a harder, faster, and more precise sound. Some will argue against that last part, but the man wrote Metal Militia! Love him or hate him, he deserves recognition to some degree.

The autobiography starts with what you’d expect, the story of a young Dave Mustaine and his earliest memories. Many of you already know this part of his story – the product of an alcoholic father and a poor upbringing due to a broken home, his mother being a humble maid. What he dealt with during those early years became the foundation for the angry, arrogant, shit talking metalhead I got to know in the 80’s. One of the parts that really touched me was how when he tried to finally reach out to his father in his teenage years, within the week his father suffered a critical head injury, resulting in his death. Mustaine shows up to the hospital, intoxicated, and his sister proceeds to tell him he is going to turn out just like his father, who is lying in a hospital bed on life support. Tough to hear something like that at seventeen years old, especially after you just tried to reestablish a line of communication with him. Tragic.

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The book continues through his erratic teen years (indicative of his erratic metal years) until he gets to what I consider to be the most pivotal part of the book – When he joins Metallica. If you think as I do, then you understand the importance of this event, the music it created, and what his firing from the band meant to Heavy Metal. It is an amazing thing to consider that at one point Metallica consisted of Dave Mustaine, Cliff Burton, James Hetfield, and Lars Ulrich. If that’s not a legendary lineup, I don’t know what is (nothing to take away from the lineup when Kirk Hammett joined, which wrote legendary music for the ages). This is the part of the book many bought to read. Though we’ve heard from different sources of what occurred, even Dave himself telling bits and pieces through the years, we’ve never heard it in detail from one of its participants. Well, now we have, albeit it’s Dave’s side of the story. But so what? It’s an important perspective, and it doesn’t disappoint. There are details to the story I’ve never read or heard before. Very important details, like the day Lars and Dave met. Or how Lars, James, and their manager we’re carefully orchestrating a replacement behind Dave’s back.  Or how it was to see and recruit Cliff Burton, a bigger than life figure who convinced them to move to San Francisco. The BASS player convinced them to make the move. Think about that for a second. This year and a half he spent with Metallica set in stone the foundation for the sound both Metallica and Megadeth would have, and which would change the way we write and play metal.

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Once Metallica fires Dave Mustaine we read the struggles of addiction, erratic behavior, changing lineups, and despite all that, Megadeth continues to rise in popularity and impact. Much of it fueled by his firing from Metallica. But the book does not dwell on the emotional impact of this event, quite the contrary, though Dave does bring it up at points, honestly talking about how it affected him, he does not expound for page after page on how he had been wronged. He brings it up when explaining why some things bothered him when it comes to Metallica’s treatment of him, but it’s not overdone in any way.

The rest of the book goes into many other details of what it was like to grow into the international act that Megadeth would eventually become. The personnel issues with former band members was especially fascinating. One thing that really stuck out to me about the lineup changes was how all these incredible guitarists just kind of fell into his lap. Megadeth has a reputation as a guitar hero band of sorts. The other lead is always some kick ass virtuoso. But strangely enough, he more or less stumbled into his first three guitarists. These weren’t run of the mills guitarists, these guys were extremely high level musicians. Dave was a magnet for these guys for some reason.

All in all, this is a good read. An easy read, and quite eye opening in parts. The humble son of an alcoholic father and a maid for a mother that rose to the heights of Heavy Metal fame. Any metalhead worth his salt needs to read this.

Verdict: Does not suck, aka, buy it. —> Mustaine: A Heavy Metal Memoir

Thanks for reading,
Carlos

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