Dave Mustaine is the lead singer, songwriter and guitar player for the heavy metal band Megadeth. Prior to his creation of "the perfect beast … the perfect band," Mustaine was a member of Metallica in the heavy-metal "thrash" scene in the 1980s. Kirk Hammet replaced Mustaine as a result of his battles with drugs and alcohol, and his personality conflicts with band members.
Megadeth stands out as a heavy-metal band with passion and a cause. The album Peace Sells … But Who's Buying was "hailed as both a critical and commercial breakthrough." Released in 1986, it eventually went platinum. Mustaine says, "It still holds up well even today; it feels raw, powerful."
Dave Mustaine's memoir is the narrative of a struggling, hard-won music career. It is also a story of survival, redemption and faith. Growing up in Los Angeles, Mustaine was raised by his mother. His parents divorced when he was 4. His father was a "shadowy figure," who was described to him by his older sisters in horror stories. Mustaine recalls anecdotes of "abuse and generally insane behaviour perpetrated under the shroud of alcoholism."
Survival when you are a "lonely" child comes in the form of creating your own universe. Mustaine dabbled in sports, specifically baseball, for escape, and he eventually started playing music.
Drug and alcohol use are central themes in Mustaine's life. The abuses started at an early age and ended only near the end of his journey. Being part of a band has always meant access to women: "camaraderie … and sex." Women are objectified in the narrative, but not to the extent that they are alienated or excluded from the group or from the music.
Mustaine's countless conflicts with Megadeth members (18 to date) from past to present reveal his perfectionism; he runs the band as a business. But he makes amends along the way, and each conflict comes to some sort of resolution in the end.
The most trying event of Mustaine's life was an injury that nearly ended his career as a musician. A compressed radial nerve almost cost him his most valued roles in life: musician, father and husband. The idea of not ever playing guitar again drove him over the edge, causing a relapse into drug abuse and harmful behaviour to himself and his family.
It was the injury, however, that finally brought him faith. The best sequence in the entire memoir is Mustaine's epiphany: "What have I got to lose?" It is in this that the reader and the fan witness his true grasp of beauty and humanity, which differentiates him from other band leaders in the genre.
Dave Mustaine is a legend in heavy metal; he has written music that has inspired generations of fans, and he has proven that with faith, anything is possible. Transcending simple religion and music, Mustaine's Heavy Metal Memoir will leave you moved and inspired.
Deanna Mac Neil is a Toronto-based writer, singer and songwriter, and a serious heavy-metal fan.