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Book Review: ‘Birth School Metallica Death’ – Ian Winwood and Paul Brannigan

The new book captures the turmoil and success in Metallica’s first decade as a band

Anurag Tagat Jan 22, 2014
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Photo: Anton Corbijn

Photo: Anton Corbijn

[easyreview cat1title = “Birth School Metallica Death” cat1rating = 3 cat1detail = “ “]

Former editors of British metal and rock weekly Ker­rang! Ian Winwood and Paul Brannigan sure like to plug their publication often in the first volume of a two-part biography on Metallica, but there are enough chronicles in here to keep fans reading. Birth School Metallica Death takes its name from a slogan printed on the band’s 1993 tour merchandize, which Winwood and Branni­gan describe as the band’s emphatic statement of success.

Volume one follows the band’s lead men ”” vocalist-guitarist James Hetfield, who was, like most rockstars, an angsty teenager when he picked up a guitar, drummer Lars Ulrich, who was meant to be follow his father into professional tennis, late bassist Cliff Burton, who is described as the most level-headed member of the band, like all good bassists and former guitarist Dave Mustaine, who was, and continues to be a dickhead, by all accounts. The story of Metallica, it turns out, is not too different from rock greats like AC/DC and The Rolling Stones. Hetfield starts out as a reluctant frontman while Ulrich can talk the talk, but barely knows his drum rolls.

While the decision to fire Mustaine is expectedly described as a case of “you’re-fired-no-I-quit,” there’s much more delicateness and emotion detailing the death of Burton due to a bus accident in 1986. Winwood and Brannigan build up the book’s first volume until the release of 1991’s self-titled album Metallica, when thrash metal was mainstream enough to get the band a gig at MadisonSquareGarden.

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Birth School Metallica Death is centered on the past and present members of Metallica, cutting out all the other celebrity distrac­tions of girlfriends and illegitimate children [turns out no one from Metallica has fathered a lovechild]. What we get is a picture of one of the most hardworking bands who led the metal movement to its peak in the Eighties and Nineties. Volume two is due in August 2014, which covers the band’s turn to solo-less guitar parts and how they handled the trainwreck that was Lulu with the late Lou Reed.

This article appeared in the January 2014 issue of ROLLING STONE India.

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