Metallica release (another) new song, Moth Into Flame”


Here’s the video for “Mouth Moth Into Flame,” the second track from the upcoming album, “Hardwired … To Self-Destruct.”

I like it, but I’m biased in favor of most things Metallica. See what you thing.

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Metallica to release “Hardwired … To Self-Destruct” on Nov. 18

metallica

For months (years?) the members of Metallica have been hinting around about the possibility of recording a new album.

Truthfully, I didn’t think they’d ever be done — and at times, it was hard to believe they’d actually started work. I mean, they always been to be so busy doing something else, like touring, or doing fashion shoots, or making movies, or losing all of their best riffs when their phones got heisted, or whatever.

So it’s hard to overstate my surprise when the Metallica Web site, announced today the band’s next album, “Hardwired … To Self-Destruct” will be released Nov. 18.

Here’s a bit from the band’s Web site:

It really does exist! We know it’s been a long time coming, but today we proudly introduce you to Hardwired…To Self-Destruct, the long awaited next Metallica studio album that is the follow-up to Death Magnetic! Two discs, nearly 80 minutes of music is coming your way on November 18, 2016… yes, THIS YEAR!

Hey, and the band even premiered a song and released a quick vid on YouTube. If this is a representative sample of the rest of the album, then I say bring it on: Frankly, the band sounds pretty vicious and angry. They haven’t sounded this mad since … I dunno, “Dyers Eve.” That’s a good thing, very good. Check it out:

This is the band’s first album since “Death Magnetic” in 2008 (“what about “Lulu”? you say. “Don’t you count “Lulu”? NO, DAMNIT, I DON’T! Oops, got carried away. Sorry.)

Needless to say, I’m stoked. The album is a double-disc with about 80 minutes of music. An optional third disc full of riffs that made up the songs, and the track “The Lords of Summer.” People who order the album through the Metallica Web site will get an instant download of the title track.

Whew. I’m glad at least one good thing happened this year.

Review: Metallica & Lou Reed, “Lulu”

Loutallica

Every once in a while, there’s an album so big that every member of the metal press simply has to write about it.

“Lulu,” the collaboration between Metallica and ’60s-70s electric/ecclectic folk freak Lou Reed is one of those albums.

We can’t ignore an album by “the biggest metal band in the world,” I suppose … but reviewing a humorless, directionless, pointless car crash like “Lulu” ain’t gonna be a whole lotta fun, either. Sigh, let’s just tackle this sunnavabeech of an album right now and get it over with, shall we?

Loutallica first performed together at the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame and they thought it went so freakin’ well that they had to collaborate on a full album. So Reed dusted off some lyrics he’d cobbled together based on a cycle of German expressionist plays (no, I’m not making that up), presented them to the band and said, “OK, boys, let’s make some art!”

If the comments from Reed, Lars Ulrich and Kirk Hammett are to be believed, “art” is really what they think they achieved with “Lulu.” I guess the argument could be made — I mean hell, if I guy can stick a crucifix in a jar, pee on it and pass it off as “art,” the word “art” has no meaning anyway.

So I’ll give Loutallica a pass in the “art” category, but honestly, this is just about the worst musical pile of dung I’ve heard in years. Words are inadequate to articulate the incredible, impossible, staggering awfulness of this album. Every last thing about it is wrong, and it’s an album that will not please fans of either Metallica or Lou Reed. It’s as if the album was cut with the deliberate intention of alienating as many listeners as possible. If that was the goal, Loutallica succeeded.

What’s wrong with “Lulu”? Well, let’s start with that German expressionist yap Reed is spouting. According to their Web site, the “Lulu” plays were written in the early 1900s and were about “a young abused dancer’s life and relationships.”

Maybe someone could have taken that theme and made a compelling album — the phrase “young abused dancer” stirs an interesting mental image of a 20-something ballerina with a bit of a kinky streak buried within her — and who wouldn’t want to meet that girl?. Hell, give that concept to Shirley Manson and Garbage and I’ll bet they make something sexy out of it.

