As a young metal fan in the 80’s the only other band I truly held in the highest regard next to Dio and Iron Maiden was Metallica. Metallica was a band that was like no other band that I had ever listened to. When I picked up their 1984 release Ride the Lightning it was so much for my young 11 year old head to wrap itself around. The sound of it was so brutal yet beautiful, angry yet hopeful. I really didn’t understand or even care to understand the emotions or depth behind it all that much. All I knew is that it was loud, fast, had lots of cool changes, and James Hetfield’s voice was the voice that resided inside of me and countless other kids my age. I always thought that if I could put all my feelings into a singing voice as a kid that they would sound like James Hetfield on “Creeping Death.” Learning that the band had only one other album before this one, I ran back and picked up Kill ‘Em All and from there my journey with Metallica began.
In 1986, Metallica would release Master of Puppets. From the first notes of “Battery” with those gorgeous acoustic guitars, I just braced myself for what was sure to be a sonic head on collision with awesomeness and sure enough, there it was. Song for song Master of Puppets floored me. I pulled out the inner sleeve of the record and read the lyrics to each song as they played and I was completely floored by the intense subject matter. Abuse of power, alienation, false prophets, and mental insanity? Holy shit! This was some powerful shit for a 13 year old yet I I was old enough to truly understand and grasp onto what I was hearing. I just remember at times feeling slightly uncomfortable reading these lyrics yet I felt like I was being opened to a reality that I was being shielded from as a young man. On another note, I also remember being totally into the fact that “The Thing That Should Not Be” quoted H.P. Lovecraft because Iron Maiden quoted H.P. Lovecraft on the back of Live After Death.
From that point on Metallica was a band that I never thought I would lose this strong connection that I had with them. Metallica was my band. Metallica was the band that set us apart from everyone else who didn’t understand, like, or even acknowledge us. They weren’t a band like Motley Crue or Ratt that could be easily accessible to the cool, trendy kids who didn’t even really like hard rock or metal. Metallica was extreme and much like Iron Maiden they made me think, they made me feel, and they even challenged me to tap into my inner aggressions and channel them into thought. Metallica was a band that I didn’t want to share with those on the other side of the fence but all of the sudden, in 1988, something happened that would change that forever.
“Drain you of your sanity. Face the Thing That Should Not Be”
Metallica “The Thing That Should Not Be” – 1986
In 1988, Metallica released their first ever music video for the song “One” from their album … and Justice for All. Next thing I knew everyone loved Metallica. The kids at school who used to kick my ass and make fun of me for wearing my Metal Up Your Ass t-shirt were all of the sudden wearing Metallica shirts and buying the albums. I hoped and prayed that Metallica wouldn’t stray far from me but then in 1991 with the release of the Black Album I knew that change was imminent. Watching Metallica get so huge and seeing them embraced by the commercial public was akin to having your best friend lured away from you by the popular kids with hopes of being cool, being popular, and being accepted. Matter of fact it wasn’t akin to that. It was exactly that. That band I thought was always going to be content with being the underdogs really was just a band that wanted fame, fortune, and popularity. They cashed in their original diehard fan base for a fan base that would make them more money than God and put them on an unreachable pedestal. I hung on for as long as I could but I just had a feeling I had lost them for good. When the band released their 1996 release Load, I hung my head low, threw in the towel, and accepted defeat. Metallica was no longer “my” band. They were now the band of the commercial mass and I just wanted no part of it.
Watching Metallica become this band that has become a mere shadow of its past self was a sad and at times painful thing. I remember watching their 2004 documentary Some Kind of Monster and that was when I truly realized that they were so far gone from the band that I first loved so many years ago. Watching Lars Ulrich cry because of selling expensive art, watching Hetfield throwing hissy fits, and watching them hire a therapist to try and keep them together just had me rolling my eyes. The band that I once thought could do no wrong. The band I thought could never die had indeed passed on, shed its old skin and taken on an identity of the very band that they made fun of, despised, and ridiculed in their youth. Metallica, as I knew and loved them, were now dead and gone. Gone, but not forgotten.
“That is not dead which can eternal lie, yet with stranger eons, even death may die.”
“The Nameless City” – H.P. Lovecraft
What happened to that young band of guys who just wanted to make the best music they could make and take on the world as opposed to just becoming part of it? That band is dead and will never return. I’ve watched Metallica time after time try and convince people that they are still that band but they aren’t. They haven’t been that band for so long that they can barely even play the songs that came from that time and place. Metallica as I know them and love them is long gone. As I sit here listening to Master of Puppets I’m just thankful that I have a short legacy of music that knew no boundaries, that had no concern or care of commercial approval, and that still grabs me by the throat and reminds me of when Metallica didn’t want to rule the world but to merely shit on it’s throne.