Metallica: Re-Re-Loaded

St. AngerEven though St. Anger doesn’t drop until June 10th, the hype for Metallica’s first studio album in five years officially cranked up earlier this month, when the thrash pioneers were the subject of their very own MTV special. The network conveniently chose Metallica as their third “Icon,” joining Janet Jackson and Aerosmith in an exclusive VIP room reserved for artists whose shadows fall darkly across the pop landscape. Taped May 3rd in Los Angeles and aired three days later, the special blew smoke up the asses of original members James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett, and Lars Ulrich for a few hours, and featured covers of Metallica classics by the likes of Korn, Staind, Limp Bizkit, and – of course – Snoop Dogg. It’s not that Metallica didn’t deserve the award. Their 20+ year career and genre-defining early work definitely qualifies them for kings of the hill status. But while the program will undoubtedly help the band move a few more units of their new record, it was also a giant photo op for types as disparate as Don “Magic” Juan and Gillian Barberie. In a frenzied madness, with your leather and your spikes, heads are bobbing all around, it’s…Avril Lavigne tonight?

Like so many media outlets, the Glorious Noise compound was denied an advance copy of St. Anger. Out of spite, Jake then downloaded 14,000 Metallica songs from Kazaa [Kazaalite, actually – ed.] and made us all copies of his “Maxellica UR 90 Mix Tape, Vol. 2.” This was cool. But it hasn’t helped us hear anything about the new record other than Internet hearsay and record company nonspeak. The general consensus from these sources? St. Anger‘s a throwback, a return to the bleeding edge, a record that will crush Metallica’s enemies, see them driven before them, and hear the lamentation of Korn’s slutty girlfriends.

It’s possible that Metallica scrapped plans for “Unforgiven III,” and instead wrote an album of pummeling proto-Thrash to rival anything they or anyone outside of the Scandinavian black metal scene has produced since 1985. But if this is true, why the “Icon” fanfare? A record that tough would be designed not for celebrity hangers-on, but for the real heshers out there, the guys in huge white Reeboks that bought tickets in advance for the current Anthrax/Motörhead tour. And what about radio programmers? Will the LP’s title track and first single find itself slotted between the saltwater grooves of Jack Johnson and the Creed-ish southern rock of 3 Doors Down? It’s true that many FM modern rock outlets are still clinging to a waning crop of post-grunge workhorses such as Trapt, Cold, and Disturbed. But even though the goofy bombast and plodding sludge of these groups technically passes for metal, they’d be bashed to bits by Metallica, if just one riff on St. Anger is as powerful as those of Kill ‘Em All, Ride the Lightning, and the rest. This is what’s most intriguing about the “Icon” lovefest and surrounding hype of the band’s return. Metallica spent the 1980s reshaping thrash metal and selling millions of records without the benefit of radio airplay, video exposure, or widespread critical acclaim. With their eponymous 1991 release, the band embraced the mainstream, and the public hugged back to the tune of 7 million copies sold. Their shift from complex, overdriven dynamics to more straightforward riffing also transformed metal itself, and contributed to the tailspin of the thrash genre. But now, in 2003, after some disappointing releases, the Napster flare-up, Jason Newstead’s departure at bass, and Hetfield’s stint in rehab, Metallica wants to unite its past with its more recent past in order to position itself for the future. The most glaring example of this? Avril Lavigne and her band of good-natured mall dudes, barreling through a talent-show perfect rendition of “Fuel.”

It won’t be easy for Metallica to marry the alt.rock version of itself to the seering, white phosphorus thrash of yore. Underneath all that hair, heshers have long memories, and tight jeans don’t cut off as much oxygen as you’d think. But if St. Anger is as powerful as the rumors say it is, and the hype that caused Snoop Dogg to perform a “SiZad but TriZue” continues unabated through this summer’s shed tour with Linkin Park, then Metallica will either be the atropine metal needs to survive its 21st homogenization, or the band will be further hated by those who were banging their bloody heads against the stage while Avril was being conceived in the parking lot.


You can pre-order St. Anger from Amazon if you that’s your thing.

27 thoughts on “Metallica: Re-Re-Loaded”

  1. For the record: Celine Dion and I actually conceived Avril in the trunk of my camaro while listening to “…And Justice for All”. This is probably more than you need to know, but I believe the precious miracle happened during the second chorus of “Harvester of Sorrow”.

    If the new album is as heavy as their 1988 opus, then it looks like its time to start making some babies again!

