A super quick post today, just gonna cover the new song Metallica posted yesterday. It is the title track from their upcoming album 72 Seasons, which is about to hit its due date of April 14th. This the the fourth song they’ve posted from the album, at least I think.
This is the album’s opening track and is also a bit of a longer one – the video here runs for 8:38 but the actual song lists for 7:39. It is a pretty good song, very firmly in the latter-day Metallica vibe. I wonder if it really justifies its length, though I’m not usually one to complain about long songs. Length isn’t new territory for Metallica at all, they’ve had plenty of longer cuts over the years.
The album is near and I’m pretty stoked for it. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve heard so far, a few songs do get me going a bit and the others don’t put me off or anything. I don’t know where this album will rate at the end of it all but there’s certainly something to look forward to here. I’m also guessing that there will be a video for every song like there was for the last album so there will be more entertainment to dig into.
The S-Tier songs series marches on. For the list as it stands now and an overview of what it’s about if you haven’t seen it before, head to the master page.
I always have the next handful of songs for this planned out. I was about to work on one of them when I went back and read through the list of what I did so far. I could have been knocked over with a feather to find that this song was not already on my list. So today it’s time to right that wrong.
Metallica – For Whom The Bell Tolls
The third track from 1984’s seminal thrash record Ride The Lightning was a massive force that captured the attention of the metal world out of the gate. The song was released as a promotional single and has endured as one of Metallica’s best-loved songs through the course of their 40-plus year career.
Ride The Lightning has been the subject of the Album of the Week before, that post is here.
The intro to the song is classic, but it actually begins with something else. Two bells ring, followed by the drop of the riff. If you hear more than two bells, then you are most likely about to enjoy the classic song Hell’s Bells by AC/DC. Or maybe some other song that has bells but isn’t as good as either this or AC/DC. It’s a fun game to play if listening to the radio or whatever and the bell starts ringing to figure out which song is playing.
Once the bell is over with it’s all guns blazing with the guitars and – wait, what is that infernal noise? It’s actually bassist Cliff Burton with his rig plugged into a few effects, doing a part he used to do in old Bay Area bands alongside Jim Martin and Mike Bordin, who would go on to form Faith No More. Cliff’s twisted bass piece fits the guitar part very well and the song trudges on to begin the verses.
The song’s lyrical fare is inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s 1940 novel of the same name as the song. I’ll just get this out of the way – I read the book in high school because of the song and I wasn’t all that into it. But it’s pretty badass when distilled into a song – it’s set in the Spanish Civil War of the 1930’s. In the book, a group of fighters are planning to blow up a bridge to stall an enemy advance when shit hits the fan and people are butchered. In the song, a group of fighters takes a strategic hill but get blown apart by an air raid or artillery strike soon after. Different specifics but same general concept.
For all the song’s epic feel and delivery, it is also a very, very simple song. This takes a few minutes for even a novice guitar player to pick up on, and yet it is the full weight of heavy metal crushing down on someone. It was proof that metal was more than just “play fast and scream” and that songwriting and arrangement were a part of the process. And also proof that Metallica especially would be sharp in that field.
For Whom The Bell Tolls entered Metallica’s setlists and did not leave – according to Setlist.fm, it is the band’s fourth most-played song live. It would appear the song has never left the stage in the band’s many gigs over the years. It would be a clear inclusion on any “greatest hits” of Metallica list and certainly ranks toward the top of many fans’ favorite songs lists. And the single went gold in the US, an impressive feat as the band were not a radio or MTV darling in their early years.
Why is this an S-Tier song?
For Whom The Bell Tolls is one of Metallica’s immortal anthems, a crushing tale of the horrors of war set to a simple yet devastating heavy metal track. Even in all the subsequent world-conquering fame Metallica would enjoy, this song remains one of their most beloved. It was a showcase for Cliff Burton and it proved the band had the writing chops to excel beyond the scope of simply playing fast and loud.
I was just about ready to copy and paste today’s post from my typin’ program over to WordPress when I was alerted to the presence of a new Metallica song. I called an audible and decided to make today’s offering about the new song.
