Now, I’m certainly prepared to admit that Metallica did some pretty good work in the eighties before this record was released. Or at the very least I’ve been assured of this fact by many many guitar enthusiasts and rock fans over the years, quite often by the kind of people that refuse to listen to an album if it doesn’t have a tapping solo and a section in 15/8 timing or whatever, but often by normal, sane adults as well. I’ll admit there’s some good music on the early stuff, especially Cliff Burton’s bass playing, and the speed metal of most of Kill ‘Em All is pretty decent as well. So I’m aware of the early stuff – much like Aids or Cholera, I’m not thrilled that it’s there but I’m prepared to acknowledge its existence.
The aforementioned albums are cult classics, and since I’m not a member of that particular cult, they’re not really my cup of Kool-Aid. The Black Album, or self-titled as it is also known, I feel qualified to review given its huge impact on the rock world at large, and its (still) near-constant presence on mainstream radio and music television. I watch television and I (used to) listen to the radio, therefore I am part of this album’s audience, intended or otherwise.
But seriously though, what is the deal with Metallica? Were those guys all given testosterone injections at birth? I’ve seen more articulate and well groomed cavemen with smaller brows than these guys in the pages of science books, and do they have to lower their guitars to accommodate those longer than usual arms? All perfectly valid questions, but let us concentrate on the music for now. The album opens with “Enter Sandman”, a song you’ve either voluntarily listened to many times, or, like me, been forced to listen to every time an extreme sport, beer ad, or sexual assault news piece comes on TV. The main chorus riff is actually pretty decent, so it’s a bit of a shame that it’s drowned under piles of studio compression and preceded by the kind of dated acoustic intro that we listened to all through the hair metal years of the mid to late 80s (a genre that at the time, Metallica, to their credit, avoided).
The plodding overproduced saga continues through song titles as hilariously pretentious – given their knuckle-dragging content – as “Holier Than Thou”, “The Unforgiven” (that’s the one with the acoustic intro that lasts for three hours or so that you may have heard on the radio), “Of Wolf and Man”, “The God That Failed”, “The Struggle Within” and so on. “Holier Than Thou” actually sports a pretty decent guitar riff before James Hetfield’s “Holier than thooooooooaaaaahh” vocal kicks in and we’re met by the kind of harmonic drenched guitar solo that bores me to tears every time.
I guess my biggest problem with Metallica is the seriousness with which they take themselves. The earnestness with which they sing toss like “And the road becomes my bride/ I have stripped of all but pride/ So in her I do confide” (from “Wherever I May Roam”, or “Wherever I May Roooam-ahhh” as Hetfield styles it on the record), just can’t help but make me cringe. Also Metallica are the band that shut down Napster, remember, which makes them an enemy of music fans everywhere. If it was up to them, you’d still be shelling out $35 for their increasingly crappy CDs and near endless tour compilations/ B sides / Hetfield Sings the Songs of Sinatra/ Metallica backed by the Patagonian Senior Oboe Players Association or whatever.
The average song length here is about five minutes (the shortest song being “Holier Than Thou” at 3:48) and there’s about seven guitar solos in every song, so it’s easy to get bored. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it a thousand times: great rock music is about composition, rhythm and vibe, not about guitar solos and technical ability. Liking rock for the guitar playing is like eating a cake for its icing. And the icing here smells like bogan.
So that’s the first entry in our Worst Albums Of All Time Chart out of the way. Which would put it at number one, but I’m sure we’ll find much, much worse out there (actual chart coming soon once we have a few more entries). Want to nominate an album for entry? Let us know below, via Facebook or via Twitter. Check out the original post for more info.