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Metallica

"Bunch of Assholes" - The Dude

-or-

Sound great downloaded from Kazaa onto a stolen I-Pod

Introduction

Kill 'em All

Ride the Lightning

Master of Puppets

The $5.98 EP: Garage Days Re-Revisited

...and Justice for All

Live Shit: Binge and Purge

Load

Reload

Garage, Inc.

S&M

St. Anger

Some Kind of Monster E.P.

 


The Lineup Card (1981-2004)

James Hetfield (vocals, guitar)

Lars Ulrich (drums)

Dave Mustaine (guitars) until 1983 also of Megadeth

Cliff Burton (bass) died 1987

Jason Newsted (bass) 1987-2002 also of Flotsam and Jetsam and others

Robert Trujillo (bass) after 2002 also of Suicidal Tendencies

 

Thrash metal's most popular and innovative band, Metallica was one of the best rock 'n' roll bands of the big bad 1980's when they were still burbling to the surface of the whacked-out thrash metal underground and became one of the biggest stadium-packing acts of the 1990's when they changed their sound just enough to please MTV and become hard rock radio standards. Far from being the 'inventers' of anything, Metallica were instead like Bob Marley, the populizers and perfecters of a formerly obscure underground  genre, quickly becoming its public figureheads. Interestingly enough, also like Marley, they were mostly responsible for the music's subsequent demise when they quit playing it in 1991 (except Marley quit because he died...Metallica quit playing thrash because, erm...well, I know they got haircuts at one point. Maybe that was it. More on that later, anyway.) Brutally fast rock music has been coming out as far back as the Stooges and MC5 in terms of proto-punk, Zeppelin's 'Communication Breakdown', Black Sabbath's 'Paranoid', and Deep Purple's 'Speed King' and 'Fireball' were metal's earliest speed demons, and Budgie was one of the fastest of that bunch as well. Sabbath's 'Symptom Of The Universe' was mighty speedy and heavy and dark back in 1975, pretty much locking in most of thrash metal's later attributes in one brilliant step. Judas Priest also made some pretty fast stuff in the late 70's if memory serves me right. Then, of course, there's the ridiculously loud (and great, if ) Motorhead, who were probably the first band to play something approaching heavy metal as fast as the hardest-core punk rock of the day, and were some of the first to look like true-blue biker hoods rather than hippie leftovers. But while drummer Lars Ulrich counts Purple drummer Ian Paice as one of his major influences, the real pavers of the road Metallica would later cruise down are weird, obscure European metal bands like Sodom, Venom, Hellhammer (who later became Celtic Frost, who's pretty cool, too), Three Dog Night, and Archie Bell and the Drells. (Dammit, that third Drell can riff like a motherfucking trainwreck, man!), and probably three dozen other bands, probably from Denmark or Lichtenstein or other godforsaken, cold, socialist, and deadly boring European country, that released a split single sometime in late 1981 and then split up and went to work in the cuckoo clock factory or whatever. But outside the burgeoning new-wave metal scene dominated by Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, there really wasn't all that much happening on a publicly recognized scale in heavy metal music when Metallica burst forth in 1983. Their debut album was a revelation, not only because it was as fast and heavy and well-written as anything that had come before, but also because Metallica were American, and the U.S. hadn't produced a great, genuine heavy metal band since, umm....uh. Huh! Well, I guess you get the drift of my miff, Mr. Brownstone.

These lickers of metal started out as humble-but-willing thrash-heads out of San Francisco, Gay World, USA, collecting said split singles (and, as Lars remembers it, making cassette copies of what their friends had, heh heh) and doing whatever it is teenage metalheads do in their time off. Singer and guitarist James Hetfield, Danish-born drummer Lars Ulrich, guitarist Dave Mustaine, and bassist Cliff Burton formed the first lineup of Metallica in 1981, but Mustaine was kicked out for drug use before they recorded their first album, Kill 'Em All, in 1983.  He went on to form the inconsistently good but infinitely less compelling Megadeth and spend the next decade or so taking lame potshots at James and Lars for stealing his old riffs for Metallica songs. Metallica's debut, which included brilliant replacement guitarist Kirk Hammett, was a revelation for metal fans. It went on to sell better than any underground metal record had ever done and garner the band some major attention, even from the ignorant mainstream press. Kill was then followed by the quantum leap of Ride the Lightning two years later, a brilliant record that pushed mere thrash into technical intricacy usually only seen in Yes songs and piano concertos. Metallica had gone somewhere better in 1983, but by 1985 were in a place no human had seen and survived, and they were hailed as gods for it. Bassist Cliff Burton, what some consider to have been the Randy Rhoads of the bass guitar, died in a tour bus crash in 1987, but the survivors sucked it up, drank a fifth of vodka, and cranked onward. The band replaced Burton with Jason Newstead, and remained the chosen posterboys and critical darlings of thrash metal through the end of the 1980's. In 1991, they released the Metallica album and became stadium-filling crossover stars. Metallica (aka Smell the Glove) wasn't thrash metal at all (songs less than 5 minutes, bah! What is this, the Beach Boys?), but it was still heavy and dark and well-written, and for the next several years Metallica was inescabable. They toured for, like, six decades straight or something, some of it with Guns 'n' No-Shows, until James did his Human Torch impression with some pyrotechnics and had to spend several months recovering from the burn wounds on his hands.

Thus ends the story of Metallica. James never recovered, and they decided to split up the band rather than attempt to continue onward. Their near-flawless musical legacy has become one of the most prized in rock music history, and nothing they've done has sullied the massive talent, desire, and energy of their original intent. I hear Hetfield now owns a NASCAR team and Ulrich is running for Congress on the Libertarian ticket.  Lars has recently said about his former band that is 'it was great while it lasted. Some bands like to drag things on though they obviously aren't doing things for the same reasons as when they started out.  When I saw that pot explode in James' face that night, saw how his hands were blistering, I knew it was over. We had a great run, but at a certain point you have to say it's been enough.'

GodDAMMIT! That's not how it went. *sob!* That's not how it went at all.

No, though I rue it whenever I see James Hetfield's schoolyard-bully face on VH-1 talking about it, Metallica didn't break up. Nope. They came back with another album in 1996 (only a miniscule 5 years since the release of their previous album), and have spent the last several years busily defining what not to do as an aging, formerly great rock band.  They've spent those years at a commercial apex, but somehow have been almost complete bankrupt artistically, and have made a series of unbelievable blunders that have completely ruined them in my eyes.  Forget Van Hagar...the real deepest, darkest plunge a formerly-great band has made has been performed by the swan-diving Metallica since about 1993 or so. They have:

1. Changed their sound for the worse.  This is by far the most disturbing shift in the world of Metallica since 1991. While I, for one, thought Metallica was a fairly heinous sell-out move when it first came out, and still pretty much think the same way now, it was also a great album notwithstanding its lack of speed and progressiveness. Moreover it still sounded like uncompromised heavy metal, just grown up a little bit and polished up for mass consumption. Though I regret they abandoned the thrash they did so well, I can't really fault them. Load and Reload, though, aren't just not heavy metal, they're not any other good form of music, either.  They're some weird heavy mutant Southern Rock, very straightforward and simplistic when compared to Metallica at its peak, and only about a thousandth as memorable or powerful. They generally sound like they're trying not to shock the big group of fans who got on board with Metallica and may not be used to something as uncompromising as their former style.  James, especially, has degraded into a clown on the vocals...each line he sings ends with '-unghh!' (like Mark E. Smith's '-uh', but infinitely more juvenile), he hollers out 'yeaaahhh!' at the most idiotic moments, and grunts and growls at random moments in an attempt to be scary. I think the man's ridiculous, and not even his regular growly singing voice is nearly as good as it was back when Fleming Rasmussen was doing everything in his power to fuck up the vocals on the Ride the Lightning mix. Not even Kirk Hammett sounds nearly as good as he used to on his solos as he tries to turn himself into Jimi Hendrix or Gary Rossington or whomever. What this band doesn't understand is that the world doesn't want Metallica to do anything other than what they did best, and its personally hard for me to understand why they couldn't have continued to progress like they had from Kill 'Em All to Ride The Lightning, or from Master of Puppets to ...and Justice for All, or from Justice to Metallica.  There was a line of progression there that simply ended cold when they took five long-ass years to drop a Load on us.

Call it selling out? I do. Nowadays Metallica is scrambling back to reclaim thrash music, only to find they can no longer hack it with their neglected songwriting chops.

2. Recorded an album of covers. Fine. They did one in the 80's, too, and filled it up with cool-ass thrash songs from the likes of Venom and whatever, and threw in a rockin' Budgie classic as a bonus.  The 90's version contains all of that one (thank god), but also adds the unholy likes of Bob Seger's 'Turn the Page', a terrible version of Thin Lizzy's cover of the traditional 'Whiskey In the Jar', and some Misfits and Motorhead covers that Metallica may have been able to play in 1985, but now can't play worth dogshit. Bright move. It still sold a bazillion copies, but this sure didn't help their image in my book.

3. Cut off their hair and got Versace'd. Okay. So maybe James Hetfield didn't need to look like a white trash Fabio his entire life, but the glammed-up, $500 sunglasses-wearing, Alberto-Vo5'ed Queer Eyes that welcomed the release of Load in 1996 was a little much. It's hard to trust these guys as just another hard-workin' kickass rock 'n' roll band when they want to look like George Michael at the VH-1 Fashion Awards.

4. Began punishing their fans legally. I can say as a serial downloader of illegally obtained copyright material than I'm less than qualified as an objective voice here. Still, believe me when I say that if I were in Lars or James' shoes, or any other big-time rock artist who makes money through selling records, I would also have been angered and afraid at the prospect of millions of kids downloading my albums free of charge. But to be angry and afraid and to take such a public, legally punitive stance against, essentially, the same people who buy your concert tickets and t-shirts every time you roll into town (at a much higher profit margin, by the way) is simply unbelievably stupid.  Lars didn't look like a man concerned about protecting the sanctity of his art, he looked like a crazed inquisitor out to destroy each and every person who ever copied a cassette tape in his life. He looked desperate, and he looked greedy. He also indirectly helped the downfall of Napster, but five years later file-sharing still soldiers onward and it's hard to say the image of the man who used to hungrily copy Motorhead tapes as a teenager has been helped by this crusade.

