Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Metallica: The Untold Story or My Version of the Story

The time has finally come to talk about the megaforce that is Metallica. This is a topic that I’ve thought a great deal about and now am ready to share with the world, okay my friends, okay really nobody is reading this but it’s alright. Let’s just say I’m sharing it with myself and call it even okay? Last year Metallica released their album “Death Magnetic” and to be honest I was skeptic about it before even hearing it. For a very long period of time I was unable to listen to any of their songs which was tough when you consider that the local “rock” station where I was living had a Mandatory Metallica bit on Tuesdays and generally played them about every 15 minutes.

I won’t pretend that I was a super fan from the very beginning, quite the opposite actually. I didn’t have anything against them but when they were young (and at their best) I just didn’t have much interest in thrash metal. No, my musical interests lay elsewhere although an occasional thrash song by the likes of Anthrax or Testament found its way into my music collection but that was the exception rather than the norm. However I was aware of them and their music and understood that their music was changing slightly as each album went by. Most people will note that on 1988 when “And Justice For All” came out that there was a larger shift in Metallica’s music mainly due to the song “One.” Three years later came the so called “Black Album” which shifted things even farther into the mainstream by going extremely radio friendly. The big sellout however didn’t come about until 1996 when they cut off their hair, started wearing designer clothes and released the album “Load.”

Don’t get me wrong, it was and is their right to do whatever they wish and to go into any musical direction that they deem to be appropriate and the last thing I would expect them to do is to still be playing the same style of music and wearing their black t-shirts and jeans when they were 50. But the honest truth is that the Metallica from 10 years previous would have beaten the crap out of this version of the band. “Load” was a total commercial sellout and the band responded with vigor by doing things they never would have done in the past. Their videos were constantly played on TRL and the band appeared on as many talk shows as they could. When that new attitude is coupled with the haircuts and designer clothes how can anyone say it wasn’t a conscious effort to soften the music and reach as many people as possible? The sad truth is that if they had just continued on with their gradual changes I think they still would have reached unbelievable levels of success without having had to resort to making the music suffer.

After this I think as they continued to try to write in this more commercial vein it became harder and harder for them to write relevant lyrics. They had already changed their lyrical style once which was an attempt to compensate for the fact that James Hetfield could no longer write from the same place anymore as the band had reached a comfort level professionally. Gone were the songs with political opinions and social observations and now the writing became more personal and fueled by anger. By the time the dreadful “Reload” album came out it was clear that writing was becoming exceedingly difficult. The songs on the album were written during the “Load” sessions but were deemed to be average by the band so instead they worked on them and polished them up as much as possible before releasing the album. After that they re-released previous music and did a cover album and their symphonic release which was older material performed with an orchestra.

To me this points towards the fact that they were having difficulty coming up with songs period. If you were a young and hungry band (both physically and musically) and now you’re in a situation where you have some success and things are comfortable you just can’t write from the same place anymore. Most fans wouldn’t believe you when you try to write the same things when they know you don’t have it rough anymore. So they changed their style. Then when you have the commercial sellout that occurred and you have so much money that you’ll never have to worry about anything in your life ever again how do you write with anger? How do you make your fans believe the words you write come truly from your emotions once you have everything you want? How can you still be angry?

It is my contention that they no longer could write music that way and were left wondering how could they move forward and continue as performers and still remain viable. I think they struggled with that and treaded water for as long as they could by re-hashing their old stuff. Finally in 2003 they released the huge steaming dump that was “St Anger” and billed it as a return to their old ways. A return of course that featured no guitar solos and horrible production sound which only proved that they were still struggling for a gimmick. It wasn’t until they released “Death Magnetic” in 2008 that the band really did return to their old ways by having a musical resurgence and put out music that not only sounded good but also sounded true. Coincidentally for this album they had switched from their long time producer Bob Rock and gone with Rick Rubin who injected some fresh blood into their sound.

It’s true that you can’t please everybody and there are still people griping about “Death Magnetic” most likely because some people want to complain no matter what. They complained because the band sold out and when they returned to what they loved and enjoyed these so called critics complained about that too. Truthfully you can never please those people and honestly you should never try. Metallica only needs to try to please themselves with their music and the rest will come automatically. At this point in their careers they don’t need to do anything else if they don’t feel like it. They’ve got the money and the awards and now I hope they have some happiness as well. As for me, I own a copy of “Death Magnetic” and look forward to their continued return to good music.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

More Random Thoughts

Well this is the first opportunity I've had to write anything for over a week now. Let's jsut say theere hasn't been a whole lot sleep coming my way and if my son is around when I get onto the computer he tries to take over.

First up is my take on UFC 94. I predicted 2 out of 4 winners but aS i said the most hyped fights generally do not live up to the hype and BJ Penn vs GSP was no different. GSP won albeit not without some controversy. GSP dominated BJ in a way no one has ever done before. Penn's vaunted jiu-jitsu skills seemed to disapear which was most unusual. Afterwards it was revealed that GSP's cornerman was seen rubbing and tapping his back and chest area after having put vaseline on his face before several rounds. This is a big violation as being greased down prohibits your opponent from being able to grab ahold of you. The biggest question is how much vaseline was used. Right now an appeal will be filed but I doubt anything will come of it other than perhaps another fight between these two warriors down the road.

It's looking like the only concert I'll make in the upcoming months is the Street Dogs in March unless I decide to break down and start listening to local radio in an attempt to win tickets or some other shows are announced for Tulsa.

I'm currently reading a book about Guns n' Roses called "Watch You Bleed: The Saga of Guns n' Roses." There have been a few errors or things mentioned as fact when they are the authors personal opinion but overall it's been a pretty good read. There's lots of info on the early days of the band and it shows how Axl Rose came to be the control freak that he is. More on this later.

That's all for now, I've got to get to bed so I can get up for church early in the morning and then it'll be off to work.