This is the day many have been waiting for- the official release of the new album, 72 Seasons. jesse and i attended a global audiovisual event, held in 80 or so countries. While i am still processing the album i can say this- the album, to me, is the work (on the self and with each other) done since St. Anger. St. Anger depicted the immediacy of the struggle; 72 Seasons is a much more mature, vulnerable reading of said struggle. Sonically, it’s filled with wonder and beauty. It’s got more harmonics than any other Metallica album i’ve heard. Lyrically it’s emotionally devastating. There was so much i identified with, as i closed my eyes and just took in the music.
Interestingly, i think i may have been the only one there to sing, dance, bop around and headbang. These songs were too great NOT to.
Now that i have finally heard the album in full, listening to the songs on their own just seems a bit empty. i feel like the songs are realized in a fuller way as a whole. St. Anger (one of my favorite albums of all time) is vulnerable in a pummeling way (channeling the immediacy of a mental health struggle (as well as an acknowledgement of struggles with addiction); while the mental health struggles and internal conversations are still there; 72 Seasons is vulnerable in a more pensive, mature way. There are definitely songs i teared up at while taking them in for the first time at the event, but something tells me i’m going to cry hard, similar to how i did so for the title track.
…And the title track is where we are for this week’s post. i am tired right now (and still processing), but i did want to make this quick post. The band definitely looked to their primary influences (as well as their own albums) for inspiration, but nothing sounds derivative or uninspiring. Metallica have nothing to prove at this stage of their lives, but they continue to find ways to connect.
It’s very rare to think that an album in someone’s latter half of their catalog is among the best of what they’re done. i can say for certain that 72 Seasons is just that.
The universe speaks again… i mean, it always does; the question is, do i listen or not.
As i was prepping to do this post something told me to re-look at Metallica’s 2009 Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame appearance. Flea (bass player with the red Hot Chili Peppers) gave a moving speech, in a ‘Crash Course In Brain Surgery’ t-shirt. “When I hear Metallica I get this feeling that they are doing something that they have to do. Like there is this thing in them wound up so tight they have to let it out, let that thing uncoil; it has to be released. An infinite well of sadness, a hell of a lot of pain and anger; but mostly, a lot of love for the process that they have created for releasing this stuff.” He continues, “Whatever gets thrown at them, they persevere, and they get stronger. They are a family.”
i honestly feel like this applies more to Metallica now, than it did even in 2009. i mentioned this in the last post, but i really do think they have honed in their purpose, which is, being a vehicle for connection- music just happens to be the particular vehicle they do it in. They have been through a lot of trauma, grief and pain. they have also acted out in ways that have not been the most healthy. Through a lot of conscious work they have been able to utilize their gift(s) to share with the many others who have experienced that as well. To me, it’s a bit deeper (and more spiritual) than just writing and performing a ‘Fade To Black.’
i have written about this before; however, i am thinking about it during this more current life experience. i moved into a new house; in it, we have been able to create a proper space to play music in. The room is called:
Because of course it is.
It feels really good to have a proper set of drums. Though i have played drums in several bands, i have never had a(n acoustic) set of my own. Playing an acoustic set as an amputee (versus a smaller electric set) when your amputated leg doesn’t bend all the way is NOT easy. My leg is just hanging out there, with no real support. Because of this situation i also have the drums set up differently.
The crash cymbal is much closer to me, on my left. The floor tom, i alternate between my left and right sides. The snare is farther to the right side, as i use my left foot for the kick. Despite being right handed (and have used to have played that way before the accident), i now play more like a left handed person. i had been experimenting with various ways i could set up the drums, and this is the way that’s made me happiest to play. This post is the first time i’ve recorded drums on this set, so i am still in experimentation mode. The rack tom definitely could have been mic’d a bit lower. There’s also variances in the kick, since my left foot is seemingly eternally swollen, and is not at its strongest state.
Referring to Cliff Burton’s time on earth, Flea (as part of the induction speech) said, “The worst tragedy that could ever happen to anyone- my opinion, is that when they die they never sang their song that was inside of them; they never gave the gift that was inside of them. But the beautiful opposite of that is that if you pass away, and you know that you sang your song, you gave your gift… that is the greatest accomplishment that I could ever hope for anybody.”
