Metallica almost called it quits in the early 2000s, and here we are, roughly two decades later asking, is this the end of one of the biggest bands in the world? Fans have been supportive of James Hetfield’s road to recovery, and some have wondered, has the Worldwired touring cycle along with pressure for a new album been too much? Regardless of any thinking scenario, it took the group significant courage to publicly share Papa-Het’s struggle. It’s a reminder that we are all human and deserve to take time off for self-care. When Metallica had to cancel their headlining slot at this year’s Sonic Temple and Louder Than Life festivals, it made many wonder if there’s something else going on with the group. Metal Insider contributors decided this would be a great discussion to debate: Is this the beginning of the end for Metallica?
Jeff Podoshen: I don’t think it’s the beginning of the end. Obviously James is going through some hard times now and needs to get healthy. Nobody really wants to cancel shows, but if he doesn’t think he’s healthy enough to head out there, he should make sure that he’s ok. I’m sure fans, however, are going to be really disappointed with RHCP as the replacement. They are essentially an adult contemporary act these days. Perhaps RHCP better fits a festival with Michael Buble, Yanni and Celine Dion.
Zenae Zukowski: Shortly after Metallica’s 2017 tour, James Hetfield had a visible change. You can compare this to the promo photos taken for the group’s latest album, Hardwired…To Self-Destruct. This change didn’t make me question his health or that he went back to alcohol or what have you. I thought maybe age and his past have caught up with him.
The reality that everything comes to an end hit me when the group made Papa Het’s treatment public in September. Before the health update, I was hopeful seeing that Metallica were planning on releasing a new album in less than eight years, and now we know nothing is guaranteed. Imagine being one of the biggest bands and having to admit you’re human after all. It takes a lot of courage. When James made his first public appearance at the Petersen Automotive Museum, I thought that was the moment to say he’s better. He looked better and healthier! Then we saw his return to the stage, which was an acoustic performance to honor the late Eddie Money. All of these updates made me think: He’s OK!
Hell, I thought he improved when the group announced headlining five major U.S festivals promising two unique sets at each. It was an ambitious goal and schedule, especially after hearing about James entering rehab. Back then, I figured, OK, maybe he’s fine now. Then when we heard about the cancellation of two festivals, it made me think. Is this the beginning of the end of my favorite band, the band that has been with me for my entire life? They’re the only group I let myself splurge on excessive merch and to miss important family events. The one where I was “dying” with bronchitis and didn’t let that stop me from seeing them perform. The group I took a last-minute uncomfortable 8+ hour bus ride to see them in the nosebleed seats in Buffalo? What would “life” look like without having this constant, the one constant that brings such positivity and joy? The thought process on seeing the possibility of your favorite band coming to an end can go on forever isn’t easy to think what it would be not to have this outlet of joy anymore. Sadly, this is our reality, and this will happen to everyone. Does this mean that NOW is the end of Metallica? I honestly don’t know, but I’m sure Lars will make sure it’s not. We just said goodbye to Slayer, and maybe this is a time when our idols are calling it time to retire. I’m always going to be grateful for Metallica’s music and the excessive touring over the years.
Maybe Jeff is right, James needs more time, and they will be back. And about Red Hot Chili Peppers, I’m sorry, but I stopped listening to them years ago. I can’t get the song “Californication” out of my head. I think that’s the song that got me to stop listening to them. Metallica’s “Invisible Kid” is what made me stop listening to St. Anger for a very long time. But that’s for a different headbangers brawl.
I hope Metallica’s cancellation means precisely what they said, James has two scheduled appointments for his ongoing treatment that conflict with Sonic Temple and Louder than Life and the group will be back on track in no time.
Chris Annunziata: Metallica ain’t goin’ anywhere. Metallica always finds a way to overcome an obstacle and continue, after all, they did get through Some Kind of Monster. They love what they do and they love their fans. I don’t see the end of Metallica. As a very wise Jack Black said, “You can’t kill the metal.”
Bram Teitelman: The end of Metallica? Hell no. They’ve been on tour in support of …Hardwired for over three years, and even though it hasn’t been a grueling tour, James deserves as much time as he wants to take off and get better. It’s a bold move to publicly admit that he’s still got addiction issues, but if they thought that it’d be a problem in the first place, there’s no way that band and their management would have signed up to headline five Wimmer festivals. Many bands have just taken their fans’ money and put on shitty shows while obviously ailing from drugs or alcohol. Hell, you can read about a ton of shows that were canceled mid-show because a member was too fucked up to complete their set (Abbath and FFDP’s Ivan Moody come to mind immediately). Having seen the band live in this album cycle, they’re still energetic and firing on all cylinders, and you’d think they’ve got at least another few albums in them before they decide to retire.
Another thing is that the band are still only in their mid-50s. Black Sabbath earned their retirement. Sure, Slayer were roughly the same age, but you could tell Tom Araya was weary and ready to retire. I’ve never had the thought that Metallica were going through the motions. Maiden and Priest are older than Metallica and have as much energy as Metallica. They’ve got plenty more left in them.
Zenae Zukowski: You have a great point with Maiden and Priest. Lets not forget The Rolling Stones, Uriah Heep, The Who, and the rumored AC/DC who are all active touring bands. I guess we can call this scare number two or twenty two (who’s counting?). As Chris pointed out, they survived their therapy session with Some Kind of Monster. As the song ends, “This monster lives.” I hope James takes all the time he needs to recover. Long live Metallica!!!!