• author
    • Matthew Najmowicz

    • April 28, 2013 in Columnists

    Metallica — fade to green

    I am a snobby heavy metal fan who is very cynical and skeptical of other current heavy metal acts.  Why shouldn’t I be?  I grew up during some of the greatest metal acts to ever exist.  Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax, Slayer, Pantera, Motely, Iron Maiden, and I won’t even mention the underground acts that I love like Death, Obituary, Crowbar, Morbid Angel, Cannibal Corpse, etcetera. 

    Everyone has their list of greatest heavy metal bands of all time and without fail, Metallica is mentioned by everyone.  Rightfully so.  Metallica has left their imprint upon the majestic landscape of the metal genre with the speedy guitar licks of James Hetfield, the finger flying acrobatics of Kirk Hammet, the sheer musical brilliance and virtuoso bass playing of the late  great Cliff Burton, and the energetic and dynamic drumming that has influenced any modern metal drummer Lars Ulrich.  The talent of every member in that lineup is legendary and together as a band changed music.

    “Kill Them All,” “Ride the Lightning,” and “Master of Puppets” are the quintessential thrash metal (faster heavy metal) masterpieces that everyone and their uncle has memorized — every melody, harmony, solo and lyric.  There is not a single song in any of those three albums that you would  fast forward through.  I defy you to sit down and listen to those three albums and hit fast forward once, I dare you.

    In 1986. the first tragedy would be laid upon Metallica — Cliff Burton dies in a tour bus accident.  The weird twist of that story is that Cliff slept in bandmate Kirk Hammet’s bunk the night of that accident.  Much maligned bassist Jason Newsted (he was a great bass player) replaces Cliff Burton in the lineup and they create what I deem as the last thrash metal album Metallica records, their brilliant last thrash album “And Justice for All.” 

    Enter corporate rock act Metallica with their “black album” (the album never had a title) and Metallica became a darling of MTV when MTV actually played music.  They had a slew of commercially successful albums after the so-called black album and yet their musical direction changed so drastically to a point where they were doing a country song cover on one of their albums — very bizarre.

    Their change in musical style aside, the biggest controversy involving Metallica, was their lawsuit against Napster the now defunct peer-to-peer file sharing service.  In 1999, a song called “I Disappear” from the soundtrack to the movie “Mission Impossible 2” was “leaked” and caused quite a shit storm in the management circles in Metallica.  This lead to a massive lawsuit against Napster with plaintiffs as famous as Metallica and rapper/producer Dr Dre. After the 9th Court Circuit of Appears denied Napster’s appeal, Napster had to pay out around $36 million in damages to record companies.  At current there is an unlimited buffet of peer-to-peer file sharing services out in cyberspace to choose from.  Despite that, Metallica got their justice I suppose- if you really want to call it that.

    Metallica is the chosen champion of the corporate music world. Quite frankly, I don’t really hold a grudge against them for choosing the money of the anti-establishment philosophy that heavy metal was born from, much in the same vein as rock-and-roll and punk.  That is their choice. 

    I don’t begrudge those who chase after money, I just feel sad for them.  They are not what they once were.  Their fan-base is still rabid, absolutely dedicated to the Metallica economy, continuing to buy all their tchotchkes.  Remember the part in Space Balls when Yogurt was showing everyone all the Space Balls lunchbox, cereal, and flamethrower?  That is Metallica now.  They are the used car salesman of thrash metal.  You only get the promise of hearing an old song when you go to a concert.  Their latest album, “Lulu,” was a collaboration of corporate Metallica and Lou Reed.  No offense to either of them, but the album was an abortion.  I couldn’t make it through the whole album — awful.

    All things change, even in heavy metal.

    • Never have listened to heavy metal in my life so defy me all you want.:)

      • Kelvin

      • April 28, 2013 at 8:53 pm
      • Reply

      Awesome.I think everyone can relate to this in a variety of genres. It’s sad when your band sells out. I love Metallica. I mean, I understand it. Back during the Napster thing, i was pissed at Metallica because while I understood wanting to protect your intellectual property and get paid, I just kept thinking, “Lars, if you were 16, you’d be downloading your favorite bands for free too and you know it!!!” But yeah, going from ‘Master of Puppets’ to listening to ‘Turn the Page”……

      It’s like listening to Van Halen and then listening to Van Hagar. Yeah, Van Halen REALLY blew up with Sammy Hagar and sold a ton of records but….

      It’s jarring seeing Ozzy Osbourne go from Sabbath to the Prince of Darkness to reality TV and having Pat Boone singing “Crazy Train” AND seeing “Crazy Train” sung by a family in a car commercial. A car commercial? Ozzy, you used to have the Moral Majority picketing your concerts and now Madison Ave loves you?

      Back in the day I’d listen to NWA and Ice Cube, the n**** ya love to hate, and now Ice Cube is making children’s movies? WTF??? I grew up listening to Ice T, the OG. One of the inventors of gangsta rap. The man once investigated by the FBI for his Body Count song “Cop Killer” now plays a cop on TV.

      This is the evolution, though. Acts don’t get more hard core over time. They get less. Eddie Murphy “Delirious” was insanely funny and politically correct. When you go back and look at that and “Raw” you’d never think the guy would end up doing children’s movies like “Daddy Day Care.”

      It’s all about broadening that appeal and getting paid. Unless…unless you’re like me and just don’t give a shit and keep going balls to the wall. Great column, Matt.

      • Maya North

      • April 28, 2013 at 10:32 pm
      • Reply

      Love your writing (always). Have never had the slightest interest in Heavy Metal. None. It hurts my ears… 😉 😀

    • Good. I feel like I went to Metallica school. I like a few of their songs but they give me a headache as well.

    • I obviously need to follow up this column. I honestly could talk about music and contemporary music history all day.

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