The song is called Screaming Suicide and is the second single from Metallica’s upcoming album 72 Seasons, out April 14th. The album kicks off a new tour cycle where Metallica will play two nights in each town with no-repeat setlists across the two nights. (Also, be aware that the two nights are not in a row – there is a day off inbetween)
Screaming Suicide has a pretty upbeat musical side but the lyrics delve into a pretty dark place, along the lines that the title would suggest. I’m totally confident in assuming that this is a bit of a point-of-view or character piece and Metallica isn’t literally suggesting suicide, I’d be certain that their intent behind it is the exact opposite.
But it is a bit funny to think of this song in 2023, when back 40 years ago a lot of songs that had no mention of suicide at all were blasted in the media and courtrooms for causing troubled people to take their lives. It’s highly unlikely anything of the sort would befall Metallica today. Even if people get mad over things for no reason, the days of high-profile lawsuits over lyrics seem to be over.
We’re two songs in now and so far I’m digging the new Metallica. This song doesn’t quite pack the same punch the first single did, but this is still a good track and I like the groove of it in contrast with the heavy tone of the lyrics. If the rest of the album holds up to what we’ve heard so far I will be a fan.
That about does it for this hot off the press post that fell in my lap last evening. Enjoy the weekend, I’ll be back tomorrow with another run through my Album A Day series.
A quick post today to discuss the news of a new Metallica album as well as the newly released single.
On Monday, Metallica announced their 12th studio album would be called 72 Seasons and will release on April 14, 2023. In addition to the album, Metallica are planning a huge tour that involves playing two nights in each stop and a “no-repeat” set for each city. More details can be found in the post on the band’s official website.
Also on offer is the first single from 72 Seasons. Lux Æterna comes on offer with sound and video (the band did record a video for every song from their prior album Hardwired…To Self Destruct, curious if they’ll do the same here).
Lux Æterna is a good offering, I’ve enjoyed it so far. It’s brief and to the point and it “feels” like a 2022 Metallica song. It seems like maybe the band “found their pocket” with Hardwired… and are going to stay in that territory. For my money, it’s a wise decision. There is plenty of disagreement over the new track, but I’ve noted a fair share of positive reception for the new song as well.
Of course my main concern is with how the album as a whole plays. It’s 12 songs at 77 minutes long, not as long as Hardwired… but still a plenty long enough album. Seems to be the trend for a lot of “boomer rock” these days, including many of my favorite acts. We’ll see how the full-length pans out, especially with the hefty amount of songs.
I’m personally pretty stoked for this, the new song sounds good and Metallica seem to have a good sense of direction in the latter portion of their career. It’s still over four months until album release, so there’s plenty of time to speculate on exactly what we’re getting with 72 Seasons.
It’s time to cap off Metallica week and that means it’s time for my album ranking. I’ll be going worst to first on the Metallica discography, sorting out the cream from the chaff (whatever that really means, I don’t know).
This ranking will include the ten full-length studio albums credited to Metallica. It will not include EP’s , singles, live albums with orchestras, live albums without orchestras, etc. It will also not include Lulu, the 2011 collaboration album with Lou Reed. That one is a bit tricky since it’s a full-length album that features the band in its entirety, but I’m going to go with the typical list that most people use. Also, Lulu is an abomination.
Let’s head into the waters here, I don’t think my list is radically unpredictable (mostly).
10 – St. Anger (2003)
This isn’t a hard call. I can find people in the wild who defend this album, but honestly I think it sounds bad and I have a hard time even listening to it. The production choices are beyond questionable, they’re flat out trash. And the songs are generally a mess. Finding a few diamonds in the shit doesn’t mean the album is redeemed in any way.
9 – Death Magnetic (2008)
This album is far, far better than its predecessor, but it’s still not all that great. The band did sound like they were trying again, but it also does sound like they are trying, rather than succeeding. And the album after this stands as proof that such is the case. There are a few nice songs on here, The Day That Never Comes stands out to me. But it’s not an album I feel like visiting much, or at all really.
8 – Reload (1997)
Kind of a “second half” album to their 1996 effort, Reload is a groove-based, almost blues and country styled album. A departure for Metallica, sure, but a pretty decent sounding effort overall. I do think this lacks real heavy hitters but it’s a collection of songs that are fine enough to listen to. I’d cite The Memory Remains as my favorite.
