[Today: Dead serious music...]
Liking Metallica during the ’80s meant putting your health and self-esteem on the line every day. If you didn’t get pummeled by some hulking Top 40 fan, you were sure to hear insults of every kind during a typical leather-jacketed day. The blogger Umlaut (who knew Metallica before they got famous) ends nearly all of his concert reviews with some pimply teenagers calling him and his friends fags. It’s a good closing line, but within that gag is surely an adolescence filled with every kind of slight imaginable, and all because of a band. So Metallica fans were clearly serious about the music – the music itself was as serious as a coffin. Judas Priest got hauled into court when some idiot kids blew their brains out over a song, and Ozzy Osbourne played Satan’s Little Helper while biting the head off a dove, but to a KISS fan those acts seemed like mere publicity. Metallica however, played like a wounded feral animal that was backed into a corner and clawing for its life.
Metallica scared me all the way into college, until I lived with a full-time grease monkey who would get loaded with his metal pals and listen to Kill ‘Em All or Ride The Lightning at top volume, while arguing vehemently about inane shit like boots and knives. Stuff got broken, including a few eardrums. At that point, if I’d told those guys that Metallica was on the verge of worldwide super-stardom, and would one day make an album with the San Francisco Symphony, and a feature documentary detailing their intense psychotherapy sessions, they would have busted me up like a cheap lamp.
And why not? At that point, Metallica was coming off a string of ferocious albums, perhaps none more fierce than Master Of Puppets. James Hetfield screams, Kirk Hammett shreds, and Lars Ulrich pounds as the group unleashes a torrent of songs about conformity and control, madness and death. This 1986 album was their last with original bassist Cliff Burton, who died in a bus crash while on tour supporting it. As such, it retains an aura as the last pure Metallica album. I’m a late-to-the-party bandwagon-jumper, and it took some time (and broken furniture), but this music makes total sense to me now. Metallica are indisputably the most sincere band of my lifetime, and their long-time followers are the most loyal, intense, bruised fans a band could hope for…
Listen: Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
Listen: Master Of Puppets
Listen: Damage Inc.