Book review: Birth, School, Metallica, Death. Volume 1. By Paul Brannigan and Ian Winwood

Metallica and Goliath
Future Metallica members were probably drunk or stoned (probably both) on the other side of the Atlantic whilst I was sitting as a child of single digits back home in one of my favourite ever teacher’s classes. If it had been a productive week, Mr Lynch would regale us like an old seanchaí (a traditional storyteller of Irish lore, mythology) in the waning hours of a school Friday afternoon. Our heads would be off running into the dreams of the forthcoming weekend anyways, but these tales only added to the mysticism of what maybe was, and more importantly, inspiringly, the foundation to what could be.

Metallica Book REview

To an extent, music wordsmiths Paul Brannigan and Ian Winwood are modern extensions of the meandering seanchaí, but with a metal soundtrack. Having collected and been exposed to a myriad of stories, fables, lore and lies (well rumours at least) over the years whilst scribing for various music journals and publications. Being part of the music ‘industry’ for so many years has enabled to them build up the access, contacts, respect and even bring reason to an etherial rock world that seems somewhat built with hash smoke and coke mirrors.

Apparently the decision to take on the task of this Metallica tome that could turn out to be the length of Homer’s Illiad (this is Volume 1 of two, but surely could ultimately/hopefully become three in years to come) happened across a pub table (were so many other great ideas die on the beer stained wooden battlefield), which is beyond apt considering their subjects. It’s also my only real complaint about the work, I wish I was sitting at the table while these stories were being swapped around.

Metallica Book REviewGiving backdrops to all various members, from founding (very much not yet) fathers, to a multitude of an ever evolving cast, effectively playing the roles beset to them by primary members, the drummer (though some would disagree with that moniker) Lars Ulrich and lead guitarist (no one disagrees) James Hetfield, coming across at times as debauched teenage Pinky and the Brain cartoon characters, with daily world domination schemes, but millionaires by the age of 25.

Despite eschewing the traditional approach towards success preordained by the Goliath music industry, instead necking the heady cocktail of bolshiness, stupidity, stubborness, genuis, graft and blind drunk faith, the Metallica story could nearly work as a self help book to sanity and success.

A joy to read (even for non trash metal heads), one would believe it was a given that Metallica could be masters of redefining the limits of success, the book sets that straight, where again aptly, the only real Achilles heal in the band is themselves. Seeped in blood, death and semen (it’s stunning there’s not an miniture army of Ulrich’s trying to take over the world), there are few who would be willing to do, nor sacrifice what it takes to fly to these levels. But then again, the real trick is holding on to that success. And that’s where part two will pick up the main act.

eight out of ten

Birth, School, Metallica, Death. Volume 1. By Paul Brannigan and Ian Winwood is out now, released by Faber & Faber.

Steve Clarke

Born in Celtic lands, nurtured in art college, trained by the BBC, inspired by Hunter S. Thompson and released onto the battlefront of all things interesting/inspiring/good vibes... people, movies, music, clubbing, revolution, gigs, festivals, books, art, theatre, painting and trying to find letters on keyboards in the name of flushthefashion. Making sure it's not quite on the western front... and beyond.