When you live through something it’s not always apparent how revolutionary it is: you get caught up in the excitement.
i grew up listening to Thrash Metal and had some fine times in clubs, stadiums and fields but never thought of it as anything other than rock’n’roll, a great time. In retrospect I can see a band like Metallica developing from being a cult act into a rock phenomenon. There was a point in the ’90s when they were part of an indisputable holy trinity – along with REM and U2 – of stadium rock acts. The ‘Black Album’ was a massive breakthrough in rock as important in its own way as ‘Automatic For The People’ and ‘Achtung Baby’. Three bands harnessed their potential and balanced the demands of art and commerce with hereforeto unrivalled finesse. It was a fine time to be a rock fan. All three have seen checkered times since then, with Metallica having perhaps suffered the most; in part due tothe Napster business. They came across as self-important, as sincere as their motives may have been. Load/Reload should have been one streamlined record, not two patchy ones: metal fans can’t abide indulgence.
They take their music seriously in large part because it’s often been marginalised. They enjoy their bands’ success but are touchy about any whiff of ‘selling out’. Being on the edge of the pop world is a point of pride.
We’ve grown up since then. Looking back I can appreciate how these and other bands try to be creative and saleable at the same time. To quote ex-Yes drummer, Bill Bruford
‘To be too far ahead, to offer a music that is incomparable to another would be unwise. In practice we settle for a rearrangement of ideas that previously have been accepted… new music would be meaningless, in that society would have no time to form the taste groups… that would attatch meaning to it.’
It’s good to see metal getting some mainstream recognition again. Mastodon make music that is ball-bustingly-heavy, complex and ferociously catchy:
Metallica pioneered this (for my generation at least) so it’s gratifying to see them returning to confront fans’ expectations and ignoring the critics. That’s – ironically – what broke them in the first place. ‘Death Magnetic’ garnered the most amount of critical acclaim since ‘Metallica’ but it’ll go down in their history as an attempt to appease fans pissed off by ‘Load/Reload’ and ‘St. Anger’, just like U2 with ‘All That You Can’t Leave Behind’.
Is back to the ‘couldn’t-give-a-fuck-gonna-do-our-own-thing’ Metallica of ‘Ride The Lightning’ through to ‘…And Justice For All…’ days. Those albums revolutionised metal.
Maybe they’re doing it again?