And then he was gone, leaving a traumatized Metallica to realign confusedly around its original dyad — Hetfield/ Ulrich, the warthog existentialist and the fizzing Dane — while Hammett took up a role more or less equivalent to that of Derek "lukewarm water" Smalls in Spinal Tap, and replacement bassist Jason Newsted grimly embarked upon a 20-year career as band whipping boy. Grief at the loss of Burton would be displaced into the cold ragings of 1988's . . . And Justice For All, with Hetfield the lyricist taking refuge in metal's traditionally huge cynicism and anti-hegemony, its hatred of institutions: church, state, army, sanity. "Justice is lost/Justice is raped/Justice is GONE."


It has to be said that Wall the author slightly checks out at this point. After writing very well about the band's rise to power and acutely profiling the key players, he surrenders, post-Burton, to the album-tour-album rhythm of rock biography — the rock biorhythm, ha ha — and the voltage of his enthusiasm drops. Which isn't to dismiss the remaining 200 or so pages. The whole book is worth reading. As a journalist Wall interviewed Metallica many times, he knows the band well, has lived inside the music, and everything he has to say about it is of interest. (He describes "One," for example, rather brilliantly, as "a thrash metal Tommy in miniature.") But the peak comes early, in 1985, when the band invite him into the studio to test drive some of the final mixes of Master of Puppets: "I was expecting first-rate heavy metal. Instead I got Sturm und Drang, the giant studio speakers veritably shaking as the maelstrom of drums and guitars came roaring volcanically from their cones. Cliff was standing next to me on one side, Lars on the other, nodding along: Cliff's eyes closed in deep concentration, Lars the opposite, his eyes almost popping out of his head. . . . "

The most vivid and engaging passages of Enter Night, actually, are in this key of reminiscence: Wall bumping into Ulrich at the Hammersmith Odeon, the little drummer for some reason on crutches ("His outraged eyes studied mine. A precocious child growing rapidly into a full-on fuck of a man"); Mustaine emerging crackling from some toilet or drug tabernacle to be interviewed ("He held out his paw and allowed me to grasp it"); Hammett chatting pleasantly about essential oils and then clamming up at the arrival of macho man Hetfield ("As we all walked into the bar together, I noticed Kirk affecting a sort of mini-Hetfield saunter. Safety in numbers, I found myself doing the same"). It makes one wish that Wall could have departed further from the conventions of rock biography — got more personal or more poetic/fragmentary, or written a book called My Life In Heavy Metal. Except that Steve Almond already wrote that book, and it had fuck-all to do with heavy metal.

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