Fellow horseman, Jorge, and I are both big Metallica fans. Although we largely agree on what constitutes a great Metallica album (Master Of Puppets and …And Justice For All), Metallica have seen such a diverse change in their style, that fans have many different views on what makes the perfect ‘tallica album. Metallica really started off as a balls to the wall thrash band, back when Kill ‘Em All came out, which was reminiscent of other Bay Area thrash metal bands such as Exodus and Testament and other bands such as Slayer, Annihilator and Overkill. They then refined their art with Ride The Lightning and Master Of Puppets, stepped into thrash-by-very-detailed-numbers with the super-technical and rhythmic …And Justice For All before heading in a more commercial chunky style of radio metal with their self-titled album, known as The Black Album to fans.
Then, it went downhill. After the stunning Black album, they toured like crazy and years later released their next full original album with Load which was about as exciting and metal as a toy soldier, wrapped in a roll of bubble wrap at a plastics convention. It was just booooring. Stock, very stock, predictable, not-all-that-heavy rock tunes – Metallica seemed to have really lost their way. But wait…we then received the good news that Load was actually only half of the songs that they recorded, and we would be treated to yet another bucket-of-dull with the rather imaginatively titled…Re-Load. Woo. Hoo. Ahem.
Then the Metallica hype machine started to roll again and we heard they were working on a new, angrier album, and Hetfield (their singer) had been a little too frisky with the ‘ol sauce and was in rehab for alcohol addiction, but was out and raring to channel his new-founded life experience and world-view into their music, with an undertone of anger…which would naturally translate well to metal. What resulted was St Anger, a pretty desperate attempt at sounding modern and heavy, complete with a snare drum that is reminiscent of the sound of a nun riding into a steel bin on a push-bike. Although it was heavier in places, it felt unimaginative and a bit of a reach – not like their previous works in which they knew how to push every button in your brain that makes you move to their music. It was just unnatural and desperate, and once again Metallica felt like they were losing their way.
So, Metallica have not released a decent album since The Black Album, and they have not released a decent thrash album (the reason why most of us love Metallica), since …And Justice For All – that is 16 years since a good album. Good grief.
Some of you may be wondering why on earth I have decided to blather on about Metallica today. Well, right now we Metallica fans, who have been treated to the audio equivalent of a train bacon sandwich for the last 16 years are once again getting our hopes up for the next Metallica album, named Death Magnetic, and due for release on the 12th September. Metallica have been treating the world to sneak peeks for the last few weeks and for the last half year or so we have heard the usual highly trumpeted reports that Metallica are back to their roots and once again the fans are hoping for a Puppets or at least a Black Album. So far, Metallica released a live recording of a song called Cyanide and their latest airing of a single called The Day That Never Comes as well as a bunch of 30 second or so snippets. So, are they any good?
So far it is a bit early to tell. I always like to let music sink in for a while before passing a firm opinion, but thus far I have to be honest that I am not exactly grabbed by the material. While I consider it a really great trait of a metal band to grab your attention within minutes (something which bands such as Hatebreed, The Acacia Strain, Heaven Shall Burn, Slipknot and All Shall Perish are great at), some bands need a good listening (such as King Diamond, Blind Guardian, Cannibal Corpse and Anata).
The main thing I am taking away from the situation with Metallica is that I am beginning to lose a little patience with them as a band. I totally agree that bands change styles, thats fine – I understand they don’t want to be playing speed metal any more, but I also listen to a bunch of bands that play the kind of music that Metallica seem to be going for (Black Label Society, Megadeth, Blaze etc), but I just don’t know if Metallica’s version of it is my cup of tea. Don’t get me wrong, they are a stunningly talented band, but I feel that the complexities in the band and the comfort they have carved out (as can be seen in Some Kind Of Monster) has mean’t that they have lost the hunger somewhat. It has long been known that more deprived surroundings have formed some of the greatest metal bands (as well as other artists such as Hip Hop and Rap). Of course, everyone wants to live a nice, lavishly comfortable lifestyle – I am no exception – but I get the impression that these comforts have overtaken their hunger for the music. This is not an endemic problem – there are plenty of bands who live great, comfortable lifestyles (just look at Iron Maiden for example) and still release rocking music, but Metallica feel distracted by it.
In my mind, Music is evolutionary, and we see different generations coming in, taking what went before and stepping up the plate. Metallica will always hold a place in my heart for releasing some of my most loved albums (in fact, I wore out my Master Of Puppets cassette from over-playing when I was a yoof), but I think these days I am more interested in checking out the amazing new talent with bands like *The Acacia Strain, Job For a Cowboy, All Shall Perish, Divine Heresy, The Red Chord, Blood Red Throne, Hatebreed, Arsis, Aborted, A Perfect Murder, Lamb Of God, Made Of Hate, Necrophagist, Nonpoint, Hatesphere etc.