Despite any mistakes i made in these posts (and i made a few here), i choose to keep them in because not only is it all a learning process, but it’s also a fully human process. i have to remind myself sometimes that i survived being ragdolled by a semi truck. An 18 wheeler. Making mistakes on the drums (or any other instrument) is the LEAST of my worries in comparison. Life is hard as it is; if i lived my life hiding my process because i made a few (or more) mistakes, i’d be purposefully depriving myself of my own growth.
Clearly i don’t have the same platform as Metallica; that said, my hope is that i can share this experience of doing the best i can do with whatever physical limitations i have- and it will perhaps inspire others to ‘sing the song that’s inside of them,’ no matter how many mistakes.
i figured it would be fitting to play to a couple of songs released since our last post, from the upcoming album, 72 Seasons. These songs mean so much to me, for the reasons i stated in general on this site, and on the last and current posts. The second song released publicly from this album was ‘Screaming Suicide’. James Hetfield during live performances had been speaking openly during the middle section of ‘Fade To Black’, and giving words of encouragement to people who are either experiencing ideation, and/or have been impacted by it in some way. He would exclaim, “You are not alone!”
‘Screaming Suicide’ echoes the same sentiment in song form. Seemingly discussing the feelings of hopelessness that ensues when inundated by social media:
Craving dopamine Then my voice appears Teaching you of fears Are you good enough? You don’t recognize Head is full of lies You should just give up
Right on down to the usual ideation (which is more of what i experience, since i don’t have social media accounts):
Curse another day Spirit locked away Punish and deprive Hate to be awake Living a mistake More dead than alive
Terrified in sleepless nights Caught in spotlight dead to rights Isolate and fight your mind Telling you you’re left behind
This song appears to finally name what has been, up to this point, the ‘Unnamed Feeling’:
And now you speak my name You’ve given back the blame Keep me deep inside Don’t you keep me inside Screaming suicide
Even in the song’s description, Hetfield says this. “‘Screaming Suicide’ addresses the taboo word of suicide. The intention is to communicate about the darkness we feel inside. It’s ridiculous to think we should deny that we have these thoughts. At one point or another, I believe most people have thought about it. To face it is to speak the unspoken. If it’s a human experience, we should be able to talk about it. You are not alone.”
The song is very cathartic to play, in particular because i have experienced throughout my life the very thing the song discusses. i could be happy one day, and it suddenly and unexpectedly shows up. Fortunately i’ve gotten better at recognizing what to look for when i see the beginning stages, but i still have yet to prepare for the moment of an actual breakdown happening. It’s a thing i wish onto no one.
i do not know if any of the members of Metallica have experienced first hand what the lyrics entail; i can guarantee (especially based on Hetfield’s speeches during ‘Fade To Black’) that they have been impacted by it in some way, either through people close to them, or fans describing their experiences. i am certainly grateful and appreciative for the song.
(There’s a couple of seconds of no video towards the middle/end; sometimes, one file stops and starts another one. That’s what you see.)
The next song, ‘If Darkness Had A Son’ makes me happy because if my suspicions are correct, this is a direct reference to the infamous Presidio sessions, in preparation for what became the St. Anger album. ‘Temptation’ was a song James Hetfield was fighting for to be on the album, and it seems like he got his wish, 20 years later. While indeed it does make me happy (because… St. Anger), this song seemingly hearkens to a more recent rehabilitation stint Hetfield took in 2019. While this is sad, i am happy he made the decision to do it, for his health- mental, physical or otherwise.
Like many Metallica lyrics, my guess is that this song can be interpreted in various ways as well.
Return again to where it’s darkest Dragging home this heathen harvest And all the children subjugated Manipulated, propagated
If darkness had a son, here I am Temptation is his father If darkness had a son, here I am I bathe in holy water
It could be referencing struggles with alcohol (or other addictions); it could also be referencing the struggle one has with repeating the behaviors of their father/parent(s). This song could also be the potential accompaniment to the Unforgiven trilogy- The Un4given, if you will:
The beast still shouts for what it’s yearning He stokes the fire, desire burning The never-ending quenchless craving The unforgiven misbehaving
Has that ‘light of golden treasure’ steered him off his path to the point of falling into the arms of temptation yet again? One can only guess.
