Black Tooth Grin (Dimebag Darrell Abbott) + To Live Is To Die (Cliff Burton)

January 01, 1970

(Da Capo) www.perseusbooks.com

(Jawbone) www.jawbonepress.com

 

BY RANDY HARWARD

 

Metallica’s Cliff Burton and Pantera’s Dimebag Darrell
Abbott are saints among dead and gone metalheads. Not just for their status in
two of metal’s biggest bands, or solely for their instrumental prowess; they
were, by all accounts, well-liked, humble and fun.

 

More than another book about a dead rocker, Black Tooth Grin: The High Life, Good Times,
and Tragic End of “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott
is a vivid portrait of Dimebag,
written in a style that suits his rep as a big-hearted hellraiser that treated
everyone like family. Author Zac Crain employs elements of fiction to bring Dime
(back) to life, and even builds suspense toward the tragic ending we all know
is coming. (That Crain leads with the story of the guitar god’s last moments is
further testament to his writing.) The upshot is we get to know and like
Dimebag all over again, intimately as a close friend.

 

Joel McIver takes a more straightforward, journalistic
direction in To Live Is To Die: The Life
and Death of Metallica’s Cliff Burton
, putting much emphasis on the
importance of Burton’s
bass skills to Metallica’s music. While the bass accents are insider-y, with
detailed passages about Burton’s tracks that only musicians would appreciate, McIver
makes a strong case that it was Burton’s knowledge of composition and theory, and
appreciation of minimalist punk rock (a la the Misfits), that gave Metallica the
extra dimension that James Hetfield’s precision riffing, Kirk Hammett’s solos
and Ulrich’s average drumming and biz smarts couldn’t. As well, McIver points
out that Burton was the soul and brain of the band, its hilarious stoner guru,
consulted on every decision because of his reliably measured view of any
situation. Ultimately, commercial success notwithstanding, without Burton
Metallica is a shadow of what they were, and a fraction of what they could’ve been.

 

 

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