Metallica….

I like a lot of different music.  My college education has exposed me to a lot of different styles and forms, and my experiences teaching (guitar especially) have granted me access to many new acts and stuff like that.

I’ve had a few spells…Country Music, Punk Rock, Top 40 etc.  But through it all, Metallica remains.  I can’t make a top ten list of songs…I would rather make a top ten list of albums!  Here’s my list with some commentary.

9 and 10.   Load and Reload  I do not have a copy of these anymore.  Just the same, Load and Reload would represent low points for Metallica to me.  Not that some of the songs aren’t good…they are.  But the band is being influenced commercially too much, and they are losing some of their punk edge.  To this day I don’t like the song “Until it Sleeps.” I feel “The Hero of the Day” is a good song, but it’s weak because it is over-produced.  I love “The Memory Remains.”  The use of of the Hurdy Gurdy Marianne Faithful’s singing voice are really cool here.  But the band just seems to be thinking wrong…

8.  S & M (Symphony and Metallica)  Remember the SpartanNerd mentioning the music degree?  You see, I had this idea.  First.  It just seemed…impossible.  Surely Metallica wouldn’t be interested in working with a symphony orchestra.  Surely an orchestra wouldn’t want to work with them.  It’s like angels and devils.  Oil and water.  It is the kind of thing I would dream of, but then dismiss right away.  BUT THEN IT REALLY HAPPENED!  This is a good concert.  Not exactly the same as other live recordings Metallica had put out…A little calmer, a little longer….But you get most of the “hits” and a few others.  Before this concert, I never gave too much thought to the song “Of Wolf and Man,” for instance.  This concert put that song back on my radar.  The orchestra is its own piece of art in this concert too.  I have to wonder how the band prepared for this.  They must have had a recording.  But the orchestra just read the notes on the page.  And if you listen close you can hear some Modern period or Post Romantic style art music coming from them as they play “the fifth Beatle” to Metallica.  It’s good to hear a live orchestra playing “The Ecstasy of Gold” at the beginning.  And it’s good to hear that lead into “The Call of Ktulu,” another song that Metallica had retired.  “The Memory Remains” is a good one here, and the two new songs, especially “No Leaf Clover” are pretty good.  I feel a few things were lacking.  At the end of the concert the producers say “Next year!”  I don’t think this ever happened.  If they did, it would have been good to hear “Orion.”  I also wish they used a heavier live bell sound in “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”

7.  Garage, Inc  I have similar feelings about this as I do to number six on the list.  It is more like a history lesson.  You get the rare EP “Garage Days Revisited,” the “Metallica and Friends” radio show, and some punk rock covers done in Load and Reload style.  But the real gem here is “Turn The Page,” a Bob Seager cover.  Who would have thought?

6.  Kill ’em All  My punk rock friends would probably bash me right now, for listing this album at number six.  But I really like this album.  It’s just my sixth most likely to turn on.  When I’m bored.  TO me it is more of a history lesson.  And I never listen to it without thinking of Megadeth.  (Mustaine was fired just before the recording, evidently)

5.  Ride the Lightning  People like to talk about sophomore albums generally being failures.  I like Ride the Lightning to Mortal Kombat 2.  It is an advance on the original in almost every way.  Where “Kill ’em All” had an unpolished sound, this album is only slightly less raw…That tiny bit of shine helped them really get noticed.  You also get “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” “Fade to Black,” and “The Call of Ktulu,” all experiments of baby-band Metallica that would grow into greater things in the future.

4.  …And Justice For All  I like this album because it is a beatdown.  It has plenty of weaknesses. (Lack of bass, band seems to wander a little, over produced at times, etc) But still it delivers the kick in the gut I need.  Guitar World Magazine said (wrongly) that after this album “Metallica laid down their axes and walked away from Thrash Metal forever.”  (That was a loose quote, and from a magazine 10 years ago.)  I like just about every song, but strangely not “One.”  I mean I like the guitar solo, but the whole life support thing and all is just too depressing.

3.  Metallica  What most people call The Black Album, me and my middle school friends used to all “Metallica Metallica”, I think because it would be listed this way in catalogues and all.  This one takes me back to a younger SpartanNerd, who was just learning the ropes of listening to music and getting involved in a scene.  I enjoy music from the 1990-1996 period more than other music…I see it as MY generations music.  The singles, videos, radio play, and grammy performances of this album are what exploded me into being a Metallica fan.  Prior to this album, I had a little exposure to “..And Justice For ALL.”  But this one got me hooked.

2.  Death Magnetic  You might be saying “Seriously?”  Yes.  It represents a return to their roots.  But they’ve matured and gone through their own little fads and all.  PLUS Robert Trujillo gets to shine.  “All Nightmare Long” and “The Unforgiven III” are my favorites, but I like it all.

1.  Master of Puppets  (of course!)  The book 1000 Recordings You Must Hear Before You Die says something deep about this album.  It says that it is the point where Metallica began to create “thinking-man’s music.”  A statement so true.  I firmly believe this album is the brainchild of Cliff Burton alone.  Sure the rest of the band definitely had a role, but it is so much more artistically advanced than their other albums, in ways the band has not returned to since.  References to H.P. Lovecraft stories, Sonata Allegro forms, guitar synth, and concept album.
           My highlights are…

The intro to “Battery”, with it’s clean but still heavy opening chords, to the punch in the gut you get right after…Then this song breaks into something akin to stuff on “Kill ’em All.”

The song “Master of Puppets.”  Honestly, I get sort of tired of this song because of the heavy rotation it gets EVERYWHERE.  But no denying it is a true metal masterpiece.  The instrumental section in the middle that leads to a beatdown chorus and then a wild solo…this is great stuff!

“The Thing That Should Not Be” is just about the HEAVIEST SONG IN HISTORY.  This song is TERRIFYING!

“Sanitarium” Arguably the weakest song on the album.  I do like the chimed harmonics at the beginning.  This song cements to the concept premise of people exerting power over others…the theme of the whole album.

“Disposable Heroes” is a war song.  I love it!

“Leper Messiah,” probably the most controversial song on the album.  This song comes close to the heaviness of “The Thing That Should Not Be.”  And man is it fun to play!  Do I agree with what it says.  I do, in fact.  This song is about TV preachers and the like who abuse the religious trust that other people put into them…Somewhere I heard that James Hetfield’s mom was a member of Christian Science, and died of cancer, refusing treatment.  If true, this song and other religious statements by Metallica probably speak to their anger and feelings towards the way the Church has treated them.  And instead of people going around criticizing them for their views, or wondering why they aren’t afraid of satanism, humanism, and atheistic viewpoints or why they might yield those (whether they do or not), they should instead show them the joy that a true relationship with Jesus Christ can bring.  The problem is most people of christmas persuasions in America do not show joy and peace.  Just judgement, head shaking, and finger pointing.  But that’s enough of my high-horse!

“Orion”  If I was stuck on an island…….You know the rest.  I don’t have a favorite song.  More like a list of favorite songs.  But this song is up there on that list.  I tried to play this for years.  Then one day I cheated, and looked in a tab book.  I mean this piece is heavy, danceable, imaginitive, sexy (yes!) and is also a statement….It belongs on this album as a testament to the artistry of Cliff Burton…and goes along with the theme of people controlling others…The stars are ever above us.  Orion the hunter hunts every night.  Horoscopes are printed every day….

“Damage Inc.”  I believe that this song was recorded as a continuation of “Disposable Heroes.”  This is probably truly the last “old school” Metallica song.  You could argue about that, but with the death of Cliff Burton, this creative mode came to an end.  What if Cliff was still with us?  How would the band have been different over the years?

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