Earlier in the day (at least where i live) i watched a livestream of Metallica headlining the Download Festival (formerly Donnington). They have played several of them over the years, most notably in 2004, when Lars was hospitalized right before the show, and Dave Lombardo, Joey Jordinson and Flemming Larsen sat in for him.
Speaking of… Here is what Jordinson (who is probably having a conversation with Larsen, Cliff Burton and John Bonham somewhere in space) had to say about Lars, in an interview with Metal Hammer magazine in 2016: “A lot of people give this guy shit, but they need to shut their fucking mouths because Lars Ulrich is probably one of the best and most innovative drummers ever. I got to tour with the guy and I watched him play every night from behind the kit, and his double bass was completely on point. He’s also one of the best businessmen that keeps this type of music going; he’s the heart of the whole fucking community, because Metallica are the kings. There’ll never be anybody that will match them, and Lars is a huge, huge part of that. Without that guy, and the influence of that band, I wouldn’t even be sitting here talking to you. Lars is one of my gods and he always will be. That guy fucking rules, period. So when I got the call asking if I’d fill in for him at Download festival, of course I knew everything because he’s one of my hugest influences. I remember playing to his shit all the time growing up and trying to be as good as him. Our technical abilities are way different but I’ll still never be as good as that guy, and getting to sit in his stool was one of the biggest fucking dreams come true. What an honor. I love that dude.”
You already know how i feel about Lars. While the experience and soundtrack of Metallica is what’s helped me tremendously through out this (still relatively new) journey as an amputee; it is Lars that has inspired me to do these drumming posts. And after playing to ‘The Judas Kiss’, i really don’t understand why people give the guy such a hard time. i understand that there have been things he’s done that are not immune from critique; but to totally say he’s a bad drummer makes no sense to me. There is no way Lars could arrange the songs in the way he does, with the mass variations in timing/signatures; if he was such a ‘bad drummer’. There’s no way he could be as in sync with James Hetfield as he is, if he was such a ‘bad drummer’. In learning to play these songs (in my own way, of course), it’s clear that he listens to the riffs, and creates narratives around that.
Up to this point, this song for some reason was the hardest for me to get through. There’s songs to me in the catalog that are actually harder, but for some reason i had a lot of trouble getting through this one. i definitely didn’t attempt to echo all of the rolls and fills done in the song. i’m not that great- which is why i ask again, why are people saying Lars is a ‘bad drummer’?
Either way, i hope i did alright.
‘The Judas Kiss’ is my favorite song on Death Magnetic, the follow-up release to the heavily polarizing (and heavily adored by me) St. Anger. The original/demo version (entitled ‘Gymbag’) was a bit slower, had some additional riffs, and a whole different set of lyrics, the best of them being ‘On your feet, or on your knees/Freedom is just one of these’. That definitely would have fit, but not as much as the finalized more powerful and menacing ‘Judas lives, recite this vow/I’ve become your new god now!’
There’s more than a few biblical references throughout Metallica’s catalog, just as there are veiled (and not-so-veiled) references to addiction. Generally, this song seems to have the (other) running theme of humans generally having the capacity in them to do evil things. Like Judas Iscariot (in the bible), despite being one of the 12 disciples, he was also faced with temptation. With that, he ratted Jesus out. You aim to do good in the world, and everything goes wrong. So what do you do? Your halo turns to fire.
This song, the more i thought about it, made me think of the ending scene of the director’s cut of one of my favorite movies of all time, the 1986 version of Little Shop Of Horrors. Aside from the stark anticonsumerist message (which is why i love it), it’s visually stunning. In line with the theme of the song, Seymour (the main character) aimed to do good as well. He longed to save his romantic interest from an abusive relationship. He wanted the shop he worked at to stay afloat… but he made a deal in which the consequences not only changed his life, but every single person around him, both locally and remotely. It was a deal he could never escape.
So i did the Dark Side Of The Moon/Wizard Of Oz move, and did an experiment to see if things would work out.
And it fit perfectly.
Little Shop actually has another connection for me: When i just got out of the hospital, my cousin was my primary caretaker. She fed me, cleaned the commode, washed my clothes, and helped to change the dressings on my leg, when my legs still had major open wounds. Our life’s perspectives and ideologies were vastly different. However, one of the things we shared was our common love of Little Shop Of Horrors. She would come in, and we’d sing the songs, and recite the lines together. i will always cherish those moments.
i am posting two versions here: the one of me playing the song in full (where for some reason the camera decided to cut off towards the end), and the Little Shop version. i also recommend playing the scene to the actual song where Lars is playing.
i always love when the bass opens a Metallica song. It’s a good chance the song will be a head nodder. It’s just a groove.
Keeping up with today’s theme though (of biblical references and temptation and likely references to addiction), we’ve got ‘Devil’s Dance’ (from the other polarizing (and much adored by me)) album, ReLoad. As complicated as ‘Judas Kiss’ was for me, it was also nice to take a little break, and just chill.
i mean… who can hate this song? It’s got one of Hetfield’s best ever ‘YEAH’s in their whole catalog; The bass intros the song; it’s a perfect example of the drums communicating clearly with the rhythm guitar; the solo (as was common during this period) initially had minimal notes, then moved into those blues scales (which i always love), sounding both chaotic and smooth all at once.
One thing i do know: If you take a chance on this song, you WILL dance.