With this song, it’s obvious i cannot physically play a double bass (though i do have a double pedal… One day i will get there), so i play the song in my own way, as usual.
i am just grateful that Metallica are still producing songs that have such meaning, where so many can connect with.
(At the end, you hear jesse… He didn’t see the sign that i was recording, and walked in. i didn’t see him until the end of the song. We both got a good chuckle out of it. He really likes Metallica, but he got into them a bit more recently (we went to the 40th together), and he’s not as hardcore about it as me.)
i should be getting myself ready to go to Florida (where we’re going to go see Metallica honor Marsha and Jon Zazula (who as noted in past posts were the folks who assisted the band in a major way, with the formation of Megaforce records)). i’m sure it will be a bittersweet time for them, as they reminisce and trace their roots. i anticipate having a great time, and losing my voice, screaming my heart out, along to whatever songs they do.
As i am in the middle of packing and preparing, i figured i’d post a little something, as it’s been a while. There have been many things going on in life- not wholly negative, don’t worry- and i haven’t had a lot of energy or opportunity to focus on posting. Soon enough we will return to the regular posts though. As for now, i hope you enjoy these today (and any other posts)! i certainly enjoy doing them, and i hope they make you smile. Perhaps it will inspire you to create in whatever ways give you joy.
The first post we have is my take on the premiere live performance of one of my favorites on Metallica (aka The Black Album), ‘The Struggle Within.’ Its premiere occurred in Prague, Czech Republic, on May 7, 2012. While greatly inspired by Lars (because… of course), i did put a bit of my own spin on it.
i do not in any way, shape or form profess to be that great of a drummer, but i also like to challenge myself in ways- that’s how you get better.
There are folks out there who combine particular songs with particular eras of the band, and they have this ability to capture little nuances of said eras, such as tone. One of these creators is Bryce Barilla, and he made a couple of versions of one of my favorites, ‘Trapped Under Ice’ in the spirit of …And Justice For All. i do have a version here i made a while back, where i played the bass. However, i play drums here, to the initial rendition he did of the song. As i said, i am not that great of a drummer; i cannot play that fast, consistently for 3,4 minutes, in the way the song needs. So i did it my way, and still (at least to me) kept a bit of the spirit of the original song. Also, in the spirit of Ride the Lightening i added a massive layer of reverb.
This post is covering several eras; right here we will have the opening track of my favorite Metallica album, Load: ‘Ain’t My Bitch’. While the word bitch tends to be used pejoratively in many cases, if i felt it was used in a way to demean women i in no way would post (or even listen to) the song. That said, i understand how and why some could be uncomfortable with it. It’s not even a word i use. i take the song though, given the context of the lyrics to simply mean, ‘Ain’t my problem.’
The song opens with one of my favorite things in the world pertaining to music- a slight rhythmic illusion. i always hear the opening on a different count than it actually is, because it ends on the final phrase of the riff. The song also ends with it, plus the first note that opens the riff. There were two bits during the bridge that weren’t that great (there were a couple of seconds of the video that went dark, and i kind of messed up on the drums), but the point of this site is to chart the journey, mistakes and all.
Finally, we now have the song that hooked me into the Metallica experience at the age of 14- ‘Battery’. i think that was probably my favorite song of all time back then. It also has my favorite Lars Ulrich fill of all time. i have drummed to the album version, as well as the Seattle ’89 version… Now we have the version from the November 17, 1986 performance at Aichi Kinro Kaikan in Nagoya, Japan. i absolutely love drumming to this song, mistakes and all.
Until we meet again (and hopefully that will be soon), i hope you enjoy the post.
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.
A day late, i know… This week had been building up in ways that are hard to explain. People ask how you are, and you don’t know how to answer. Nothing of note is tragically horrible in your life, but you just feel a particular inexplicable way.
Then all of a sudden, it happens. As you feel things building you work to manage it in whatever way you can, and it still hits you like a ton of bricks.
i wish depression on no one. The unnamed feeling is very real.
i still wanted to make a post though, despite being in the throes of depression. Sometimes that actually helps me to feel better. In preparing for this post, parts of it certainly helped me to feel better, but honestly, parts of it didn’t. Parts of it, i cried.
