Metallica Fridays (no. 34): A(nother) Challenge A Day…

It has been SIX MONTHS since i last posted here, which has been interesting, since this has been a major vehicle for me to deal with a lot of my fears and anxieties. Amid this break from posting i experienced massive bouts of depression (at one point calling the 988 hotline), ended up getting covid (and was out for a month), and saw Metallica a few times (and meeting all of the members, which was all a series of surprises). i did play drums a couple of times during the break from posting, but it was just a few minutes, just to let them know i didn’t forget about them. i’ve also been writing music, but it’s mostly been recording some guitar parts from a mini Epiphone Les Paul into a phone, and banging drum ideas on a desk.

It was such a release to sit and actually play and record SOMETHING. Playing drums is definitely my ‘happy place’.

To commemorate the cessation from such a long break, i figured i would do something i always do when introducing a new chapter- play ‘Blackened’, my favorite ever Metallica song of all time. ‘Blackened’ was the first Metallica song i ever learned on drums- first on the Octopad, then on the Alesis Surge set… and now on this post, i am playing them on the TAMAs. There’s some clear things i’ve kept over the years, but it’s fascinating to see how my playing evolved on the song. Whether or not i got better at it, that’s a different discussion.

One of the things i said i would do is challenge myself on learning a Metallica riff a day on guitar, even if it’s not perfect. It actually started off good for a while- i even learned the intro to ‘One’ (my second favorite song of all time) among other songs. i ended up getting distracted by life (which included a major depression episode), so i fell off with the challenges. ‘Blackened’ was one of those songs that seemed daunting to me; even though i play guitar (more as an accent than anything, as well as writing music), i am not that good at it. i can’t do bends, trills and the like. Tabs absolutely confuse me.

The layering that happens in that beautiful intro absolutely scared me, so i would gaze with wonder at anyone else covering it. But one day a person named Ryan (who i know through the Metal Up Your Podcast circle) played it, and it greatly inspired me to challenge myself to play it, even if it’s not as great as he , or many others have played it.

Especially James Hetfield. i will never be on the level of that guy, in terms of playing. There’s so many things going on rhythmically and harmonically in Metallica songs, it’s scary for someone like me to even attempt to mangle them. That said, you never know how things are gonna go until you try, right?

i messed around on the mini Les Paul to get a feel of things, and even though it (obviously) wasn’t perfect, i was happy to say i accomplished a semblance of the intro (for someone who’s not good at guitar), despite it not having a lot of the flourishes the intro is known to have. It, at the very least, sounded relatively audible.

In introducing this new chapter to the book of the ever-evolving ‘Blackened’ journey, i figured i would also include the riff challenge as an addendum of sorts. Is it perfect? Of course not. Nothing i do will ever be. The most important thing with art is to just do it. It has been interesting to see, even with this intro, that even though everyone’s reading of it stays relatively the same, it’s clear people hear different things when they hear the song (or based on their ability); as sometimes you hear a different note in one place you don’t hear in someone else’s rendition.

The version i did, interestingly, ended up sounding similar to something The Residents might do… It actually makes me think of something akin to DEVO’s ‘Corporate Anthem’. i played the intro all on guitar (and bass, which is ironic i suppose because …Justice), but the song ended up sounding somewhat horn-like, which actually amuses me. The primary instruments were an LTD black Snakebyte (whose name is Phyllis; her brother’s name is Jerome; you can see them both in the accompanying photos to the song); a Tanglewood Blackbird acoustic, and a Squire 60s Vibe Jazz bass.

i think i might actually practice this one on the keys sometime.

jesse came to say hello to me in the middle of recording drums, and in response decided to film this greeting:

In terms of the actual song, there were a few times i messed up, as well as a few times the mic did not pick up the crash cymbal; i didn’t focus so much on fine-tuning any technical aspects so much here- i was just so incredibly happy to be sitting in front of the drums and playing them. ‘Blackened’ was the musical starting point for me in being inspired to do these Fridays posts; hopefully, the way i play it, and drums in general, will evolve, and get better.

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