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METALLICA – some kind of… REBIRTH

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Written for Enthusiast magazine by: Ralie Blag (2005 /+ P.S. 2016)
Translation: Neil Scarth
Материалът на български виж ТУК.

We come now to create the album of our life. We honor the virtues of each and the harmony of the ONE. Throughout our individual and collective journeys, sometimes accompanied by pain and conflict, we have discovered the true meaning of FAMILY. It is both our mission and our destiny to manifest this ideal. As we achieved ultimate togetherness, we became healers of ourselves and of the darkness surrounding us and our message. We’ve learned and we’ve understood. Now we must share.

– Kirk Hammett, from Metallica Mission Statement

After the St. Anger album – not much liked by many people, and after the delirium with the trial against Napster, you can often hear someone, with an air of importance, saying: “Oh, METALLICA – they were my favorites once, but they are kind of on the wane today. Theyve exhausted their potential” However, I do not agree with this statement – I’ll explain why, and I passionately hope time will prove that my hunches won’t turn out to have been unfounded. What’s more, soon after this album’s release, though not immediately at the time, METALLICA acquired the meaning of something genuinely great and precious to me. And this is in no way accidental. Because I “discovered” them when they had gone through a sort of process of letting the potential deep within burst out; when they had passed an undeniable, tangible turning point.

For me, the key to them was the song Unforgiven. I had already listened thousands of times to Unforgiven II. Nevertheless, the song was firmly linked in my mind to the personality of Dan Osman[1], because it was the music that sounded in the video-clip commemorating the admirable American solo climber and free-rope jumper. Then, because of this song, though not with any real intention, I got hold of the first song as well. And one day I lent an ear to… the weird tenderness:

What I’ve felt
What I’ve known
Never shined through in what I’ve shown
Never be
Never see
Won’t see what might have been…

Yeah, and luckily we managed to see! :)

When I heard the couplet, listening to the vocals with excitement, a thought that something special was going on there occurred to me. Something special, which I needed to explore (as I always like to do and have explored as a matter of fact the life, ideas and art of my favorites such as Mozart, Salinger, Dostoevski, Einstein, Marlowe, Ataturk, Exupery, the early Christians such as Plotinus or even St. Paul…). What’s more, it all came up to my expectations! The social, rebellious and mystic voice, assembled into something from the very inside – from the heart – poured (and is still pouring by and large) out… what more could you wish for or seek? Escape, Trapped Under Ice and Fade to Black quickly became my fevs among their oldest pieces.

And something else that I was genuinely impressed by at once – when I got acquainted thoroughly with the outer appearance of the band over the years (since I had never taken any great notice of the band members before) I found the simplicity of their “dress code”, which is gratifying to my mind. There were no paints, no chains and necklaces, no leather and all that other well-known stuff, which is usually brought out in eye-harassing extravagance. (Only Kirk looks somehow inclined towards this style, but even in his case the forms it takes are simple and kept well in hand – because it’s just him, not any particular “fucking” fad.)[2] This truly impressed me and made me smile. I sense it shows an inward non-commitment to external “trends” – embodying a particular inner understanding… Externally – too much drinking, even drugs, females (you know), but there isn’t any of this in the songs – remarkable again! It is not there as a core, as the essence, and if there’s something of this nevertheless – it’s on the cover versions selected for the Garage Inc. album mainly. So, what can I say? How could I fail to fall in love with these guys? And in order to be fully convinced about what I felt when I heard that original and uniquely tender melody of Unforgiven, I found immediately on the net, freshly ripped and uploaded (still not released in Bulgaria at the time), the new movie about Metallica: Metallica – Some Kind of Monster (2004). [3]

Many people have probably watched the movie, but many have probably not. What can we learn from it? First of all – famous or not, thriving in certain stages of life or not, all people face the same dilemmas: which way to choose; what to get involved in to be able to feel themselves; how to succeed by establishing themselves somehow in whatever field they have got into; how to find a connection with their fellow man… (the latter seems to be the main trouble of mankind).