This site is an exploration of all things: the improvements and the mistakes, the happy and the not-so-happy. i tend to write about these things, but i never film it.
As you may know (if you’ve been following this site), i tend to post songs that i am particularly feeling, or inspired by at the moment. ‘The House Jack Built’ has been on my mind for a while. It’s also my 12th favorite Metallica song of all time. i tend to have no problems listening to it, nor does it trigger my depression. For some reason, the song spoke to me this week in ways it hadn’t before.
Growing up with a mother who had an alcohol addiction, and struggling with addictions of my own (which were pretty close to being triggered this week), the song speaks to me in that way. However, the song spoke to me this week, as if it was reading to be about depression itself.
Open my eyes just to have them close again Well on my way, but on my way to where I’ve been It swallows me as it takes me in its fog I twist away as I give this world the nod
Open my eyes just to have them closed once again Don’t want control As it takes me down and down and down again Is that the moon or just a light that lights this dead-end street? Is that you there or just another demon that I meet?
You fall into a pit you feel you can’t get out of, and sometimes you just wait and hope it goes away. You exist in the world and are functioning as a being, but there’s a whole other life lurking.
i chose to film this as i was in the deepest part of my depression at this moment. There were 50 million things going on in my head, and it was difficult to focus on even playing drums, but i did it. Any mistakes i made or anxiety i had, i just played through it all. There were a bunch of things coming up for me as i was playing, and that’s what you see on my face.
i already made songs inspired by James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich (sortakinda), and i felt inspired to do a Kirk Hammett-themed song. It was a bit of a distraction from this recent episode i am experiencing.
While there were a couple of things i had in mind, as usual, what i first had in mind never ends up as the end result. i initially had a particular riff in my head, but i ended up using the drum as the base of the song, then writing the ‘lyrics’ (aka the clips) around the drums. Then i played the bass in a way which followed whatever Kirk was saying/singing. The drums were actually inspired by Lars (but what’s new?), and the bass lines were inspired by Public Image Ltd.
People who know me well enough (at least in relation to Metallica) know how much i absolutely love Kirk Hammett. Even though my first musical love was the drums (despite the guitar being the first instrument i seriously played), teenage me (and even adult me) always connected with Kirk- his shyness, his awkwardness and his passion for the things he loves. i did my best to capture those things with this song.
My favorite thing about this song though? The cats.
Because cats are the greatest beings to ever be on this earth. i love all animals (and have been a vegan for 28 years strong), but i am not ashamed to say that cats are my favorite ever people.
There’s music i’ve liked over the years, that (at least to me) has not particularly been attached to a scene. There’s record labels that have served as the base for particular scenes or genres: Blue Note (jazz); Megaforce (metal); Nonesuch (classical); Nervous (hip hop and house); Lookout! (East Bay punk)… For all intents and purposes, Minneapolis-based Amphetamine Reptile predominately has featured ‘noise rock’ bands (like the Cows, Today Is The Day and Unsane), but the label has also had bands such as Servotron and Supernova. i used to have a gang of AmRep releases on vinyl, and ended up selling a bunch of my records in order to move to another state. Little did i know that these records would go out of print and become incredibly difficult to find- and if you do see them floating around, they’re being sold for a ton of money.
i was actually listening to Supernova’s Ages 3 And Up (an album i actually used to have on vinyl, and currently have on CD, which was released on AmRep/Atlantic), and i thought to myself, ‘perhaps i should make a post featuring some AmRep bands’… So here we are. Since i’ve already mentioned Supernova (a band who is pretty fun live), i will post one of their songs first.
On ‘Invasion’ (from the above mentioned album), Art Mitchell (the bassist) plays one of my favorite riffs on the whole album. Not only is the bass the lead instrument here, but it’s a major component of Supernova as a whole. While many of the songs are inspired by science fiction, this is a song where the band spell out their name in the chorus.