7 – Load (1996)
The band, not content with their 1991 reinvention, got haircuts and released some alt-metal. The world was abuzz about the physical and musical changes, but honestly they put out some stuff here that I really like. I think the first seven tracks are all bangers, that includes I think all of the singles. I like the last two songs as well – it’s the stuff inbetween that loses me a bit. If that were trimmed up some, I’d probably be ranking this one higher. I do truly think they wrote some really good songs here, regardless of what they were “supposed” to do.
6 – Hardwired … To Self Destruct (2016)
If Death Magnetic was supposed to be a return to form, Hardwired truly was, at least in places. Several of the songs here are the kind of bangers not really heard since 1991, if not even earlier. There are some secondary tracks on this huge album, to be sure, but even some of those are pretty nice. This album did recapture the magic in some way and it was damn nice to hear. The title track and Spit Out The Bone are the best work Metallica have cranked out in a very long time.
5 – The Black Album (1991)
I’d almost be cheeky and rank this lower but that would be dishonest – while I’m not in love with the whole thing, there some damn great songs on here. Wherever I May Roam and Sad But True are stellar songs, a handful of others are very nice and a few are good without being great. There are some, mostly towards the end of the album, that I can’t quite get into, but overall this was a success, both in my book and in the sales book. Can’t really argue with it.
4 – …And Justice For All (1988)
The first album without Cliff Burton could have went any number of ways, but Metallica were able to alter their formula some without sacrificing the core of their sound. Harvester Of Sorrow always gets me going, and One is a masterpiece and one of the band’s most iconic songs. While it sounds odd production wise (and lacking in bass), it makes up for that with a batch of great songs.
And this was the album I talked about in much more detail back on Monday – post here.
3 – Kill ‘Em All (1983)
The debut was a monster of a record – putting thrash on the map when the genre wasn’t a known quantity yet outside of local live scenes. This was very hard-hitting, fast and savage metal that pulled no punches and delivered a fist full of great songs. Not a weak note here and a still beloved collection of metal all these decades later.
2 – Master Of Puppets (1986)
The band’s third album is often cited as a “perfect” metal record, and for good reason. All eight songs are total masterpieces and every note hits hard. The album is crisp, clear and totally devastating. It set the band on a path of superstardom not touched by any other thrash act.
Metallica’s second effort still possessed a bit of the savage energy found on the debut, but the songwriting refinement here ramped things up exponentially. Some stuff still hits heavy, like For Whom The Bell Tolls and Creeping Death. And the band’s first ballad Fade To Black was a metal masterpiece. While some find fault with a few songs on the album, especially Escape, nothing on the record bothers me any. I’ve played this album thousands of times and I’ll likely play it thousands more before I push up daisies.
That does it for the Metallica album ranking. I doubt this is a “final” ranking as I would expect at least one more album, but all that can be sorted out down the road. And while I’ve talked plenty about them this week, this will be far from the final time I discuss Metallica on here – they are a lynchpin in heavy metal as well as my own musical formation.
Today I’m going over the two Metallica singles I have in my collection, both on cassette. These are the early singles Creeping Death and Jump In The Fire. Both were released in Europe when Metallica was distributed by Music For Nations over there, I don’t think these singles ever got North America releases.
These are somewhat collectible, owing to them being Metallica releases. They aren’t all that rare and can be had without coughing up huge cash, at least for the cassettes. They do get price gouged a fair bit, but these aren’t worth a huge premium or anything.
I’m going out of chronological order just because this one was sitting on top of the stack. First up is Creeping Death, from Ride The Lightning. It is absolutely one of my favorite Metallica songs. It’s one I’ll probably talk about in the future in more detail so I won’t get too much into it here, but it is a total beast of a song and is a staple in live sets, I believe it is their most played song. It really doesn’t get much better from Metallica.
The two B-sides are cover songs and are very iconic in Metallica lore. Up first is Am I Evil?, a song that has become an anthem for the originators, England’s own Diamond Head. While Diamond Head’s original did make some waves in the UK, they did not break international markets until Metallica’s cover.
The original is a fantastic tune and Metallica’s version is amazing. This might be the best cover song they ever did, and they’ve done quite a few. It was a boon to Diamond Head, who never broke huge but have had a respectable career.
The obscure picks for cover songs theme marches on with Blitzkrieg. This is a case of the song Blitzkrieg by the band Blitzkrieg. Sadly it was not also from the album Blitzkrieg, as it was a B-side to their debut single and they have never had a self-titled album.