  2. Haircuts=Death. Metallica lost all power over me when they cut their hair, just about the same time that I had managed to grow mine. I could tell, even during the ..And Justice tour in ’88, that things were headed the wrong way, towards the frat boys taking over the mosh pit and the real serious Metal Militia leadership being forced underground, only able to hold furtive meetings in secret in the parking lot before a Tool show. I knew because they let me into that ’88 show, a sure sign that Metal Militia membership wasn’t what it had been. Certainly someone didn’t do their job in ferreting out my candy ass to put me through the proper initiation ritual. Something like being punched repeatedly in the face behind the 7-11 and then forced to beg a ride home from Randy “The Troll” Sidor. In fact, they welcomed me into the group, hoping perhaps that if the principal saw me standing out there with them, just across the school’s property line, that he might not bust the whole crew. I and the others like me deserved to be roughed up at best, but it didn’t happen. So we stood around grinning like fools until they realized we sure didn’t have any connections, and soon enough, the whole place went dry and the scene broke up. I blame fucking Lars, who always wanted to “go steady” with the popular girls and had no taste for passing around the typical teen runaways that always seemed to be hanging around James. Creeping Death, indeed!

  3. Loftus,

    I take issue with the fact that you think I look like a balding, aging troll of a drummer who has a lisp and wears tennis shorts. For the record, I have never worn tennis shorts and my shock of hair is considerably more robust than that of Lars the Monkey.

    I just got a new .44 and it’s itching for a trip to Detroit. I hope you have clean undies on.

  4. Metallica was accepted into the mainstream over ten years ago. Of course MTV is going to eventually give them Icon status, and of course popular bands like Limp Bizkit will play the tribute songs. What’s MTV gonna do? Call on In Flames?

    St. Anger can be as brutal as Master of Puppets and still sell twenty million copies and STILL be played between Staind and Creed on the radio because Metallica has reached this point in their career. Hell, it’s not like I’ve never heard Puppets or Bells on the radio. I hear’em every other song out here in Denver.

    “I was turned off by Metallica when they cut their hair…”

    Maybe if you got up on stage and got your hair caught on fire you’d cut it off too. Or maybe one of’em actually realized that hair length has nothing to do with music. James Hetfield can still compete against any other guitarist out there.

    Know what you write or don’t write at all. Quite sad, actually.

  5. “Maybe if you got up on stage and got your hair caught on fire you’d cut it off too.”

    You mean like Michael Jackson? Except MJ grew his hair longer after his fire fiasco. Guess he’s more bad ass than Metallica. Shamoan!

  6. I’m not sure if Me is mad at me or Sab. Who is the one who should know what he writes or not write at all? Please advise, Me.


  7. “Me” is not mad at anyone. Just annoyed by people who write material with no basis for it. The article makes hints that St. Anger can’t possibly be brutal because Metallica was just on MTV and that, you know, is mainstream. St. Anger can’t be played on the same station with Staind… For one, plenty of pre-1990 Metallica songs are played regularly on the radio, like I said. If Master of Puppets and Creeping Death can be played on my local rock station, Frantic and St. Anger are certainly allowed too. This article was filled with good writing that went absolutely nowhere.

    As far as other comments, anyone who says they lose respect for a band after they cut their hair is just asking for some flack. Maybe you don’t like Load and Reload. They’re not your cup of tea. Fair enough. That doesn’t make them BAD albums and their hair certainly had nothing to do with it.

    Carry on.

  8. Oh, and I believe you said (I could be wrong) that the band’s 1991 release sold seven million copies.

    A couple of points,

    1) I think you’re talking about the Black Album. You pretty much have to be, in fact. If so, that’s a 1990 release.

    2) It’s sold 12 million in the US and over 20 million worldwide.

    I believe Justice has sold about seven million, but that was in 1988.

  9. Ha ha. I just made an ass of myself. You were right about ’91… Guess I should have looked that tidbit up BEFORE I posted.

  10. The article tried to illustrate how worthless and weak many of today’s metal acts are in relation to Metallica’s best material. It’s true that the band’s songs do often appear on active rock playlists; this occurs where I live, as well. And each time it happens (“Fade to Black” programmed alongside 3DD’s “When I’m Gone,” for example), the Metallica track devours its lesser companion with one snap of its jaws. That’s the point: Unlike so much metal in the 21st century, Metallica remains largely undiluted, and should therefore scare the fuck out of program directors that perpetuate homogeny.

    It’s my hope that the ST.ANGER LP doesn’t give in to the easy money of sameness, and instead channels the group’s earlier work, when it didn’t need entities like MTV to validate its songs or popularity. It certainly didn’t need Snoop Dogg warbling through “Sad But True.”


