Thursday, August 21, 2008

Well, Now I Know Why They Titled It That

I really hope that the new Metallica song ("The Day that Never Comes") is an ironic reference to the fact that the day will never come when Metallica once again kicks ass!

Today I finally heard the the two new Metallica songs that are floating around the Internet. The first, mentioned above, was officially released by the band on Thursday, and the second, "Cyanide," is a live version of a new song from a recent gig. You can hear them both streaming on the band's MySpace page here. But, before I go into why the songs disappoint, I should explain where I stand on the once-impressive metal giants.

I got into Metallica around 1987-88, and the first album I ever heard was Master of Puppets. That album freaked my sh** out! It was incredible stuff and I had heard little like it. I quickly scarfed up their other releases and even scoured used and collectible stores to locate a copy of the then out-of-print Garage Days Re-Revisited. I was hooked.

This was also the moment in time when Metallica was on a "reinvention hiatus." Now, I am very different than many music fans in that this does not automatically spell doom for me. In fact, one of my favorite bands, U2, made their best album to date (along with the best tour of any band) after a similar break.

The album that emerged from this time was the now infamous "Black Album." I (unlike many die hard fans) found it pretty cool. Yes, it was a departure, but I also felt at the time that it not only demonstrated growth, but guts. I think what many people forget is that when the album was made it also sounded unlike anything before it. In other words, not only had Metallica ushered in the age of thrash back in the early '80s, but they also ushered in a new age of metal for the '90s. I saw Metallica three times on the monster tour that followed this release and they are still some of the best shows I've ever seen.

Unfortunately, if the "Black Album" was illustrating growth, the growth ended there. Load and (the even more ridiculous) Reload felt like rehashed and/or remixed versions of the songs found on the "Black Album." Innovation became formulaic and stale. Evolution had ceased.

I then looked forward to the promised departure of St. Anger and while the songs were much better, the production was (as many others have said) too disagreeable for me to fully enjoy the album.

Metallica has been making news for close to two years now with reports of another new disc. I have heard many good things. I read that it was 'the album that should have come between ...And Justice for All and the "Black Album."' I also heard that it would continue in the direction/vein of St. Anger, but did away with the production experiments. Try as I might to ignore, I began to find myself excited once again for the possibility of recapturing the magic spirit of Metallica.

What I heard today appears to signal a sad closure of the door to hope for that magic. "The Day that Never Comes" is a ballad-esque yawner in the style of "Until it Sleeps" or "Bleeding Me," instead of "Fade to Black" or "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)." About 4 minutes in, it becomes an thrashier instrumental, but is sloppy and uneven rather than tight and daring like earlier tracks (or even stuff on St. Anger).

The other track, "Cyanide," shows slightly more promise in its thrashy time changes and unusual structuring. My only hope is that the studio production allows for a more even and tight sound.

So, I'll still check out the disc when it's released, but this may finally be not only the end of an era for me (I know many would argue it ended long ago), but also the end of hoping for that era to be recaptured, if even for a moment.

Maybe the boys really just don't have it in them anymore. I Guess I'll go listen to the new Testament album instead.

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