Reed, however, wasn’t up to the challenge. Reed sounds stoned out of his mind, or just off his meds, as he rambles through each of “Lulu’s” dismal excuses for songs. And the lyrics, wowee-zowee, you gotta hear them to believe them.

“Follow me around, pathetic little dog,” Reed croaks in “Little Dog.” “Smell your sh*t in the wind.”

On “Frustration,” Reed reaches a level of epic atrociousness, with lines like, “spermless like a girl,” “you and your prickless lover” and “I want so much to hurt you, I want you as my wife.”

“I’m a woman who likes men,” Reed spits on “Mistress Dread.” “I wish you would tie me up and beat me … I wish there was a strap of blood you could kiss away… I beg you to degrade me,” and it just goes on and on, with every new utterance more ridiculous, hideous and embarrassing than the last.

Frankly, Metallica vocalist James Hetfield doesn’t help this mess. Het is unintentionally hilarious when he starts yelling “small town girl!” on “Brandburg Gate”  and “I am the table!” on “The View.” Later in the album, Het sings, “why do I cheat on me?” And you’ll think, “jeeze, James, I don’t know why — but stop it, so I don’t have to hear about it anymore, why donchya?”

Musically, only two of the tracks, “Iced Honey” and the first half of “Junior Dad” sound like “songs” at all. The rest of the album sounds like a “St. Anger” jam session intermixed with a “free-jazz” session that makes Spinal Tap’s Jazz Odyssey sound inspired.

There’s not enough “metal” here to make metal fans happy — sure, the band thrashes a bit on “Mistress Dread,” but most of the music sounds like jam-band-gone-wrong.

So “Lulu” is a trainwreck of monumental proportions. Everyone involved behind the scenes had to realize how earth-shakingly bad this project was, so the real mystery about “Lulu” is: Why didn’t anyone tell Reed and the band the truth? Wasn’t there a producer or manager or even a freakin’ studio janitor who could’ve said, “sorry, Lars, but this music really sucks”? Perhaps this is what happens when artists get so big that they lose all connection with reality.

Reed and Metallica seems to be off in their own parallel reality, where down is up, right is left and anything they record is automatically “good” and “art.” Well, bullsh*t. “Lulu” is absolute unlistenable dreck. I can’t even laugh at the album, because Loutallica is obviously taking the damn thing soooooo seriously. What a joyless pile of broken cogs and widgets.

The members of Metallica were always hell-bent on doing things their way, on their own terms. That worked for them in the past, but we’ll see how much of the fan base is willing to embrace “Lulu.” I think Metallica is gonna lose some fans on this one.

After listening to “Lulu” several times, I wouldn’t blame those old fans who throw up their hands and walk away one single bit.

Have you heard the atrocious Metallica-Lou Reed collaboration yet?

I read enough metal news to know Metallica was working on an album with 1960s hippie-dippie rocker Lou Reed, but I wasn’t too excited about the collaboration; frankly, Lou Reed bores me and I didn’t see how adding Metallica to the mix would improve Reed much.

Today, however, I stumbled across “The View,” the first single from the Metaliloureedica album “Lulu” — and all I can say is “wow, this crap is 100 times worse than I ever imagined it would be.”

What’s it sound like? Musically, the riffage sounds like a leftover out of the “Load/Reload” sessions — kinda average, rather pedestrian, not bad but certainly nothing to make me jump out of my seat. Upon repeated listens, “The View’s” main riff sounds like a ripoff of “Sad But True.”

Alas, the music is the best thing about the song.  There’s nothing even remotely kind I can say about Reed’s voice.

Again, I’m no Lou Reed fan. As far as I’m concerned, Lou Reed can pick up “Take a Walk on the Wild Side” and take it somewhere else (far, far from me). The best thing I can say is the original Velvet Underground version of “Sweet Jane” is pretty decent … but the Cowboy Junkies version of the song puts Reed and the Velvet Underground to shame.

