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Sunday, January 5, 2014

Re-discovering Metallica in the context of St Anger and Death Magnetic

Year : early '80s to present days
Genre : Thrash Metal, Doom Rock
Label : Vertigo, Elektra
Origin : United States

The size of the shitstorm Metallica has found itself in with the St Anger album, did not even register in my awareness for ten years, courtesy of me occupying a highly ignorant inner position by which my interest towards the band was pretty much zero, or even worse. I was a snob, a mancunt who considered Metallica's music to be equally necessary and - so to speak - over and done with, I though it is family friendly material in present days, that would not be able to catch me off-guard anymore. Bold - and possibly ignorant - enough assumptions to make me intrigued to see if my above voiced sentiments had any legitimacy to them. So I finally have decided that it would be a very good AND real fucking necessary idea to check out Metallica material in at attempt to re-evaluate my related overall awareness, as a band of this significance definitely demands a chance to kick my ass once again if they can. I wanted to see how Metallica would affect me, having not listened to them for more than a decade, - except for the Lulu album, of which though I have written a review, I block the experience from my consciousness - and having no experience/knowledge with St Anger and Death Magnetic, either. So, for a start I popped in "Holier Than Thou" from the Black Album on YouTube, - though I have my bona-fide, used-by-your-n1-latex-gimp-music-critic-gyz-Black Album CD from 1991, starting bid = $200 - gave it maximum headphone juice power, and waited for the uncensored effect it is able to induce in me after 10+ years of not hearing it. BOY, the effect was tremendous! No, it was not nostalgia. Nostalgia is miserable. The music on the Black Album is 101% legit to this day. Read on to know more about this.

"The Black Album was so commercial!!" my ass. Metallica managed to create-, to master - courtesy of Bob Rock - a picture perfect amalgamation of supra-exigent commercialism - yes, I believe there IS such a thing as exigent commercialism, and exigent commercialism makes it possible that you can read this, my Love, the whole gaming industry is supra-exigent commercialism, too, for example - and NON-DESPERATE thrash metal. What do I mean by the term "non-desperate" thrash metal? This is KEY, actually. By the time of 1991, Metallica already have declared their own, thorough and unquestionable audio takes on rabid, uncompromising thrash, and I encourage you to name a thrash anthem more powerful than "Master of Puppets" from 1984, "Blackened" from 1986, or you could name the overall shape of things in the light of the "Ride the Lightning", hell, the "Kill 'Em All" era as easily - "Seek and Destroy", anyone? Pretty much the primordial thrash anthem in the eyes of many, and this was the very first of them in the band's catalog! "Ride the Lightning", "Master of Puppets", and the Justice album were yet to come!

"Thrash metal only works if it is desperate and hyper-aggressive". AND, such was the conventional wisdom, indeed. But I feel that we need to understand that this band already offered exquisite takes on the genre in their early days, in fact, they created numerous peak moments in it. The mere fact that they could be THAT good in their early 20s, is quite puzzling and frankly, amazes me to no end. Look at that angsty face of early 20s James Hetfield! Would you assume that fucking "Master of Puppets" lurks in that hooligan, waiting to be unleashed into a form that to this day remains unrivaled? It's frantic stuff, actually. I mean, look at the "Master of Puppets" vocal covers on YouTube, and link me one that touches the original rendition! The few that approximate it, are very reminiscent to the original. So, in a nutshell, I really think that Metallica had already enjoyed/still enjoy the approval of Angels/Demons -whichever you prefer, until you realize that those beings are essentially the same entities- right from the beginning. James Hetfield's performance was amended by higher forces, and only this type of music is worthy to listen to. I for one am not one who enjoys trolling about Kirk or Lars. They play their fucking instruments like they fucking MEAN it, give the guys a break.

When we approach the release date of the Black Album, we should see that by the period in question, the Metallica members already have crafted patterns/transmissions of such thrash metal significance that are impossible to topple even TO THIS DAY. Can't argue with the numbers, folks. To this day, the Metallica thrash anthems are the ones stimulating the most widespread planetary interest, and this is not because a cover conspiracy is at work, but because these songs receive hits without a pause. See?

