Metallica Fridays (no. 27): Happy Anniversary…

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))

Metallica Fridays (but today it’s Monday) (no. 26): The Ktulu Trio

It has been some week… i was pretty wiped out from getting a booster (which will be helpful since i’m actually going to see Metallica next month- Wheeeeeeeeee); i also was pretty busy with meetings and organizing work, where i wasn’t able to get a post in. Also… My brain since the accident randomly decides to shut down, and there’s points where i don’t seem able to do things in effective ways. It’s also much more difficult to understand, for example, group chats, in the way i used to be able to. i am wondering if this is a latent effect of a concussion.

So of course, there are times when i’m playing instruments, and i will get really extreme brain farts, despite me playing the same part a minute prior. Playing music and writing have been really helpful for my brain’s activity. Thinking about all of this sometimes gives me massive depression; i am definitely grateful to the universe that i am still able to process things as much as i can, and that i didn’t suffer as much damage to my brain as i could have.

That said, we are still here, and i guess there will be two ‘Metallica Fridays’ posts this week. Given that i hadn’t done any songs from the ‘Ktulu’ series yet, i figured i’d just put them all together.

Though i am aware of the legend of Cthulhu (primarily from Metallica, as well as some friends who were fond of the writings of H.P. Lovecraft), i always avoided any writings because of the author’s massively racist history, which friends of mine who enjoyed his writings struggled with (he infamously called a cat friend of his a certain racial epithet). While his views (very) slightly shifted towards the end of his life after the nazi rise to power (as well as whatever KKK fallout occurred at that time); looking into it though, his politics were still massively problematic. In the latter part of his life (the dude died in 1937), he still held massively anti-African and anti-Jewish beliefs. In a letter to Catherine Lucille Moore (dated 1936), he still believed in the concept of “biological inferiority” and the “sub species”. i know that many people tend to separate the art from the artist, regardless of how problematic the artist is. i listen to lots of music where the artists don’t necessarily share the same ideological framework as i do… however, there is a fine line i do have, when it comes to art, and racism is one of them.

Despite the fact that Lovecraft died believing in the pseudo-science of racial superiority on some level; the songs Metallica got out of his writings are quite good, so i guess i will stick with that. Just to make this easier, we will go chronologically.

‘The Call Of Ktulu’ is the first in the series, the final song hailing from 1984’s Ride The Lightning. As usual, i had a particular idea how i wanted to do this song, and it ended up as a whole different thing. Also as usual, the drum was the skeleton for the rest of the song. The keys came next, then bass, then guitar. i play guitar, but i am in no way, shape or form a guitarist… But i won’t say i’m a bassist or keyboardist either! Am i a drummer though? That’s up to you to answer.

i didn’t listen to the song at all while crafting this cover- so while the theme is obviously similar, it has a different feel. i’ve heard the song enough times to know how it goes, heh heh… It is always interesting to create something from memory, from scratch.

(Drums, keys, guitar and bass are all by me. The intro is by nature.)

‘The Thing That Should Not Be’ (from 1986’s Master Of Puppets) is the PERFECT Lars Ulrich song, and i took advantage of that. While he certainly is notorious for doing fills all over the place, i honestly don’t think he does as many as people joke about- at least not on record. The China cymbal is another story…

i honestly love his style (as most people who read this site know), and he is a major inspiration for what i do. His style is often imitated, but never duplicated. Really, NO ONE drums like the guy. That said, ‘Thing’ is fill city, for sure (just as songs like ‘Wherever I May Roam’ are). So of course i took that opportunity to just visit and chill in fill city. and even so, i still probably didn’t do as many fills as Lars. ‘Thing’ is a great Cliff Notes (no pun intended) edition of the Cthulhu/Ktulu legend. Metallica, as i keep saying, can write dope songs in their sleep.

‘Dream No More’ (from 2016’s Hardwired… To Self Destruct) is my absolute favorite of the ‘Ktulu’ trio. It is also my 24th favorite Metallica song of all time. The song is massively slept on, and goes hard. As the album is more of a nod to their NWOBHM roots, ‘Dream’ has got a Sabbath influence all over it. The pre-chorus riff, as well as the intro/bridge/almost end riff are among my favorites in their whole catalog. i mean, this whole song is filled with excellent riffs thoughout.

If i could only write a riff this good…

Interestingly, my primary influence for drumming this song is not Lars, but Stevie Wonder.

Metallica Fridays (no. 12) Yeah! (and more thoughts and feelings and such)

Yes, i know today is Saturday. It took a while to do the editing, , so i’m posting this later than usual.

As i’ve probably mentioned before, i have a lot of music floating around in my head. So many things sound like music to me. So of course (because i needed to laugh) i put on one of those James Hetfield ‘Yeah’ compilations. As i’m sitting there laughing a rhythm popped in my head, and an idea was born.

i am a huge fan of house music; i’ve made a series of house songs and remixes before, and several beats were experimented on before the one which ended up here. Hetfield is (to me) one of the greatest voices in rock/metal, but his voice is musical enough to fit in various spaces. i’m not sure that strict metal fans would be into something like this, but hopefully folks will enjoy it. Though it took a while to create it was a lot of fun to make.

i have a feeling the most diehard of Metallica fans will know the specific footage, as well as where all (or most) of the ‘Yeahs’ come from. There is such an amazing wealth of ‘Yeahs’; if i were to put them all in a song, it would be a half hour song (at least). It was difficult to choose. i felt inspired by doing this one, i thought about what songs i could do for the other dudes in the band.