This is also a well-executed cover and one that’s still a highlight of Metallica’s covers selection. Blitzkrieg the band have been on-again and off-again over the decades but were active as of 2019.
Jump In The Fire
The next single on the list is Jump In The Fire. This song is from the debut album Kill ‘Em All and the single was released in early 1984, roughly six months before Ride The Lightning hit shelves. This one has three tracks and repeats the program on both sides. I’ll still use A-side and B-side to denote things but I guess they aren’t technically correct terms here.
The A-side is a fantastic cut from the ferocious debut album. James Hetfield could wail back in the day and it’s on full display here. This is also one of Dave Mustaine’s contributions to the group (no shaking his immense influence).
The two B-sides promise live tracks in the form of Phantom Lord and Seek And Destroy, both also from the debut album. The thing is that both songs are fake live tracks – Metallica recorded alternate versions of the songs and added crowd noise to the recordings. Odd choice but I’m guessing capturing the band live during their first tours didn’t result in the best audio, so this was the chosen alternative. It’s fine from a curiosity standpoint but these B-sides clearly don’t push any real value.
That’s it for my Metallica cassette singles. Tomorrow I’ll wrap up Metallica week with my album ranking.
Yesterday I talked about two line-up changes from Metallica’s early days. Today I’ll get into the two remaining changes, both at the bass position. (Three if you ask Bob Rock, I guess…)
The first change came in 1986 and was born of tragedy – a bus accident claimed the life of Metallica’s legendary bassist.
Cliff Burton dies, succeeded by Jason Newsted
On September 27, 1986, Metallica’s tour bus crashed in Sweden. The cause is disputed – a point I’ll leave alone here. The result was the death of Cliff Burton at 24 years old.
Cliff’s death was an obvious shockwave through the Metallica camp, as well as the metal scene in general. Cliff was a massive force and contributor to the Metallica sound, his presence was going to be missed no matter what.
The band did decide to press on and after a huge audition process, chose Jason Newsted for the role. Newsted hailed from Arizona thrashers Flotsam And Jetsam, who had just been getting the ball rolling on their output. F&J would go on to have a nice career, but Newsted would find something far beyond nice in Metallica.
The lineup formed in 1987 would stay intact until 2001. In this period, Metallica would become one of the best-selling bands in the world. Their first effort with Newsted, …And Justice For All, would become their biggest seller to date. Then in 1991, their self-titled effort smashed records and stands as one of the best sellers of the 1990s.
Success would not necessarily be easy for Newsted. He wound up with just a few songwriting credits during his time in the band, which saw four full-length albums released. Jason was a total sparkplug when playing live, he was often cited as a highlight of the show for his energy and headbanging. The physical toll of that, coupled with another huge issue, led to him departing the band in 2001.
Jason Newsted quits, replaced by Robert Trujillo
When Jason Newsted announced his departure from Metallica, it wasn’t a quiet event. The band happened to have a film crew around them, shooting for a very drama-filled movie that became Some Kind Of Monster.
Newsted cited physical issues from touring, as well as discouragement from the band when he wished to do a side project. The discouragement came solely from James Hetfield, Newsted originally found the rest of the band and management keen on the idea.
Newsted would perform in a variety of bands over the years after Metallica – with that “side project” Echobrain, a tour with Ozzy Osbourne, as a member of Voivod and in a self-named band. Newsted disbanded that outfit sometime in 2014, citing the extreme expenses he was funding to take the band on tour. He has sporadically appeared in various capacities since, though not with a full time act.
For Metallica, they were between a rock and a hard place as they were working on their next album. With a lot of delays and drama found in plentiful supply on the Some Kind Of Monster film, the band’s producer Bob Rock filled in on bass for the album. It did at least come off as if Bob thought he was joining the band in a full capacity, though I don’t wish to speak for someone I’ve never met.
In any case, the audition process for a new bass player commenced, also documented on Some Kind Of Monster. The band chose Robert Trujillo, a career musician with an impressive resume spanning from Suicidal Tendencies to Black Label Society and Ozzy Osbourne (Newsted directly replaced Trujillo as Ozzy’s bassist, in fact).