So having perfected AND delivered quite a few timeless variants of exquisite thrash, - enough for four superb full length thrash albums, for fuck's sake - the agenda of Metallica could not be to "play even more faster", "play even more heavy" and shit like that. NO. (Slayer allegedly have tried that and failed with it, consensus claims, but I'm not a Slayer-knower.) There is nothing to add to "Master of Puppets" and to the other thrash anthems I have been mentioning. They will remain the perennial thrash anthems for ages to come, and Iced Earth can copy the song template of "Master of Puppets" all they want - and I have nothing against it, good job revealing who you are - yet the evolutionary chain will remain in the same layout, simply as the result of who copying who. The 1991 variant of Metallica was ready and willing to keep the MENACE intact, but the menace became a spiritual stance, an ever-lurking, constant promise of impending doom, that will fuck you up ONE day, but NOT today, my Dearest - "Sad But True", "Enter Sandman" - and it was no longer necessary to exhibit sonic hyper-aggression, because it was evident that they deliver this 1991 album on a proving ground from which they spiritually massacred every audience member off before they started to play these fresh ideas of theirs - metaphorically speaking, of course, and only in THEIR context : this article does not seek to closely inspect-, nor to question the relevance of other bands.

With their 1991 output, the Black Album - which, by the way, is the most sold record of all time since 1991 - this band managed to evolve NOT in a way as to discredit their thrash roots, but they took the perennial forms of thrash and STREAMLINED it into a variant of pretty much perfect sonic/narrative perfection which "even your parents" could easily decipher, - I don't know how this is a bad thing, because, if your rebellion demands the disapproval of your parents, then it is not even about rebellion, but about your attentionwhore tendencies - and this artistic demeanor, represented by the Black Album, to this day reigns as the premiere inspirator of whole sub-genres of present day creative forces at work. The Black Album is a navigational point in the WHOLE context of the music business, and its significance, I feel, could not be overstated. Sure, if you consider yourself to be a thrash purist - you are a thrash cunt, actually - then you, of course can passionately dislike the album, but can you question its significance, being the release that has produced the most sales on the planet since its debut? Do not assume that I want to consider this (pseudo)dilemma as a fiscal inspection, since, the record that is sold the most, also is the record with the greatest cultural impact, and the Black Album's cultural impact remains unprecedented to this day, and yes, you CAN argue with facts, but you know, there are only two things that are imperturbable : stupidity and truth.

The effect of "Holier Than Thou" was so optimally significant on my awareness, that I decided to give these guys serious and uncensored "platonic" facetime, so I checked out live concert footages from various eras, spanning from the early days to the early '90s to present days. During these viewing experiences, only one thing remained unchanged, and I'm not at all reluctant or embarrassed to admit it : I always cried of joy witnessing the Metallica members perform live. Later I will elaborate on my personal percepts and the perceived dynamics that demand tears of joy out of me under such circumstances. And yes, I will elaborate on my take on St Anger and Death Magnetic, as well, I promise, daddy!

There is a supra-organic connection between the two records!! Even THEY - the Metallica members - might not be aware of this connection, so I might be the first one to articulate it to a lazy consensus that did not manage to pick up on the connection for 10 fucking years. I told you all the time that music critics are mancunts, and they are sick in the soul because it is not THEM playing on the stage. The articulation of the organic connection between St Anger and Death Magnetic is important, because I feel that it will bring the whole evolution of this band into a clearer perspective.

St Anger is a lifted up middle finger, not only towards the expectations of the fans, but towards the mere ethos of creating music in consonance with various-, well tried-out templates, thrash metal blueprints included. It is telling that "Holier Than Thou" and "Master of Puppets" occupy the exact same sonic domain - it is the open "E" string the songs gravitate towards. I don't consider it a hindrance, I consider this an uplifting, a majestic fact. Yet, Metallica and Bob Rock decided to re-evaluate the thrash conventions, - such as the timeless charm of banging on your deepest note like there is no tomorrow - hell, they decided to fuck thrash metal up with no remorse, let us see what REALLY is in it for us this time, when the anger is such indeed that it demands the walls of fucking thrash metal to exhibit cracks in its surface. If you read interviews from 2002, Kirk Hammett and Lars openly foreshadow a Meshuggah influence on the coming album that were to be St Anger upon its release. Indeed, the St Anger album is so raw, visceral, yet, at the same time, even muddy at times and devoid of sober hesitation and respect towards thrash compisitonal tactics, that it simply - I dare say this - was (deliberately) out of its time and place, and this remains true to this day. Relax, it does not mean that I'll start to worship the record in five lines flat, declaring it the bestest thing ever your mom secretly masturbated to.

St Anger is a symbolic record, and I don't think that its title is a coincidence. How the dying approaches death? Are you aware of this well known medical observation? If not, here it goes :

Denial, (St) ANGER, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance.