  11. “when it didn’t need entities like MTV to validate its songs or popularity”

    Great point, Johnny. There was a time when Metallica avoided any association with MTV or the mainstream and STILL sold out stadiums. A lot of their early fans still hold it againast the band that Metallica sought a wider audience and, to some, compromised their integrity in the process. Will Metallica, rich beyond anyone’s dreams, return to that grassroots mentality and seek to appeal to the disenfranchised who built their foundation? Doesn’t look like it.

  12. Once again, Johnny– of course Metallica didn’t need Snoop Dogg– or the entire MTV Icon thing for that matter. It’s not like they asked for it– MTV chose them. Do you subscribe to TV Guide? When Lars got the call the first thing he said was, “Don’t you have to be older?”

    All I’m saying is that the public attention Metallica recieves nowadays is due to the points you yourself are making. Like Kirk said on Icon, “This little band that you carried in your back pocket got too big for your back pocket.”

    They’ve grown. And whether you want to call it selling out (which you haven’t) or just being around for 20+ years, the media has come to them. Sure, they don’t need MTV Icon. They don’t music videos. It’s just there.

    And I’ve heard various bits of St. Anger. It is a heavy monster. It’s songs are an average of seven minutes long; they’re back to the awesome time changes of the Justice era, Lars is going to give a big “fuck you” to those who say he can’t play the drums anymore, and the machine-gun blast of ultra-fast palm muting is back as well. And because they’re Metallica, you’re likely to hear this sonic blast assualt on your ears… and right after it… hear Creed belting out My Sacrifice on the radio.

    Nothing wrong with it. It’s what happens when you’re band survives for twenty years and sells damn near a hundred million albums.

  13. Metallica, the band that got big by primitive file sharing (tape trading) and then viciously biting the hand that fed them. Then they released the crap that is modern Metallica….

    Im sorry to say they have gone downhill after Cliff died, the irony being that Cliffs replacement was the only decent human left in the band after Black…

  14. Well Johnny, glad to see you haven’t lost your flare. May your wit and sarcasm live forever! Just do me a favor and don’t bother reviewing the new David Lee Roth album – it would hurt too much.

    I have no problem with a band growing musically, which is how I’d describe Metallica’s post-Justice material. I prefer the old, raw style better, but some of the new material has its merits.

    What does bother me is that it appears they’ve also turned into a bunch of over successful snobs. Their Napster stance is about as ridiculous as Don Henly singing a song called “Get Over It”.

    I hope the new album does rock hard, old style – but I’m not holding my breath. I agree, doing Icons isn’t a good sign.

  15. Wow, there starting to play some of the songs from anger on the radio and what not. And it seems that this whole, “getting back to classic thrashing” thing is just a coy selling point to try to net back old fans and make the new fans buy it to convince themselves that their as “cool” as the old fans. But yeah, it seems the stuff on St. Anger is no harder then anything on reload. If anything its actually slower and calmer. The title track, wich is also apparently the first single sounds like something you’d hear from puddle of mudd. It even has the generic, “Im an angry jaded teen” lyrics of all that other nu-metal drivel. Like most things in life. There doesn’t seem to be much hope for metallica’s rockin future

  16. I personally think that St. Anger is a unique type of metal, but agree with Sharon with some of the comments about the title track. I believe that a Metallica album without some sort of guitar solo is quite a shame, which is not to say that the album isn’t any good, or that any of the members cannot produce the right sounds anymore.

    I also think that Metallica should stick to what worked instead of trying to grab a new audience, as being an old Metallica fan I enjoy Kill ‘Em All up until Black much more than any of their more recent albums, and I believe their live performances of these songs are some of the best metal performances ever.

  17. Yeah, I definetley agree that somewhere the members of metallica still have the talent to pull of some of their classics off of their first 3 or 4 albums. And you can still hear it when they play live sometimes. But it just seems that now a days there just to hung up on money to try anything that may not appeal to whats probaly their target demographic now of like pouty little fat kids aged 14-17 with short blonde spiky hair and stupid braclets and baggy pants. Im sure you’ve all seen them. Hell, I even heard Lars once say, and Im not kidding here. “Hell we’ll do anything for money, you give us enough money and we’ll be your bitch”. Pretty wild, aye?

  18. An album like St. Anger done for money… I’ve heard it all now.

    I suppose Diabolus in Musica was also Slayer’s attempt to make it on country radio…

  19. i think that metallica should go on mtv cribs because i would like to see what their houses look like because i love metallica thats the only band i litsen to.

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