Maybe it isn’t Mick Wall’s fault that he’s insufferably self-obsessed. One of the writers immortalized by name in Guns N’ Roses’ anti-journalist screed “Get In The Ring,” he’s taken that notoriety as license to inject himself shamelessly into his rock books, most notably Paranoid: Black Days With Sabbath & Other Horror Stories, which gives more ink to its author than to its ostensible subject. Wall’s latest, Enter Night: A Biography Of Metallica, is by all appearances a conventional bio. Yet he feels the need to cast himself as some sort of important player in Metallica’s story—then pull every pathetic move imaginable to make sure readers don’t forget it.
Wall’s lengthy résumé as a journalist isn’t in doubt, but he acts like it is. Throughout Enter Night, he opens each chapter with a first-person vignette that recounts in sweaty, desperate detail some interaction he had with Metallica members James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich over the years. In the process, Wall drops more names than Hetfield does tunings. His fanboyism eventually blooms into full-blown megalomania, to the point where he refers to himself as an “eminent figure in his field,” exactly as Ulrich is in his. Lest anyone thinks Wall isn’t as humble as, say, your average stalker, he follows that outrageous claim by lamenting how much “Lars has forgotten about me… about us”—the “us,” of course, being the exaggerated relationship Wall dreams he has with Ulrich, who didn’t even agree to be interviewed for Enter Night. Then again, no current member of Metallica provided fresh material for the book, which draws from Wall’s old interviews with them, as well as quotes from a standard cadre of the band’s associates and contemporaries.
A deeper self-centeredness cripples Enter Night, though. Wall spent many years working as a rock publicist, and that manifests as a distracting fixation on the tedium of the music industry. The book goes off on too many colorless tangents about the press, marketing, distribution, and management within the metal scene of the ’80s—material that should have been saved for another, even more boring book. When Wall starts rambling on about the economics of merchandising, he should be addressing Metallica’s slow yet startling metamorphosis from band to brand. Instead, he just comes across like another industry wonk dazzled by dollar signs.
Even when Wall does try to place Metallica and its music into a broader context, he flops. A page is inexplicably reserved for an exegesis of Iron Maiden’s mascot, Eddie. Veteran punk band The Damned—which, coincidentally, Wall used to publicize—is mentioned far more times than the book could possibly warrant (especially since The Damned, unlike many of its punk peers, never had a song covered by Metallica). And it’s a safe bet Enter Night will go down as the only Metallica bio on record that devotes a paragraph to Huey Lewis.
Underneath Wall’s myopia and diarrhea of the ego sits an actual, compelling history of Metallica. But that’s Metallica’s doing, not his. From the group’s origin as a duo of untalented, mismatched loners to its subsequent commercial triumph, critical validation, Napster controversy, and acclaimed documentary, Some Kind Of Monster, the chronicle is just waiting to be plucked. Even when Wall steps back and lets the band’s mythic narrative build steam, though, he trips it up with snide comebacks (surely never delivered in real life) to his interviewees’ comments—not to mention a creative array of misspellings, repeated quotes, self-contradictions, lost threads, and all-around erratic writing. Toward the book’s end, Wall has the gall to accuse “Suicide & Redemption,” a song from Metallica’s 2008 comeback Death Magnetic, of being “bloatedly self-referential and, frankly, embarrassing.” Granted, he’s right. But considering all the narcissistic filler and masturbatory flab he packs into Enter Night, he’s the pot calling the kettle black.