Mustaine: A Heavy Metal Memoir is more than just a book about sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Dave Mustaine’s autobiography tells the story of the insecurities and demons of one of the most influential frontmen in heavy metal music history. Like Megadeth the book is fast, heavy, and memorable.
Dave Mustaine’s place in music history is often appreciated by metal fans, yet under appreciated by the masses. I don’t care what anyone says, without Dave Mustaine Metallica would probably have sounded a lot different which means the course of metal history may have been written by someone else. Beyond Dave Mustaine’s place in Metallica, his licks, his song writing, and his innovative music in Megadeth have probably inspired more hard rock and metal musicians today than any metal band not named Metallica. The fact that his influence transcends the two biggest thrash metal bands of all time is just simply remarkable.
As much as I respect and admire Dave Mustaine, the book was a bit of a mixed bag to me. In addition to reading Dave’s story, I was hoping to hear about what it was like to be in the trenches of the great thrash movement. I wanted to hear road stories of what it was like touring with other thrash bands. I wanted to hear what it was like meeting your music idols once he achieved success. I wanted to hear about how he came up with a lot of those memorable riffs from the early albums that still hold up three decades later. I wanted to hear how a great guitar player makes the leap to becoming a great lead singer. Sadly, Dave only touched on some of those issues without a whole lot of detail or should I say the amount I was hoping to read.
The Metallica-Dave Mustaine story has been the fodder of metal chat for decades. If you wanted to read about the “feud” or split, Dave spends a great deal of time writing about it. I have to be honest. Dave writes at the end of the book that he has buried his ill feelings about the split. Yet he spends quite a lot of time talking about it. To say that he still carries a lot of pain from the firing is an understatement. As for Dave’s story of events, they are about the same as the Metallica version.
It is really up to the reader to decide who is right or wrong. In the end, the band can decide to do whatever they want. However, Dave tells a fascinating story about Metallica keeping his music on Kill Em All without his consent. I am sure stuff like that happens all of the time in music. But Dave makes sure throughout the book that fans know which songs were his and used without his permission. Could Metallica have pulled off a phenomenal rookie effort like Kill Em All without Jump in the Fire, Motorbreath, or Dave’s solos on Hit the Lights? I think that is a great question to ask, yet something we will never know.
What I found even more fascinating about the Metallica story is that Dave would go on and do the exact same thing to his Megadeth bandmates over, and over again. Amazing that something he would repeat something so traumatic to him, countless times in his own band. I don’t think it is a coincidence that Megadeth has had almost 20 different band members since its inception. Ironically Dave never once mentions in the book the coincidence between these behaviors. I am far from a psychiatrist but my first inclination is to think that Dave was so messed up by the Metallica firing that he needs to do the same thing in his band in order to give himself some kind of self worth since Metallica felt he was worthless.
I was really hoping to hear Dave talk about some of his famous tours and other bands, but he is extremely vague when talking about other bands if he does at all. Dave briefly touches on relationship with Kerry King. Dave talks about Kerry’s early days in Megadeth and only says that he thought Kerry would leave Slayer for Megadeth but “he couldn’t be further from the truth.” Yet he never actually says what happened between him and Kerry. Never talks about the Clash of the Titans tour in any detail at all. He never talks about breaking through to big arena headlining shows in the early 1990s or even talks about the fall of heavy metal when alternative music broke through with Nirvana and Pearl Jam. The bottom line is that I really hoped to read a lot more than a book mainly about his drug and alcohol abuse.
Megadeth with Kerry King in 1984
I was surprised that Dave never addressed some important stories and rumors involving past band members. Dave reportedly asked Chris Poland to come back into the band for Rust in Peace and later for the System has Failed. Dave never mentioned either story. Dave’s take on why he kicked Chris out of the band and Chris’ version of why he left are also much different. Chris’ replacement Jeff Young has also denied Dave’s allegations of drug abuse over the years. These are all fascinating stories that I would have loved to hear Dave’s take on at some point in the book.
There were a lot of things I found incredibly interesting that I didn’t know about Megadeth. Dave talks about trying to reunite the Rust in Peace lineup for The System Has Failed. I never knew about Dave Mustaine’s arm and hand problems and the fact that he almost lost his ability to play guitar. There is also some interesting stories regarding the art work for Killing is my Business and some of the songs. I don’t want to give away to many spoilers, but even the most passionate of Megadeth fans will find some surprises in Mustaine.
Speaking of tours, I just caught Megadeth on the American Carnage tour. After reading about Dave’s close call with retirement, the abuse his body has taken over the last four decades, and the fact that Dave is closing in on 50, I am amazed at how great he still is in 2010. Dave nailed all of his classic riffs, including the whole Rust in Peace masterpiece and hasn’t lost a step as a live performer. I am even more blown away after reading his book.
Sadly, the book ends with Dave going into the studio to record Endgame. There are no chapters about the historic Big Four Tour, nor does he ever write about Dave Ellefson returning to Megadeth other than a dinner they had where Ellefson apologized. After reading about over 300 pages about the ups and downs of Dave Mustaine’s relationship with Metallica, the Big Four tour would have been a true storybook ending. It wouldn’t surprise me to see an additional chapter added to the paperback version of the book. Amazing how that happens isn’t it?
I know I have bashed Dave Mustaine’s book quite a bit during this review, but in the end I would highly recommend it if you are a Megadeth fan. It was really cool to read about certain points in Megadeth history and recollect where I was in my youth at the time and relive my teenage years listening to Megadeth on my Walkman on the way to school. As I said earlier, the book moved incredibly fast, although that shouldn’t be surprising coming from the same guy that wrote some of the fastest music in metal history over the last four decades.
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