Did Metallica’s Chance to Save Hard Rock and Metal Fail?
With the release of their 10th studio album, “Hardwired…To Self Destruct” in November of 2016, Metallica once again found themselves at the top of the music heap. The latest release from the metal giants topped the charts in an astounding 57 countries. It was their sixth consecutive studio album to debut at number 1 on the Billboard 200.
The first single titled, “Hardwired” reminded us all of just how mighty this band is. It was a throwback to the beginning of the Thrash movement that they created in the early 1980s. “Hardwired” is feisty, nasty and man, does it ever fill you with adrenaline. It probably isn’t a good song to listen to while driving, unless you enjoy getting speeding tickets. The subsequent singles, “Moth, into Flame” and “Atlas, Rise” cemented this album as their best effort in years, if not decades. It really makes you wonder exactly what happened to this band 25 years ago.
One of the biggest and most inflammatory debates in rock music is the issue about Metallica changing their look, sound and, well, basically everything else in 1996 with the release of “Load.” Before we discuss Load, let’s rewind back to 1991 for a minute, shall we?
In 1991, Metallica released their self-titled album which was commonly known as the ‘Black Album.” The songs, though heavy and dark, are missing the trademark Metallica crunchy sound. Songs like “Enter Sandman” and “Sad But True” are thick, heavy, ass-kicking tunes taken straight from the Black Sabbath handbook. They were dark and ominous. One thing they weren’t was fast. Couple the slowed down vibe of the music with the power ballads, “The Unforgiven” and “Nothing Else Matters” and hardcore Metallica fans felt betrayed.
All of a sudden, Metallica were all over MTV. They made video after video. They gave interview after interview. The band that once gave a California-sized middle finger to the mainstream were now media darlings. Many loyal fans of the band were hurt. They threw out any and all Metallica-related merchandise they could find. Unfortunately for these die-hard fans, the Black Album was just a bad tasting appetizer for what was to soon follow.
We’re now in 1996. Hair Metal had long since perished (and with good reason). Grunge and pop-punk music dominated the rock airwaves. Anything that was labeled ‘metal’ was immediately scorned upon. Bands like Pantera tried to keep the heavy metal fire burning but they all failed. Hard rock and metal were eradicated from the music landscape. If you wanted long hair, loud guitars, screeching front men and pounding drums, you had to find some hole-in-the-wall nightclub in the middle of nowhere to catch a nostalgia act from the 1980s that didn’t get the memo. Word came down that the gods of metal themselves, Metallica, were ready to release a new album. It was the “Load” album.
Rock and metal fans everywhere were pumped. Those of us who never got into the whiny, self-loathing bands from Seattle needed a jolt of energy and we hoped it would come from Metallica. I, for one, will never forget watching the video for “Until It Sleeps,” the first single from Load. The song and video were complete departures from what we all were expecting and hoping.
Since the genre of metal, was basically non-existent in 1996, we were hoping Metallica would reclaim their throne and, with one giant swoop, bring metal back where it belonged. Instead, we got something that looked more like a high school science project that went awry. All the members of the band cut their hair. All of the members of the band started dressing like members from the Smashing Pumpkins or Stone Temple Pilots. The videos were tantamount to something you’d see on the Discovery Channel.
At that time, my bands were Guns N Roses and AC/DC so from a personal level, I didn’t feel the same level of betrayal as the hardcore Metallica fan. But, as a fan of metal and as someone who desperately wanted metal to return, I will forever hold Metallica responsible for what was, in my view, the final nail in metal’s coffin with the Load and Re-Load Albums.
Metal has not been the same since the mid-1990s. Yes, we’ve seen the scene morph into sub-genres like rap-metal with bands like Korn and Rage Against the Machine and other bands like Disturbed and Godsmack tried finding their own little niche but for me, it is not the same and it will never be the same. The true essence of rock-n-roll, at its core, is rebellion. It’s about thumbing our collective noses at the establishment. It’s about those of us who were alienated in our teenage years, finding a sense of belonging. It’s about the music. It’s about the energy from the musicians playing the music. It’s about the emotion that goes into the lyrics. How can you possibly compare songs like, “Ironman”, “Breaking the Law”, “Number of the Beast” and “Ace of Spades” with anything that is around today that calls itself hard rock or metal? Metallica could have saved the genre that they helped create in 1996. Instead, they caved in and changed everything about themselves to fit into what was popular at that time. My friends, that is the definition of selling out.
Hardwired and it’s predecessor from 2008, Death Magnetic, are a return to their bombastic roots but in my view, it is too little too late. I dig the new album. I like its edgy sound. I won’t buy the album nor will I see them when their tour comes around to my neck of the woods. The Metallica I know is the opening riff to “Seek and Destroy” and the machine-gun like attack of “One.” To this day, hearing those songs makes me want to break something for no reason whatsoever.
Neither Metallica or any other band who thinks they’re ‘metal’ makes me feel that way. That music, I am sorry to say, is gone. All we can do is keep downloading those songs from our youth to our MP3 players and think back to when hard rock music was really hard and really rock.
Metallica has the right to write any music they feel like. And I support that. I, as a fan, have the right to thumb my nose at it. Metallica had a chance in 1996 to save hard rock and metal. They didn’t. It’ll never be the same. The irony is that the Grunge movement was credited with saving rock music in the early 1990s but in reality, it led to its demise. That is another topic for another blog.
– What do you think music fans? Did Metallica fail to save hard-rock and heavy metal? Let us know in the comments below or head over to our Facebook page by clicking here.
*The views expressed in this article are that of the writer. They do not reflect the views of the editor or the staff.
Two of my biggest passions are sports and rock music. Both of which, I have many strong and at times provocative opinions on.
My favorite bands are AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Pantera, and 80s Metallica and well, I have to admit I listen to a lot of Kiss, too.
My teams are the Mets, Jets and Rangers(I know, they all suck)
I've never met a place for buffalo wings that I didn't like.
I am a customs house broker by trade but I have this yearning to express my views on a variety of topics and blogging has become a great outlet for my voice.
In the words of the immortal Bon Scott, "Lock up your daughter and lock up your wife. Lock up your back door and run for your life. The man is back in town, so don't you mess me around"