METALLICA — Metallica (review)

METALLICA — Metallica album cover Album · 1991 · Heavy Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
2/5 ·
Vim Fuego
In which the Big Four became The Fucking Enormous One and The Big Three.

In hindsight, 1991 was a watershed year in rock and metal, but it was hard to see at the time, as such events often are. The previously dominant forces in those genres changed in a momentous few months, the results of which are still felt today. The style-over-substance excesses of 80s glam metal which had so dominated MTV and rock radio were dramatically replaced by an anti-style. At the same time, the underground erupted overground, and the alternative became the mainstream.

And really, it was the period of August and September 1991 where three releases ushered in this change. World politics and society had recently been through a huge shift with the almost overnight downfall of communism in 1989. Music doesn’t exactly dictate how millions of people are forced to live, or whether people can be oppressed, persecuted, imprisoned, or murdered for their beliefs or race, but there was a similar scale of shift in the musical microcosm. Glam metal, which had so dominated the late 1980s had burned out and was beginning to eat it’s young. Thrash metal, so long underground, was needing new outlets because the building popularity was hardly being contained underground. And in Seattle, the rising slacker generation was starting to stir.

These three releases were a hit, a miss, and a where-the-fuck-did-that-come-from broadside. The hit was Metallica’s self-titled fifth album, released on August 12. The miss was Guns N’ Roses “Use Your Illusions” albums, the twin album follow-up to their phenomenally successful debut, released on September 17. The broadside was Nirvana’s second album “Nevermind”, which exceeded original sales targets by a scale of 100, released on September 24.

In the time it took to write these four paragraphs, including fact checking, rewording, interruptions for a phone call from my mother in law, and from Jehovah’s Witnesses who left fearing for my soul after me saying we were atheists, the entire 62 minute album has played through.

And I don’t want to listen to it again.

It is my practice to listen to whatever I am reviewing while I write, no matter how many times it plays through. If it is a short EP, this can mean several repeats. But you know what? This is the most damning indictment on this album. I simply cannot face listening to it again. So this is now a much shorter and changed review from what I intended.

So… If you’re even a casual metal fan, you already know what this sounds like. It’s heavy and loud, which is good. However, it plods along, barely getting past a mid-tempo stomp. Metallica used to play really fast before this album, so slower is bad. This left a lot of Metallica’s fans really confused. “Heavy = good, slow = bad, what the fuck am I supposed to think?”

While these bewildered millions (and Metallica was selling millions, even before this album) tried to decide whether to love it or hate it, tens of millions more who would never have even given Metallica a second thought, decided they loved it. There’s shit to say about radio friendly singles, an overplayed but visually stunning video for “Enter Sandman”, Bob Rock being a cunt, Jason’s bass finally appearing, subtlety, ballads, wolves, nightmares, minimalist artwork, but it’s all been said before.

It doesn’t matter that pre-black album fans like me think this is dull, and would have preferred “…And Justice For All Part II”. It still pointed where metal was going. Just look at the rest of the Big 4. Megadeth followed suit, by slowing down and getting heavier. Anthrax slowed a little, and incorporated more melody into their music. Slayer took their sweet time before releasing anything else, but probably changed the least of the four, and have kept their reputation most intact because of it. A lot of next tier bands changed too. Exodus’ “Force of Habit” was a bit directionless. Kreator incorporated industrial elements to their music. Overkill released arguably their weakest album in “I Hear Black”, while other bands like Death Angel, Dark Angel, Forbidden, Sacred Reich, and Testament fell on hard times or split up.

On the positive side, Sepultura discovered their groove with “Chaos AD”, and Pantera and Machine Head emerged as genuine contenders for a scene which was no longer subterranean.

And the GnR/Nirvana points I was labouring earlier? Guns N’ Roses got too big for their own good. No one had the guts to tell them that releasing two albums padded with covers and sub-par shit was a bad idea, when they should have released one fucking good one. As a result, their career took a bit of a nose dive, and the rest of the glam scene collapsed around them. Don’t feel sorry for them though. The Gunners still made millions (both albums have sold over 18 million copies). It was the other dumb bastards who found their poodle perms and gender bending androgyny no longer counted for anything.

Nirvana was a garage band which had managed to wangle a decent record deal and recording budget, and with more attitude and good intention than actual talent or skill, recorded an album which unexpectedly grabbed the music buying public’s attention. It was simple music which appealed to the simple millions (about 30 simple millions, according to some estimates). Grunge replaced glam, and rock clubs started to stink of body odour instead of hairspray.

Since I’ve mentioned the supposed sales figures for the other two, “Metallica” by Metallica has reportedly sold 31 million copies. I have owned two of those. The first was a cassette bought the day it was released. I didn’t like it. I listened to it over and over, analysed it, looked at different interpretations and alternate meanings of the lyrics, played it quiet and loud, fiddled with the graphic equalizer, tried it on a number of different pieces of audio equipment. I still didn’t like it. So I bought it on CD a number of years later.

It was still dull. Fuck, I’m dumb…
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19 hours ago
A funny thing, I always think of this as the last Metallica album worth having and yet I never feel like listening to it. The first three are still all I’ll play.

Love the review!

siLLy puPPy wrote:
9 days ago
Not my favorite but i actually love some of the tracks. Well produced, melodic and performed well. I can spin this every now and again and not hate it unlike what came after.

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