So I’ve admitted my bias … but even if I were completely impartial, I can’t believe I’d enjoy “The View.” Reed’s performance sounds like someone got Reed slightly drunk in the studio, put him in front of the mic and told him to “wing it” to the music. Well, “wing it,” Reed does; he rambles incoherently and tunelessly through the entire track, never making sense, never finding the rhythm, not carrying a hint of a melody, etc., etc., you get the idea.

Metallica vocalist James Hetfield tries to save this flaming poop bag on the choruses, and the band speeds up for an instrumental coda and choppy-as-hell guitar solo at the end, but it’s too late. Nothing the band could do would keep this wreck from crashing dismally.

Wanna hear it? Knock yourself out, cuz it’s right here on Youtube.

So I’m gonna skip “Lulu” when it drops later this month. But hey, there’s a new Megadeth album coming and at least they’re not peeing on their legacy …

Book review: “Enter Night, A Biography of Metallica”

I had never heard of author/music critic Mick Wall until I stumbled across Enter Night: A Biography of Metallica last week, but Wall certainly knows his way around much of the hard rock and heavy metal world.

In addition to writing for various metal mags and publications like the London Times, Wall has penned bios of Led Zeppelin, Ozzy Osbourne, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Bono and Guns N Roses.

I’m looking forward to reading more of Wall’s stuff, because Enter Night is an intelligent, thorough, high-quality work — filled with both sharp insights and cutting anecdotes, while not lacking on the lets-look-at-the-car-wreck sleaze that made rock bios like “Hammer of the Gods” so much damn fun.

Wall has interviewed Metallica members James Hetfield and Lar Ulrich numerous times over the years. Wall has also spent a good amount of time with Kirk Hammett and Cliff Burton (much less with Jason Newsted, but more on that later). Wall also interviewed other prominent figures in Metallica’s history, like Dave Mustaine, Rob Trujillo, Ron McGovney, Jonny and Marsha Zazula, Brian Slagel, Bob Rock, Flemming Rasmussen and members of Armored Saint, Anthrax, Megadeth, Slayer and other bands, tour managers and insiders.

All of that access did not turn Wall into a sycophant; indeed Wall is unafraid to slaughter Metallica sacred cows like “… And Justice For All” and “Death Magnetic. Wall also doesn’t gloss over unpleasant band history… especially when it comes to the decisions Hetfield, Ulrich and Hammett made after Cliff Burton’s death in September, 1986, and how they marginalized Newsted for years after Newsted was hired as Burton’s replacement.

Wall has an encyclopedic knowledge of the NWOBHM bands that young Lars Ulrich idolized so much as a teen with a rock dream.  Wall extensively interviewed Ulrich’s friends and associates, showing Ulrich as a man with the ambition to make his band (which didn’t even exist until “Mettallica” was offered a chance to play a song on the first “Metal Massacre” album) the biggest band in the world.

As a drummer, Ulrich was often so bad that Hetfield would spit on him at gigs, Wall writes … but without Ulrich’s drive, Metallica would never have achieved one-tenth of the success the band eventually reached.

Hetfield gets equally close scrutiny. Wall’s portrait of Hetfield’s childhood (with an absent father and a mother whose Christian Science beliefs led her to forsake treatment for cancer and die while Hetfield was a teen) goes a long way toward explaining the anger Hetfield displayed in his music — and the shell he kept erected around himself for much of his life.

To reach the top, Ulrich and Hetfield made some controversial (some would say callous) decisions. The firing of long-time friend McGovney for Burton made sense musically, of course. But Wall doesn’t downplay the fact that Hetfield and Ulrich (and Mustaine as well) screwed over McGovney — partying and causing chaos while Ron paid the bills — before tossing him unceremoniously out of the band.