In the course of the film we see Jason Newsted torturing himself over whether he had made the right choice in quitting the band, and how tough, even painful the breakaway is for him… We see Lars feeling worthless and disrespected, while James is in therapy somewhere far away at a clinic which is intentionally unknown even to him, whereas the future of METALLICA is murky and in question… We see Kirk – most peacefully accepting what’s happening and with a philosophical turn of mind believing that things will ultimately be fixed up. We see from up close Metallica’s producer since the Black Album – Bob Rock[4], who, contrary to the rumours, doesn’t appear to be ‘awful’ at all or to be unleashing some “harmful” influence upon the band, something he has been systematically accused of recently – he’s even quite perspicacious at times, just fitting in with the circumstances. It appears to me that if someone wants to complain about anything related to the music since the Black Album, he’d better look to blame James first – since it’s him who started showing some other features of his personality (super-gripping, and beautiful moreover!) on this one, then in the Load, Re-load albums (you see, here are these great works: Fixxxer, Sad but True, Unforgiven, Unforgiven II, Enter Sandman, The Memory Remains, Nothing Else Matters, The Thorn Within, Wherever I May Roam, Hero of the Day, Fuel, Until it Sleeps, Bleeding Me, and so on, and so on… I cannot imagine how any of those listed above could be labelled as “worse than the previous one”!)[5], and after that he’d better turn to Lars probably – for he achieved the kind of “release” in St. Anger which burdens the ears quite a lot :) (Though the guitars also sound in this “tight” way, heh-heh.) Moving on from this point, I’d also say that the product of the ‘purge’ period is not my favorite one – the scraping, tanging sound really grates on my ears. But I won’t deny as well that behind this, sometimes even in the foreground, there are plenty of original, high-impact melodies and riffs. In this record I like very much: Shoot Me Again, St. Anger, Sweet Amber, The Unnamed Feeling

Next, it’s interesting also to take a look at what the formal inspirations for the creation of some of the songs were, at how they came into being.

Such as the case with Shoot Me Again, for instance – the feelings linked to the Napster trial, during which angered fans turned their back on the band, trashed the albums they’d bought, spat on their former idols and the whole plethora of emotions of that ilk. Or then again the circumstances surrounding the creation of Sweet Amber, which came as a reaction to them being invited to take part in an advert for a big chain of radio stations, something they were forced to agree to willy-nilly so that they wouldn’t be scuppered further down the line. St. Anger on the other hand took shape as a title when James took note of something Kirk contributed about some kind of Christian saint. Apart from that it probably reflects their internal state due to the unresolved wrangles between Lars and James.

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There is also a meet-up with Dave Mustain, who hadn’t obviously overcome his disappointment and hurt pride about not remaining in the group at the time. Regarding this, quite a few people may have wondered and still wonder: what would have happened if Dave Mustain hadn’t been replaced by Kirk Hammett. We could hardly know really, but something seems sure enough: Kirk, even if he isn’t a better guitar player (which is quite a moot point), he definitely preserves this specific personal characteristic, which makes him a necessary and by no means randomly chosen member of the band, rather chosen by the mysterious ways of Fate, evidently. Because without his calm character which complements the others, his placidity, and philosophical apprehension of the world and life, the process of transformation taking place after James’ departure would scarcely have taken place as smoothly and successfully as it did. These personal qualities of his, apart from anything else, seem to have been of particular importance at such a critical moment and anyway, that’s how things were in general, as he himself relates in an interview given after the film was completed:

‘As I’ve already mentioned, there was no script. What is shown in the film is the actual reality. I’m really proud of that. It’s really good to see that since the film was finished, we’ve made considerable progress. We’ve covered some ground along the road and are heading in the right direction. I’ve often had to put myself between the two of them for us to reach the destination we’d set our sights on. I think this is an important part of the story which many know nothing about and which is significant for the relationships within the group and perhaps for its very survival.’[6]

It was fascinating for me to note, incidentally, that although James is spiritually close to a symbolic and allegorical way of perceiving the world[7], Kirk displays an intellectual interest in seeking meaning in this kind of world view through the well-established tenets of Buddhist teachings, for example.

Further… An impression that the new bassist Rob Trujillo shared was particularly fun for me:

‘Hey, what’s up?!’ said one of his friends in amazement. ‘What’s that scene with James at his daughter’s ballet class?!’ It didn’t sound right to him, it was out of order to show James in this light: ‘This is Hetfield, for God’s sake! The metal guy… And in this scene he’s shown kind of… ’ In this scene Hetfield is merely a loving and caring husband and father… OMG! :) He’s turned into someone with a great deal of potential in the very thing that he himself had lacked as a child, something he didn’t want to deprive his own children of. ‘It’s beautiful’ – concludes Robert regarding this. ‘It’s real. That’s exactly how he is.’ And James himself comments on this side of himself: ‘This demystification of the aura around our image… It’s as if I reveal myself in this film. Like you’ve long since carried some kind of label that’s been pinned on you, the label of someone who is rebelling against society, against himself, against God, against pretty much everything important… Drinking to forget problems, never revealing yourself to anyone, acting like a lone wolf… And then all of a sudden you turn into something like a Father Wolf protecting his family; for people to see that I like my life like this, that it’s more full of meaning now. I really think this is something that I’d like to pride myself on. And not that I’m the leader of the Alcoholics or something… It’s such a human thing, to want to be a better person regardless of what’s surrounding you… and to succeed.[8]

