Originally posted: June 2000 

Metallica is a heavy metal music band. For a heavy metal band that’s been around for over 20 years and can still sell out a concert, I can’t help but notice some people still whining over their recent recordings. Since Load and ReLoad were released in the mid-90’s, I have heard people say that Metallica has sold out. I beg to differ.

Metallica began as a heavy metal group in the early 80’s. They actually brought heavy metal as we know it to the US from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. They were pioneers. As they progressed into the 90’s, they continued to increase their momentum as a dominant heavy metal force.

But they changed their tunes with Load. ReLoad was no different (basically, music that didn’t fit on Load). They began to move into areas they had never before recorded. For me, it was a great change of pace. They are still Metallica, and the music is still as skillful as it ever was. Yet some people think they’ve gone downhill. I thought rock ‘n’ roll was about doing what you enjoy doing, not what the critics have to say. And if they’re doing something wrong, then perhaps all of those people who are buying tickets and helping them sell out concerts are missing something.
As a person who has come to appreciate music on various levels, I think Metallica has actually gotten better. Singer James Hetfield really produces a range of tones with his awesome voice. Bass player Jason Newsted has done some amazing things to jam his riffs in your face. Drummer Lars Ulrich rolls and bangs the life out of the skins. And guitarists James Hetfield (yes, he sings and plays) and Kirk Hammett ride wild and daring riffs that scream and wail, plunging you deep into their twisted and wicked world. Hearing them play just sounds like they really are pouring their souls into the music.

I especially like the sounds they’re producing now. Don’t get me wrong, I still love what they did years ago. But their range of sounds is amazing. Some songs are bluesy, others are somber. But it’s still loud, present, and alive. And they still found room to put out music that has just as much thrash as their earlier stuff. Their a true heavy metal band that can perform a wide range of sounds and show more talent than many other bands that have been around in the last 20 years.
Perhaps some people are afraid that Metallica is getting old. Those people should try listening to the double-album where they play with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. They haven’t lost their touch… they really rock! Or maybe they’ve been together too long. Given the average lifetime of most music groups, I’d say Metallica seems to have some longevity in them (despite Newsted’s departure in 2001).

In April 2000, Metallica filed a lawsuit with a company that puts out MP3 files of their music. Apparently, copyright infringement does not seem to be an issue on the Internet. But do I blame them? No; in fact, I hope they set a precedent. How would you like it if you worked hard on a project and someone else reaped the benefits of it? I’d be upset and frustrated, and I’m sure Metallica feels the same way. I don’t think it’s about the money. I believe it’s about taking advantage of someone else’s talents. Essentially, the band was ripped-off, and I’m glad they fought back.

In 2001, the band seemed to be falling apart. Early in 2001, Jason broke away from the band, feeling the need to focus on other things in his life. The break-away was amicable (from MetClub sources). In April the remaining three band members went back into the studio to start work on their next original album (Bob Rock, their producer, filled in on the bass), all while on the search for the next Metallica bass player. In July, Metallica settled their suit with Napster, which seemed to be a windfall. But a week later, James was admitted into rehab for “alcoholism and other addictions.” This postponed many Metallic-events and left things in the hands of Lars and Kirk. Things were probably starting to look abysmal. Then September 11 happened. It seemed that everything else suddenly seemed so insignificant. A week later, Metallica expressed that their site was a hate-free zone and put the word out that they don’t want people to spread the hate that many of us felt after the morning of September 11. Although still looking for a new bass player, Metallica informed its members on its web site that James was out of rehab and “feeling rather good about life.” Despite all the adversity of 2001, this band is dedicated to its music, its expression, and (most importantly) its fans.

With the release of St. Anger, it seems that Metallica is missing one long-standing component to its music: the guitar solo. But this album is not business-as-usual; instead, it’s a vehicle for the band to get over one of its most difficult obstacles and move forward. After seeing Metallica in May 2004, I realized that it was as strong as ever, despite what the critics say (did I mention that it sold out the concert in Madison in a record 22 minutes?). Some people say that St. Anger is the biggest disappointment from the band. I think it’s one of the greatest albums, because it’s raw, heavy, emotive, and absolutely genuine.

Metallica as a band does something that some people just don’t seem to get. This is a band that really has recognition, that has a great track record, and that really does what others are afraid to do… write and play music that allows them to really express themselves. And as for me, I love listening to it. Some people think I’m off my rocker when I say that my favorite band is Metallica (I usually listen to them in the car, at the office, at home… just about anywhere I can). If I were to choose an example of someone with celebrity status who sets a good example, it has to be them because they know how to express themselves through some amazing tunes. They do the one thing that they do best: play some really loud, awesome music. And if they’re good enough to play with a symphony orchestra (and you’re reading from someone who loves the symphony), then they deserve more praise and credit than they’ve received. Did I mention that they write their own music, play their own instruments, and actually sing their own tunes? How many “bands” and “musicians” do that nowadays? And for a band that’s over 20 years old, they still have this amazing ability to sell-out concerts wherever they may roam.