Later, Hetfield, Ulrich and Burton would do the same thing with Mustaine — who, Wall writes, competed with Ulrich and Hetfield for leadership of the band — and upstaged the shy Hetfield onstage. Hammett was both a more intricate player (but not an innovator like Mustaine, Wall writes) and someone who would follow Hetfield and Ulrich’s leadership, Wall writes. The decision to basically dump managers Jon and Marsha Z was also a somewhat cold one (the band had actually lived for a time with the Z family while recording “Kill Em All,” and Jon Z put himself into serious financial hock to make that record)… but the move to new management did help the band find the larger audience it was seeking.

Hammett doesn’t get much attention compared to Hetfield and Ulrich. But Wall does spend quite a bit of time on Cliff Burton — who Wall describes as both the most musically adventurous member of the band and the most grounded.

As Wall writes, Burton was practically an idol to James, Lars and Kirk; he was the man who would never “sell out” his integrity and beliefs. He was the most musically trained (Burton had studied classical music and was a fan of Bach) — and also introduced the band to a variety of influences, from Skynyrd to Kate Bush and The Misfits. Some of Burton’s musical influences would continue to be felt long after his death.

If Cliff wasn’t the leader of the band, he was the person Ulrich and Hetfield had to convince before major decisions were made.  According to Wall, the impact of Burton’s death in a bus accident on the band cannot  be overstated.

Burton was killed when the band’s bus slid off the road and overturned during the “Master of Puppets” tour in Sweden on Sept. 27, 1986. The accident threatened to sideline the band at a time when “Master” was receiving raves and a mass audience beckoned. The band’s management, Q Prime, urged the band to stay on the road, and Hetfield, Ulrich and Hammett made the decision to find a permanent replacement for Burton, rather than just hiring a stand-in for the tour.  Nine weeks after Burton’s funeral, the band was touring Japan with new bassist Jason Newsted.

Wall isn’t particularly sympathetic to Newsted; Wall is part of the “cult of Cliff” himself, and tends to idolize Burton while dismissing Newsted’s skills as a bassist. It’s not necessarily fair — but Wall writes Hetfield, Ulrich and Hammett did much the same thing. The rest of the band looked down on Newsted as almost a groupie — someone who had  jettisoned his old band, Flotsam and Jetsam (where Newsted was the primary songwriter and businessman) to grab a secondary position in Metallica. It was a choice, Wall writes, that Newsted lived to regret. Rob Trujillo, however, is depicted by Wall as someone who isn’t awestruck by his new superstar band mates and as someone who is more than capable of holding his own on stage.

Wall’s assessments of the albums are spot on; he rightly praises “Master of Puppets,” “Ride the Lightning” and the “Black” album, while noting the revolutionary impact of “Kill Em All” and the incredibly alive (and fun) sound of “Garage Days Re-Revisited.” It may be against conventional wisdom, but Wall’s right in that “Load” had a lot of terrific songs (he’s also correct in saying “Reload” is mostly dreck). Further, Wall is also right when he says “… And Justice For All” is a cold, sterile album that is almost unlistenable, except for “One.” Wall doesn’t care much for “Death Magnetic,” but a lot of old-school fans weren’t impressed and Wall definitely is an “old school” fan.

I came away from Enter Night with a greater appreciation of Metallica — the band that almost never existed and nearly ripped itself apart after Burton’s death. I don’t know if the band likes it, but Wall’s account is, ultimately, exceedingly fair and entertaining. I was surprised at how little about Metallica I actually knew.

Highly recommended.

Cliff Burton (how quickly time flies)

I realized this morning that I’d completely forgotten to mark the anniversary of Cliff Burton’s death. Has it really been 23 years? God, where does time go?

The cliche is that baby boomers will always remember where they were when they heard about the assassinations of, say, John F. Kennedy or John Lennon. I don’t know if that’s true, but I remember everything about the moment I was told Cliff Burton had been killed in a bus crash in Sweden. I was in my high school cafeteria (I was 15 then) and a kid I knew but didn’t exactly like charged up to me and said, “what are you gonna do now that your favorite band got killed?”