Well, yes…. It was great fun for me to observe how for half of the film their table was piled up with countless bottles… of mineral water! And likewise with lots of fruit… :)

We can also take a note of the seemingly inevitable presence of synchronicities whenever it comes to significant things on the level of energy happening. For example, when the guys once get together with the psychotherapist Phil, with Bob and a member of their entourage called Toby. They’ve just got onto the issue of Jason calling up Toby the previous day, upset that he hasn’t been told about the one-off Metallica performance at the Raiders’ match. They get talking about this call and speculate about why he’s offended when James had tried to get hold of him several times unsuccessfully to tell him about it, when just at that moment James’ telephone rings. Of course it’s Jason on the other end. And as Toby listens to James talking: ‘Hey man, how’s it going? We’ve just met up and we’ve been talking about you.  You’ve picked just the right moment.’ – he exclaims off camera: ‘Pure synchronicity! Unbelievable!’

Another similar moment comes when they’ve got together to record something for the Ramones tribute album (released in 2003). Lars starts off by saying that Peter and Cliff have suggested two of the songs: ‘Commando’ and ‘52nd and 3rd’. They’re just wondering which of the two songs to choose to perform when their conversation is interrupted. They’re informed that Dee Dee, the ex-bassist of the Ramones, has just passed away suddenly. So they decide on ‘52nd and 3rd’ since this is the song about Dee Dee’s life and they comment how strange it is that at just that moment the news of his death should arrive. As if that wasn’t enough, earlier that same day they’ve been told that their former bassist Jason would most likely want to re-join the group and the conversation has revolved around him. In fact Jason’s departure has generally been a big topic.

There is another interesting moment – this time with Pepper, who’s been staying at James’s place and expresses his concern that doesn’t want to feel any favouritism around because it may seems that James is trying to push something by dragging him at the studio every day. So when they’ve all got together, for that very reason even, he says: ‘Since you have this, you know, crazy open thing go on (with their psychotherapy conversations) I was why not to give a freeking chance…’ to take a little load off… ‘Laughter resounds in the hall’ followed by James’s explanation that ‘this open thing’ is called communication :) Communication – something so important and yet, however strange it may seem, so little in real common practice generally.

In the final analysis, what speaks volumes about the correct and beneficial course of the group’s process of internal transformation is the exchange of places between the former bassist Newsted and the new one, Trujillo. Before he was chosen to be a member of the group, Robert Trujillo played with Ozzy. They’ve kept him busy there and they’re attached to him. But all the same they send him to be with James, Kirk, Lars – with their blessings – they release him without getting offended and they wish him success on his new path. It’s then that he felt truly liberated, says Trujillo, and able to let himself really enjoy what’s going on in his life. After this we then find out that Ozzy has taken on Jason Newsted in Robert’s place. How could you not smile at such a miraculous turn of events – out and out monumental as a development you could even say! The one who leaves Metallica – thus creating the preconditions for a re-think and opening the way for a long-ripe transformation – takes the place of the one who’s coming to replace him in the group’s line-up. If that’s not an inspirational constellation of circumstances then what is? :) And mostly because it creates a sense of fulfillment in Newsted himself (since Ozzy is a true legend in the genre, one of the few who are truly of the stature of Metallica ) so that the situation with Dave Mustaine doesn’t repeat itself.

Last to say, I find the many-faceted nature of the group truly appealing – something which really takes shape properly with the arrival of Robert (with his Indian appearance). That of course is a question of personal preference but anyway it is pretty noteworthy in this case because their diversity tends to surpass that usually associated with more intuitive world views.[9] Because of all this and for many other similar reasons, I am really looking forward to seeing what the guys will serve up with their new album, rumoured to be about to see the light of day towards the end of 2006[10]. Will Metallica live on with this album? I believe and hope so! And really I can hardly wait to find out for sure…

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P.S. (2016)

Nowadays my most favourite song of this ‘Death Magnetic’ (2008) album is Unforgiven III – especially with that classical sounding intro and all… As if the story continues there from where we left it years ago. What goes around comes around, we’re likely to say 😉 And something new is on it’s way. What it would be like, Lars speaks to Humanity magazine (June 2016): ‘It’s probably a little less frenetic than the last record. The last one [producer] Rick Rubin really encouraged us to for the first time be inspired by our past. It was the first time we sort of looked in the rearview mirror. This time around it’s a little bit of a different thing. We’re not working with Rick, we’re working with the engineer from the last record, who’s producing, Greg Fidelman. So there’s some of the same production elements at play, but we’re expanding a little bit on the sonics. It’s probably a bit more of a diverse record than the last one.’