Stay tuned…

(All instruments and drum programming: me. All images and video courtesy of the internet)

i know i said ‘The God That Failed’ was the song that made me a fan of The Black Album (aka Metallica); however, ‘Through The Never’ has always been my favorite song on the album. i obviously always enjoyed it, but its significance holds a lot more to me since the accident. Not all of their songs are sad or angry (of course), but it’s one of the few Metallica songs that always put me in that happy place.

i have sketch of a tattoo inspired by the song. i have yet to get it because the person who regularly does my tattoos has been planning to custom make a piece for me.

‘Whiplash’ was a song i attempted practicing over the course of a few months, and was never able to get through it. What can i say? i’m a basic drummer. This was the first time i actually got through the whole song, and it was rough. My arms were killing me. i realize i didn’t always hit the crash on the ‘correct’ beat (and i know i messed up a couple of times), but look… i just tried to get through the song without falling over!

i’m already a pretty harsh critic of myself, but i have to say… the fact that i got through this song is an accomplishment. i usually can’t tell, but i actually realized as a result of finishing this song that my drumming, while not perfect (or on the level of my favorite drummers), is actually getting better.

‘Whiplash’ has one of my top 3 favorite riffs on Kill ‘Em All– the final one, with the 16th note ‘disco’ drums… i told y’all i was in love with the 16th note stuff in punk and metal. i love that they extend it during live shows. i also love the period when they did a tease of ‘Frayed Ends Of Sanity’ and ‘Wasting My Hate’ at the end of shows as well.

i game my arms a little break and kept it ‘back to (the very) basics’ for ‘Halo On Fire’, which is in my view, an extremely slept on song- the band only performed the song 90 times live. The song is one of their most cinematic, and in many ways, sorrowful.

Before the album version of the song i added a version of the intro they did during live performances, and added some keys there. That one was from 2018, in Stuttgart, Germany.

i know people like to clown Metallica for a variety of reasons, but if you actually sit and listen to their music, there’s something about it that is transcendent. There’s a reason they’ve been around for 40 years, and still going.

Metallica Fridays (no. 10): Letting Go, And Getting Reacquainted…

Before we get into things, i just wanted to say that i reconnected with the folks i was in my first band with (you can hear one of our songs in the first ever post i made). It was a very nice surprise. It was over 20 years since we all spoke. Apparently, they found me through this site.

So whoever is sharing this site with others, i appreciate you.

Now, i’m going to say something else you all probably know (especially since i make these posts every Friday), but in figuring out what songs to do this week i kept thinking, ‘Metallica is so good.’ i know they are ‘technically’ a metal band; however, the musical and lyrical content are shaped in ways that are relatable to many.

The songs i chose this week, i think fit that description.

i realized that i covered songs from every album (not including EPs, collaborations, live or covers albums) for these posts… except for Hardwired… To Self Destruct. It’s strange that i have already covered every album (because it doesn’t seem that way), and it’s strange that i haven’t done anything from Hardwired (because i love that album, as i love them all). i figured that ‘Moth Into Flame’ would be a good first song. It’s one of a handful of songs that discuss the ‘dangers of celebrity culture/fame.’ James Hetfield spoke in interviews how the lyrics were inspired by seeing Amy Winehouse.

It’s not a life i wish onto anybody.

It’s a pretty sad song, if you really think about it.

Onto more sad songs… A lot of people dub St. Anger as the band’s ‘therapy’ album; however, i maintain that Load (my favorite Metallica album) and ReLoad (my 4th favorite of theirs) walked so St. Anger could run. So many of those songs are tales of self-reflection, addiction, regret and so many other struggles.

‘Low Man’s Lyric’ has been interpreted as being about so many things, but that’s (again) what makes the music of Metallica so effective. i was thinking about how i could ‘reinterpret’ the song… Firstly, i don’t have a hurdy gurdy (the one thing which drives the main musical theme of the song). Secondly, i’m not the greatest musician. Third, i don’t have the equipment to do a ton of layering in the way the song deserves.

i asked myself how i could translate the pain of the song into something on the keyboard. i hope i did alright. Everything (except vocals and drums) is me.

‘Mama Said’ is my 4th favorite Metallica song of all time. Again, i was wondering how i would do justice to such a great song. This one was incredibly hard to do though (especially since i’m not the greatest singer or musician)- this is one of those songs that make me cry. i did have a bit of a chuckle though, listening to Lars’ drumming. His drumming is unmistakable, and this was also during the ‘Bob Rock’ period, so the sound was pretty massive.

This song means a lot to me though, and i did get a tattoo (on my palms) inspired by it):

The tattoo has long since faded. But what’s left of it still a reminder to let go, and be still. In order to grow, you must let go. You have to be able to take the things you learned in life, and not be paralyzed by the heartbreak of ‘what could have been.’ You have to be able to stop wanting love from those who don’t have the capacity to give it.

Let go, and be still.

Everything here is me: vocals and keys.