The world of rock music and the products it creates are disposable entities. While music is an international voice wielding as much influence, if not more, than television and the printed word, at the end of the day we don't need music. If harmonies and melodies disappeared completely tomorrow, no radio, no records, the globe would be a more silent arena and certainly dance clubs might be hard hit.
So, when a band comes around capable of building a sound that captures our imagination and makes us want to go out and spend hard-earned dollars on CDs and concerts, they deserve the time to be observed and dissected and analyzed.
Metallica, during the past two-plus decades, has captured our ears - and judging by the hardcore fans they've attracted all over the world, our hearts - and represent maybe one of a one-handed countoff of the number of groups who have evolved in relatively recent history to take a place at the head of the herd.
All of this, and so much more, has been analytically and poignantly revealed here, a book five years in the making, and one which, quite importantly, doesn't simply kowtow to its subject but looks under the covers and peers through the shadows. A brave and bold approach when dealing with a group with as much horsepower as Metallica.
Author Joel McIver is a veteran music journalist and the perfect candidate for writing this chronicle. He knows his metal music and more importantly the ability to discern between good and bad.
From a purely historical standpoint, Justice for All covers all the bases; the chapters are given simple chronological titles like "Before 1980," "1980-1981," and so forth. Other chapters: "The Truth About Cliff Burton," "The Truth About Master Of Puppets," and finally, "The Truth About Metallica."
In this closing chapter, McIver interviews members of other bands and presents to them the maxim, "Metallica are and always have been the best heavy metal band in the world." The answers are satisfyingly unedited; some of the players give reasons supporting the positive side of this statement while others admit how the band has lost energy from the earlier days and how the quartet has turned into that very corporate monster they so unanimously hated.
This is a book of rare scope and veracity; fact is given shape and accessibility through the writer's use of resource material and simply making the attempt to gaze beneath the numbers and hoopla. His own views are revealed and he is not afraid to tell us his truth.
The book's last paragraph begins thus: "The greatest heavy metal band in the world? Yes - once upon a time. But no longer." A tremendously profound way to end a hefty tome on, arguably, one of the more successful metal bands of the past two decades. And what makes this sentiment, and more importantly, the entire book, such a heart-tugging read is Joe McIver's willingness to lay these types of negative thoughts, and thus himself, on the firing line.
McIver obviously is a huge fan of Metallica. How can you spend five years of your life writing about a music you despise? Financial compensation would have to be enormous to put yourself in such a position. And so, he takes this group of musicians, a band he's probably seen dozens of times and whose records he's certainly listened to hundreds of times, and unearths their faults and why they aren't the band they were twenty years ago. This takes courage and spirit and Justice For All explodes with those elements.
How simple it would have been to write this and lay down word after word of praise; it's in the prejudice, alerting us, the reader and fan, that this mythic Metallica no longer walk on water, where Joel throws open the literary doors in presenting the honest and honorable view.
Forget every other Metallica book out there - everything you need to know, and didn't want to know, is right here. Find more information at