I have a wide and varied musical taste ranging from orchestral to hip hop to early 90’s dance. My favourite genre is probably old video game music (Yes really!) but I pretty much grew up a rock and metal dude.
Yesterday (18/08/16) one of the bands that pretty much shaped my metal world dropped a video for a brand new song (The first in 8 years).
And it wasn’t bad…..but it wasn’t great either.
Metallica have had a rough time of it the last 20 years or so. Their first 4 or 5 albums have been utterly iconic in almost every way and even the experimental wander into heavy rock with Load and Reload had some strong support (I really liked them both but I felt they should have been a side project with a different name!).
In the 20 years since Load & Re-Load the band have released only 2 new studio albums, one of which St Anger received some pretty harsh criticism for it’s terrible production, lack of guitar solos and over long, repetitive structures. 2008’s Death Magnetic saw a slight return to the “Justice” days with a much thrasher sound and some great riffs which pleased fans but the album suffered from incredibly sub-par production values. A demo quality mix crossed with terrible mastering which was crushed into the red by a limiter and combined with erratic and repetitive song structures the album fell short for a lot of fans bar the hardcore mob.
After checking out the new track it’s clear that Metallica haven’t learned much. The new song “Hardwired” is much like a continuation of Death Magnetic and in that it’s suffering all the same problems as before – amateurish production, bad mastering (The snare is smashed) and a “heard it done better” feel.
I think the problem is that Metallica are now so huge and so famous that they live in a bubble. They are surrounded by agents, PR folk and yes men, none of whom will dare point out any flaws to their now fragile egos which were fully exposed in the Some Kind Of Monster documentary.
Death Magnetic was highly criticised for it’s mastering and has almost become the poster child for the loudness war yet that doesn’t seem to have got back to the band. For the new album they went with the same studio and same engineer and presumably the same mastering engineer as the last album too so its clear that the band are completely oblivious to negative feedback.
Even the band’s quality control seems to have gone out of the window. The 4 unreleased songs which featured on the Beyond Magnetic mini album were, in my opinion, far superior to anything on the main album yet got cast aside in favour of some pretty ropy choices.
The song “Hardwired” itself is ok I guess but it’s a bit of a vanilla thrash style track, the kind of which has been done a million times better by other bands in the last 30. The song did grow on me quite a bit after a few listens and it’s fun but there’s still something just a little off. The riffs on the whole are fine bar a few “Loady” style runs which I don’t think fit (A negative point for me in most of Death Magnetic) but it’s nice and aggressive. The drumming sounds a little flappy and aside from a very welcome return of some fast double bass work towards the end the performance sounds like a punk drummer who’s trying out thrash for the first time. There has to be more than just the odd snippet here and there of what everyone else has been doing for ages. Of course it’s not fair of me to judge on the basis of one song and as always the proof of the pudding will be in the actual album itself but I don’t feel the new track is a great indication of what’s to come.
I’ve said it before, Metallica should have gone with Dave Lombardo years ago. Lars seems like an ok guy but he’s definitely the flight of stairs that the band are constantly falling down. First was the Napster thing which really solved nothing and just pissed folk off and then the “We’re not metal” stint followed by the wanky art and snowflake phase with the therapy.
That’s not a go at folk who have therapy by the way but a bunch of super rich guys hiring a therapist to sort out a band is the absolute peak of utter clownshoes.
The raggedy production on the new song really doesn’t help matters too. There are some AMAZING metal engineers in the world today who could really whip Metallica in to shape and take those great riffs to a new level of beautiful structure and tone. Even Megadeth had the good sense to go with legendary engineer Andy Sneap and Metallica could well do with seeking out other top quality engineers/producers. They need someone to tell them “That’s not working, cut it down!” or “Try this out” while getting a clean crisp sound that will really bring out the power of the songs as a whole.
My first choice would be Scott Atkins of Grindstone studios who’s produced and recorded many amazing quality albums and who knows the thrash genre inside out.
Truly the worst thing about any new Metallica album has to be the hardcore Metallifans who are usually found lurking on YouTube channels. Now I have pals who are pretty loyal to Metallica but even they can respect a different opinion even though they may not agree with it. Elsewhere though I’ve been called out on more than one occasion for expressing what I think is fairly reasonable criticism of the band’s output.
These guys absolutely abuse the word ‘hater’ to defend anything that Metallica does. Statements like “Haters like you will always have a sad life with no joy” or “Fuck the haters!” and the ever popular and highly unoriginal “Haters gonna hate!”. Some more straightforward pokes like “Fuck you, you don’t know good music! ‘TALLLCIA FOREVAAAAA!” or the classically defensive and subjectivity lacking “This is genius, anyone else who things different is a loser!”.
Having this shit lobbed at you as if you’re some sort of constant misery guts just for raising some valid points is pretty annoying. I’ve always said, if you like it then that’s brilliant and all power to you. I’m just expressing an opinion after all but getting ripped to shreds for it gets a little tiresome after a while.
No band, rather no-one should be above criticism and while this level of loyalty is very admirable, to allow it to cloud one’s judgement and accept a technically lesser product simply for fear of losing fan points is hurting the band more than it’s helping it.
Rabid fans often spout that Metallica deserve undying and unconditional respect for their innovation in the thrash genre. To a historical degree that’s very true but the sad reality is that was Metallica then and not Metallica now. You are only as good as your last album which was “not bad” at best. The popularity excuse doesn’t wash either as the Metallifans will happily rip on pop artists who, let’s face it are way bigger than Metallica yet they will pull out the old card of “But they are the most successful band in metal!” when it comes to numbers of supporters.
Surely if one was a true fan then they’d want the very best from their idols, not just “Well it was better than St Anger!”.
Hater? No, I just want the very best for the band I love.
When one of the most well known and influential bands in the metal world are releasing “ok” material with a pleb tier production that’s on par or inferior to local bands and fans still lap it up as if it’s the greatest thing ever then there is a big problem on both sides of the stage barrier.