This is the record of spiritual "No Return", - after that, I'll accept that I'll die - and it is angry enough to question everything that Metallica ever stood for until the day of St Anger's release, and it does not give a shit of how you relate to it. This album is not about you. It is about Hetfield, and, if you can relate, cool! This, in fact, is the token of legitimate rebellion, when you have balls enough to say "fuck you!" for your own fans. Metallica was ready to sacrifice the fan, if that's what it took to make the music that indeed was in their heart by the time. Sacrificing your own fucking fan - metaphorically, of course - is the most rebellious thing you can do. Before you assume that I WILL choke on St Anger's dick after all, and proclaim it a stellar accomplishment, naaaaaaah, not today, thank you very much! It is a LEGITIMATE record, and it operates out of the confines of being "good" or being "bad", because it demands and accomplishes the precise, reflective expression of not-so precise, but VERY rabid inner turmoils. Spiritual fears and dilemmas. Now comes to juicy part!

With St Anger, lyricist and frontman James Hetfield is about to bid farewell to the notion of physical immortality, as let's face this fact of life, everyone knows that everyone ELSE will die, but no one believes it that THEY will die, too. I mean, not REALLY - because we know NOTHING about death, and this is why death is so fun. But death also is very private, I would say, super-private, that is why you enjoy watching the start of a Forma1 competition, because you are mad curious of who and how exactly will die. You are the voyeur of impending death. Your whole life is an inspection of your impending death. You are a spy of your own impending death. Sure, these notions either crush you and thank you, come again!, or you realize the method of freeing yourself from the fear of death. Ready?? To be free of the fear of death, you need to accept death. Sounds nonsensical? No worries - according to present day science, and, I dare say, to my experiences and even according to the experiences of those who sport a more developed consciousness than mine is, every sentient being - including of course humans - lives on after death in the more perennial form of the "mere" awareness your physical body is just a vessel, a container of. But of course, some would prefer a physical existence in which their bodies are not subjected to degenerate and rot. Imagine the atrocities SOME would be willing to commit in exchange for a physically immortal body! The good news is, that you already have an immortal body, but it is NOT your physical body, but your awareness. Be at peace, and do not fear! The part of you that dreads death, won't even be affected by death. Cool design. Now back to the St Anger album.

In the lyrics, and, on the whole album, it is evident that the songs chronicle the way James Hetfield summons and massacres his own demons by the "simple" act of articulating and revealing those, by painting these entities with sounds, INTO sounds. Have you seen a recent James Hetield interview? The fucking guy looks legit and authentically at peace, and this is of no accident. The artist has this tremendous benefit of not being afraid to confront the demons and express them, thereby getting virtually freed of them. The demons always are there, but YOU should command them, and not the other way around! Metallica's St Anger is a ritual, a release of the most radical forms of Hetfield's demons, revealed and addressed as sonic patterns. This is observable even in his vocal performance on the disc. There is no production-wise fuckaroundery on this disc, and many had troubles understanding the reason of it. The reason for it is simple : when Hetfield sings "tick tick tick fran TIC!!" for the last time per chorus, he pretty much authentically gets fucking insane for your entertainment AND for his own cure.

He frees himself of the clutches of madness by embracing the madness.

"Hello Dear Madness, I have put my tongue down your throat and played with your saggy shitty tits, now get the fuck away from me, we are of no further use to each other." This is the spiritually mature stance. And this record, St Anger, pretty much is Metallica's deliberately insane record, because this was the legitimate thing to express by the time, as

Hetfield himself was going insane - in a way - by struggling to accept his mortality.

There is this segment on the St Anger album, when he contemplates releasing the anger, and no longer trying to control it, to master it. The music itself submits, and goes over-the-top hyperaggressive. You will feel it. The artist expresses these dynamics and tendencies via methods by which no one needs to be hurt in the process. This is the only way to express ANYTHING. I despise and reject all activities in which a sentient being is harmed, and I'm sure Metallica is with me on this one.

