There’s no doubt Metallica is and will be one of the biggest bands to ever be. They’ve changed music in the way Led Zeppelin did in the 1970’s, in other words, redefined music. Along with a handful of other bands in the early 80’s they formed the thrash genre and are without question the band almost every human with an interest in music is aware of.
That said, they’ve never really been my favorite thrash / heavy band. I’ve always liked them and consider “Master of Puppets” the album that changed everything. I listen to that and “Ride the Lightning” on a regular basis, two insanely great albums. But I never dug much of anything they did after that. I should say I never liked any complete albums after “Master”. They are way too talented not to have tunes that I like from various albums.
Somehow to me, they lost something after original bassist Cliff Burton died in a tragic bus accident (no offense to Jason Newsted, his replacement who I like a lot). In my view, the main songwriters James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich, got way too serious about themselves and micromanaged the music to the point they couldn’t make a cohesive project. Certainly, “And Justice for All”, the first album with Newsted was cohesive but produced so badly I could never stand it. Similarly, the songs were so self conscious I found it hard to enjoy. I’ve tried many times over the years and have softened a little on it but still think it’s not the great album it’s made out to be. What the fuck do I know though?
After seeing the documentary “Some Kind of Monster” which was a really bad decision to film as the band struggled to stay together after Newsted quits and Hetfield goes to rehab while trying to record a new album, which would become “St. Anger”. It’s the least rock n roll movie ever and shows the band for what they’ve become, a soulless band comprised of guys who are disconnected from each other, rich beyond their wildest dreams and not into what they’re doing. With it’s goofy happy ending I never thought I’d check out anything new by these guys ever again.
Which brings me to “Hardwired to Self Destruct”, their last studio album from 2016. I vaguely recall hearing about it’s release and paid no attention to it. Then the other day it popped up on my YouTube suggestions and I figured what the hell, I’ll give it a listen. I was definitely surprised to say the least. It’s a really good fucking album! The best thing they’ve done in years and years. The album flows well, it’s loose, heavy, and unpretentious. You get the feeling that they actually enjoyed making this record. There’s a kind of fun vibe that shines through.
I’m happy for them to have a solid album out again (*me more than two years after it’s release). I’ve watched a lot of interviews with Hetfield over the past couple of years and he definitely seems like he’s mellowed and is an interesting guy to listen to. Not that you have to personally like artists to enjoy their work, but in this case I get the feeling his state of mind translated into a really good, back to basics, solid piece of work.