As anybody can find through the comments HERE there are still the same contradictory opinions on the band’s activity, but I’m truly happy with their present course! And l’m really smiling in my heart to hear Lars saying: ‘Metallica’s busier than Metallica’s ever been. But we also have a different set of balances now in our lives, which is vital to keeping the band healthy. We prioritize our families and our kids. When we tour, we tour in two-week increments and we go home every two weeks. We found a new model for us, but we play probably two to three dozen gigs a year even in off years just to kind of keep the momentum going and keep ourselves connected and invested in the band. I think what’s happened is our families and our domestic responsibilities are so important to us now, so we just have a new model. We’re sort of constantly doing something but never to the point of the needle going in the red, but Metallica really hasn’t sort of shut down since around 2005, and it’s a model that works for us.’

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[1] “Dan Osman – the Indian? I used to watch his performances, his jumps. He is a very interesting person, a very colourful character – apart from being so handsome and also apart from being a nice chap. He is one of a special breed, one that lives on the other side of the edge!” (Daniel Manov, “Vertical World” Club – Bulgaria) About Dan Osman see more HERE.
[2] It is curious in this regard to add that a whole year after I noticed that, I had a chance to watch a video of the VH1’s “When Metallica Ruled the World” and it was here that I learned with surprise that this was really their own distinctive manner, something they had even consciously stood up for from the very beginning!
[3] I bought the film later, of course :), I hasten to add 😉 – with subtitles in Bulgarian, bonus DVD with interviews, and so on… you know.
[4] There is an interesting conversation, for example, about the guitar solo – it is not quite clear how it starts, but Kirk and Lars get into a debate on this point until finally it draws to a close with Bob chiming in to the effect that there should not be rules about “solos” or “no solos”, nor should the band follow certain trends or its own traditions; rather everything has to serve the song and whatever fits it. Really, the irony of “rules” is that if we always cling to them, we may then never catch the SPIRIT of the moment. As James will note somewhere in 1997 with irony: “I used to get into trouble for having long hair… now I’m in trouble for having short hair!”
[5] I can’t refrain from mentioning the classic S&M (Symphony&Metallica, 1999) album with a San Francisco orchestra. There are all sorts of opinions to be found about it – from “it was brutal and drab overshooting” to “this was their best concert ever”, but to be fair, as someone who’d been right there on the spot said – James sings there AT THE PEAK of his abilities and just squeezes out the songs, which enriched with symphonic sound become even more beautiful and accomplished! No Leaf Clover is absolutely wonderful, I would say – and all the others generally! For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Thorn Within… lol, I wholeheartedly LOVE this sonorous performance.
[6] This quotation is a free back-translation from the published in Bulgarian material.
[7] I can immediately give an example of this for the sake of clarity: when James got back from rehab, the recording for the album took off from somewhere new and apropos of this James remarks: ‘We are in very different places, at least I am in a very different place from the one I was in at Presidio’ he says alluding to his mental and emotional state.
[8] Once again a free translation from Bulgarian and not an exact quote.
[9] An interesting incident that Bob Rock tells us about in the documentary DVD “Metallica” (classic albums, 2001) I would just like to insert here as a footnote (for the last time, I promise ;): ‘When I had to make my mind up whether or not to do Metallica, I wanted to do Metallica but ugly enough I had to choose between Metallica and doing art work with Bon Jovi and Rickie Sanborn – both great friends… At that point it was like ‘Should I let down a friend or should I do this band? And so I went off on vacation with my family. Well, my kids, my wife and I were travelling through the desert. By the Grand Canyon we drived alone and then this person appeared at the side of the road. And it was AN INDIAN on the side of the road! In the middle of absolutely nowhere, sitting on the side of the road with a Metallica T-shirt on. And I thought: ‘Oh, my God, that’s a sign!’ After another hundred miles I stopped for gas and went into the gas-station to pay for it, and Metallica was playing on the radio. And everybody said they’d never really been played on the radio. Which is true as far as I know. At that point I phoned up my manager and said: ‘Sorry, Rickie, I’ve got to do this.’
[10] Actually released 2008 and titled ‘Death Magnetic’.