Am I REALLY the only person who is pretty sure that at least two songs on this album is a direct "gift" to then-band coach Phil Towle? You can see this guy working with Metallica in the documentary "Some Kind of Monster", and I have the strong suspicion that James Hetfield wrote both the lyrics of "Dirt Window" and "My World" to Phil Towle, as semi-covert (?) expressions of his - Hetfield's - subconscious disdain towards a man - Towle - who thinks he is able to sort out all the problems between the members. Read the lyrics of these songs and tell me that my assumption is wrong - won't ever happen, as you will agree with me. And still it is interesting to see that seemingly no one found out how Hetfield wrote these two songs for Phil Towle. "Dirty Window Phil Towle". And "My World Phil Towle". "Hetfield wrote songs Towle" "St Anger songs for Towle". Yeah, these search strings are for those who have the same suspicion, so now they finally can confirm that their suspicions are shared by a resonant mind who is not afraid to express the notion itself. Give me attention and traffic, or at least 1 of these. As for the reason of Hetfield's covert disdain towards Mr. Towle, the reason of this is Hetfield's cautious self-notion that he - Hetfield - himself should be able to hold the band together, but of course, he can't do it by that time, because he can't deflate his own ego by the time in question. The mere reasoning he uses as to why he can't say "Yes" to the "Echobrain" project of then-soon-to-be-ex-bassist Jason Newsted, is similarly indicative of Hetfield's then-huge-ass ego. I'm paraphrasing, but this is what Hetfield is saying, essentially: "I wouldn't have been able to see him find success outside of Metallica", - as if Hetfield would need constant reassurance that: "YES, you ARE fronting one of the most important metal bands in history, James!" - which he is - and as if it would take a fucking madman to wanting to do anything else AT ALL musically. Even Hetfield knows that his decision is vile, shitty, cowardly, and cheap, yet he can't help it by the time. At least he is faithful to his own misery. Which is though very easy once you are truly miserable, which he IS, by the time. It is a heart-wrenching moment in the documentary when Lars Ulrich is being told by Hetfield that he - Hetfield - is no longer sure if he - Hetfield - is excited anymore about the prospect of playing together with Lars Ulrich. Notice how every single fucking word in this notion is about Hetfield's ego, and this is what Ulrich himself is subconsciously articulating when he roars a huge-ass "FUCK!!!" into Hetfield's face, and the reason Hetfield has no say to this, is because he - Hetfield - knows that both me and Ulrich is right about how ego-centered and selfish his then-current view - Hetfield's - is. Because the collective itself is happening for the enrichment of music. The solution of course is "just" to love each other for the mere fact that they are the expressers and animators of the metal giant they already have established by that time, and to realize that they still have very much accessible capacity to sculpt additional, timeless metal patterns into the ever-present now, as it ultimately happened even with St. Anger, and let alone Death Magnetic, which I think, is a pretty flawless record. It is with intention that I have said "additonal", and NOT "newer". "Master of Puppets" is as fresh as it was at day 1, because music only exists when it is being played and someone listens to it, so it is re-created upon each playing, which is pretty badass. As for St. Anger, that record is definitely not as bad as some people claim it to be, - a troll would say: "yeah, it is much worse - it's just obese a bit, but totally doable. Sorry about that analogy, but I can't be arsed to come up with another. Oh, for the reader who thinks I was disrespectful towards Hetfield in this paragraph, you are a dumb mancunt on an alcohol trip - which does not make me love you any less, either - who fails to realize that these words are full of love and genuine caring towards Hetfield's spiritual stance. I love James Hetfield enough to pinpoint the spiritual deficits he certainly exhibited while he was in his early 40s.

Luckily enough, James Hetfield pulled off this staring contest with death AND fear of death related insanity without going FULL insane, - the most selfish fucking thing you can do is to go 100% insane, as there is no value in that for anyone - and you can see by the time of the Death Magnetic LP that he now is at authentic peace with the death of the physical body. But he of course expresses this with legit poetic power, in such lines like "I start to see the end in me", in the song "My Apocalypse". The reason the song is successful, is that every single human being can secretly - hah! - see their own death in themselves, but it is a taboo to acknowledge this dynamic even to ourselves. "I'm not afraid of death, it is the COMING of death that terrifies me." - Oscar Wilde. Hetfield shows thrash metal granite balls power by articulating these consensus taboo notions, and this is the reason the lyrics give you a smile and chills. Because you 101% sure what he is singing about.

Now for concise, yet brief assessments of the records. I currently RESPECT the St Anger album, - even though I am yet to endure the full experience, as it pummeled me to a steaming pile of flesh and bone by its middle point so far - and outright like the Death Magnetic album. I would even go as far as to say I LOVE many-many songs on Death Magnetic. Tracks such as "Judas Kiss", "My Apocalypse", "All Nightmare Long", etc. - represent a true, inventive, ballsy, legitimate and efficient re-visitation of the more rigorously and eloquently heeded Laws of Thrash, so to speak. Indeed, you have to be aware of certain Laws to make your creation work. This is the very reason Thomas Haake always gives you the constant 4/4 on his hi-hats.

