Whoa Yeah-yeah! Oah!

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.

  • http://ericbrown.com Eric D. Brown

    Agreed. I can’t listen to Metallica anymore after being subjected to St Anger.

    Take a listen to Kingdom of Sorrow….Jamey Jasta and Kirk Windstein together…absolutely great album.

  • http://ian.mckellar.org/ Ian McKellar
  • http://hemswell.lincoln.ac.uk/~padams Paul Adams

    Jono, I largely agree with all this…. But you didn’t mention S&M. I’d curious to know what you think of that album. I thought it was decent. And it came after The Black Album.

  • mudfly

    I gave up on Softallica, but Slayer always has satisfied.

  • the_0ne

    Heard both new songs and am not very happy with either unfortunately. Still have new Slipknot and All That Remains to look forward to. :)

  • aerials

    I was on their concert last sunday and it ROCKED! Very loud and very oldschool, so I’m eagerly waiting for the new album. :mrgreen:

  • Jonas

    I, for one, happen to rather dislike the early Metallica. Metallica, Load and Reload were right up my alley.

    This is probably my least favorite kind of music elitism. Just accept that bands will change over time, and don’t pretend that the earlier stuff is somehow objectively better (same thing happens among many Genesis fans, and it’s frankly sickening).

  • jono

    Jonas – which bit of “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.” is unclear – I made it quite clear that I am not clinging onto the past and I do accept that they change.

  • jono

    Paul – I thought it was interesting as a kind of experiment, and some songs worked better than others. It was a touch pretentious, but hey, this is metal – thats what we do at times. :)

  • Andreas

    Your music snobbery and knowledge is to be commended! I’m a fellow music snob who is now more interested in electronica but still likes Blind Guardian and Metallica.

  • http://www.metallikop.com Aaron Lake

    I’d have to agree that after The Black Album Metallica made a radical musical change… for the most part. A lot of people forget about Garage Inc. Disc two had a lot of fantastic newer recordings; granted they’re covers but very good covers. That’s one thing Metallica has always been, an absolutely fantastic cover band: Am I evil?, Breadfan, Damage Case.

    I signed up for missionmetallica.com back when it first opened and I check out the new content almost every day. What I’ve heard of this reboot album sounds pretty good so far, but like you said, we’ll wait and see. Regardless, I’m over the Napster thing, and I’ll forgive their new direction and continue to their earlier works which unarguably are some of the best metal ever recorded. Again, we’ll see what happens in September. I’ll be at their national tour either way, maybe more then once.

  • http://www.jessejoe.com/ Jesse Jarzynka

    Well said Jono. Makes you wonder why a band like Hatebreed can evolve (albeit not much musically) but at least put on an incredible show. Just saw them last month and it was incredible. As opposed to seeing Metallica where you wait the whole show to hear “Creeping Death” or “Frayed Ends of Sanity” and they only play 30 seconds of it in an “old stuff montage”.

    Watching Some Kind of Monster made me feel the death of one of my top 5 bands. Watching them whine like a bunch of rich people with too much money who need a full time therapist just so they can stand being in the same room together! Here’s a hint guys: if you can’t stand being near each other, the music you make is probably gonna suck! And watching Bob Rock and Lars talk Kirk out of recording a solo because it didn’t sound like the current trends! Congratulations guys, Kirk was exactly right, St. Anger is now firmly dated with Limp Bizkit and Puddle of Mudd!

    Not to mention offering Trujillo a million dollars to join the band. They are now exactly what their first 4 albums raged against, capitalist greed at it’s fullest level. In order to make metal, you must have a band that wants to play together just to play together. Not to make more money or redeem a reputation. Losing Cliff and even Jason were the worst things that ever happened to Metallica.

    I hope the new album somehow is amazing and makes me feel like putting on my Ride the Lightning shirt again. But rehab, yoga, and suing your own fans is not a recipe for Metal Up Your Ass ™.

  • http://www.sourceguru.net Mez

    Metallica at Reading festival this year were pretty… lame… ok, they had nice pyrotechnics, but the fact that I stayed in the same place through most of the afternoon, was completely surrounded and couldn’t even stand up when Tenacious D were on, but had a huge space around me during Metallica confirms my suspicion that while they may be great, they just don’t pump up that excitement in people anymore… “Oh, it’s Metallica” – was a comment I heard quite a lot…

  • Adriano

    “they have not released a decent thrash album (the reason why most of us love Metallica” I disagree. Copies sold point to Metallica, Load and Reload as being very appreciated albums. Though you could argue about the “loved” part. Metallica right now is a Wii (except the Wii actually is good): designed for the casual masses, you are asking for an Xbox360 or a PS3, something that caters more to your ‘hardcore’ taste. Apologies for the analogy.

  • Dan

    My big conflict is that…. well, I totally agree with you and then some. I would go so far as to call St. Anger “an abomination unto the ears”.

    But on the other hand, “modern” metal, including the kinds of things you listed, do nothing for me either. In an effort to be fair, I plugged some of those names into last.fm and saw what it coughed up for me, and what I got was a whole bunch of reasonably talented guitarists saddled with vocalists that sound like they are trying to imitate either:

    1. cookie monster,

    2. Immortal (who did it far better), or

    3. A hair-clogged shower drain.

    When I go listen to old Metallica, or Megadeth, or Iron Maiden, what I get is awesome guitars on top of a vocalist who not only doesn’t suck, but is actively good. They sing more than scream, actual words come out and everything. And that makes me miss them all the more, and keep going back to those old albums like Master of Puppets even though I remain thoroughly disgusted with what Metallica has become.

    (As I was writing this, last.fm came up with Ligeia, and kind of made a liar out of me, this guy is actually singing in between the throaty shrieks. But my point stands!)

  • http://ibeentoubuntu.com Daeng Bo

    I got into Metallica back when Dave was still with them, in their demo days. I fell in love with them for KeA and branded Ride the Lightening as my favorite album for at least ten years.

    Sadly, though you liked their speedier stuff starting with MoP, it kind of turned me off, and while I bought all their albums up to and including Metallica, I didn’t really like much in between. While Metallica the album was commercial, at least it was slower. I thought it was actually closer to RtL than anything between, too.

    I dn’t listen to them much anymore except for their really early stuff, but I was still happy to find out that they’ve embraced online music and sell copies of all their live concerts online for relatively little money.

  • http://www.funk.com junjle