Trujillo hit it off well with the established members of Metallica and was accepted fully into the band, something that never found his predecessor Jason. And it’s fair to say that Robert’s embrace into the group was the result of lessons learned from Newsted’s departure, James and Lars have said as much over the years. The band have released two albums with Trujillo and have toured extensively as the bearers of a now 40 year legacy as metal’s most successful band.
That about does it for the line-up changes in Metallica. There are other things that could be discussed, like fill-in guitarists when James has injured himself, the luminaries who auditioned for the bass role in 1986 and 2001, and the band’s idea to bring in John Bush as a vocalist and let James concentrate on guitar. But all of that is side stuff that can wait for another day. For today I’ll rest on the band’s present (and likely final) construction, ending with a final mention of Dave Mustaine simply because it’s not a Metallica discussion without Dave Mustaine.
Today and tomorrow I’m going to look at the major line-up changes in Metallica. The band have had a few over the years and they are some of the most-talked about personnel changes in music.
For the first part I’ll go into the two early era changes that would shape the band’s first run. One saw the addition of the “heart and soul” of the group, while the other change is one of the most discussed band member exits in music history.
Ron McGovney quits, replaced by Cliff Burton
When Metallica originally formed, James Hetfield brought with him Ron McGovney, a bandmate in prior outfits. The band used McGovney’s parents’ house to rehearse in during the early days, and Ron played bass on several demos.
There were apparent tensions between McGovney and the rest of the band, and Ron quit in late 1982. McGovney was not especially active in music after departing Metallica, but has joined the band at anniversary celebrations in the years since.
The titanic shift in Metallica came when McGovney was replaced – James and Lars watched the band Trauma performing at the famed Whiskey A Go Go. They discovered that the crazy sounds came from the band’s bassist, Cliff Burton. Burton was approached about joining Metallica and agreed, as long as the band relocated from Los Angeles to the Bay Area. The move was made and history would follow.
Burton would be a massive addition to the band. He played his bass much like a guitar, employing effects pedals and playing riffs seemingly more suited to six strings. His unique sound became a hallmark of the band’s early recordings and landed him solo spots on albums. Burton was also a huge contributor to the songwriting process, responsible for many of the band’s landmark songs in the first era.
While Cliff Burton’s time would be cut short through tragedy in 1986, he bears great responsibility for Metallica becoming a worldwide phenomenon. His entry into Metallica in 1982 is the catalyst for the band becoming what they were. There isn’t a Metallica as we know them without Cliff Burton.
Tomorrow I’ll talk about Cliff’s death and the shockwaves from that. But for now, it’s time to write about that which has already had trillions of words spilled about it. A few line-up changes in history have been titanic and are discussed widely even to this day, but this one might take the cake as far as how often it’s brought up, both by fans and by the aggrieved party.
Dave Mustaine is fired, replaced by Kirk Hammett
The story is well-known – Dave was in the early version of Metallica. The band were drunken hellraisers as a rule, but Dave took it to a line beyond that. Though specific stories are thrown around and disputed, Dave was eventually booted from the group just as they prepared to record their debut album. Mustaine was given a cross-country bus ticket back to Los Angeles from New York and he would form Megadeth. With a giant chip on his shoulder, Mustaine blazed his own trail in the thrash realm and remains the head of the Megadeth table today (a Megadeth line-up change post would be novel length and may or may not materialize someday).
To replace Mustaine, Metallica called across the country and asked Exodus guitarist Kirk Hammett to join. Hammett flew out directly to New York and was given the Metallica job in quick order. Hammett remains Metallica’s lead guitar player to this day.
It’s kind of funny how much there can be to talk about regarding this line-up change, and almost none of it revolves around Kirk Hammett. Kirk seems to be a pretty reserved, quiet guy who doesn’t stir the pot much. Kirk left Exodus, the band he had formed, for Metallica.
Exodus already had a reputation in the Bay Area scene, much of it for their violent live shows. Kirk’s departure left Gary Holt to be the main creative force in Exodus, a path that has served the band well in the decades since. Hammett has appeared live and in studio on occasion with Exodus in the years since.
But, as most already likely know, this line-up change isn’t really about Kirk Hammett. No, it’s about Dave Mustaine. Dave has given countless interviews over the years expressing his displeasure at being bounced from Metallica. While Mustaine is credited for songwriting contributions on the first two Metallica albums, he has in the past claimed to have written far more than he was credited on.
