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Sailing home
10-14-2009, 04:55 PM
Iconic metal band hits Cleveland Thursday night with new album, renewed sound



By Malcolm X Abram, Beacon Journal music writer



Metallica is back.

Back from where?

Back from the depths of suckiness that was its previous album, St. Anger. Back from the interesting, but mystique killing look-behind-the-curtain documentary Some Kind of Monster, which gave fans a glimpse of four rich dudes with lots of expensive toys and unresolved issues, paying a ''performance enhancement coach'' 40K a month to tell them they should be nicer to each other.

Yes, Metallica, 2009 rock hall inductees and thrash-metal pioneers, are back to banging heads with the strong new album Death Magnetic, its own version of the wildly popular video game Rock Band and a sold-out world tour that will stop Thursday night at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

Death Magnetic brings the band out of what bassist Robert Trujillo called the ''dark ages'' of 2003's St. Anger and reminds fans that the band of 40-somethings can still bang heads with the thousands of metal bands it influenced in its near 30-year career.

Formed in 1981 after singer/guitarist James Hetfield answered an ad placed by drummer Lars Ulrich in an L.A. newspaper, the San Francisco Bay Area-based thrash rockers were among the bands including fellow Bay Area groups Exodus and Death Angel as well as Slayer, Anthrax and Megadeth (led by ousted Metallica guitarist and tearful Some Kind of Monster bit player Dave Mustaine) that helped define the punk-influenced tempos, riff-reliant sound of thrash metal.

Their debut, 1983's Kill 'Em All, contained instant classics and enduring fan favorites such as The Four Horsemen, Whiplash and Seek & Destroy. It immediately got the attention of the metal community as an antidote to the mainstream glam and hair metal that was polluting commercial radio.

The band's next two albums, 1984's Ride the Lightning and 1985's Master of Puppets, established Metallica as one of the best and most innovative metal bands of the era.

The latter album is considered by many longtime fans to be the band's crowning creative achievement and showed the band writing extended, multipart songs that reached past the six-minute mark. The songs touched on subjects such as substance abuse in the title track, false prophets on Leper Messiah and trying but being unable to control one's anger on Battery.

The album has sold more then 6 million copies, and the ensuing world tour was Metallica's biggest and most successful to date, but was marred by tragedy when original bassist Cliff Burton was killed when the band's tour bus flipped, crushing him. The band considered quitting but decided that Burton would want them to continue. And after auditioning several bassists (including Primus' Les Claypool), settled on Jason Newsted formerly of Flotsam and Jetsam who debuted on 1988's . . . And Justice for All.

Just as the previous albums, And Justice for All found the band writing lengthy songs with dark themes and contained the surprise hit single and video One.

It was during the world tour that the band began to realize that playing seven- to nine-minute songs night after night wasn't just an endurance test for even the most ardent fan, but was also becoming boring for the band.

The remedy was to slim down the songs. The move proved to be commercially brilliant as their next album, 1991's Metallica commonly known as ''The Black Album'' took the band from its already impressive status as the biggest metal band in the world, to become one of the biggest bands period and bona fide rock stars.

The Black Album also began the schism among some longtime fans who weren't ready to see their heroes hit the mainstream.

The album debuted at No. 1 and went on to sell more than 25 million copies on the strength of rock-radio staples Enter Sandman, the metal-ballad Nothing Else Matters and The Unforgiven.

The band's next two albums, 1996's Load and 1997's Reload, were written during the same period. It featured the band eschewing much of the thrash sound it helped create for a more blues, Southern and hard-rock sound and emphasis on melody. That further alienated old fans while continuing the band's hit streak with both albums debuting at No. 1 and selling millions.

Dark period

The period also was marked by drummer Lars Ulrich becoming the face and voice for artists against the rise of Napster and file sharing. He became a villain and ''sellout'' to many fans by appearing before a Senate Judiciary Committee.

It would be nearly six years before the band released another studio album, though it kept fans busy with a couple of live albums (Live Sh-t: Binge & Purge, and S&M recorded with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra) and an expanded version of its popular 1987 Garage Days Re-visited EP called Garage.

As the band reconvened for the Reload follow-up with a documentary crew in tow, singer/guitarist Hetfield entered rehab. Then bassist Newsted quit, saying he was tired of being ''hazed'' (though he'd been in the band for more than a decade) by the other band members as well as health concerns and a desire to make other music, which Hetfield is staunchly against.

As a look behind the scenes into the lives of rock stars, Some Kind of Monster is entertaining. But as a fan, watching Hetfield and Ulrich argue while guitarist Kirk Hammet stares at the floor and tries to make nice, is perhaps a bit more information than needed.

Which leads us to St. Anger, easily the band's creative nadir and the first time that Metallica sounded as if it were following others rather than blazing its own trail.

The album is devoid of guitar solos and features producer Bob Rock playing the rubbery droptuned bass of nu-metal bands such as Korn, a thin, gutless drum sound and Hetfield's recovery speak-riddled lyrics, such as ''my lifestyle determines my deathstyle'' from the song Frantic.

Nevertheless, it debuted at No. 1 and went double platinum without any charting singles, even as most fans listened to it a few times before whipping out copies of older albums to wash the bad sound out of their ears.

Back in top form

With Death Magnetic, Metallica has returned to lengthy songs, thrash tempos and (hosanna!) Hammet has reattached the wah-pedal to his foot and offers several screaming guitar solos. The album plays as if the last decade or so of Metallica records never happened, sounding like a follow-up to . . . And Justice for All with songs such as the opener, That Was Just Your Life and Broken, Beat & Scarred that find the band once again grinding out multipart opuses.

Even Ulrich, who has never been considered to be among the great thrash drummers, sounds invigorated.

The world probably could have survived without a third Unforgiven power ballad, but the album shows there is plenty of life left in the old four horsemen. Additionally, the band revives the tradition found on Master of Puppets and . . . And Justice for All of ending albums with an extended instrumental suite followed by a short blast of blunt metallic force. While the twofer of Suicide & Redemption and My Apocalypse doesn't quite equal the pairing of Orion and Damage Incorporated it should make previously disenchanted fans feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Though the band members have said St. Anger was a record they needed to make for their survival, they apparently don't need to play songs from the album in concert. None of the disc's tunes are in the regular set list of the World Magnetic Tour, while the band has been playing as many as six songs from Death Magnetic as well as classics and the occasional cover song.

The four pimply faced malcontents who made a splash with their debut album and represented the ''us against the world'' attitude common in metal circles have grown into four rock icons (well, three rock icons and the ''new guy''). The band has sold tens of millions of records and is only the second metal band to be inducted into the rock hall.

What a long, headbanging trip it's been.


Source: ohio.com (http://www.ohio.com/entertainment/enjoy/64214537.html)