Top critical review
One person found this helpful
Very Disappointing on Many Levels
on January 12, 2015
I've been a fan of Skolnick since the early 90s, and I'm a big fan of musicians' autobiographies, so I was excited when I heard about this. Unfortunately, I found that it was a pretty bad book overall, with far fewer things in the 'pro' column than the 'con' column.
Pro: He goes into a lot more details about recording and writing than most musicians seem to in their autobiographies, so if you—like me—like those kind of details, you'll enjoy these parts.
Pro: The overall story is ultimately inspiring and happy in the sense that it's about a musician finding his own style and realizing that he doesn't have to be confined to one genre. It's a particularly nice story within the context of metal.
Pro: Alex is brutally honest in here, and much of the book has a really personal tone to it.
Con: The narrative arc of the book pretty much ends with Alex leaving Testament in 1993. There are a couple of brief chapters at the end that cover the time since then, but do so very, very quickly, meaning that the last 20 years or so are almost completely blank. As a huge Savatage fan, I would have liked to hear much more about his time with that band, but even beyond that, covering more of his later exploits would have helped the narrative to show how he went off on his own and tried a variety of styles. Again, he alludes to these endeavors in passing, but doesn't spend any significant time on them.
Con: Like most autobiographers, Alex has a tendency to blame everyone but him for the things that have happened. Ultimately, this is the worst thing of the book: he spends an inordinate amount of time complaining about his upbringing, and comes off as whiny and churlish. For example, to contrast his achievements with the guitar with everything earlier in life, he says "Looking at the challenges of my upbringing and specifically my lack of a support system, it made sense that I'd sucked at everything." At other points he complains because when he took piano lessons (for which his parents rented him a piano!) the teacher wasn't encouraging enough. He also complains about not being able to go to fun places like Disney World as a kid, and only getting to go on ski trips. He constantly complains about his parents—both of whom are academics—but never once acknowledges the fact that he had a pretty good leg up by having two well-spoken, relatively well-off parents. In his mind, everything about how they raised him seems to be negative. It's impossible, of course, to know what it's like in someone else's shoes, but the narrative seems too simple and too one-sided, and lacking in self-awareness.
Con: Because he wrote the book himself, parts of it are pretty poor. Some of this is the editor's fault, since it's his/her job to catch the countless typos, misuse of words, and grammatical errors that are still in here. Overall, the writing is solid and his personal voice shines through, but the level of the writing is pretty distracting at times.
TL;DR: There are some interesting thoughts on music in here and some deeper thinking than most such books, but the general whiny tone and restriction of the narrative to a very short time period make the book not worth reading in my opinion.