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Metallica … They sure like their controversies

This is a blog entry I wrote last year when Death Magnetic was released … I just read it again today, thought it was interesting … so, to any ‘tallica fans .. enjoy


–noun, plural -sies. 1. a prolonged public dispute, debate, or contention; disputation concerning a matter of opinion.

Let me say it right off the bat: Metallica is by far one of the most controversial bands in the world, no not because they write scary “satan” music, no not because they have beards and hold black guitars and no not because they have a Danish drummer – With every release over the past 25 years, Metallica have managed to stir some sort of controversy around that particular record – be it writing a commercially unfriendly album (Kill em all), introducing a ballad on the sophomore record (Ride The Lightning), introducing classical elements (Master of puppets), unplugging the bass from all amps (Justice), Writing MTV hits (Black album), abandoning their roots and resorting to hard rock (Loads), introducing an orchestra with their all time classics (S&M) and ofcourse the infamous ditching of the trademark guitar solos (St. Anger).

Despite all the shit they’ve done in the past, all the mishaps and everything they’ve done right – Metallica remain at the heart of every metal heads conversation? BUT Why do we give a shit – why do “haters” and “sheep”, as they call each other, care so much? Why is it that every Metallica record released stirs such controversy amongst metal/rock enthusiasts around the world? In the early 80’s Metallica adopted the METAL Attitude like no other band in history, they released four consecutive relentless albums that changed the face of metal as we know it: That is a fact, not an opinion. They influenced thousands of bands around the world – and although there are bands of the same scene, even on a better caliber musically – no band came close to the success Metallica had achieved. Metallica had influenced a generation of musicians, and raised generations of fans.

Because of this controversy, every Metal enthusiast (or musician) for that matter must put his/her 2 cents into any Metallica release.

I live in the UAE – DUBAI, and unlike the rest of the planet (perhaps the universe aswell) – we, in the Middle East, got our hands on Death Magnetic about a week after everybody else did. Considering we had to wait months in previous years, this is a drastic improvement. Now, I promised myself I would not give DM a spin unless I had the official copy in my hand – it IS the first Metallica release in 5 years, after all.

Having that one week of not having Death Magnetic (while the rest of the world did), I was in a unique position to read hundreds of reviews of the album before even listening to a single note. It really is quite interesting because the songs start shaping in your head before you actually get to listen to them.
Now, every reviewer has to ‘flex’ their musical knowledge prior to ANY Metallica review – for example, a reviewer would either state the bands he/she listens to ; this is to establish his/her background as a ‘true metal’ listener – in this way, if the reviewer gives it a two thumbs up; the album must be good because youre not a ‘sheep’ who liked load and reload. Whereas if the album was absolute dog shit, then you are also credible because, well, you hated load and reload – it’s a win win situation. Other reviewers establish the fact that they got Master of puppets on tape when it was released back in the mid 80’s while the rest of the world was in diapers – this is also to establish your credibility as a Metallica fan.

YOU CANNOT simply start a Metallica review based on objective musical opinion – it could work for any band – but certainly not Metallica.

After the reviewers establish their ‘street’ cred – You will instantly know the direction of the reviewers opinion with one of the following intros:

-Witty/Sarcastic comments about Metallicas musicianship/history: this will be a bad/mediocre review
-Praise beyond reason: This album will rule everything that is alive…and dead.

On to Death Magnetic – lets focus on the negative reviews first, and address those – shall we?
I read reviews that state these tracks have no flow and a lot of the riffs are ‘useless’ or ‘rehashed’ – One particular reviewer posted up a torrent link of a fan ‘edited’ version of Death Magnetic recommending people listen to that rather than the official release by Metallica –
NOW – as a person who had no prior knowledge to these tracks, I had an image of St Anger all over again. As a Metallica fan – I fucking freaked! After listening to Death Magnetic for over a week on constant rotation , I can safely say that these tracks flow perfectly fine! Who is the reviewer to say ‘this is how it should’ve sounded like’ – I’m sorry but if you’re such a fucking expert on song arrangements, or more specifically, METALLICA song arrangements – maybe you should be producing albums and writing masterpieces instead!?

The world write these reviews as if Metallica owed them something, little do these kids know, Metallica paved the way for many of their favorite bands today(be it black metal or pop rock) … Metallica wrote Kill em’ All and slept in cheap motels when these kids weren’t even born yet … so where do they get off suggesting song arrangements to the guys who wrote Master of Puppets? Get off your high-horse damn it.

That’s not where it ends though … you also have the other side of the coin, the damn sheep. I have read a lot of reviews stating that DM is the true follow-up to ‘Justice’ – are you fucking kidding me? That, ofcourse, is a tool of establishing ‘Metlli-street cred’ .. how? By denouncing the ‘black album’. Whether people like it, or not, The black album is the most important album in Metallica’s history. It is the sole album that made Metallica the band they are .. it’s the album that made Metallica the most loathed, or loved band on the planet … it’s the album that introduced Metallica to the world … it’s the album that has Enter Sandman, The Unforgiven, Sad But true, and Nothing Else Matters … Metallica classics by any stretch. Now that my rant about the black album is done, lets carry on – DM’s rightful place is NOT after ‘Justice’, its after St. Anger. There is a reason why DM came out the way it did, and it had to do with the years that preceded it ; ranging from alcohol abuse to near-band break up – to creating the controversial St. Anger . The reason this album was received so well is that we had no idea they still had it in them – the furious riffs, the blinding guitar solos, the trademark growls (not so much though), and the relentless drumming …. We did not see it coming.

Even with this release came controversy! Did you expect otherwise? With DM, Metallica released an ‘overly-loud’ album … you would think that isn’t a problem in the metal world, but low and behold, it surely is. Fans (sheep and haters alike) complained that the mastering of the album was SO loud, that it drowned out some of the finer moments on DM. This controversy filled the internet from blogs, to forums .. even to Facebook status’s (is that even a word? Fuckin’ Facebook)– to a point where the person who Mastered DM responded to a fan on the Metallica forums denouncing the mastering effort on the album, saying that he ‘wasn’t proud of it ’ – even went as far as pulling it off his website. Later, Lars Ulrich, Metallica’s drummer, said that he ‘loved the way the album sounds’ and continued by saying ‘only a minority hate the sound of it, maybe 10,000 out of the 2 million who got it’ … kings of metal, or kings of controversy? It was clear a lot of people weren’t happy with it … but it also remains a fact that Metallica didn’t change the sound of ‘Justice’ back in 88 when people complained about the lack of bass … they surely aren’t going to start listening to people now.

Metallica baby, love em’ or despise em’ … you cannot deny the iconic band they have become. They made a career by making fucking great music, and keeping people on their toes.

Many ‘haters’ wished Metallica stuck to the formula they had in the 80’s … that formula certainly worked, 4 relentless – some say flawless – albums. But how boring would that have been? Metallica would’ve been reduced to playing halls like Slayer, Megadeth or Anthrax (their 80’s companions) … instead, they took risks, listened to no one, pleased themselves and stirred a lot of – yes – controversy. This resulted in Metallica playing huge stadiums, Arenas and festivals to atleast 40,000 people a show (on average) … making them the biggest Metal band alive (and the fifth biggest selling band of all time).
Long live the king(s)