The Return of Metallica: Looking Forward, Looking Back
by Paul Hanson
I can remember:
. . .hating Metallica because they were too fast.
. . .driving west on I-80 from North Liberty, Iowa, towards Vermillion, SD, a few years ago, rocking to "For Whom the Bells Toll" on one radio station and to "Master of Puppets" on another station a few more miles down the road.
. . . trying to play "Phantom Lord" on drums with a guitarist in 1989. Over the years, we worked on "Seek and Destroy," "Am I Evil," "No Remorse," and "Harvester of Sorrow." He played bass when my band played "Enter Sandman."
. . . bassist Jason Newsted telling Carver Hawkeye Arena in 1993 that it is okay to have fun a few days after Iowa Hawkeye basketball player Chris Street was killed in a car accident. At the same concert, I remember seeing the fans in the reserved seats racing to the floor as the band launched into "Battery."
. . . Metallica cancelling their concert in Minneapolis, MN, in summer 1992 after Hetfield was injured. My friends and I decided to go to Chicago instead for the weekend.
. . . seeing their concert during student teaching in 1991 and wondering why all the kids there weren't home doing homework.
. . . "Enter Sandman" as the song that kicked off our set at my college's talent show in 1992, the song my wife and I headbanged to at our wedding, and the song that my six-year-old and four-year-old sing in the morning as we're having breakfast. I use their legs for guitars during Hammett's solo.
. . . my wife buying Binge and Purge,the band's box set, for my birthday and obsessing over every detail in the booklet that comes with that CD. There are three videos and three CDs and I think I've listened and watched them a
. . . not being apologetic that I was a Metallica fan.
. . ..lamenting Jason Newsted leaving the band. I wrote an article that summarized his career as the "departure of the six percenter." During his tenure as Metalica's bassist, he got songwriting credit for six percent of the songs he played on.
. . .their 1989 concert was where I met the vocalist for my first band. Gave him a ride home. Never heard the guy sing as he didn't have a microphone (he'd come to rehearsal and say, "Yeah, I gotta get a mic."), but he was the band's vocalist.
. . . dreaming that Ulrich and Hetfield would form a super group with Dave Mustaine and David Ellefson. I wanted the band to be called "Dethtallica."
Those are just some of the memories that flood me when I think about this band. It's an understatement to say that Metallica means and has meant a lot to me over the years. I have never gotten over the giddy feeling when one of their songs comes on the radio. On the way home tonight, the local station played "Wherever I May Roam." I told my son, sitting in the front seat, that this was the same guy who sings "Sandman." He immediately started rocking back and forth in his seat, playing his air drums.
Today, there are probably high school kids, somewhere, declaring they are metalheads, but ignorant of a CD called Kill 'Em All. They think Metallica's first CD was their self-titled Black album in 1991. They look at you in disbelief when you say that Godsmack is not the greatest metal band of all time. Without hearing more than one minute of the new Metallica material on St. Anger, I have to say that I am excited to hear their new release. Our local radio stations are part of "Maytallica" and have been playing songs from all of the band's releases in anticipation. It's like the frenzy prior to Metaliica all over again.
Over the years, Metallica has never released a "Greatest Hits" CD. If they ever decided to put together a "Best of," and they asked me what 14 songs to include -- two from each of their seven studio releases -- these are the songs I would suggest. Now, obviously, picking only two per release results in some glaring omissions like "Enter Sandman" and "Seek and Destroy" not getting on. Remember, this is just my opinion...
From Kill 'Em All:
Track 1: "Whiplash." The anthem. The song that encapsules all that Metallica has ever and will ever stand for.
Track 2: "Motorbreath." Despite the cliche lyrics "Life in the fast lane is just how it seems/ Hard and it is heavy dirty and mean", this song speaks to me. The energy is aggressive and powerful.
From Ride the Lightning:
Track 3: "Fade to Black." I think this is an inspirational song.
Track 4: "For Whom the Bell Tolls." Whenever I hear this song, I hear an early version of "Sad But True." No, it doesn't sound anything like it, the structure is different, but that's what I hear.
From Master of Puppets:
Track 5: "Master of Puppets." The opening riff of this song is simply amazing. The air guitars shred from start to finish.
Track 6: "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)." The thrash-out section at the end makes this song one of my favorites. . ..
From ...And Justice for All
Track 7: "Frayed Ends of Sanity." This is an overlooked track on the band's And Justice for All release. I enjoy Ulrich's playing throughout the song.
Track 8: "Dyers Eve." Even though Ulrich admitted to overdubbing the snare fills "for clarity's sake," and the band rarely, if ever, plays this song live, the climax of ...And Justice for All is perfect Metallica. Its lyrics are jagged razors and Hammett's guitar solo is vicious. Ulrich's drumming is inspirational. Air drum to this song for 45 minutes straight and you can't help but have great drumming chops.
Track 9: "The Struggle Within." The final track on the 1991 Black release never gets airplay. The song starts with a traditional marching snare drum opening before Hetfield launches into a trademark riff and I like the groove of the song.
Track 10: "Sad But True." One of the few singles the band has released would come next. This song appeals to me because Ulrich starts with a simple drum part and, as the song progresses, his playing advances the song.
Track 11: "Bleeding Me." One of the few "recent" Metallica songs that has really grown on me. I like its length, I like its powerful guitar riff in the middle of the song (brings back memories of the Kill 'em All era) and I like the mellow section's transition to the aggressive.
Track 12: "The Outlaw Torn." Around the 4:00 mark, this song gets aggressive, Hetfield's lyrics get personal, Ulrich gets interesting, and Newsted sings back up. I think this is a great song. It has the calm, the aggressive, the interesting, rolled into one.
Track 13: "Fuel." This is one of the best recent tracks the band recorded. The middle section of the song, right before the Chorus, thrashes out and it sounds like Hetfield had found a guitar riff.
Track 14: "Fixxer." This song reminds me of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir." The track had to be recorded to get this type of song out of the band's system.