Mustaine also attacked Hammett in the past, accusing Kirk of simply ripping Mustaine off. Mustaine was a vocal thorn in the side of Metallica for many years, though the members of Metallica didn’t often take the bait and discuss Mustaine in any great detail.
It was clear that Mustaine was bitter about Metallica – most likely envious of their huge success, even as he found his own way with Megadeth. I hate to speculate about a person’s thoughts and motivations, but it’s pretty clear there was something to that with Mustaine and Metallica.
Over the years stances would soften, and Mustaine wound up jamming a bit with his old bandmates and his replacement during the Big Four shows. The feud entered an era of relative peace, even though Mustaine can still be counted on to say something occasionally.
A lot is made of Mustaine’s contributions to early Metallica, and this sometimes gets heated fan discussion going over what the band would have sounded like had he stayed, or if he really did provide more early material than he’s credited for, what have you. Various scenarios are argued over and over again, to no real effect but to take up bandwidth on the Internet. No one really “knows” what happened since none of us were there, and it’s so long ago now that it really isn’t important. But people have to have stuff to talk trash on, I guess.
It was just one line-up change for a band in their early years, just before recording their first record. But the saga of Dave Mustaine being tossed from Metallica lives on 40 years later, and will probably remain in the metal consciousness for so long as people have access to the Internet (and Mustaine is around to offer his occasional thoughts).
That wraps up the first part of Metallica’s line-up changes. I’ll be back tomorrow with the death of Cliff Burton and also the departure of the guy who replaced him.
It’s time to do another week revolving around one artist. This will involve a post every day, it’ll include a (long) look at the band’s line-up changes, a few singles I have and cap off with an album ranking on Friday.
I’m leading off with the band’s fourth album, one recorded and released after great tragedy. Despite a few curious choices in sound, the album would be a huge success and propel the group forward to a state of total world domination a few years later.
Metallica – …And Justice For All
Released September 7, 1988 via Elektra Records
My Favorite Tracks – Harvester Of Sorrow, One, Blackened
Metallica had made great strides in heavy metal and music in general, achieving commercial success without the benefit of radio or MTV play. Things would change with this album, and Metallica would start to become not just a successful metal band, but one of the world’s most popular acts.
The group were enjoying a fantastic touring cycle for Master Of Puppets when an icy bus crash in Sweden claimed the life of bassist Cliff Burton. Burton’s death was a massive loss and one that still reverberates today. The band decided to press on after the accident, hiring Jason Newsted away from Flotsam And Jetsam.
…And Justice For All features 9 songs at a massive run time of 65 minutes. The album cover is a fantastic image and possibly the band’s best ever. Singles released from the album include Harvester Of Sorrow, Eye Of The Beholder and One, the latter marking the band’s first MTV video.
It’s impossible to discuss the album without bringing up the curious production choices. The album sounds dry and tinny, with the high end very emphasized. The drum sound is odd, but the missing bass is the typical talking point. The band have blamed “hearing loss” for the bass omission, though a lot of people speculate that it wasn’t an inadvertent decision. The album succeeded even with the odd mix, though it is still a huge topic of discussion all these decades later.
With that out of the way, let’s get into the songs. There is a lot to go over, even with an average number of tracks.
The album opens with a super heavy track that firmly suggests Metallica are out to snap necks again. This is a pummeling song that details the nuclear end of the world, a topic prevalent in thrash and also Metallica’s own back catalog. While much of the album drifts away from “pure thrash,” Blackened is one of the more outright thrashy songs.
Blackened is also Jason Newsted’s sole writing credit on the album – he had the main riff “laying around” and played it for James Hetfield, who immediately set about crafting the song.
…And Justice For All
This very extended play at nearly 10 minutes is a direct attack on the hypocrisy and ineffectiveness of the justice system. It is a song that is sadly still very relevant, if not more so, today than in 1988. While the base of the song is pure thrash, there are several interludes and guitar passages that keep things from getting monotonous.
Eye Of The Beholder
The tempo slows a bit for this crunchy track that concerns itself with the idea that expression is not free and is instead bought and controlled by those in power. It’s an interesting topic that could sadly go down too many dark roads these days. The song is one of the more straightforward ones from the album, keeping its pace and general rhythm throughout.