5. Froze out their bassist. Jason Newsted made the mistake of not being Cliff Burton, and though he played gamely for Metallica through their commercial peak, never really became an equal partner in the group. In his former band Flotsam and Jetsam, Newsted wrote and sang.  Metallica they never once took on one of his compositions, even during their lame-as-fuck Load/Reload period when they could've quite obviously used his help. Newsted took the clearest revenge he could, forming his own side project before finally jetting in 2002. Plenty of bands stifle attempts from their sidemen to co-opt some of the writing credit space (take the Rolling Stones, for instance), but Metallica also lost their biggest and most loyal defender when they forced Newsted's hand.

6. Publicized their personal conflicts. Now, I've not yet seen Some Kind Of Monster, the recently released Metallica film documenting their tumultuous year following the loss of Newsted, and it might well be quite good as far as I know. But the idea of airing your dirty laundry (Hetfield's alcoholism and recovery, Ulrich's despotism) in such a public fashion (the movie features clips of their group therapy and recording sessions) sounds a bit off to me. Not to say the old Alcoholica 'didn't need no stinking rehab anyway', but there needs to be a bit more left to the imagination about these guys than this...now we know every little stinking detail of their personal problems. Personally, I want Metallica to kick my ass with some wicked-fast, complex, and melodic heavy metal music, I don't want to hear how hard it is for them to make it for me. This isn't Bob Dylan. They're not voices of a generation (god, I hope not), and they're for damn sure not poets. Sometimes it would better serve rock stars to shut the fuck up and just record more record albums.  Considering the unconscionably long gaps between new Metallica studio releases since 'the change' (five years between Metallica and Load, six years between Reload and St. Anger), I think this might be good advice for the band to follow.

7. Released a goddamn symphonic live album. Metallica used to be (and for all I know, having never seen them in person, may still be) a great live band. Their Binge + Purge live boxed set from the Black Album tour is one heck of a great document of that time and place, and there's no doubt that any band who can play the likes of 'Fight Fire With Fire' live onstage is right up there. But to do it backed by Captain Cheese Michael Kamen and his Love Unlimited Orchestra is just fucking weak.  I've yet to truly be blown away by any rock artist (with the exception of Brian Wilson and maybe a couple of Spector tracks) backed by a symphonic orchestra, and to hear Metallica play some of their best material with a bunch of violins and cellos sawing away behind them trying to keep up is just ridiculous. This is the kind of idea you hatch when you no longer find much worth in simply playing loud, fast music well.

Do I have more knocks against Metallica? Probably, but I'm already getting pissed off enough at them and I don't want it to affect my rating of their fantastic early albums. Suffice it to say that Metallica has not aged gracefully, and the cruddy thrash of their most recent releases now has them trying to claw their way back to someplace where they knew what the hell they were doing. We'll get to that in time, but for now we need to discuss some albums you really ought to own, metal fan or not.


Kill 'em All - Elektra 1983

Quite clearly Metallica recorded Kill 'em All when they were young and inexperienced, with not much more than an encyclopedic knowledge of their favorite metal riffs and enough pure energy to power Toledo, Ohio, but that's still enough to make a pretty great debut record.  It's hard nowadays to imagine not approaching Kill 'em All having already heard some later-period Metallica first, and as such the rawness and immaturity of their sound may be quite a shock (or, if you've somehow only heard the band's music in the last ten years, it may sound like the Voice of God). I remember buying Kill 'em All only after Master of Puppets and ...and Justice For All and hardly thinking it could be the same band after hearing it the first time. They're not really too much into the horrors 'n' madness 'n' warfare subject matter that would quickly dominate their lyrical imagery yet, clinging onto rather amusing 'raise your fist and yell!' rah-rah, self-congratulatory themes that reminds us that if you're not really mature enough to write about more complex ideas and have limited yourself to not writing songs about sex and drugs, there's not too many bullets left in the ol' revolver. 'Metal Militia', 'Hit The Lights', 'Motorbreath', and 'Whiplash' are all songs about rocking out, but they actually then go ahead and do it, so that's alright by me.  I guess rap artists have been singing about how great they are at rapping ever since Kool Herc spun up his first 'O'Jays' track back in '73, so, you know, whatever. Still, after hearing Metallica sing about leper messiahs and deaf, dumb, and blind kids asking to die, hearing a zit-faced and screechy James Hetfield recite lyrics like 'No life til leather...gonna kick some ass tonight!' is almost, well, cute. Like watching old 8mm films of Ted Bundy playing little league or something. On its own terms, and taken in the context of what had been happening prior to 1983, it's still fucking awesome, but it's very difficult not to see Kill 'em All as merely a starting point for the excellent trio of albums that would follow it.

Anyhow, this album wouldn't be nothin' if it weren't for the speed and aggression of the music, and they sure don't spend any time easing into it.  'Jump In the Fire' indeed...Kill 'em All is as fast as anything the band ever put out, and features some of their most thrilling moments (the shift from the slow section of 'Four Horsemen' back into double time probably one of the best I can mention off the top of my head) but they've not begun to 'orchestrate' themselves into a miniature prog-metal symphony yet - most songs are based around one or two stripped-down arse-trampling chugathon slash riffs doubled on two guitars, the solos are improvised (and rather poorly tacked on by their mixing engineers too...they're strikingly isolated from the other guitar tracks in the mix, as if someone pushes a 'solo' button on a control board and *bam*, in comes Hammett clustering a bunch of wild notes together), and there's a definite lack of 'rest' moments where you can catch your ass before it laps you again. No acoustic intro sections here, thanks. Just ass kick after ass kick after ass kick. The only real change of pace comes with Burton's fuzzy bass solo/conservatory audition 'Pulling Teeth', and that's just because it's only him jacking out a bunch of slow, stately arpeggios until he finally pulls out his neck-break stick when the drums come in several minutes later. The rest is fast without respite, and the best songs are clearly the most complex (and apparently, the ones written last), namely Dave Mustaine's 'Four Horsemen' and the relentless 'Seek and Destroy'. 'Horsemen' runs 7 minutes of pure thrash goodness, ranging from the galloping Iron Maidenisms of the lead riff, through killer slow sections (that would later no doubt be taken as cues by blockheads to begin moshing) and slam back through some of Hammet's best solos of the album. 'Seek and Destroy' is probably the most well-known song from the record, and is almost a clinic in controlled power...nothing too crazy happens for almost 7 minutes, but I'm still completely transfixed by the chugga-chugga-chugging ultra-Judas Priest riff. The rest is 'merely' great thrash, obviously taking big chunks from their influences, but great down to almost the very last bit. The early single 'Jump In The Fire' has a good riff but is slow enough to be Iron Maiden, and 'Phantom Lord' somehow reminds me quite of Rush played at fast speed, but fist-pumpers 'Hit The Lights' and, especially 'Motorbreath' are as fast and killer as you wanna be.  They don't lose it when they speed up, either...the riff to 'Lights' would be a good one played at half speed, and 'Whiplash' is just to frenetic and enxciting to be anything but a 10000-watt jolt to the solar plexus. Only the closing 'Metal Militia' is pretty stupid, and that's mostly the fault of James Hetfield, who sings like a complete asswipe on this track.

My original cassette tape from way back in the 1980's had two covers tacked onto the end, Diamondhead's goofy but cool 'Am I Evil?' (inspirational opening line: 'Mother was a witch, she was burned alive, thankless little bitch, for the tears I cried) and the absolutely awesome 'Blitzkrieg' by the band of the same name, which I always naturally thought was a Metallica written track.  Nowadays you have to get the half-great, half-trash Garage Inc. to pick up these two songs, which is sort of a bummer having the album end on the terrible 'Metal Militia' instead.

Capn's Final Word: They sound awful young to be playing this well. It took Metallica one album to equal all that had been done in thrash up to that point.

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Ty Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: Just wanted to say that "Blitzkrieg" and "Am I Evil?" were on the CD version of Kill 'Em All that Elektra released in the U.S. in 1988.  That version was in print until 1991, when Elektra (U.S.) switched and issued a version that omitted these tracks; all U.S. releases to date have continued to omit them.  The 1988 version can be found on ebay and the like.  Cheers!


 


Ride the Lightning - Elektra 1985

The breakthrough album.  Not to denigrate Kill 'em All any, because I think it's darn fine, too but to listen to Lightning closely following the debut is to hear a band grow exponentially in just a few short years. They've gone from kids playing their favorite music well to adults playing something completely and utterly new...never before had music ever been this fast, this powerful, this tight, and this well-constructed all at the same time. They've jacked up their precision to levels untold outside of the progressive rock genre, and indeed often sound like a crazed, hyper-distorted, double-speed Jethro Tull without the flute or assholishness. The improvised soloing is gone, replaced by what sounds like note-by-note planned instrumental breaks, and even the tiny little ticks (staccato notes, slides, etc.) in the guitar-choogling are nailed by the guitarists in perfect sync with each other. There's also a newfound seriousness...they weren't exactly little hairball Don Rickleses on their debut, but they've gotten rid of the 'let's rock!' lyrical training wheels and found their deadly serious lyrical promised land - apocalypse, executions, genocide, terror, frog stomping, finding a short, curly hair in your White Castle sandwich, you know, all those little things that makes thrash metal not country music, essentially. This is not a party band, and unless you have completely different kinds of parties than I havem this is not a party album. Or if it was one, I'd hate to have to clean your carpet afterwards. They charge through eight songs, none less than four minutes (and 'Call of Kthulu' almost nine of 'em) in length, but unless you're so damaged by years and years of watching MTV, this album will never lose your attention with the possible exception of the ending 'Kthulu', and that one just goes on a tad long. The rest of the album is freakishly resilient: just when one old riff gets old, the band switches on a dime to another, even better one (the 'bridge' riffs here are often the best of all - 'Trapped Under Ice' f'r instance), or shifts into lower gear to gather strength, or hits one of Kirk Hammett's classically near-psychedelic shred solos. For a guitar player who's playing one of the most pitfall-laden genres of music, Kirk shows a lot of taste. He's fast enough to keep up with anybody, but never descends into show-off classical solo-runs and his solos always seem to mean something.  Maybe he's not as earth-shatteringly original as an Eddie Van Halen, but the man's definitely good enough for this band. And this band, seriously, was for a short time one of the very best ever.  It seems weird to say that about a heavy metal band, but in the 1980's, who else are you gonna lay that tag on? A band as derivative as Guns 'n' Roses or R.E.M.? Nope, for me I have to say that Metallica is definitely one of the best, say, two or three bands of the last 20 years, and I really just have Husker Du pop up as someone who really gives them a run based on the quality, originality, and quantity of great music in that same time period. Coming back to Hide the Submarine, this album was so successful for them artistically that they essentially remade it two more times, and while some may argue as to which of the Big Three is the better album, it has to be recognized that Ride the Lightning was the original gangsta on the block.

