Metallica were babies when they released their first two albums, Kill ‘Em All (July 25) and Ride The Lightning (July 27) respectively. And now as they’ve grown to be elders, they can look back at the much-cherished work they created and produced 39 and 38 years ago. In figuring out what to do for this post to commemorate this occasion, i realized i covered most of the songs off the albums. After this post, i will only have two songs left from KEA, and no songs left from Lightning.
i’m laughing listening to KEA though, because after 30 years of listening to that album, i didn’t notice all the dope things Cliff Burton was doing on bass until much, much later. The bass tends to be low in the mix with this band (one of the biggest critiques i have about the earlier albums), but if you listen carefully, he is doing these amazing runs and trills and counter-rhythms. There’s a reason the dude had his own song on their first album (‘Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth’))- one of the few times a bassist is highlighted in a metal band. You think he’s playing with the rhythm guitar, but he’s off doing something else.
‘No Remorse’ (from KEA) is a perfect example of this. You need a really good system or headphones to really hear what Cliff is doing. The intro riff one of my top 3 on that whole album; they write so many riffs they just stick them in random spots, making the song a little more interesting. Any performances they do of the song in more recent years, they take out that whole bridge, which is a part i love. The song also has the beloved (at least by me) rhythmic illusion. i can’t be the only one who counts differently when the verse riff initially comes in.
i also always have to laugh because in the final verse, Hetfield sings “We are ready to kill all comers,” but it always gets misheard as “all drummers.” i messed up a bit here, but what is life if you don’t make mistakes once in a while?
i wanted to switch it up a bit for the final song on KEA, ‘Metal Militia’. Instead of following along with the thrash original, i decided to make it swing a bit. Does that make the song less metal? Perhaps.
Or perhaps the song is now more metal. Hmmmmmmmm…
This next song, i have been avoiding. It was the final song left from Ride The Lightning, so i figured the best way to do it was to not be on camera.
As i was creating the base for ‘Fade To Black’ (which was drums), i omitted vocals so i would be able to get through the song. i played as much to the song as possible, but it was the only thing i did that relatively ‘matched’ the song. Even without the vocals you could still hear some bleedthrough (as well as my own head singing the song), so it took everything out of me not to break down. The more i worked on the song i did leave the vocals in, but i ended tuning them out just so i could, again, get through the song.
i took musical cues (obviously), but like most of these covers i do from scratch, they end up sounding not very much like the original…. because i know how to play to my limitations. i know what lane i can go in musically, while at the same time doing my best to honor the original- which is what i hope i’ve done, and continue to do.
The song (which originally was said to be about getting some instruments stolen) has taken a life (if you can say that) of its own. James Hetfield is now describing the song in recent times as being about ending one’s life; he’s also been regularly announcing that those who are struggling in whatever way are not alone, and to please find someone to speak to. The first time i can recall him speaking to not being alone was at the 40th anniversary shows in 2021. i was taken aback (and figured, as i mentioned at the time) that there were a few things he said at the shows that seemed to indicate he was going through something. When he announced this year on stage in Brazil about his mental health struggles, i figured my hunch was correct.
What he said at the 40th Anniversary show didn’t hit me until the next day, and i kept a lot of my thoughts inside until i couldn’t anymore. And i cried rivers.
As a person who has on several occasions attempted to end my life; as a person who struggles every day with depression, the song is extremely difficult for me to listen to. The lyrics speak succinctly about the very feelings i had when i’ve made attempts, and even when i’ve thought about doing it. Many days are better than others, and some days i just don’t feel like even getting out of bed. Even though i’ve learned to like myself at the age of 39 (and love myself at the age of 42), i still ask myself some days (as i am about to be 46) if it’s all worth it. i do live with survivor’s guilt (as a person who almost died but survived an accident that forever altered my body); i feel like people see me as better than i actually feel about myself, when it comes to some things. i found out ways i can manage all of these complex feelings and experiences, but none of it is easy.
One thing that really does help is playing and creating music. i really do hope anyone who reads these posts and listens understands the respect i aim and hope to give these beautiful songs that have meant so much to me.
(All instruments- drums, guitar, bass and keys are by me, except for lead solo (Hammett- one of his greatest) and vocals (Hetfield))