Mick Wall’s Enter Night: Metallica the Biography is an insightful exploration of the band’s journey from kids who could barely play their instruments to becoming one of the biggest bands in history.
Wall documents the band’s uncertain beginnings of New Wave of British Heavy Metal fanatics, tennis-prodigy-turned-drummer Lars Ulrich and shy guitarist James Hetfield. The alcohol-fuelled exploits of original lead-guitarist Dave Mustaine got Metallica the attention they wanted, leading them to pioneer the thrash-metal genre. It wasn’t until the cool-headed Kirk Hammett replaced the extreme Mustaine and the mature, symphonic-minded lead-bassist Cliff Burton evolved their sound on Ride the Lightning (1984) and Master of Puppets (1986) that their popularity rose. Although going on to become one of the world’s biggest bands with …And Justice for All (1988) and Metallica (1991), it was Cliff’s death in a 1986 bus accident that set the band on the turbulent path that followed. Urged by management Q-Prime to replace Cliff and continue touring, the band never mourned their influential bassist and friend, instead taking out their grief on his replacement, Jason Newsted, who left the band in 2001 when their continued abuse became too much. Wall follows the band through their 90s musical “evolution”, their fall from public graces with Ulrich’s lawsuit against Napster, and Hetfield’s disintegration from his unresolved grief and excessive lifestyle, before commenting on their still-born album St Anger (2003), Robert Trujillo’s appointment as bassist, and the band’s return to form with Death Magnetic (2008).
Wall portrays Ulrich as someone with his finger on the pulse of the music business, Hetfield as a troubled individual, and Hammett as a chilled-out nerd. Despite the band’s aggressive attitude, Wall turns them into identifiable individuals by revealing their deeper sides. Wall precedes each chapter with his different personal experiences with the band over the decades, which adds authenticity. Historical and present interviews with band members and people important to the band’s success, including debut album financers Johnny and Marsha Z, album producers Flemming Rasmussen, Bob Rock, and Rick Rubin, as well as friends, journalists, and supporters, flesh out the story. Mustaine features prominently, lamenting about the band sacking him.
While the biography provides much depth on the band and the music industry they grew up in, early chapters overburden readers with unnecessary detail, while recent events are glossed over. Importantly, Newsted’s involvement is only briefly explored in favour of reflecting on what Cliff might have thought of the band’s evolution, making the biography a necessary elegy to Cliff.
While much of the writing is good, unfortunately it contains an abundance of run-on sentences and other grammatical and spelling errors that make for some confusing reading at times.
Overall, Enter Night is an insightful look into how who we are influences everything we do. If you’re a Metallica fan, I recommend the book. Likewise if you’re interested in reading about one of the world’s biggest bands. Anyone else probably won’t enjoy it.
3 1/2 stars.