We begin with a totally out-of-character acoustic introduction to 'Fight Fire With Fire', two guitars processed to sound something like a dulcimer, but not too many seconds later - THA-WHACK! the impossibly fast double-timed riff blasts off and the album pretty much heads to the stratosphere from this point.  They get anthemic on the doomy 'For Whom the Bell Tolls', which has one of the most well-executed crescendos I've ever heard on the lengthy intro to the first verse. The ever-interesting 'Fade To Black' gives another slight break with the band's first-ever 'ballad' (heh...it's one loud, dark, unsettling escaped crazy person of a ballad, if you insist on calling it one), presenting James Hetfield as a sort of barely-controlled temper-tantrum-in-waiting, where the ripping, distorted guitars await just under the surface and break out whenever the acoustic guitars aren't looking. In the future, James would sing these kinds of songs in an overwrought, 'angry bad man' tone that approached self-parody, but here he's thankfully all business. He also shows off his pipes on the Sabbath-y 'No one but me' section with some nice tonal jumps. Without him they wouldn't have been able to pull something this pretentious off this well, but his earnestness and believability put 'Black' over the top.

I'm so tempted to award this album with an A+, but there are three factors that keep nagging at me to keep this one down to a more forgiving A grade. First off, I'm not as hot-flashy about 'Escape' as some of the other tunes, and as I said before, the instrumental 'Kthulu' (despite some awfully disturbing noises burbling in the background) simply doesn't have the same snap to keep me interested for nine minutes (then again, neither would any of the other songs on here, but they're sure goddamn great at four or six minutes apiece). More importantly, though, the production, other than the crushingly heavy-yet-pleasant guitar tone, is unsatisfactory. The bass is nonexistent, the drums sound over-compressed and lack a natural punch, and Hetfield's vocals are way overprocessed, burying them in some deep well of gicky reverb.  They'd continue to have the same problems each time out until they ditched producer and engineer Fleming Rasmussen for the Black Album, most notably on ...and Justice for All, which may as well have no bass guitar on it at all. On one hand it is 'how these albums sound', and I can't just flat-out say the sound sucks (the guitars sound too great to say that), just like I can't quite fault Andrew Oldham-produced Stones tracks for sounding like they do.  It's part of their charm, I guess. But still, if you had a bassist as good as Cliff Burton, wouldn't you want him to be more audible in the mix? Can you imagine how much more awesome this album would sound if he were?

But it's so damn close to being perfect as it is. I feel really nitpicky not going ahead and giving it an A+, but I don't want to cheapen the best grade by just tossing it around like it was Paris Hilton on the Miami Dolphins' hotel floor, but I still prefer Master of Puppets, and there's got to be a reason why that is. On Master, the precision just gets screwed up that tiny bit higher, the songs that much more melodic amongst the shows of power, and the themes just that much more affecting. If you want to grab Ride the Lightning first, don't let me stop you, but all I'm saying is that while you're at it, just grab the other two as well. You don't need to pay for electricity this month. Or at least that's how Lars would see it.

Capn's Final Word: Metallica find themselves all alone on this one, in a metal world only they are qualified to explore.

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Sam    Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: IMO, Metallica's finest hour. Beats MOP by miles, mainly because of the production. On MOP the production's flat and dry, everything sounds subdued and light. Here, somehow, the production is more three-dimensional, and the already-great songs contained within develop a cold, hard edge to them. As a result, the whole album crackles and hisses with an electric, wintry atmosphere. It sounds like the cover looks-icy, remorseless power. And the songs are all great, though not as developed as they would be on MOP, they're arguably more interesting here for the most part. Fade to Black is the obvious highlight, along with Creeping Death, but the others are all fantastic as well, though it took me a while to realise how great the album was as a whole. I had it and liked half of it but the other half did nothing. I listened to it about six months later for the first time and suddenly 'got it'. [the same thing happened with MOP and Justice].

To put it simply: this is Metallica's best album, and every time I listen to it I get goosebumps at the guitar solos, the tone, the atmosphere. Awesome.

 


Master of Puppets - Electra 1986.
        

Some would say that this is essentially the same record as Ride the Lightning, and there are more than just a few similarities between them structure-wise. Eight songs, the first a bashing speedster (like 'Fight Fire With Fire'), the second and third a bit more nuanced, including some of the most well-executed lyrics (like 'For Whom the Bell Tolls'), the fourth beginning quietly but building slowly to an atomic climax ('Fade to Black').  Later on the second side there's a slightly less-heavy 9-minute instrumental track that features lots and lots of chuggling guitars over a mid-tempo rock beat.  Yup, you put Ride side-to-side with Master and it's hard not to see Metallica sticking with a formula that worked the first time around.  Similarly, I sure as hell can't see why one person would rate one of these vastly different from the other, you like one you're bound to like the other, except Ride the Lightning has a blue cover and Puppets a red one, and maybe there's some Crips and Bloods making pronouncements of strong preference one way or the other over the internet when they're not busy selling crack to buy $300 pairs of special-edition red and blue Nikes. But I doubt it.  Hell, I could even go the anal-retentive route and say that simply because Puppets came second then obviously it's got to be inferior to its highly similar precedent set by Ride.

Goddamn it, I don't buy that argument.  Puppets pretty much takes Ride the Lightning and perfects it as far as I'm concerned, and with the exception of maybe 'Fade to Black', there's not one song on Ride that isn't improved upon by its counterpart on Puppets. Its little things that make a difference - the instrumental breaks swing slightly more on 'Battery', and Hammett's soloing has added additional color and attitude to his already considerable speed and taste. The drum sound is still thinner than the plot to National Treasure, but Lars plays more cool-ass double-kick-drum rolls.  'Orion' is far more varied and interesting than 'Call of Kthulu', with better, more melodic solos and a few more wild-left-turn change ups (there's an amazing bluesy break on this one) than seem to make perfect sense only after your brain has time to catch up with itself. All this allows 'Orion's nine minutes to pass noticeably less painfully that its predecessor. Plus, hell, I just find the hooks on Master of Puppets to be sharper and less repetitive than on Ride. Ride may be more of a 'pure' thrash album (since Metallica is more-or-less defining singlehandedly what thrash 'is' at this point, isn't that up to them to tell us?) and goons may find the slow moments like the breakdown on 'Master' to be a distraction from the endless supply of ripping riffs, but I think they're razor sharp. There are moments on the title track where I simply have to bang my frontal lobes against the inside of my skull cavity like a maraca; Lightning has those moments too, but this one lets in just the teeniest, most marginal bit more light and variety to make the heavy bits just that much more spine-crackingly effective.

It seems a little silly to keep going down the track listing too deeply other than to note just a few things. I'd like to once again say that no one quite does the 'song-length crescendo' as well as Metallica did, and they show us how to do it once again on 'Welcome Home (Sanitarium)', they'd bring this little gimmick to its finest moment on the next album with 'One' (the 'climax' thrash section, plus the heartbreaking lyrics, pull 'One' above even 'Home').  This one also has its duffer track, stuck in the Gobi desert that starts side 2, called 'Disposable Heroes' - its super fast but a bit too 'melodic' vocally, and I always thought the 'back to the front!' and 'die! kill!' chants to be way too cheesy for an album with songs as subtle and bullshit-free as 'Battery' and 'The Thing That Should Not Be' on it. The closing 'Damage, Inc.' is funny as its really more of a hardcore punk track than a prog-metal one, but it's still a cool one and as tight as your teenage sister's..um...morals.

Right. Tell her I've still got a couple of her bras in the back seat of my car.

Alright, so today I've bought for you two absolutely essential Metallica albums, and if they sound similar to you, well that's good, because either one of them is simply excellent rock 'n' roll albums.  Don't let the spectre of heavy metal with its Dungeons and Dragons and Ronnie James Dios and giant codpieces scare you off, this is still rock 'n' roll music, and the level of creativity they've brought to their genre has led to some truly unmatched music.  I dunno...I'm a guy who sees connections between music, meaning that I can totally understand how someone could like, say, Ice Cube-era NWA, Jimi Hendrix, John Coltrane, and Metallica all at the same time, because they're all extremely intense musicians.  There's a connection between them in how they've pushed the boundaries of their music forms, and despite their strong, attractive hooks, it's not particularly 'easy' to listen to any of them casually because of how challenging they are. It takes brains, and, indeed, guts (plus the openmindedness to release your preconceptions about genre or form) to really dig deeply into their music.  And though metalheads have been saying it for twenty years now, there's just as much 'art' in Master of Puppets as there is in A Love Supreme.

Capn's Final Word: I dunno, call it unoriginal if you want to, but its the one of the best albums, thrash or no, I've ever heard.

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Chris     Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: I totally agree, this is definitely the best Metallica record.  I hate the new Metallica and have lost a lot of respect for them but their old material still stands the test of time.  I would still say Guns N' Roses was the best rock band of the late 80's/early 90's but Metallica was right there with them with no one else even close.

 

Matt     Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: Your A+ rating and review are absolutely dead on for this album.  Nobody else was even close to these guys.

And in addition, it seems like it bears mentioning that the band had enough class to thank Alex, Geddy and Neil in the liner notes after they blatently ripped off the main riff to 'Tom Sawyer' and used it in 'Welcome Home.'  At least they bothered to change the third chord from A to F.  Sort of like writing 'Twas the best of times, twas the illest of times' and marketing it as your own.

 

Sam      Your Rating: B+
Any Short Comments?: Bleh. Maybe it's just because I haven't listened to this album for ages that I'm assigning it a B+ grade, but then I've not WANTED to listen to this album for ages. Mainly because the production is shit. The 3-dimensional production of RTL is gone, as are all the wintry vibes. This album does have slightly warmer vibes, which could have been just as compelling, but the two-dimensional, flat-as a pancake production practically scuppers the album. Compare the studio version of 'Battery' to any live recording from their 'glory years'. The live version blows the original out of the door. Now take any song from RTL and you'll find that yes, the live version of that song will be better than the original but-here's the thing-not by that much. Maybe a bit, maybe some distance. But any MOP song sounds far better live, because the album production takes much of the heaviness and the interestingness out of the material. I could say
the same thing about Justice, but on that album the bad production kind of amplifies the bleak vibe.

