Saturday, October 1, 2011

Defending Post-Black Album Metallica (but not Lou Reed)

Honestly, I'm kind of pissed off at Metallica that I even have to write this post. Their upcoming collaboration with Lou Reed, Lulu, is shaping up to be quite a turd. Never have I seen such a universally panned album, and the son of a bitch hasn't even been released yet.

And make no mistake, the criticism is warranted. I heard 30 seconds of the first single, and I can't imagine how anyone thought it was a good idea to have Lou Reed ramble senselessly over what sounds like some B-material riffs that Metallica had lying around.

What I don't think is fair, however, is the claim that everything Metallica's made after "The Black Album" hasn't been any good. This seems to have been a general theme for the past fifteen years or so, with the most recent of such claims coming from Yahoo! blogger Rob O'Connor in his list of "Ten Worst Heavy Metal Albums." In it, he puts Load, Re-Load, and St. Anger in for a tie at the very worst of the list. Now, the fact that Mr. O'Connor has made the decision to wear a shag carpet top hat on his blog banner automatically makes me question his judgement.

Aside from our divergent taste in hatwear, however, I also disagree with O'Connor's assessment of those three albums. I want to take a look at each album and point out some examples of why these albums have some very well-done material to add to the Metallica catalog.

Load (1996)

Let's get one thing out of the way right now. The idea that Metallica sold out because they cut their hair for this album is really fucking stupid. Cutting your hair has absolutely nothing to do with your ability to make music. On top of that, having long hair past a certain age can be summed up with a recent picture of Dee Snyder from Twisted Sister.

Dee is the transvestite on the left

This picture alone is reason enough for me to make an allowance anytime a rocker cuts their hair. Beyond hair argument, however, I think a Load offers a lot of good music.

"Hero of the Day"

I'd say what got most Metallica fans' panties in a twist over Load is the fact that it's such a departure from the type of fast metal that Metallica had perfected in previous albums, with break-neck headbanging riffs and solos that add at least another 2 minutes to each song. Hero of the Day represents Metallica's experimentation with something different, however, with an attempt at something more subdued and melodic with a solo that lasts 20 seconds at most. I suppose liking this song is dependent on whether or not you can let go of the fact that this is not the same Metallica that did Ride the Lightening or Master of Puppets.

"Mama Said"

Yes, it's Metallica doing a country song. But's a good song. It actually reminds me of "Nothing Else Matters", a song that starts as a mellower, acoustic-leaning song that builds into something heavier by the end. I don't know, I may be alone here but screw you it's my blog.

ReLoad (1997)

I'm sure people who didn't like the direction the band had taken were using the sequel them that runs through this album as proof that the band had truly "jumped the shark," but doing so ignores the fact that this is another well-made album.


This brings backs some of the old-school feel of Metallica, bringing back the speed of their early days with a riff that I defy anyone not to involuntarily bob their head to at the very least. I will say, however, that this song landed in the "overplayed" category, so I do understand if it got a little old for some folks after a while.

"Low Man's Lyric"

This is a song that got absolutely no attention, which I think is a shame because it's some damn fine work. This is like nothing I've ever heard Metallica do before or since, and I love that they experimented with something that strays so far from what put them on the map. A great song that will never get the nod it deserves.

St. Anger (2003)

The general complaint about this album was that the production value sucked. Well, as a Neil Young fan, poor production value is kind of endearing.

"Some Kind of Monster"/"The Unnamed Feeling"

Usually I prefer songs with some melodic value, but these are just great songs for when you're pissed off. As a fat kid I'm usually pissed off when I work out, so they're perfect for me. Granted, neither of these songs are destined to be classics, but that doesn't mean they're worthless. And certainly not representative of one of the worst heavy metal songs of all time.

I guess the only point I can really prove with this post is that music is inherently subjective. So many variables account for whether or not a person likes a song that it's impossible to definitively validate or dismiss a musician's body of work. I suppose Rob O'Connor is well within his rights to make the opinion that Metallica has sucked for the last decade and a half. But I just can't accept that they've put out the worst heavy metal albums in a world when Limp Bizkit has multiple albums on record.