The most recognized track from the record and certainly one of Metallica’s most known songs, this single marked the first music video release from the group. The video features movie footage from Johnny Got His Gun, a dark story similar to what is told in One. Both feature a World War I casualty who was blown apart by artillery but is still alive, though unable to do anything but think.
One begins slowly, with a very haunting guitar passage while the lyrics outline the victim’s plight. The song picks up steam as it goes along, eventually entering total thrash-out territory around 4 minutes in. The song’s extended remainder is a solo fest.
One was a triumphant single and video for Metallica and it marked the beginning of what would be a long ride on MTV for the group. Metallica wound up purchasing the movie rights to Johnny Got His Gun so they wouldn’t have to pay royalties to the prior rights holders. The song is a staple of live sets and is also often brought up when people are asking the age-old question “You know that one song?”
The Shortest Straw
Metallica return to the political theater here, offering a song that derides political witch hunts such as the Red Scare of the 1950’s. The song is another of the “thrashier” tunes from the album. Some fans speculate that the title has to do with how Cliff Burton wound up in his fatal section of tour bus the night of the crash, but honestly that seems like a reach to me and I doubt it’s the case.
Harvester Of Sorrow
An extremely dark and twisted song about a victim of childhood abuse that grows up to be traumatized by the abuse and, after going insane, murders his family. Harvester is a slower yet still heavy song that lends the right kind of dark atmosphere to its terrible story. While Metallica did plenty outside the thrash realm on this album, Harvester is a true highlight of how they could turn down the speed yet still offer a compelling song.
Frayed Ends Of Sanity
Very easy song to peg here, it’s a thrash tune about going insane. It slots very well on this album that’s all about the dark side of things. The song has a bit of trivia with it, as Metallica didn’t play the song live until it was voted in to the set via fan request in 2014. They would often tease the intro before going into a different tune.
To Live Is To Die
This is a mostly instrumental passage that serves as tribute to Cliff Burton. You can’t hear the bass, but if you could, you would hear Jason Newsted playing parts that Burton had previously written. There is a brief spoken passage around the 7:30 mark – the first two lines were from poet Paul Gerhardt and the last two were Cliff Burton’s. The lines and the bass parts mark Burton’s final contributions to Metallica’s music.
The closing track brings back the thrash in a big way. The lyrics reference someone criticizing their parents for sheltering their child and damaging their development through childhood. The lyrics were born of James Hetfield’s childhood, who had to deal with his father’s abandonment and his mother’s death, as well as growing up in a twisted belief system that would be responsible for his mother’s end.
…And Justice For All was a massive success for Metallica. The album went platinum just a bit after release and charted well in many parts of the world. The album would go on to sell over 8 million copies in the US, some of that of course coming after the band ascended to practical godhood with the Black Album.
Metallica ran into a practical issue while touring behind …Justice – the songs were too damn long. One was a constant fixture and the shorter Harvester Of Sorrow got plenty of stage time, but many other tracks were left alone due to time constraints. Eventually every song made it on to a set list, but highlighting the album live is a very tall task.
Metallica’s course was well on track for future success after this record. The form that took was something beyond which anyone could have realistically predicted, but of course all of that is a story for another time. …And Justice For All was a fitting bookend to the group’s thrash career and a fantastic effort born of the grief over the death of Cliff Burton.
It’s on to part three of this exploration of who killed hair metal. I’ve already rendered verdicts on grunge, the prime and obvious suspect. I’ve also convicted Guns N Roses of killing their own scene by being better than it. Check out the links below to see all that in action.
Grunge, and specifically Nirvana, get the lion’s share of blame for killing hair metal. It’s warranted, as I already went over in part one of this series. But grunge didn’t just kill hair metal. The truth is that heavy metal in all its forms was very much hurt by grunge’s influence.
Record labels weren’t only signing hair bands left and right – they were out to get on the next cash cow, and the next-heaviest thing that seemed logical to take off was thrash. The offshoot of punk had come in hard in the early ’80’s and was the polar opposite of its bastard cousin hair metal. Major record labels stocked up on thrash acts in order to be ahead of the curve and be there when thrash broke big.