The production's not the only bad thing on here, though. The first two songs are undeniable classics, and I've warmed to 'Disposable Heroes' in recent years. But come on-the songwriting on RTL may be less developed, but it's also more interesting. The Thing That Should Not Be could be a better song if it didn't stop-start and repeat itself all the time. Sanitarium, while good, is Fade to Black's poorer cousin. Leper Messiah is decent, but not enough to be a classic, and I can never remember how Damage Inc. goes.

The one reason I still dig this album out sometimes is Orion, by far their most beautiful, stunning piece of work, one of the great instrumentals in rock music. Everything's good about this song-the opening riff, the quiet bit in the middle, the brilliant solo at around the 6.20 mark, and the fantastic closing riff. Easily one of Metallica's best songs.

Not a bad album by any means, but not the classic it's made out to be. Perhaps i should give it another listen....

 


Garage Days Re-Revisited...the $5.98 E.P. - Electra 1987

$5.98 my soprano-voiced love canal! Before Metallica finally did something nice for their fans for once and released Garage Inc. in 1998, this thing used to be Star Time Soul Brutha Mutha Fucka Bootleg Album Number One, selling for no less than $25 at semi-reputable used-CD stores all over creation.  Of course, I only saw the actual original EP for sale used at twice that price, all stacked up on the tip-top shelf next to the original pressing of Freak Out! and the owner's incense box full of weed and ecstasy tabs.  The EP only has five cover songs on it, but they padded out the CD boot with cool-ass versions of Queen's proto-opera-thrash 'Stone Cold Crazy' and Budgie's equally-speedy 'Breadfan' among a few other tracks. All this stuff is on Garage Inc. now, but man...back then you weren't able to sit in the First Chair of the meat whistle section of the Metallicorchestra if you didn't have either one of these pricey artifacts in your collection. The original Garage Days Revisited was considered to be the two cover songs released on the original 'Jump In The Fire' EP and later released as bonus songs on Kill 'em All (not on CD, though, you technophile suckers!), Blitkrieg's 'Blitzkrieg' and Diamond Head's 'Am I Evil?'.  They returned to the concept after the untimely demise of bassist Cliff Burton when their tour bus wrecked in the middle of Europe somewhere, and they feld the need to break in replacement Jason Newsted on a bunch more Diamond Head and Danzig covers. The songs are decent but generally less good than Metallica's recent original material has been. It's not all speedy thrash metal, either. Budgie's 'Crash Course In Brain Surgery' looks back at old-school Brit proto-metal, Holocaust's 'The Small Hours' is as slow and grindy as Soundgarden with less moronic screaming, and Killing Joke's decidedly thrashy 'The Wait' makes me want to find more Killing Joke stuff. I've recently (today) discovered (had it revealed to me through sound) that Diamond Head is somewhat disappointing in practice (the album I heard was hair metal so sucky Jackyl would've asked it to stop playing and go back in its sleeve), but Metallica do it darn fine like a woman. Oddly, while the Misfits are one of the best American bands of the 1980's, Metallica plays 'em like absolute and utter dogshit piles. Maybe the worse the band is, the better job Metallica does covering their shit, which makes me quite happy to learn that they'll soon be covering the entire recorded works of Mannheim Steamroller.

 Dude, maybe if they cover Sheryl Crow's cover of Guns 'n' Roses 'Sweet Child of Mine', they'll start smoking and blow up into little tiny Metalli-shrapnel!

 Except they covered Bob Seger on Garage Inc and it still makes me wish that car had gone ahead and squashed my head like a ripe grape that time I was on Safety Patrol in sixth grade and I slipped on some black ice and fell right underneath an oncoming car. But that's not Bob Seger's fault. I hear he's actually just a Tourette's sufferer, and this group of cruel assholes keeps following him around with a tape recorder and musical instruments, recording his random outbursts and putting them on record albums. Don't abuse the handicapped, people...not even if they seem to like it when you pack their ears with Skittles, then try to cram quarters up their nose and yell 'I WANNA USE THE CANDY MACHINE!! I WANNA USE THE CANDY MACHINE!!'

Does anyone else think that Kelly Ripa's got so much camel toe she must actually have a second ass up there?

Capn's Final Word:  Pay more than cover price for it and you can't blame me if I try to sell you my old 90-minute cassette copy of The Black Album for $50, telling you it's really just a very well performed, extremely rare live bootleg.

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Peter Ross     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: Oh, the circumstances of which I got this album.  I was strolling through the used CD section of a Half Price Books store in Milwaukee when a salesperson walks by and puts this CD in the rack!  With a $7.98 price tag!

I GOT THIS MOTHERFUCKER FOR EIGHT BUCKS!  AM I LUCKY OR WHAT?!

Brian Theisen  btheisen@uwm.edu   Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: I got you beat. At the very same Half Price Books in Milwaukee (the one by Southridge right? Next to The Exclusive Company?) I found a vinyl copy of this for A DOLLAR! Anyway, everyone seems to like the Budgie cover, but Metallica's Breadfan is kinda weak. They take away the cool guitar tone of the original and make it sound like every Metallica song I've ever heard (only to ripped off by The Red Hot Chili Peppers.) I guess my main quibble with thrash metal is that it has far too limited guitar tones.
But still, The Small Hours is AWESOME!


...and Justice for All - Elektra 1988

This goddamn album title...capitalization rules are for suckers. I'm just about through with the Shift key altogether. If I didn't have to use it for my porn-portal password all the time, I'd probably just rip the fuckers off and ship them to that asshole of a bus driver I had back in Seventh grade who used to drive all the way to Trailridge Middle School at about 13 miles per hour 'cause he didn't want to change from first gear. Maybe he'd burnt out his clutch and didn't want to test the thing out more than he absolutely had to, but the trip to school took like 45 minutes to go a frigging mile and a half, and that 45 minutes was filled with food-throwing, titty-twisting, book-stealing, face-spitting good times from beginning to end. I swear, if I hadn't stabbed that scrawny kid to death the first day with that shiv I made out of a sharpened Lik-m-stik I'd probably never have made it.  13-year old testosterone-and-facial-pus fueled Aryan gangs have been known to sniff out deviations from the Saved By the Bell norm from 30 paces, and react with violent fear at the soft, tall kid in the front who's tucked behind the seat, listening to this album on his $8 Craig walkman and who's 850 pages through the Stand since last weekend, Anyway, fucking colluding, slow-ass bus driver asshole, SHIFT, motherfucker! Kids are getting slaughtered back there!

Back in the day, I loved this album because it was the darkest of the Metallica tapes I owned, somehow the least accessible and most fascist, and it reflected the fairly bleak outlook I had of life, just like every other kid who doesn't much dig Tony, Toni, Tone or want to wear day-glo Hypercolor t-shirts and get a fade haircut. In my world, this was some sort of musical tome to the void (I didn't much give a shit about the lyrics then, and surprise! I still don't!), and really was quite meaningful for that short peior of time. For some reason I never bought Ride the Lightning (hell, I was 13. How much money did I have to do it anyway? If my friends didn't buy it, and I'd decided to buy Iron Maiden's Powerslave instead or whatever, I was shit outta lobsters, you know what I mean?), but this one and Master of Puppets were in tight rotation on the ol headspeakers for most of 1990 and 1991, as I remember.

Anyway, nowadays, with perspective and knowledge of a woman and the ability to legally fuck myself up on various chemicals whenever I deem necessary and the combined effects of having heard probably 3,000 other albums in my life, I realize that Justice is really more flat than dark, as if they'd forgotten how to be as bright and cheery as Betty White at a lesbian weekend retreat, like they'd been on the other two. Heh. That's not really true, but compared to this non-stop-laff-a-thon it may as well be. While Master had moments of relative levity like 'Damage Inc.' and 'Orion', this one's depressing as all hell. The only lighthearted moment is also very, very dumb - the Seven Dwarves chant that begins 'Frayed Ends Of Sanity' was probably meant as a tiny in-joke, but it falls completely flat - it clumsily comes across like they meant it literally. I mean, the first song, previously the home base of rat-a-tat-tatter speed-metal ass-flailers like 'Fight Fire With Fire' and 'Battery', is given over to 'Blackened', a song featuring the timeless line 'time to begin whipping dance of the dead', mislaid article and all. Now, as far as I'm concerned, whipping corpses hard enough to make them dance in any appreciable manner is a recipe for some sore shoulders at the last and maybe even rotator cuff damage at the most.  It seems like a pretty big lot of trouble to go through when whipping the living gives much more immediate results. Hell, they do all the work for you! Just touch 'em once and watch 'em go!

So 'whipping dance of the dead' is actually a pretty astute description of what's happening here because, unless you're terminally addicted to Metallica's speed metal technique (which was presented more imaginatively last time anyway) you might also begin to resemble a dead person out of sheer boredom. This album is still undeniably powerful, but unless you're slathering like a prison escapee at an all-you-can-eat puusy bar for more black, over compressed distortion-mangling than you can shake a stick at, you'll find this  more slogging and dull than any other Metallica album so far. Talk about relentless - the band keeps flailing and flailing through one soundalike after another, making Side 2 either the best collection of pure thrash you've ever heard or something not quite as interesting as staring at a sheet of lead for 40 minutes. They're still in full faculty chops-wise, though - Lars has once again been practicing his dual-bass-drum rolls and Hammett pulls off some neat variations on his usual styles (one solo features some Hendrix-y tones), and the whole this is certainly kept tighter than a Scottish accountant's change wallet. It's just flat - they've made sticking by your guns feel more like a job than an honor.