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Metallica’s quotes
(originals)

The Story of Metallica & Metallica – Some Kind of Monster

To go from one extreme to the other, with no boundaries. That’s the best. That’s what Metallica is all about. – Lars

You know, the great thing about the success we’ve being fortunate enough to have is you can keep going between all those extremes all the time. – Lars

Metallica is not just Heavy Metal, not just ballads, not just this or that. We can do whatever the fuck we want. – James

We have many styles, its called Metallica. – James in an interview years back

Metallica is all about music – not the link of our hair. – Kirk

We’ve always done things our way and had new attitude. – James

Our way – that’s the thing. – Kirk

We know in our hearts that what gift we’ve being given, we show it through a passionate music and will be people there to enjoy it with us. – James

I think the whole concept behind lyrics is you better mean what you say, or you should like become a storyteller. I mean, there’s a lot of bands who are just storytellers, and then there are bands who actually have something valid to say. And the bands who have valid points are few and far between. – Kirk

We don’t plan concepts. We didn’t write Ride the Lightning about death, or Master of Puppets about manipulation. That just happens. – James

We discovered how much money influences certain things and discovered how things work in the United States. How things might seem okay on the outside, but internally, they’re corrupt. – James

We are selfish and honest about it. That is the two things that I think keep Metallica going: honesty and selfishness. We are doing this for ourselves! – James

I was pretty quiet as a child. I kind of hung out with my family and listened to music and shit. I wasn’t too outgoing at all. – James

Rock of Fame Sabbath’s Induct
James Hetfield’s speech

All right. BLACK SABBATH is mammoth riffs with menacing lyrics that make me, oh, so happy. That was gonna be my speech – that was it – but Springsteen kind of upped the ante the last year. I’ll go a little deeper. Picture a nine-year-old boy – quiet, well-behaved on the outside, but on the inside boiling and dying for a life to burst open with some sort of – any sort of – stimulation and the discovery of music was what was to burst it wide open. But not just any music. This was more than just music – a powerful, loud, heavy sound that moved his soul. You see, this timid nine-year-old constantly raided his roommate – slash older brother’s record collection, and going against his older brother’s wishes, played those off-limit records on the forbidden record player. And out of all the records he could have worn out, there was no other choice – the very moment he saw their earliest album cover, he knew they were going to offer him a different kind of ride. He was drawn to them like a magnet to metal… That’s pretty lame, yes. OK, I’ll try again. More like a shy boy to his own loud voice, those monstrous riffs lived inside him and spoke the feelings he could never put into words [choking up], sending chills of inspiration through him, from those gloomy lyrics and outlaw chords and all. They helped crack the shell he was stuck in. Also, scaring his mom and sister was an extra bonus. And now, as the former nine-year-old speaks to you here, as an adult musician – I know those two words really don’t go together – I realize that without their defining sound, as my friend Lars has said, there would be no METALLICA, especially with one James Hetfield. Never have I known a more timeless and influential band. They have spread their wonderful disease through generations of musicians. They are always listed as an influence by heavy bands to this day. They are loved and highly respected as the fathers of heavy music. It truly is a dream come true and an extreme honor for me and the nine-year-old still inside of me to induct into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame such a significant group of musicians. And in the words of our fearless leader Ozzy Osbourne: ‘Let’s go fucking crazy!’ Here is Black Sabbath.

DVD Metallica
classic albums 2001

This is the first time I ever heard anybody do this as well. I never got demo with “na-na-na”… (just music, no lyrics – editor’s note) That all is so cool. – Bob Rock

This is, I think, one of the key things that sets us apart of most of the other bands. James is always like… write the melody first and then he would filling the words according to like syllables per line. – Lars

I’m not the kind a guy that’ll sit down and read novels and poetry. I don’t sit down and write nice little poems that eventually end up as lyrics and songs… I just don’t do that. The only way is to really going inword and little more universal. When you start talking about your own feelings and more just kind of questions about life and things that touch everyone… You can’t gone wrong with that. You know, just start talking about your own feelings… less about the outside world. – James

Eight years went by. Eight complete years. And then the phone rang and it was my manager saying: “I have heard from Cliff Burstin and Peter Mention – Metallica want to do that concert.” – “What concert?” – The one you talked about a little while ago!” – A LITTLE WHILE AGO? It was a lot of time ago!” – Michael Kamen

That is Metallica. They are unique in the world. Not making things as normal, not making things save, not making things easily digestible. – Michael Kamen

Because the song has eastern kind feel with main riff and guitars… – Kirk about Wherever I May Roam

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