As I learned later that day from MTV, the kid was telling the truth. Burton had been killed when Metallica’s tour bus skidded on a patch of ice and overturned. It was a terrible blow, I remember: Perhaps it sounds stupid, but “Ride The Lightning” had been the only thing that had gotten me through my horrible high school existence in 1985. When “Master of Puppets” was released the next year, I thought it was greatest album I’d ever heard. Like “Lightning,” “Master” was an album I connected with emotionally. I spent most of that day playing “Master” and staring at the Metallica poster on my wall.

Of course, Metallica didn’t break up … but it’s certainly accurate to say they were never the same after Burton’s death.

Anyway, I missed the anniversary this year, but let’s remember Burton with a high-quality shot of the band playing “For Whom The Bell Tolls.” Rest in peace, buddy.

Metallica vs. The Downloaders

There aren’t many bands in metal more loved – and loathed – than Metallica.

Check any metal site with a comment section, and you’ll find dudes lined up around the block to criticize anything everything Metallica says and does. 

Yeah, old-school fans can argue that the band slipped with “Load” and “Reload” in the 1990s, and I would agree. I didn’t purchase either of those discs, and I couldn’t generate much enthusiasm for the singles that made the radio (the best were “Fuel” and “The Unforgiven II,” while the low point was “Better Than You” IMHO). While I didn’t feel the band had betrayed its metal roots, the “Load/Reload” singles were definitely a letdown for a fan who had come of age with the band’s first four albums.

“St. Anger” generates a lot of wrath, particularly with the posters on Blabbermouth.net, … but I think the album gets an unfairly bad rap. While there certainly were issues with “St. Anger” (many of the songs were unnecessarily long and the production made drummer Lars Ulrich sound like he was playing a drumkit made of metal garbage cans), I appreciated the emotional rawness of the album. James Hetfield was coming to grips with decades of alcoholism, bassist Jason Newsted — who at one time had seemed the most dedicated member of Metallica — had quit after battling Hetfield over creative issues and the band was in danger of falling apart. “St. Anger” was tortured music for a tortured time. While “St. Anger” is hardly my favorite Metallica disc, I give them credit for baring their souls in such a gut-wrenching manner.

I understand the complaints of old-school fans who were bored with “Load/Reload,” and I can at least see the point of view from the crowd who found little to love about the sololess, overly-long “St. Anger,” but the real reason many “fans” hate Metallica can be summed up with a one concise word: Napster.

In July 2000, Ulrich testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about what he saw as Napster’s negative effect on the music industry in general.  The band became aware Napster was offering free downloads of its songs when rough cuts of “I Disappear” began appearing on rock radio. Ulrich’s contention that artists should have the ability to control how they release their music generated just a little bit of irritation among some fans.

“I am a true music fan,” One particularly outraged Blabbermouth poster wrote. ” … I have bought every Metallica album, except St. Anger (I downloaded it), some more than once … I’ve spent nearly $1000 on Metallica myself over the years.

“Enter Napster, I found a site that was fantastic. I was getting exposed to more new music than ever before. And I was contributing to the bands I discovered and really liked. Seeing shows, buying merch, spreading the word, and STILL buying the albums. I had amassed a collection of over 100,000 songs on my computer. People used to come to my house just to listen to music. This was about SHARING. Then Lars opened his big fat mouth. First came the cease and desist order from the RIAA. Then came the hackers who tried to wipe my computer clean on numerous occasions … Then came the ultimate, the federal government at my door to (seize) my computer.

“… It’s not like I was pushing kiddie porn or snuff films. I was sharing music. Rare bootlegs. Obscure rock. Classic (songs). Weird stuff. Unreleased (songs). Was I burning it and selling it? … NO!!! I never made a single cent profit off of it. I had money offered to me constantly for people to burn them discs, and I would refuse. I would tell them to guy buy it, and explain why. And no one ever had a problem with it.”