That said, Justice still packs a wailing punch at times - the title song doesn't feel nearly as long as it's 10-minute running time because of some catchy shifts in tempo and time-signature turnarounds, and 'Blackened' is mighty tasty, too. Lyrically, this album is a load of social-criticism whiny hoobastank about 'injustice' and 'destroying inspiration through conformity' and 'hypocrisy', which, by the way, was also used on the last Spice Girls album that came out.  Besides, when James Hetfield stops writing in parable and starts being too literal he begins to sound like one of those high school dropouts who's gotten his hands on a couple of books without no pictures in it and decided he's Karl Marx all of the sudden. 'One' is just about Metallica's greatest moments, though, and I can forgive its stolen outright from Johnny Got His Gun (which also provides big parts of the video, the first of Metallica's MTV forays, although at the very least it was only shown on Headbanger's Ball right between Tesla coaching a mid-wrestling contest and Skid Row's '18 and Life' video, which was all that was ever on there when I ever got to watch it ) just because it is probably the best-executed song-length crescendo-to-orgasmic-peak I've ever heard. It moves through sections of surprising lyricism (Hammett once again flashing his covertly well-versed chops), even jazziness, sliding in with some of James' most subtle vocals, before slapping into the machine-gun headband section that sounds like you've awoken inside the world's loudest strobe light.  The ensuing thrash outro is simply masterful...the band gathers strength, then crashes through with a flurry of rage, like all the hours they spent practicing with Cliff just to see him die in a stupid bus crash coming out in three minutes of pure thrash.  It's absolute excellence, friends.

If the rest of the album'd had even a small smidge of what 'One' offers (or hell, even some of what the title track has hidden in its ass pocket), this would be a much more satisfying listen. As it is, I can barely stand the repetition and bull-headedness of 'Shortest Straw' or 'Harvester of Sorrow', and always feel quite relieved when its 60-odd minutes finally drip to an end. The production, all tickety-tick drums that sound like Lars is playing a set of practice pads instead of a real kit, over-smooshed guitars, and a complete lack of anything resembling a bass guitar, doesn't much help let in any light, either. It's truly a punishing listen, though when I'm done I don't feel like getting on the roller coaster again like on Pasties of Muppets. I sorta feel like ralphing in the trash barrel outside Mr. Toad's Wild Ride instead.

Capn's Final Word: Bleak, sleek, tweaky shriek. Needs some more from the spice rack.

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Sam     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: Probably their best studio effort after Ride the Lightning. The production is thinner than your average supermodel and weaker than a Carling shandy, but it also helps the record in an odd way by giving it a very antiseptic feel which only adds to the darkness of the album.

This is by far Metallica's darkest, bleakest record. From the happy-go-lucky lyrics describing war, insanity and injustice to the sheer density of the songs [I mean, there's an average of about three fast thrashy riffs in every song] to the fact that the shortest song is five minutes long, this album is bleak, bleak, bleak. Grey with little light to it.

It took me a while to get into this record, but having recently listened to it again I'm still blown away by how intense this record is and yet how oddly catchy it is at the same time. None of these songs are unmemorable, and none are particularly bad, with the exception of 'The Shortest Straw' which sounds like a pointless effort to pack yet more riffs into the album. 'Blackened' is an intense, fast opener, the perfect introduction to the album, and I love the bleak guitar whine of the intro. The title track is a vastly underrated song with some catchy chord changes and choruses to keep the listener interested. Eye of the Beholder and Frayed Ends of Sanity chug along at their own pace but somehow don't get boring, though they aren't highlights. Harvester of Sorrow is one of Metallica's great slow numbers, and like much of this album sounds immense and epic when played live. To Live is to Die is  another epic instrumental with some seriously moving pieces in it, and Dyer's Eve a fast fast fast closer.

And then there's One, easily among their best songs, with superb lyrics delivered well by Hetfield, and a long buildup from a haunting intro to a rivetingly dense, machine-gun like finale. The ending of this song never fails to raise hairs on my arms, such is its power.

Really good album, very underrated.

 


Metallica  - Elektra 1991

The Big Change happens here, for the most part, and just because Metallica have lost all interest in sex, snap your head off at the smallest instance of inconsiderate behavior, and have hot flashes so badly your house now resembles the Hoth rebel base doesn't mean they're completely gone and over the hill.  Just mostly that way. When my old friend Nick DeCamp bought this tape the week it came out back in 1991, and we gathered over in Scott Barber's basement room to play Rolemaster and drink Coke until we pissed caramel coloring, we popped this in and were shocked. God, it's so fucking slow. We could barely stand it, and though I'd heard them advance 'Enter Sandman' on the radio a few times before the release date, I simply wasn't prepared for my beloved thrashbastards to turn traitor on us like they had.  Listen, we weren't even it's-thrash-or-it's-shit muffler-nosed headbangers back then either. We may have barely been 14 at the time, but we’d already amassed the entire Led Zeppelin catalogue between us (hell, I even liked In Through the Out Door, though I can barely stand it now), and I was already digging into a few Pink Floyd and Deep Purple albums.  Then all hell broke loose. Nick, who had poofy hair like a Bay City Roller, asthma like a Bhopal survivor, feet that were no less than Size 15 on a Size Small body, and former hippie parents who'd turned into Born Again psychopaths, got a girlfriend and started doing drugs and breaking into cars. I later kissed his girlfriend in the midst of listening to 'Us and Them' and looking through her New Kids on the Block book during a revenge date she'd orchestrated to get back at Nick for doing something mean to her (Not that I knew that at the time, or probably even cared - this girl looked like a giant red-haired troll doll, but she was a hornball and had a nice rack. Hell, I was 14! I had the discriminating good taste of a prison escapee!) Nick and I had a huge row, I went on to become a Stones fan, find my own hornball girlfriend (who was much more attractive than said outsized Troll Doll) and never spoke to him again. All the while 'Enter Sandman' played endlessly on MTV, our disappointment gre to unprecedented levels. Scott, in his disillusionment and near-permanent lack-of-girlfriendness, began to paint. It was a sad time, the summer and fall of 1991, but it was the year I became a man. No wait, that was when I was kidnapped by Yemeni white slave traders and sent to Istanbul to sell my body for pistachio nuts and satin underthings.

My hatred of this album isn't nearly what it was even a few years ago, but this is still not what I'd call a classic record. To cut through some of the headbanger rhetoric you may have heard prior to this, Metallica is still ostensibly 'metallic', but the tempos are slowed to a more normal-human plod (which was fine for Black Sabbath, I guess), there's way more melodic emphasis placed on the vocals (which was fine for Mariah Carey, I guess), and they tend to ride their riffs out for the whole goddamn song, rather than changing them every half nanosecond like the attention-deficit alcoholic pigs that brought us Masturbate the Muppets. The riffs are key here - though a lot of the time they still pull off winners ('Through the Never') it's generally less interesting due to simple economics - when you're used to the average Metallica song giving you, say, at least three cool riffs (that's about right, though ...and Justine Bateman for All probably has slightly less and Ride the Electric Light Orchestra and Plaster of Crumpets slightly more), and Metallica gives you a maximum of two in any one song, it can't help but feel a bit disappointing. The songs are also way fucking long for how repetitive they are (these, sir, are no '...and Justice For All' or 'Orion'), and there's probably about half a dozen songs I'd not hesitate to chop off altogether. Though Justice was also a bit too lengthy and began to sound dreadfully samey after side 2, this one is far worse. I have serious problems making it through this entire thing in one setting (it gets better - Load is 20 minutes longer and really, truly is impossible to make it through. I've never done it.), and I bet my opinion of songs like 'My Friend of Misery' suffer badly as a result. That might not really be such a bad song - parts of it sound like late-70's Led Zeppelin, and the wah-wah solos are pretty snazzy now that I listen to them, but if I were to hear one more dropped-D tuned riff at this point I'd probably kill Tony Iommi with my bare hands. Of course, some of the songs are just stinkers - 'Of Wolf and Man' is goddamn ridiculous werewolf Lon Cheney bullshit,

The key to whether you're going to like this album is how much you feel attached to the old thrash-metal routine. Metallica have obviously outgrown it (they try it again on 'The Struggle Within' and sound like fucking idiots), and much prefer this more accessible, not to mention less demanding, way of playing. Hetfield has more time to screw around with his vocals (the barking, howling, and belches-of-Beelzebub start here) and Hammett can solo more 'expressively' (re: play more like Jimi Hendrix).

They also sold a fuckload more albums than they ever did playing 'Fight Fire With Fire' (such a sad world this is, friends...), and kids ate the 'what's that beast under your bed' machismo/'sincere' power ballad sellout moves on here up like PCP-coated-Sweet Tarts. The first half of this thing is extremely well-calculated to appeal as an alternative to either the testosteronally-challenged early 90's 'metal' scene that still existed when this album came out, or to the on-the-verge alternative scene that hadn't quite struck out yet.  I mean, when your choices are Kip Winger pirouetting like a redneck Nuryev, Guns 'n' Roses thirteenth six-hour-long s epic Meat Loaf chlock ballad from Use Your Illusion, or 'Enter Sandman', I'll go with Metallica, too. And just because they aren't playing as many riffs doesn't mean the riffs aren't any good - 'Sandman's got a classic, 'Sad But True' is like Lynyrd Skynyrd crossed with Soundgarden, and 'Wherever I May Roam' has one that would fit anywhere you please on Kill 'em All. Not surprisingly, these are also the best songs on the album for other reasons, too. They have an epic feel that sounds like they haven't lost all their arrangement skills (the tempo shifts on 'Roam' are as well-executed as any they've ever done), and they've also got great vocal hooks. I still think 'Sandman's lyrics are pretty stupid, and 'Roam' isn't much more than another 'I'm a gypsy, baby' cliché, but hell, if I were relying on James Hetfield to speak to my soul I'd probably sell it to Satan at a discount. The power ballads ('The Unforgiven' and 'Nothing Else Matters', both, coincidentally, 6:26 in length according to my CD player) are unbearable shit, though. I hated this over-emotive diaper gravy back in 1991 and I hate it now. Hearing Hetfield try to sing it all sweet like he does on these two colossal failures makes me think of Katherine Hepburn trying to perform Lasik surgery - he's trying so goddamn hard to stay on key and within preset limits of not sounding either too 'metally' and aggressive (ala 'Fade to Black'), nor too much like a pusswad, he ends up not sounding good either way. In fact, on the quiet parts he sounds like a zit-faced kid and on the louder ones like a monkey barking at the microphone to make sure we don't forget he's still a hardcore metal motherfucker. Though he's singing in front of an orchestral background. Over these schlocky chord sequences ('Nothing Else Matters' reminds me of Motley Crue's 'Home Sweet Home', though I have no idea where that comes from.

My problem isn't with power ballads, and it isn't with slow riffing. Or with growing up. I just like good repetitive riffing (Black Sabbath!), growing up done well (Lou Reed!), and umm...good power ballads (give me three weeks and I'll think of one). Metallica only does these things well sporadically.  Some of the better parts are keepers, and in general I don't hold this album to be a failure. Hell, give 'em credit for finally scoring a decent production job! No more tickity-tick drums!

