Friday, September 05, 2008

A Boy and his Metallica

In honor of whats soon to be the biggest release of the year and currently the most downloaded cd, I figured I'd post about my experiences listening to Metallica over the years. Maybe this could be what alot of people can relate to and explain why there is so much hate thrown their way, deserved or not.

The year is 1984 and I had just started high school. I had never heard of Metallica before this until I see these kids walking around campus with the t-shirts that had the logo over the top of lightning on the front, and the skeleton guy in a electric chair on the back with the infamous statement "Metal up your ass". So you're thinking wtf how could you not who they were? Well the reason is simple. I had just come from 4 years of being in a private school. A small christian school where you only had maybe 6 or 7 other peers to feed off and that was it. We were sheltered big time, in fact one kid was even sent home to change because he wore a Def Leppard Pyromania t-shirt to school. So needless to say seeing this Metallica t-shirt in school and not getting in trouble was a real mind blower.

Anyways, I happened to hear one track off the album which was the opener "Fight Fire with Fire". And being the judgemental ignorant snot that I was I instantly hated it because it was too fast and I thought speed metal was garbage with no talent. Trouble was that if you were a true metalhead you listened to the "hard" stuff like Slayer, Mercyful Fate, Exodus, or Metallica otherwise you were a poser. Somehow Iron Maiden was the exception to the case. That year was horrible though because I had no friends and I couldn't adjust to big school life at all so I missed half of it.

It wasn't until the following year that I met my soon to be best friend at the time, Jack, who was into AC/DC and Judas Priest big time and we got to talking about metal and hit it off right away. Well he asked me if I like Metallica and I said no I wasn't into speed or thrash metal much. He says "Dude....Metallica isn't all about speed, Listen to this". He played "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and I was blown away. Whoa, theres actually riffs, and its melodic. Starts slow then crushes you. Holy hell let me hear the rest of the album. Then he played Kill em' All for me and yeah my inital judgement was way off. I used my allowance money and picked up both of those albums and I couldn't wait for the next release.

And when Master of Puppets came out, all of the long hairs grabbed this up including myself and was just blown away at how good this album was. Personally I wanted more of this stuff and started listening to Megadeth because of that whole controversy thing and Metal Church. By now Metallica was the most popular true metal band. They had long hair but no hairspray, wore denim and t-shirts and all of this with no radio airplay or videos. In fact they had stated in multiple interviews that they weren't going to do any videos because it wasn't what they were about. And lets face it, though hard rock and metal were popular at the time Mtv was really pandering to more of the image bands like Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, and Poison.

Then the fateful tour bus wreck that took the life of Cliff Burton. Every generation has its rock heroes that pass on. The 50's had Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens. The 70's had half of Lyrnyrd Skyrnrd, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix...etc. For the 80's Cliff Burton was ours. Everyone knew he was the creative force behind Metallicas music. Just the instrumental pieces like Call of Ktulu and Orion were epic in nature. So then were Metallica going to pack it in like Zeppelin did or get a replacement? No one knew for awhile.

Enter unknown Jason Newsted. Within a year after Burtons death Metallica had put in a new bassist and released Garage days to tide people over until a new record could be put out. Any of the songs covered on there could easily have been theirs and it was great. Then And Justice for All comes out. Epic and long but production wise very poor. Same producer in Fleming Rasmussen but for some reason the distortion and and lack of bass were horrible. But I ate it up anyway. It was by far the most engaging epic album I'd heard yet. In fact the one time I could have seen them in concert was for the Monsters of Rock tour and I missed it because of work.

Metallica was now my favorite band of all time. I loved every album up to this point and 3 years is a long time to wait but when the Black album came out I was at the music store that day and buying the cassette right out of the shipping box. Enter Sandman was already being played on the radio and lo and behold there was already a video out for it. WTH? A video for One was excusable after they said they wouldn't, but because of the subject matter it wasn't focusing on the band so much but a story and that made it grudgingly ok. But Sandman was a run of the mill metal song somewhat similar to alot of other songs that were out. Well something worked because for the next year or two everyone and their father had a copy of this album. Me being a fanboy I loved it initially even though knowing it was not as heavy as previous albums. I saw them twice for this tour and both sets were great even the one with Hetfield in a armcast because of pyro burns.

But then the burn out started to set in. Almost every track had a video thanks to the release of Live Shit..Binge and Purge. Enter Sandman had already been played to death. For two years this album kept getting press. Little did we know that with the advent of grunge this was to be the last stand for worldwise acceptance of metal as a major genre of music.

