I like Metallica.
This is not a hot take. However, I feel the need to severely front-load this piece with the ultimate point of the whole thing for a few reasons, the most important one being that I’m going against my better judgment and outing myself as being in my mid 20s in an internet climate where this could very easily get picked up and shared around with captions like “UGH, these millennials don’t even know what good music is anymore” by the denim vest wearing hesher contingent who think that no music was made after Master Of fucking Puppets and stopped being able to digest more than a paragraph of information at a time around the same year. I can’t help when I was born, and so this was suggested to me: What does Metallica mean to me, as someone who wasn’t alive for their glory days, and was ostensibly born into a time where they were all at once their most popular, as well as right on the cusp of one of music’s most high-profile and spectacular bed-shittings? Read on to find out. Or don’t, since all most of you care about is headlines.
Metal entered my life around middle school in the early 2000s, after a childhood of 60s and 70s pop courtesy of my parents, and 90s rock courtesy of the college stations in my home state of Rhode Island. Like every other weird kid in the world, the love of metal was fast, all-encompassing; like when your more normal friends get their first girlfriends and stop hanging out with you. Everything was new to me at that point: For a mercifully short window, nu-metal sounded like a spaceship landing. The love of industrial I have to this day started in those years. Death metal was like getting shot up full of adrenaline and being launched out of a cannon. I’ll never forget my buddy Dogface playing me a Deicide record for the first time in someone’s basement; all I did was stand there going “dude…fuck. HOLY FUCK,” for the entire run time of those tracks. It was, to use my native tongue, wicked sick. Since I’m writing for this website, it obviously still is.
It was also right around the time that Metallica released their legendary 2003 stillbirth, St Anger.
At that point, the real ramifications of that album and what that relative era of their career meant to the metal community at large didn’t really register with me yet. The scores of people destroying piles of Metallica CDs in protest to the Napster lawsuit, for example – 12 year old me had a hearty “wow, Lars sucks” to say about that, the throes of typical adolescent, suburban anti-establishment leaving me totally oblivious to the long term ripple effects on the industry as a whole, or how many times I’d say the phrase “Lars Ulrich was 100% right and we should have listened to him” in my adult life actually working in the industry.
But come on, Metallica are awesome! I knew that Metallica were awesome. Or rather, that they were supposed to be awesome. “Enter Sandman” drew me in, Justice and Master (master) kept me there – what’s interesting, however, is the cognitive dissonance between the two eras of Metallica for people of my generation. On the one hand, there’s these long-haired badasses ripping on “Battery.” There’s that unforgettable, bleak “One” video. A band truly on the forefront of a generation’s go-to disenfranchised youth music. Yeah, “chop your breakfast on a mirror!” Sick! “Darkness, imprisoning me!” Brutal! And what did we get?
A bunch of farty dads hiring a $10,000 a day Griswolds sweater and a camera crew to piss and moan at each other for the better part of 3 years, occasionally dry-heaving forth a limp, half-formed idea that would be time stretched out to what eventually became an hour and fifteen minute endurance test, void of even the flashes of interesting ideas and sincerity that made up Load and Reload’s occasional redeeming moments.
Death Magnetic was certainly a step back in the right direction, especially on highlight “The End Of The Line” but you had no evidence of that if you grew up in an area that had rock stations piledriving the dead fish production job on “The Day That Never Comes” shoulder-deep up your ass at the top of every half hour for three months straight before we got to hear any other music. The rest of that album could have been Domination by Morbid Angel and you’d barely know it by how heavily they leaned on a flaccid rewrite of “Fade To Black” to carry it.
I won’t shit on Lulu too much here. It’s overdone, and I don’t want to downplay the suffering of the Guantanamo prisoners that are no doubt being forced to listen to it daily. I’m also not getting paid by the word, and this has gone on for long enough that I need to start thinking about a way to tie it all up in a bow. I know plenty of people who got to see Metallica in their prime. I’ve got that same wicked cool shirt with the Justice cover on it as them, only difference is that they actually bought it at the ’88 tour with the big Spinal Tap justice statue, and I got mine at JC Penney.
What I’m trying to say here is that, up until basically this week, my generation knew Metallica was great, but kinda had to take other people’s word for it. Another “duh” point because the music stands for itself, obviously; the first five records are all classics, we’ve got 30+ years of music history to consult there. Where the cognitive dissonance starts for us is here: as an impressionable young kid, there was at least one aforementioned hesher type who shook you by your shoulders at some point and said, “Dude! Fuckin’ METALLICA!” because that’s what fandom of this kind of music looks like. Okay, I guess I’ll check that band out if they’re so great. Oh, a current release? St Anger you say?
Imagine the disappointment to find that the greats of the genre have spent your whole lifespan rolling around in those soiled bedsheets. It’s like a Sci Fi Channel movie; so below par that you come back around to love it and root for it to be better. I’m very happy to say that’s finally happening, so I guess there’s my little bow on top, and a fun little clickbaity headline in itself: Hardwired is the best Metallica album of my lifetime. What don’t kill ya, make ya more strong.
Ancillary point is definitely that Some Kind Of Monster is required viewing for anyone in a band, starting a band, joining the industry, or getting within communicable disease distance of the music world in any other form. I still own the DVD and watch it approximately once a year if anyone wants to borrow my copy or come over for the annual viewing.