Not that I've actually seen a drumset made out of ticks. What kind of tiny-ass drumsticks would that require? Would that be considered cruelty to animals? And wouldn't Lyme Disease just spray out of them whenever you hit the little vampire fuckers? I dunno, man, perhaps we should use dried ticks instead.

Capn's Final Word: The big commercialization moves has the ups and downs of a lot of sell-outs. Is anyone surprised they don't care much about being 'progressive' and not doing videos now that their bank accounts are full-to-bursting?

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Sam     Your Rating: A-
Any Short Comments?: The grade I'm assigning here is probably WAY too high, but I'm in a good mood today. So.... the great 'sell-out' album, one which divides fans and critics alike. Well, sure, it's not up to the standard of Ride the Lightning, but I like this baby just as much as MOP. Might be because the production this time is actually good rather than extremely variable. Glad to see that you've picked up on the 'epic' nature of parts of the album; I've noticed this too having recently spent several hours listening to it. The epic/mysterious atmosphere found in songs like 'Wherever I may Roam' adds an extra edge to the album, and moves its grade up from a B to a VERY low A.

Songwise, yeah they've ditched the thrash, but nearly all these songs are catchy and epically heavy at the same time, and the bigger, simplified riffs are good stuff too. 'Enter Sandman' is possibly the most overplayed rock/metal song ever, but it's still good for a spot of air guitar. 'Sad but True' is a classic, one of Metallica's best slow songs, up there with 'For Whom the Bell Tolls' in my opinion. 'Holier than Thou' sucks, but 'Unforgiven' is fantastic, possibly because I don't remember when it was a hit. 'Wherever I may Roam' is another highpoint, epic, majestic, brooding. 'Don't Tread on Me' and 'Through the Never' are great little mid/fast paced numbers. 'Nothing Else Matters' is good the first hundred times you listen to it, then unlistenable afterwards. 'Of Wolf and Man' is unusually catchy. 'The God that Failed' is IMO one of the album's highpoints.... awesome chorus, riff, epic etc. 'My Friend of Misery' is mediocre, but 'The Struggle Within' ends the album on a high note.

So there you have it: two sucky go-nowhere songs, two overplayed-to-buggery ones now rendered unlistenable because of that, and a whole slew of good to great ones. A classic rock album for the nineties, commercial and yeah, a sell-out in some ways, but pulled off with aplomb. Well worth buying.

 

ddickson@rice.edu

Ryan, kid, admit it, you probably couldn't think of a power ballad you liked given three EONS. You simply don't like the genre. Nothing wrong with that. I hate dadaist noise comedy free jazz-punk, but you don't see any hate mail hurled MY direction. Oh no WAIT A GODDA--

I came upon this album first in the Metallica discography. Growing up in the alternica-schlock-crap-MTV-Enron-Bechtel-PNAC-dominated late-'90's, I didn't know Metallica were pretty much defined by their status as a fast loud extreme destructive kill band until two years after this purchase. Once I purchased Ride the Lightning, I learned to appreciate that side of them too. I had to get through Master of Puppets first, though, which nearly put me off the genre for good. Overrated bunch of wack-a-thonery. Ride the Lightning can thrash its ass. Not a popular thing to say, but then again, didn't Metallica once represent everything "unpopular" in society? Sort of?

From what you've been saying about metal reviewers circa 1990, giving five stars to crap late-period Black Sabbath releases, I guess I shouldn't take CMJ, Rolling Stone, and others' assessment of this album at the time as a landmark of hard rock "comparable to Led Zeppelin IV" at face value. But that's certainly what I thought about it when I first listened to it. Still think it, in fact. I don't think there's a bad song on the album, with the sole exception of "Don't Tread on Me", which is just essentially a re-write of "For Whom the Bell Tolls". The fact that it's mid-tempo, has less than three riffs per song, and doesn't last sixty kajillion years per song never bothered me, perhaps because I hadn't heard those other albums before. Now I have, and I still think that this album is superior. Melody counts for something, even in extreme metal.

I just think it's hilarious that in the post-Nevermind world, all these critics are backtracking on their initial assessment. Those people flip-flop more often than George W. Bush. And yes, he flip-flops like a pancake. Remember the "We will not nation-build" pledge? The "smaller government" bullshit? The "carbon dioxide is harmful" pandering?

Screw the AMG. This album is a rock and roll masterpiece. And it's about hair-metal as Nevermind. Which is to say, not at all.

(Capn's Response: On the power ballad thing - goddamn it, you got me. 'One' doesn't count, does it?')


Live Shit - Binge and Purge - Elektra 1992

Binge and purge is right.  You binge on this three-cd live set from a Metallica-era show in Mexico City too much and you, too, will want to hurl from Metallicoverdose. But like all good drugs, a little is good and a little more is better. It's just way too much that'll ill you. The real crazies will want to check out the rest of this set, featuring videos (or DVD's, which I hear are quite a few steps better in quality than the limited edition animated Binge and Purge flipbooks I bought off Ebay last year for $499.95. The soundtrack to those goddamn things was awful.) of two more entire concerts from this same period. I suppose perusing all three in their entirety would probably qualify you to be a lighting director on the next Metallictour, but I could be wrong on that.  It might just be for the job of the guy who comes onstage with the spatula to scrape the slimy puddles of James Hetfield's charred flesh from the stage so the band doesn't lose their security deposit. But I hear that self-immolation happens quite often in the Metallicamp, which means you'll probably end up getting more cast-off groupie pussy than, say, the guy who tunes Lars Ulrich's assflute.

Assnyhow, this is given a higher-than-usual grade for a live album purely because if you like '83-'91 Metallica, there's no way your favorite song isn't on here, maybe twice or three times if you count the videos. Plus, in 1991 they hadn't yet pussified themselves so much they couldn't actually play thrash music (as long as they weren't being asked to write new thrash songs) like they would end up doing later on in the Nineties, so they perform well that they need to perform well. The ballads ('Nothing Else Matters', 'Unforgiven') are still just that much more rendered pig fat, reduced to a crawl and drawn out in an endless primordial emasculation ritual, but that's to be expected.  James Hetfield also talks to the crowd like that obscure drunken redneck jerk of an uncle that comes to your family reunion barbecue/wedding/funeral/bar mitzvah (are there Jewish rednecks? Having seen Brighton Beach, I suppose there are) and insists on dominating the microphone, drunkenly blathering into the microphone in a stale display of geniality (plus, saying 'fuck' every three seconds isn't as shocking as it used to be, Jimmy. Try replacing it with the word 'sphincterpoke', instead. See how that goes over. Like so: 'You sphincterpokers having a good time yet? You aren't sphincterpoking tired yet, are you? We're just sphincterpoking getting warmed the sphincterpoke up! Metallic-sphincterpoking-a!').  We also get to hear Jason scream into the microphone like Lemmy's little brother, sit through tired call-and-response routines, everyone gets to take their pro-forma year-long solo spots like this was the Tails From Pornographic Oceans tour, they tease us with one song before blasting into another, and they see fit to play just about all the good Metallica songs I can think of, in close succession and with near-perfect technique, yet with tons and tons of great live 'vibe'.

 I like this live album a lot, actually, but I have to ask a question here - were Metallica touring as much as they were to try and make up a little bit for their conscious sell-out of their 1991 album? With all the heaviness and oldies, this show sure indicates they aimed to please their headbangingest fans, and indeed with the exception of the oldy disc of Garage Inc., this is the very, very last recorded document of the pre-sissified Metallica, the last one that sounded like the band that had made Ride the Lightning eight years before. From here on the Metal Militia would be replaced by a Pansy Panzer Division, and it's hard not to hear this album as a 'see ya later' from Metallica to their glorious past.

Capn's Final Word: A glorious last live blast. Helluva long album, and to paraphrase James, you might tire out before it does, but it's still great to hear them play like this.

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Sam     Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: Fucking awesome live album, one of the all-time greats, with fantastic renditions of all the great Metallica songs [except Master of Puppets, which isn't played in full-WHY?]. Absolutely essential for any rock/metal fan. I fucking love live albums, this is one of the best.

Bit overpriced though-Metallica should release a reasonable size live album as well [and S&M doesn't count, over-orchestrated, a decade too late...].

Oh yeah, and if you haven't seen the videos/DVDs, THEY RULE. The San Diego Black Album show is pretty great, especially when they play a bit of Orion in the bass solo spot.

The Seattle show, recorded on the Justice tour, however, is just incredible. The best versions of most of Metallica's classic thrash songs are on here, and on Battery the playing rivals Slayer.... aw man, THIS is how Metallica should have stayed.

anyway, yeah, this boxset is essential.

 


Load - Elektra 1996

Oh yeah? Well Rocky Load is more like it.  Dammit. Let me start agai

Oh yeah? Well Load Runner is more lik...FUCK!! FUCK!!

Oh yeah? Well Mr. Load's Wild Ride is GODDAMN FUCK SHITHOLE ASSMASTER CUNT STUCK IN A NAUTILUS AB MACHINE DICKFUCKNOSE SHIT SOLEIL MOON FRYE COCK!!!

Listen, is it still Hardcore if your album cover looks like a bunch of sperm being splashed up on the camera lens? I guess if that sperm is bloody it is.

I've had college careers that didn't last as long as this album. This thing would easily have been a double record back in the old days. A double record of new material is a gutsy move. It shows you're confident enough that you want to take the risk of boring people because you think you're onto something great musically, or that your material is just so undeniably strong that you don't want to leave anything off. There's only been a few really good ones in the history of rock music: The White Album, Exile on Main St., London Calling, maybe something by Frank Zappa. All Things Must Pass (yes, yes, I know that's got three records in it, but that last one is just grunting and belching anyway, so I'm not counting it). Of course, the road is also littered with the charred and smoking corpses of failed double albums, too. Didn't Sweet have one? What a dumb idea that was. Sweet needed a double album like the world needed Sweet. Most bands who recorded a double album did so out of a complete inability to be self-critical, thinking that people wanted to hear every last goddamn thing they threw together for their new album. The advent of CD's only made this process advance further: most people were expected to come up with a 73-minute, 15-song CD. (Some egomaniacal dolts even released double CD's that weren't even compilations or live albums! I mean, I'm all for Bruce Springsteen, and all that, but if the man doesn't have any more realistic a picture of himself than to decide the world needed Lucky Town and Human Touch at the same time, there's no hope for the man or his asspit of a home state). They were also given a period of three or four years between albums to pull their creativity out of hiding, slap it across the face, feed it some coffee, and start churning out the hits. The problem is, if they're anything like me, they waited until the night before the first studio date, sat down, and started banging out melodies and lyrics faster and with less consideration than Mormons have little blonde kids. Therefore, instead of a new 30-to-40 minute long LP every four months or so like in the Sixties, in the mid-nineties it was purely acceptable for a band like Metallica to take five years between albums as long as they came back with the Longest Album Ever Heard By Human Ears Not Belonging to Vangelis.