Grunge came around and MTV turned its back on metal, all of the bands we listened to in the 80's dropped off the face of the earth in favor of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden...etc. For about 4 long years you could not find any metal bands (with the exception of Pantera) around anymore and then it was announced Metallica was going to release a new album maybe a double album, it was like the opening of Star Wars. People could not wait for the metal flag to be raised again. Myself personally because all I had to grab onto at the time was anything that had metal elements to it. Tool, Ministry,White Zombie..etc. I even gravitated to really heavy bands I had never listened to in the 80's like Sepultura and Testament. The mid nineties was a wasteland for rock and metal music and I had grown tired of all my old albums. I was hoping a new Metallica release would spark some sort of revolution.

I'm driving to work one morning and the radio DJ announces that he's going to play the exclusive premiere single off the new cd called "Until it Sleeps". Cool title, awesome let's get to it. Then the song plays and ....what is this? Harmonic guitars and slow to midtempo guitarwork. A semi ballad from Metallica? What the fuck is going on here? Ok fine this song is a complete departure but maybe its like the Black album and has other ass kicking tunes on it. I go and buy the cd and put it in. And every song has this hard rock vibe to it and one true ballad. What a let down. There was not going to be a revolution after all because this sounds like some of the other stuff that was already out like Creed and such. What happened to the thrash? What happened to their hair and why is Kirk Hammett wearing eyeliner? What's with the designer casual wear? Is this what selling 30 million cds does to people? The biggest in your face raw powerful metal band is now dolled up and corporate polished. And so the bashing began.

Every band is allowed a misstep and it was announced the next year that they would be releasing Reload which was more songs they had written while doing Load. Again everyone myself included were hoping that this one was going to have the actual thrash metal tunes on it.


More of the same with a country tune even.

Another let down. Metallica had no more metal. It was now a blues and hard rock band. To add even more salt to the wound, Metallica...originally a heavy thrash band, was now working with a symphony to record a live album with full orchestration. To be fair I listened to this and alot of the songs sounded good, but some had no business having a orchestra behind them. Like Battery or anything off the load cds. What was next? Pavarotti doing operatic versions of these songs? Maybe colloboration with Lord of the Dance?

Not to mention the whole Napster thing. Suing fans. Nice.

How anybody by this point cannot understand how the long time fans could feel betrayed and disappointed is beyond me. So when St. Anger was announced to be coming out and was going to be more of the old sound there was this mixed feelings of not caring anymore and anticipation of something I had missed. Well St. Anger should have never been made. The first single came out and it sounded horrible. Hetfields voice was cracking like a kid hitting puberty, Lars drums sounded like distorted conga drums. And the lyrics were just embarassing. Tick tick tick tock. What? It ended up selling a couple of million copies basically because it was Metallica but I can't find anybody who legitimately like the whole thing.

So now this new cd is to come out and I've already heard it. And I have to say its like peeling away years of disappointment and frustration. Every time I hear it I like it more and more. There are a few tracks that are average. Some of them though do hearken back to the kick ass 80's. Hetfields voice is starting to get back to that metal edge it used to have. At this point I like the album more then anything they've done post Justice. But thats about as far as I'll go. I just hope for their sakes they that continue down this path. This is the type of music that gave them their start and built up such a rabid fanbase. One more misstep in the future away from this formula and it'll be state fairs and local dives for them for the first time in 25 years.

1 comment:

Draeden Wren said...

Ok dude. Seriously. This is some incredible writing, on par with Rolling Stone or something. Anways, being that this is a subject (also) near and dear to my heart, I wanted to share. I, also, heard about Metallica for the first time in High School. It was 1987, and I used to hand out with the rockers across the street, where they went to smoke. Anyways, this guy Nick (can't remember his last name but it sounded Greek) asked me about Metallica. I said "Metalli-what??" He then proceeded to share with me his walkman (yes, kids a "WALK-MAN" (with a cassette in it) called 'Master of Puppets'. My first experience was the title track and it blew me away. I've been a fan ever since. I don't think there's many experiences out there that can compare to hearing a new Metallica cd for the first time.

When I used to work at Spideys, and I rode the city bus to work, I had a cd-walkman and stopped off at the mall to get the Black Album. When I heard "The Unforgiven" for the first time, I listened to it over, and over, and over...

I am now enjoying that same experience with Death Magnetic. Yes, they're definitely back. Metal up your ass: indeed, my friend. :)