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Preaching to the converted, and nobody else,
This review is from: Mustaine: A Heavy Metal Memoir (Hardcover)Dave Mustaine has long been known as a walking contradiction. His personal feuds with members of Metallica and Slayer notwithstanding, Mustaine blazed a path of self destruction for much of his personal life before finally wrestling control over his demons long enough to stay grounded. To this day, one gets the sense that it might all come apart at the seams if Mustaine strays but a little from his difficult path. Reading 'A Heavy Metal Memoir' reinforces this fact, tenfold.
To those who know of Mustaine's early life and his subsequent rise as a heavy metal icon, most of this is nothing new. The story was told in largely truncated fashion on VH1's "Behind the Music: Megadeth" piece which did a pretty good job of summing up the band's musical career while touching largely on Mustaine's ascension to the throne. His book brings all this up again while adding more layers of complexity to the story that weren't known before this. From his festering anger of being picked on by bullies as a child to his self-admitted problems with alcohol and drug addiction which soiled relationships with friends and family members, Mustaine is being downright honest.
Or is he?
It's no secret that Mustaine has a notorious penchant for contradicting himself, skewing the facts and acting in such a manner as to present himself in the best light. Even self-deprecation is a tool that he has mastered to some great degree. Readers must remember that this is the same man who ridiculed Steve Tyler for being pompous and arrogant enough to call himself "Aerosmith," only to go on and call himself "Megadeth" years later because he was the sole, true contributing member of the band (reference the feud between Mustaine and bandmate David Ellefson). Reading 'A Heavy Metal Memoir' requires a large degree of caution on the part of the reader, for nobody truly knows if Mustaine is painting himself in the best light possible to smear those he talks about. For as vain and egotistical as he comes off, he can also sound quite humble when speaking of the stupidity of mass drug and alcohol use, the latter of which would admittedly put him in a confrontational and aggressive mood. On the flip side, Mustaine displays a surprising amount of callousness and lack of empathy towards those he admitted to wronging; fellows like Ron McGovney, reps from Combat Records, female bedmates that he used for shelter, food and drugs, and (naturally) Metallica. Granted, Mustaine is being straightforward and brutally honest about the way he perceived the world and people at these specific times in his life, but there's not even a hint of regret in his tone most of the time.
Reading the book from cover to cover, one thing becomes very clear: despite reassurances to the contrary, Mustaine is still hung up on his past. Badly. He may have settled enough feuds with musical contemporaries like Slayer and Metallica to have finally made the Big 4 event a reality, but it's clear that he refuses to forgive AND forget. For all his worldly knowledge and experience, Mustaine is still very much an angst-ridden, angry young man trying to solidify his sense of place in the world around him. As such, his views and opinions remain clouded because of that anger and distort the reality of his situation. Even Mustaine's woefully inaccurate and disturbingly skewed opinion of Jehovah's Witnesses seems more like lashing out at the most convenient party, while the blame should actually be placed on the fragmented dysfunction of his family life at the time. That being said, it's one man's opinion, and he isn't asking for a psychologist to sort out the tangled mass of wiring in his head, but...perhaps he should. The book goes on to document the progression of Megadeth's musical career and, once again, Mustaine's problems with band members and industry professionals who were all apparently out to get him. There's a dreadful sense of disrespect that the man displays towards certain key people who, for better or worse, played a great role in Megadeth's rise to the iconic band they are today. Rather than let bygones be bygones as Mustaine has repeatedly promised in the media, the reader gets the sense that he may have been thinking "I still hate you, but I don't want to fight anymore."
They say you cannot judge a man until you've walked a mile in his shoes, so one must exercise a bit of an open heart. Mustaine's humiliating expulsion from Metallica isn't exactly news, but his recollection of it is heartbreaking. You cannot help but feel a great degree of sympathy for a man who, in the space of a few hours, lost everything he held dear, only to board a bus with absolutely no money in his pocket and have to rely on the courtesy and compassion of complete strangers for donuts and water. Equally admirable is Mustaine's determination to fight back, starting with his penning of the lyrics to what would later become the Megadeth song "Set the World Afire" on the very same bus ride. While reading about Mustaine's powerful determination to become a metal icon and prove that he had what it takes to succeed, one can't really pinpoint if it is personal fortitude or a raging inferiority complex that fueled his stubborn will. Whatever the case, it's admirable that the man didn't stay in the gutter and fade away into nothingness, but rose from the pits of his personal hell to form one of the most successful heavy metal bands of all time. Unfortunately, I never got the sense that the people who assisted him on this road to success were ever necessary to him, or even mattered. Those who have stuck with Mustaine through the years have always been spoken well of...until they leave the band, at which point Mustaine shows either contempt, or nonchalant indifference. The reader will find much of that here.
If one is to read this book, they should do so with skepticism. I highly doubt Mustaine is a liar, but the brain plays tricks on its host, especially when plagued with a lifetime of psychological issues and a disturbing amount of substance abuse. To call the material in this book "fact" may be unwise and potentially dangerous. Better to think of it as "one side of the story." Droogies will go nuts over the chance to learn more about their favorite idol, but those like me who grew up diehard Megadeth fans, only to finally meet the man in person and see his moody indifference spill over onto both myself and dozens of loyal and loving fans (at the 2005 Gigantour) will take this memoir with a grain of salt, and they would be right to do so.