I mean, holy crap! Did they develop some new technology for this motherfucker, or what? This is 79 minutes worth of dreadfully sub-Metallica riff rocking, all anachronistically grunge-derived, as if people still gave a Cate Blanchett about grunge rock as late as 1996. Now, I realize Metallica toured nearly nonstop from, like, 1991 to 1993, but isn't that what hotel rooms are for? Writing songs? Okay, okay, screwing groupies, too, but you can't do that all night, every night, not unless you're Bun E. Carlos from Cheap Trick. And last time I checked, Mr. Carlos did not pound skins for Metallica. They pound each others! (heh heh!). Just foolin'. Don't growl meanacingly at me or anything, Mr. Hetfield. I'd hate to have to go McCoy on your Okie ass. Alright. but five years, in the prime of your career, following the biggest chart success you'd ever had? Riiiight. I guess James Human Torched himself, and probably needed some time to recover, but still...stop being lazy asses, fuckers!

Okay, so this album quite nearly blows so hard it creates its own weather systems, but it's more of a passive 'this song sounds just like the last one' sort of symbolic fellatio than a 'what the FUCK were they thinking' sort of deal. The only one that'll have the longhairs scratching their fleabites would be 'Mama Said', James' foray into country music, steel guitars and everything, which isn't much of a stretch at all once you look at the man and realize what kind of white trash he really is.  Again, I have absolutely nothing against country music (especially Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash), and actually quite enjoy it sometimes, but the country music I like isn't performed like a bunch of twangy samples  programmed into a sequencer and played with all the heart and sincerity of paying a library fine. I have much less of a problem with Metallica going rootsy (they've already been doing it since Metallica) than with Metallica once again showing how inept they've become at writing good songs.

The ineptitude continues unabated throughout Load, which sounds like what happens when a band gets bored with their old formula and decides to jettison it, but has a big steaming pile of Jack Squat to replace it with. They attempt to rock like mid-tempo grungemen through the entire first side, sounding not too far different from a slightly heavier Collective Soul on tracks like 'Until It Sleeps' and try and fail to conjure memories of Metallica on 'King Nothing' or 'The House That Jack Built'. Obviously they're trying their best not to make Metallica II, or else they wouldn't have gotten all bluesy on 'Ronnie' or put on a fucking country track, but the rockers sound exactly like that. And it's just one after another after another after another.  Another lesson they've failed to learn is not to make their simplistic songs lengthy, but here they go...no songs less than four minutes, most over five, and two more than eight minutes. Yup. Assload is about right, all connotations of that term will work. I can safely say there are no classic Metallica tracks on this record.

Capn's Final Word: The first clue to failure is that the lightning logo is now history, replaced by something that looks like a refugee from a Hamburg gay disco.  In fact, the whole band looks that way.

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Sam    Your Rating: B
Any Short Comments?: I think you're far too harsh on this. I'm a fan of stoner rock and hard rock so this kind of thing sits well with me.

One of my friends says that this should have been a Hetfield solo album, in a way he's right, it's pretty decent in places but it DOESN'T sound like a Metallica record at all. After giving it a spin, I can agree that it's far too long, but about half the tracks here kick arse is an odd way... not in a Metallica way but in a laidback kind of way....

Put it this way: if the band's albums from 1984-1991 were a fast road, this album is the equivalent of a trip through the back country byways. The ambience of the album's very weird at times... country songs, bluesy riffs...

anyway, song-wise it goes something like this: 2x4, The House That Jack Built, Until It Sleeps, Bleeding Me, Mama Said, Ronnie and The Outlaw Torn are all good songs. I'd go so far as to say that The Outlaw Torn is a classic, the chorus is magnificent, the riffs solid.

King Nothing, The Thorn Within and Ain't My Bitch are average songs, perhaps you could make one good one out of all three.

The other songs on here are either incredibly dull, lack any decent riffs, or are just shit. Dull, and not what you want to hear from Metallica.

But James's vocals aren't as obnoxious as they would become on later albums, and it's overall listenable. I still think you're way too harsh on this.

 


Reload - Elektra 1997

A year later they came back with more - more eclectic weirdness ('Memory Remains', starring Miss Marianne "I Just Lowered My Fur Rug To Show Them I Was Naked" Faithfull's very own croaky-ass voice) even less legitimate rock power. Metallica seem bent on not only totally destroying their connection with their past, but also bent on releasing each and every little thing that ever splattered against the shower glass of their songwriting sessions.  The problem is, unlike other ego-overload everything-and-the-kitchen-sink marathons like Sandinista!, there's no indication that any of the tracks here or on Load are meant to be tossoffs.  They're all deadly serious and humorless (though sometimes unintentionally hilarious), whether they're Southern Rock/Metal riffrockers or ballads or sequels or country-rockers, it's all less jovial than an Auschwitz janitor, and its damn near all fillerish shit. Also, somehow they've made this album uglier than Load, as grimey, jagged guitar tones are the word of the day (along with, I might add, 'Fuck!' and 'the Fans!'). Hammett seems to be continuing his obsession with sounding less like himself and more like Jimmies Page and Hendrix, which is his mind means lots of mucky, low-register riffing (in the former case) and lots of notes bent all to frig (in the latter), which is sort of like saying if you play a lot of random arpeggios on a church organ you might end up sounding like Bach.

Reload isn't merely mediocre, as it is on the endless side 2 stretch that seems to attempt to recreate the entire Foghat catalogue from beginning to end - at points it's actively irritating.  I remember when this album was new, I was on the Comedy Central website trying to download some South Park game (hey! I was on a bunch of judgment-altering drugs at that time! But I still love South Park!) and the first verse or so of 'The Memory Remains' was on some endless loop. I didn't think much of it at the time, but then when I finally heard the song for real I thought all they'd done was record that same looping verse for five minutes. If there's a more naggingly repetitive song in heavy metal, I'd like to tack Faithfull's tuneless Skeletor croak on the end of it and see if it's any worse than this shitpile.  I'm not even a big fan of 'Fuel' (which is about racing cars...I mean, Jesus Fucking Christ! From electric chairs and Harvesters of Sorrow to fucking NASCAR in two moves or less!), which I guess is at least punchy, but the lame Alice in Chains-isms that follow just make clear that Metallica's now completely bankrupt.  'Unforgiven' was bad enough - definitely a low point on Metallica, but to remake it here as a baldfaced sequel is simply bad for business.

My problem with Load and Reload isn't simply that Metallica isn't as hard as they used to be,  Listen, I've said it before and I'll say it again: This isn't about changing style - Metallica can record an album of Gregorian Chants for all I care - as long as they make it as inventive and exciting as Master of Puppets, I'll think it's awesome.  But these albums are long, boring, hammy, and, worst of all, the band comes across like colossal poseurs on all of it. They play on their reputation and image more than believing in and investing their imagination in their new sound, and it's sick how they've replaced being cutting edge with actively and consciously aping the Smashing Pumpkins ('Carpe Diem Baby' and 'Attitude' fer Chrissakes!) and Alice in Chains (everything else), much less their very own riffs ('Slither' is a not-so-subtle remake of 'Enter Sandman' with a stutter on the last note of the figure and phasing on the drums). Sad, sad, sad, dad.

Capn's Final Word: Outtakes, but they don't want to call them that. Call 'em ugly ass riff-rockers instead.

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Garage Inc. - Elektra 1998

Okay, thanks to Metallica for finally legitimately releasing what used to be sold as the grossly-overpriced covers album bootleg Garage Days Re-Revisited, especially the one that added a bunch of other compilation and B-side tracks to the original EP I reviewed up above somewhere. This disc is some great stuff, from the fork-on-frying-pan screech of the 'Small Hours' intro to the hilarious first line to Diamond Head's 'Am I Evil?'. Dude, there's 'Blitzkrieg', which used to be one of the best songs on Kill 'em All, two Budgie songs (one of the most underrated and overlooked of the 'original' metal bands), including what may well be one of my favorite metal riff tunes of all time, the colossally heavy 'Breadfan'. Dude, a 'Breadfan'? The frig is that? A big, metal vent fan that spews out dinner rolls and angel food cakes and shit? That's some scary crap, man! Anyone can conceptualize big, sweaty demons and firey warfare and crap like that, but only Budgie could dream up a Breadfan. Hell, their band is named after a tame, polite domestic bird! But one that will drill right into your neck and suck the life out of your jugular if you look at it the wrong way! Wotta band, man! The rest of the old-time covers are generally great...see, back when this band was starving and had deep issues with acne and buses rolling off highways, they were also focused as all hell.  They could play anything they put their mind to, and do it tough, tight, and smart. This disc just shows that they could turn this single-minded concentration on their favorite tunes and play them with as much or more enthusiasm than anyone else had ever done. Queen song? Got it. Motorhead? Oh baby. The Misfits covers still suck James Carville's KY-encrusted bald dome right out of George Stephanopolous's gaping service entrance, though.

And fuck Metallica hard in the ear for making us purchase a disc of the Reload-era band hamming up Mercyful Fate and unironically paying homage to the better-left-alone likes of Nick Cave, 'Tuesday's Gone' (with some fucking harmonica soloing), and fucking Bob Seger. The metal covers are all predictable and dull (Sabbath's 'Sabba Cadabra' isn't nearly as tightly coiled and tense as the original), the band still can't do justice to the vampire Elvis vibe of classic Misfits ('Die, Die My Darling'), and man, does James Hetfield sound like a fucking chump on the more demanding vocals. Now I enjoy a good Bob Seger tune as much as the next root canal, but hearing Hetfield do his angry ggrrrowly Garth Brooks shtick on these vocals is pure pain in the center of my head. Believe it or not, it gets worse on 'Whiskey In the Jar'.  I'm not sure you're supposed to pay tribute to an artist by making a version of their song that's so incoherent and tuneless as to make the original sound golden, but No-talentica do it over and over again here. Considering that every rock band in the history of the planet has done covers, and how effectively the old Metallica performed on the second disc (and there's no denying there's some eclectic choices there, too), there's simply nothing special about this disc at all.