The only problem was that thrash didn’t enter the music mainstream. Well, except for one band, and that band turned their back on the thrash that they helped invent and instead conquered every music chart known to man. I submit for consideration as a suspect in the murder of hair metal one of music’s most significant acts who made their own mark on 1991 – Metallica.
Suspect Three – Metallica
Metallica could have killed hair metal very early on. Lars Ulrich has told a story of his band wanting to fight Motley Crue in the streets in the early ’80’s, when both bands were getting their starts. Lars set out to find Tommy Lee and teach him a lesson on who is the bigger badass in music. Unfortunately for Lars, his 5’6” frame didn’t quite measure up to Tommy’s 6’2” stature, and Lars wisely chose to disengage.
Metallica might not have beaten up hair metal way back when, but they got to put their own nail in the coffin a decade later, even if Motley Crue themselves would outlive the death of the genre they founded.
The story is simple – Metallica arrived on the scene with an intense thrash record, they then refined their approach through songwriting and combined heavy with tasteful. They entered the 1990’s looking to do something different and hooked up with Bob Rock. The resulting record, the self-titled affair known as the Black Album, took over the world and is one of music’s best-selling records ever. The record has sold 31 million copies since release and served to catapult Metallica into the upper echelons of rock stardom, an unlikely feat for a group of nasty, long-haired geeks who cut songs like The Four Horsemen starting out.
As a whole, heavy metal did not do that well in the 1990’s. A few exceptions are noted – a brief movement from the early half of the decade loosely categorized as “alt-metal,” including Danzig and Type O Negative, saw some time in the Sun. Pantera rose to mainstream prominence as a pretty harsh act. Extreme metal bubbled toward the surface as thrash fell by the wayside, with black metal being the vanguard sound by decade’s end.
But heavy metal in the 1990’s largely belonged to one band. Metallica took over the world, one platinum certification and sold-out arena show at a time. While their sound was not the same as what they cut their teeth on, there is no denying the massive impact they had on all of music when they stole the show in 1991. Their influence lasted longer and was more far-reaching than grunge, and Metallica have sales records that outpace almost every album released in the decade, even industry titans like Shania Twain couldn’t keep pace.
But what does Metallica and their 1991 advent to superstardom mean in terms of hair metal? Hair metal was already on life support before Nirvana dealt the fatal blow that September. That summer, hair bands were already reshaping their music videos to be more plain-dressed, an effort to keep up with groups like Alice In Chains who were taking over airwaves. Gone were the gaudy shiny leather outfits and make-up of the decade prior, the bands left were scratching for a bit of relevance and a hope of lasting through the record contract they just signed.
Then Enter Sandman hit MTV on July 29, a few weeks removed from the Black Album’s release. It was a whole new ballgame the second that riff fired up. Rock could be menacing, dangerous and yet still accessible and catchy. There is no doubt that Enter Sandman is one of the catchiest songs in history. It might have been overplayed, sure, but that fatigue came later and detracts from its immediate impact on the music scene.
What did a person about to enter their freshman year of high school want to be caught dead listening to – some 12th generation hair band that was dead in the water before the first single released, or Metallica? If someone wasn’t on the grunge hype train, they’d better be sporting Metallica gear. No one could argue with that, even if Metallica had pared their sound down from the pioneering thrash days.
Metallica was a safe haven for the rocker who was caught with his bleached jeans down as hair metal made a quiet exit stage left. Was Nirvana too incomprehensible and dissonant? Check out Sad But True! Still need that feeling a good ballad generates? Nothing Else Matters and The Unforgiven scratch that itch. Metallica were just as big as hair metal – bigger, even – eventually eclipsing the mark that even Guns N Roses left on the music.
It might be something of an abstract link, but Metallica deserves some share of the responsibility for killing hair metal. It’s only fitting that the band throws darts at a picture of Winger in the Nothing Else Matters video. Metallica themselves irrevocably altered the face of rock and metal music while bands like Winger were left churning in the wake. It was the combination of a heralded reputation and the fusing of metal with accessible sounds that made Metallica one of music’s biggest bands, and that commercial likability helped give people a lifeline as they fled the sinking ship of hair metal. The alternative music wasn’t for everyone and heavy metal’s biggest act came to save the day.
Tomorrow – we deliver the final verdict on who really killed hair metal, in case anyone actually didn’t already know.