On the surface, his argument seems reasonable. But what the blabberposter fails to realize is this: If he was downloading 100,000 songs, it’s very likely a lot of other people were grabbing up thousands of free songs, too … and I don’t imagine all of those people felt the same duty to go out and buy songs they’d already ripped from the Web, free of charge. They probably didn’t have any qualms about transferring those songs to others, either.

So, are greedy Lars and the boys guilty of killing their fanbase by not allowing people to freely share their music? Is file sharing any different, really, from the tape trading helped generate such buzz for Metallica in the early years?

Yes, it is different, and the people who are still outraged by Metallica’s attack on Napster miss a rather vital point. Namely, that if they don’t like to work for free, they shouldn’t expect Metallica or any other band to give away their creative product for free, either.

The issue of free downloading was much bigger than Metallica — Ulrich said is his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee:

“Remember too, that my band, Metallica, is fortunate enough to make a great living from what it does. Most artists are barely earning a decent wage and need every source of revenue available to scrape by. Also keep in mind that the primary source of income for most songwriters is from the sale of records. Every time a Napster enthusiast downloads a song, it takes money from the pockets of all these members of the creative community.”

 One of the most common comments bashers make about Metallica is that they’re greedy. A particularly clever blogger even started calling Lars “Lar$,” and the animators at Jib-Jab got some mileage out of the controversy with the (admittedly hilarious) “Money Good, Napster Bad” video. But here’s the question: Who gets to decide when Ulrich and the rest of Metallica is “rich enough”? Is there a point where they should simply give away all of their music for free?

If anyone should make that call, it should be Metallica themselves. They don’t need Napster (or fans who feel they’ve paid enough for Metallica music over the years), taking that choice away from them.

“But Metallica is already rich, so they don’t need the extra dough,” you might say. Well, maybe, but as Ulrich said, not every artist has been as lucky as Metallica. If it’s fine to download Metallica’s music for free, is it also OK to grab up Enslaved MP3s off the Web? Enslaved won’t sell a quarter of the records Metallica has sold over the years. Can I steal all the Agalloch songs I want, even though I know Agalloch will never reach gold or platinum record status? Is it a “Robin Hood” virtue when you steal from Metallica, but theft when you download tracks from Immortal or Grand Magus?

Here’s the simple fact the pro-Napster, anti-Metallica camp never seemed to grasp: No band owes you free music. If any artists chooses to give away music, as Nine Inch Nails recently did by offering free downloads of “The Slip” on its Web site, that’s great. And let’s be fair: Metallica has a large catalogue of complete concerts people can download, free of charge, from the band’s Web site.

The difference is, in both cases, Metallica and NIN’s Trent Reznor decided to release the music themselves. Napster didn’t give bands that choice.

Here’s the part I never understood: If you like a band, why would you steal their music? A lot of metal bands are scraping below the mainstream radar, living off record sales and maybe merch (good luck making money off touring this year in the U.S., with gasoline at $4 a gallon). I particularly love Type O Negative, but what kind of fan would I be if I downloaded “Dead Again” and “Bloody Kisses” for free? If anything, my download would only increase the possibility that Pete and the boys won’t release a new album a year from now. As a fan, isn’t that the last thing I want?

Is there greed in the music industry? Sure. Chain records stores and record labels have created tons of ill will over the years by mercilessly gouging customers (I mean, really: $19 for a new disc at FYE? Are they insane?) — but that’s easily avoided by buying albums from label Web sites or places like Amazon.com. As a rule, I try to buy as little in the record store as possible.

But in general, it’s pretty simple: If you like Metallica — or Opeth or High on Fire or Exodus or Dimmu Borgir or Iron Maiden or any other band — you shouldn’t be offended by the thought of shelling out a few bucks to buy their albums. If you don’t want to do that, I can’t hold a gun to your head … but I would say with “friends” like you, metal music doesn’t need any enemies.