Capn's Final Word: I gave Disc 2 a B+, and disc 1 a C. I'd say that's a B- and worthy of a download.

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S&M - Elektra 1999

Whew! Finally a Metallica album that can be dismissed in less than three thousand words. S&M is simply a live album recorded with symphonic backing (conducted by schlockmaster Michael Kamen, who is more used to scoring Lethal Weapon movies and Oscar ceremonies) and watched by twee little scissorheads in $85 no-press slacks and $75 black DKNY t-shirts that has little or nothing to truly add to the Metallica story other than two easily dismissed new songs and even more evidence that the gulf between James and Lars and their fanbase has widened into an insurmountable chasm.  I can't really think of what fan, even the big-huge kind, would really get off on hearing Metallica's great oldies in this setting, especially since they've already been available in great, sweaty, real-life live format on Scarf and Barf. What, you need 'Fuel' with oboes and French Horns? I sure as hell don't. I don't need 'Call of Kthulu' with those things either, for that matter, and that's about as it good as these treatments get. Someone one said the resulting schlock/metal fusion sounds like a James Bond movie score, and that's about as accurate as you can be. Lots of swooping piccolos and other crap that just clutters up an already well-stocked Metallica sound to no benefit whatsoever.  I guess I can award points to this album for its crystal-clear production and the fact that Metallica can still play like motherfuckers when they need to, but I don't find that any sort of reason to profanate the Metallica vision with a bunch of barely-literate background scores like this. I can blame Metallica for going along with the idea, but at least they held up their side of the bargain and play well (though goddamn James Hetfield ought to be shocked right in the anus every time he doesn't sing a line straight...he grunts and hams on this album more than Buddy Hackett on the Gong Show). Kamen and the orchestra often sound completely oblivious to what Metallica are playing at the moment, or else they're attempting to cover it up with a bunch of irrelevant sympho-noise.  Listen, particularly, to the thrash section of 'One'...does that goddamn conductor even know what happens in this song? Doesn't he know that the staccato-perfection of the machine-gun bursts makes the entire song? Fuck it all and fucking no regrets. Metallica's long gone now, baby. I, personally, would much have preferred a double-disc live album from this period, but even that's debatable. Get Chew and Spew and consider yourself lucky you have that much.

Capn's Final Word: The S part is unnecessary and I even have my doubts about the M, but at least it can play the songs.

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St. Anger - Elektra 2003

Truly regrettable, unpleasant attempt to reconnect with a metal audience in the tasteless early new century, without having a clue as to what metal really is (much less was) anymore. If you ever wanted to hear random screaming over the sound of your unbalanced washing machine on spin cycle for over an hour and fifteen minutes, well sign right up and plunk down your $18 and change for Metallica's newest assault on its audience. This is, somehow not unexpectedly, also one of the worst-sounding records I've ever heard. You thought ...and Justice For All was produced about as well as a deaf, three-legged border collie could be expected to do? This is far, far worse. Lars Ulrich's drumming is replaced by a three-year-old banging various tin pots inside an empty dumpster (believe me, as a father, I know how this sounds for real), jacked up so far in the mix it ends up just south of some of the worse industrial albums I've subjected myself to. Except industrial music prides itself on being evocative in its alienating noise, while Lars and his goddamn steel pipes just bash and bash and bash long after said three-year old would tire out and demand juice and Dora the Explorer. The guitars are thin and overprocessed to near-irrelevance, left bleeding and buried somewhere behind all this gong-banging percussion noise.  This is like the anti-Justice, with the exception that the bass guitar is still as audible as the sliders on the mixing board. James, as would also be expected when your album is mixed completely contrary to what would actually be desired, is so absolutely front-and-center with his vocals that he sounds like he might actually be hiding inside your MP3 player to see if you download this album illegally or not (I did, three days before it's release date! I deleted it about five seconds after the first time I listened to it, though, and only just scored another copy for the purposes of this review. Am I still a bad guy, Lars?). This album is literally painful to listen to.  I've mixed better songs with two short-wave radios and a My First Sony.

So the band finally came out on the other end of its three-year brush with alternative and classic rock, having listened to your pleas that they'd 'sold out' and become soft. Well, that's one thing for damn sure, St. Anger is no sellout (did this thing even go gold, fer chrissakes? It fell off the charts faster than John Junior piloting a Cessna in a mild breeze). Not to melodicism or catchiness or any of that other nasty stuff. There's no songs here whatsoever - just screaming and random loudness followed by gimmicky slow sections, unadorned by any solos whatsoever (Kirk Hammett finally gives up). The riffs they choose to play on each song wouldn't have qualified for inclusion in two random bars of a Ride the Lightning song, but that's not what this music is all about.  This is metal band as percussion ensemble - all of the guitars are played as if they're really just extensions of that godforsaken clanking drumset rather than instruments of melody and harmony. Now, I know this is how a lot of nu-metal sounds, though I plead ignorance any further than that, but it doesn't mean it's good. If I want to hear lots of loud, percussive noises, I'll either listen to rap music or I'll bust the timing chain on my wife's Maxima. (In fact, James reaches his lowest point ever, and let me remind you this is from someone who covered Bob Seger, when he raps, after an aging redneck egomaniac fashion, during 'Some Kind of Monster'). Tempos range from nearly comatose to frenetic thrash, often within the same few seconds of music, but instead of gathering strength and sounding interesting, it keeps pulling the same tricks every eight bars or so, like a kid who learns a knock-knock joke and insists on telling it over and over until you finally have to drag him behind the shed and pull a John Robinson on his ass.

You wanna hear how this album sounds? Exactly fucking like that. 'Knock knock!' 'Knock knock!' 'Knock knock!' 'Knock knoooockkk!!!'

Metallica has died and rotted and left only a stinking, slimy puddle in its wake. As bleak as things looked in the mid-90's, what with Load and all that, this is horrifyingly worse. I won't go into more of the band's personal issues that may have influenced how awful this album really is (losing Jason, arguments), other than to say that if this is what rehab and therapy bring you (a lot of this album's lyrics sounds suspiciously like Hetfield smugly rejecting his 'dysfunctional' past - just listen to the myriad self-quotes on the title track), I'll proudly stay drunk and unreconstructed, thanks.

Capn's Final Word: Simply godawful clanging and screeching. The fact that they thought this sounded vital and 'metal' at all shows just how out of touch they really are. Worse than Load/Reload.

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Matt
Any Short Comments?: Heh.....justice is served....

You got this one dead on, that's for sure, although you might have gone easy on the rating for it IMO.  But every criticism you made of this record is true and then some.  I slightly disagree on your theory that they're not trying to sell out, because I think they're basically pandering to the nu-metal crowd here.  It sounds to me like the same tuneless sludge that Limp Bizkit or some other lame-ass "macho" band along those lines would come up with.  Even so, however, your point still stands:  this is, indeed, quite awful.  I don't know what to make of this: maybe they thought this would be payback to all who downloaded their songs in the past?  I mean, they figured it would sell because kids these days will buy whatever has their favorite band's logo on it and praise it to the nines even if it's total shit, so why not make it so bad that not even these kids will like it?  Seems like sort of an anti-marketing ploy to me, like they wanted to release it as a final "fuck you" to the fans before retiring to their multi-million dollar estates and continually living in infamy due to fucking crap like "Nothing Else Matters" being played on the radio and at junior proms and such.

An album so bad it should be labeled as a health hazard by the government.  This is the first Metallica album where, if I had a choice of listening to this or, say, Linkin Park, I'd throw them both in the trash and listen to Frankie Goes To Hollywood instead.  Seriously, it is that bad. 

(Capn's Response: Dude, I'm so with you on that FGTH thing.)

Killibinizik     Your Rating: F
Any Short Comments?: Reading your review for this album just made me open my eyes (and ears) to how godawful this album really is.  I think that you were actually generous on this particular review.  This album is just so generic and monotonous, that its just 72something minutes of a once great 80's-early 90's band just droning out whatever came to their heads in the studio.  Im guessing that this album only sold copies because people were desperate to pounce on anything by a veteran band.  To anyone who has read the review and hasnt had the misfortune of buying StAnger DONT BUY IT!!!
PS up Lars Ulrich's ass big time for having to go against napster back in the late 90's.  He had plenty of cash in his pockets then and does now.  He's a textbook example of someone who should put his money where his mouth is.


Mike     Your Rating: D-
Any Short Comments?: Where Metallica prove that they still jerk off manually.

James Hetfield - I may have posted this before, I don't remember - has no voice. He sounds like me with a frog in my throat. I have a voice like a developmentally disabled cow. That's what Hetfield now sounds like. I reiterate that Snoopy, Woodstock, Peppermint Patty, the entire fucking cast of Peanuts, could have done a better job.

The riffs are moronic (dugugugauauuguagu-ch-dudugaguagugugua-ch), although I do get a kick out of the horrific guitar tones - they sound more crusted over than Bobby Brown's eyes after a drug binge. And Lars bitchslapping that sewage pipe or whatever the hell that laughable pinging sound is, is really kind of funny. You can't even *hear* the bass, which is doubtlessly played shittily. What the hell is the POINT of this record? Just to irritate me? The only reason this doesn't get a flat-out F is that the opener "Frantic" is actually pretty fun, even if Hetfield - again - fucks up on vocals - good riff there, though. More than I can say for the rest of this waste of tape

(Capn's Response: I would rather enjoy hearing the teacher's wah-wah trumpet voice do the vocals on this album. Wah-waaaaah.)

pedro andino  pedroandino@msn.com   Your Rating: F
Any Short Comments?:
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! THIS IS NOT WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE BUT SHIT I JUST CANNOT LIKE THIS SHIT! JUSTICE IS SERVED! DEAR DIARY, I HATE THIS SHIT! LARS I KNOW YOU GOT CASH IN YOUR POCKETS AND YOU STILL DO BUT DO YOU HAVE TO KILL ME WITH THIS SHIT!????? YOU KNOW WHAT IS FUNNY? NAPSTER AND THE 1999 Y2K FLOP IS THE FUNNIEST SHIT I HAVE EVER PISSED MY PANTS ON! FUCK ST.PUSSY! HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!.


 


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