James Hetfield: The Wolf At Metallica’s Door

by Mark Eglinton
(IMP, published April 22nd)

So. Who exactly is the man behind the globe conquering rock behemoth that is Metallica? Despite fronting the biggest metal band that has quite literally ever existed, the man himself leads a relatively private life. This book looks at Hetfield’s life from infanthood right up until the present day covering everything from his formulative school days in countless garage bands covering classic rock numbers, his parents strict religious upbringing, their death and the effect this had on him, the death of original Metallica bassist Cliff Burton, the departure of Jason Newstead right up to his recent well publicised battle with alcohol and substances.

Author Mark Eglinton is clearly a huge fan of the band and has assembled an impressive list of exclusive interviews and contributions from Hetfield’s childhood friends and from throughout the Metal world. Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains, Rex Brown of Pantera and Charlie Benante of Anthrax all offer brand new testimony as to their experiences of Hetfield as well as a foreword written by Chuck Billy of Testament.

Incredibly this book claims to be the first autobiography focusing on Hetfield solely as opposed to Metallica as a unit. Naturally a lot of this book does focus on Metallica; indeed it would be difficult to miss out the band for which Hetfield clearly is one hundred percent behind. Infact it would appear from this book that in some ways Hetfield actually IS Metallica condensed down and turned flesh. This is a man for whom everything, be it buying a bottle of milk or selling out every enormodome across the world, is INTENSE.

The working dynamic of Metallica (which, essentially, is Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich) ultimately just should not work. These are two men driven possibly to the point of madness to succeed at their craft. Say what you will about Lars Ulrich (and believe me, there are plenty of people that have plenty to say about him) very few people in rock are as sheer bloody minded determined to get what they want. Following becoming the biggest thing ever in Metal with the release of their self titled (or Black) album, things would never be the same again for Metallica. Incidentally, the author of this book is clearly a fan of the first era of Metallica as post Black album everything is pretty much ripped to pieces and dismissed.

Some things do seem to be skipped over here though. Hetfield’s personal life (i.e. marriage and children) is despatched with simply a few lines. The Napster debacle, whilst discussed, is very light on Hetfield’s actual involvement (it mostly focuses on Ulrich being a bit of a tit).

Overall however Wolf At Metallica’s Door is a valuable look into what made the man who has managed to rock the world and what makes him tick. Hetfield’s yearbook entry sums up his lifetime goal that he has clearly more than achieved. When asked what his plans for the future were Hetfield simply wrote “Play Music, Get Rich”. And in that respect, well, the boy done good really didn’t he?

Richard Bull