While St Anger was not only a deliberate-, but instead, "optimally" super-desperate and insatiable rejection of pretty much everything - including the conventional metal production "standards" that would have met the EXPECTATIONS of the fanbase - BUT the fear of death and its number one buttbuddy, Mr. Madness, Death Magnetic is a supra-orthodox thrash statement AND a rather strong one at that, spiced up by some of the balladistic/bluesy fascinations of this band that have remained and stayed with them since the "Load" and the "Reload" LPs. I have no qualms with the Load/Reload records, by the way - I consider them as an inventive, creative step in the evolution of the group, packed with quite soulfully created deliveries reeking a badass, Southern doom rock vibe. Interestingly, those albums seemed to reflect my very own spiritual evolution, and I did not mind that Metallica did not expect me to fuck someone up. "Seek and Destroy!" I remember when the album came out and the vast majority of the metal planet populace proclaimed "TREASON!", and I recall how I found it highly amusing as a teenager how these fans failed to see that the band still was rebelling, but now they were rebelling against their alleged duty they were supposed to succumb to in the eyes of the self-importance filled fan, an alleged duty this fan assumed the band needs to consort to, in exchange for the fan's admiration - by which the band would have been obliged to serve out the musical expectations and creative vistas amended and approved by the Metallica "then-purist". If you are one of those, then please bitchslap yourself with a dead tuna fish, THEN repeat until further notice.

I have promised to write about the live shows, and why those make me burst out in tears of joy!1 Gay enough for you? In late 2013 from then on, the live Metallica footages made me realize that absofuckinglutely NOTHING can substitute the ethos of the live concert, the ethos of the music show. If you watch a Metallica concert, - any era is a good choice - then you are free to realize how it is a happening, a ritual of metaphysical proportions. A magical act, without ANY exaggeration to the notion. This is as close to magic as you can approximate magic in the current state of planetary consciousness levels. Attempt to comprehend the combined spiritual energy that is in constant flux and optimum turmoil when they start to play their trademark songs everyone possesses ingrained in their souls, and now these patterns are demanding/claiming new found legitimacy by soaring through the air on storms of rampant amp power voltage, in a relentless attempt to resonate and perfectly correspond with their primordial originals reigning in those myriads hearts and minds around! Truly beautiful thing. If you think about it, and it does not make you cry, then you wasn't even "there".

This very desire, this very spiritual directive of commanding and demanding the freshest expression of the primordial song, is the very force that the Metallica members are STILL doing this FOR and BY, and they are rendering a tremendous service for their fans by this. Think about the following : what more and what ballsy things are there to do than to give your physical presence, your fucking nervous system, your fucking time and your physical energy to the supra-intimate, LIVE re-summoning of your songs? This is such a heart-wrenchingly beautiful mission, and, as said, only recently I have realized this. If you really understand what's happening on a Metallica concert - if you understand the ethos of it - then bursting out in tears is totally logical - to me, at least. The IDEA of "Master of Puppets", the IDEA of "Blackened", the IDEA of "Sad but True", etc., each reigning in the spur of the moment, they are given birth in front of your very eyes and ears, with the audience as witness to their freshest rebirths.

Fantastic stuff, to be honest, and frankly, I can't imagine anything spiritually MORE valuable than what THEY are doing. Mother Theresa and Metallica are in the same business, and this is (Y)OUR luck. They already gave thousands and thousands of shows, and they keep doing it, because the people want it. And sure, it must be superb to have their body of work being validated this way, as ultimately, the artist who does not care about validation, necessarily isn't worthy to receive it at the first place. Good job playing for yourself and being happy about that. Art is intimate, and that is the reason that it is working, because - in music - it relates to you through sonic symbolism which you can then decipher if the meaning is potent enough to caress your awareness BOTH inventively and unquestionably. At a concert, this same dynamic is consorted with the physical presence, the body movements and facial expressions of the performers, each being unique, super-autonomous patterns that support the re-summonation of the primordial sonic patterns.

Watch a Metallica concert and be simultaneously relieved and bewildered by the fact of how ANY and ALL facial expressions of James Hetfield is LAW on the stage. This is what it is all about, and, if you can't do this, then you have no business on the stage whatsoever.

Now you can stop bitchslapping yourself with the dead tuna, purist.

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