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It's a Dark Day
by Baby Huey
The editors of FTTW were sitting around, deciding what we should write about over warm beer, cold coffee, and cheap cigars. I don't remember where it started, and trips on the FTTW editors' train of thought are scary things, so I won't put you through that. Regardless of everything that led up to it, we decided to write about a redefining album. Could be an album that redefined a genre; could be an album that redefined a band.
I don't know what the other editors are gonna write about. I'm guessing, though, that they're going to be positive. I didn't want to go that route. Change is inevitable, but it's not always good. Besides, I can think of no other album that did more to redefine a band. It's just too bad that it redefined them in a very negative way.
I'm talking, of course, about Metallica's self-titled fifth studio LP, more commonly known as The Black Album. Three years after ... And Justice For All, I'm pretty sure we all expected great things. Jason Newsted would come into his own and we'd be able to finally let Cliff Burton go. Flemmin Rasmussen would continue to rock the boards and come out with a dark, brooding masterpiece. More than that, there was a logical progression of albums. I mean, take a look at it:
1983 - Kill 'em All
Primordial thrash was still influenced by punk and hardcore, and Kill 'em All was no different. Fun songs with lotsa 3 chord chugga chugga with some decent solos. Lo-fi production quality but hey, it was '83. Whaddya gonna do?
1984 - Ride the Lightning
Just as thrashy as Kill 'em All, there were definitely darker elements, like "Fade to Black" and "Creeping Death." The instrumental "Call of Chthulhu" really showed their musical range, and led well into ...
1986 - Master of Puppets
This album is damn near metal perfection. From the opening notes of "Battery" to the fade out of "Damage, Inc." your head can't help but bang. It just can't. It was also, sadly, the last album that Cliff Burton played on before his tragic death. Disheartened over their friend's loss, they released ...
1988 - ... And Justice For All
Not their greatest work, but hey. They just lost their bass player -- one of the greatest of all time. Give 'em a pass. To be honest, the reason I wasn't hugely fond of it wasn't entirely their fault. The mix was totally off, and if they took the original masters and remixed it, I would enjoy it a lot more and would probably go out and buy another copy. There's a lot less of the classic thrash feel -- it's dark and brooding, to be sure. Where would they go next? Darker? Thrashier? Venture into death metal? Let's find out with ...
1991 - Metallica
Whoa, whoa whoa WHOA. What the fuck is this? Ok, I'll give you Enter Sandman. It's kinda cool. The rest of it is NOT Metallica. Slowish Southern rock (Sad but True), MULTIPLE ballads (The Unforgiven and Nothing Else Matters). I'd mention the other songs but let's face it -- they're mostly filler.
I give the Black Album a bad rap, but it's not a terrible terrible album. I still can't listen to it, though, because it's so. damn. depressing. It's like hearing how and when you're going to meet your untimely, violent death. You certainly don't want to go back and listen AGAIN.
If you wanted to read about the album that I thought changed the world for the better, tough shit. You ain't getting it. Wait for Dan's pick. I'm pretty sure we haven't killed his spirit. Yet.
Baby Huey will have Dan's spirit in a jar on his desk by Memorial Day.
I don't think there is any band that creates so much debate and argument than Metallica. This is a band that everybody seems to love to hate these days, but I still like their music. I have been listening to them since 83 or so and I still like this band.
To me it is not worth trying to compare the newer stuff with the Cliff Burton era stuff. Master of Puppets was an album that was on a whole other level, especially when it came out.
I still like the newer stuff, even St. Anger had a few decent songs on there, but I don't think of it as better or worse, just different.
And I don't let the personality of the band members (Lars) influence whether I like a song or not. Just because Lars is a dick, that does not mean I'm not going to like one of Metallica's tunes.
Posted by: Ernie | March 3, 2007 9:36 AM
That's a perspective that I generally share, Ernie. However, this is a different case, in my opinion, because they sold out. I don't throw that term around lightly, because I generally hate it. Of course bands are going to try to make the most money they can -- it's their JOB, for chrissakes. However, I think in this case, they lost their fire. They just made songs to sell.
It was sad.
Posted by: baby huey | March 3, 2007 9:43 AM
When I first heard Metallica, I thought they were a spoof band. Never understood the attraction.
Posted by: Timmer | March 3, 2007 12:25 PM
when did you first hear them timmer, cause if you say the 80's *preps shiv*
Posted by: baby huey | March 3, 2007 12:28 PM
i always thought that, as an album, Master of Puppets was a re-write of Ride the Lightning. four songs to a side, you've got similar songs in both spots on both albums, the "ballads",the instrumentals are in about the same spot, the records start of each side with the thrashier stuff.
those are some of the similarities i'm recalling. i dunno...perhaps i'm delusional.
i'm gonna go get a cookie.
Posted by: johnny | March 3, 2007 12:54 PM