‘Some Sara’ by Boss Hog (from the 10″ EP Girl +, which i do have the vinyl of in a box somewhere in another state), has some cowbell in the background- my guess is that it was recorded with the vocal mics? One of my favorite things about this band has always been the drums; very simple and tom heavy, Hollis (who also played guitar in the band Lo-Hi) had a punk rock style. i have met everyone in this band, but i used to know and hang out with Hollis and Jens (bassist). They were cool, humble peoples. i hope they’re all doing well.
Everyone in this post, i have seen live at least once. Helmet, i have seen about twice. As a punk/hardcore kid, i was really into their ‘stripped down noise’, as well as their desire to stay away from the 4/4. i am certainly not as good of a drummer as John Stanier, but ‘Ironhead’ (from Meantime, in which the vinyl edition was on AmRep and the CD/cassette version was on Interscope) is perhaps my favorite Helmet song of all time, so i wanted to try it out.
The main riff actually does remind me of the intro riff to Metallica’s ‘No Remorse’, just downtuned. i have no idea if that’s just me.
And finally… we have (the) Melvins, one of my favorite bands of all time, and a band i have seen about 3 or 4 times live. My playing doesn’t even compare to Dale Crover, one of my favorite drummers. Dude goes hard.
i should have worn my fro out for this one, in solidarity with my fellow fro wearer, Buzz Osborne.
‘Night Goat’ was originally released on 7″ (on AmRep), then reworked on the Houdini album (which was released on vinyl on AmRep, and CD/cassette on Atlantic). Lori Black (aka Lorax) was credited with playing bass on this song/album, but i think it was Crover who actually did. i’m playing the album version. Initially playing to this song, i did it similar to Crover, with more kick. When i record though, sometimes what i’ve practiced beforehand isn’t even present. This is exactly what happened with this song. What ended up happening is that LARS came out. i can’t seem to get away from it. His playing is in my subconscious. If you know Lars’ style, you know what i mean. i love Lars, so i’m not complaining. Still…
i think this was the first Melvins song i posted. Perhaps i will do a whole Melvins post. We shall see…
i have never seen this television show (Stranger Things), but i have heard so much about ‘Master Of Puppets’ being featured, and how it’s given rise to the song’s resurgence/popularity amongst folks who may not have previously been fans or appreciators of the band. As a person who first got into the band at the age of 14 (in between Justice and right around the release of The Black Album (or Metallica, for those who are not familiar with the oft-named alternate title), i’m sure there are people who would have thought i was a poseur, for getting into them around the height of their popularity. i mean, people lamented that they ‘sold out’ because they had acoustic guitars and a ‘ballad’ on their second album. James Hetfield mentioned in an interview how someone spit on him because his band made a music video.
i’m honestly not sure how anyone could ‘gatekeep’ what is literally the biggest, most well-known metal band in the world. Their music is played in films all the time. People were exposed to them because they had a VIDEO GAME based on their music. As a matter of fact, in reading about this recent turn of events, i discovered that ‘The Four Horsemen’ (from Kill ‘Em All, their (much-beloved by the most hardcore ‘Metallica died after Cliff died’ crowd) FIRST ALBUM) was featured in an earlier season.
So why were people not in an uproar about that, but for some reason people are popping blood vessels because of ‘Puppets’?
i always say (and i am sure i mentioned it in this post, where i played to the song) that ‘Puppets’ and ‘One’ are objectively the two greatest Metallica songs. They are songs i always play when introducing someone to the band, so the fact that the creators of the show introduced anyone not familiar with them to that song, i can’t say it’s a bad thing at all.
People began griping about the ‘new wave of Stranger Things fans’ somehow infiltrating and breaking through the iron-clad wall of the Metallica fortress. The band has had several responses:
“Everyone is welcome in the Metallica Family. If they like Puppets, chances are they’ll find plenty of other songs to get into.”
“FYI- EVERYONE is welcome in the Metallica family. Whether you’ve been a fan for 40 hours or 40 years, we all share a bond through music. All of you started at ground zero at one point in time.”
They made videos acknowledging their support of the show.
i suppose i can be considered one of the ‘older folks in that base- middle period’, since i also saw them live in 1991. As a person who went to the 40th anniversary shows with one of my closest friends- a person who only became familiar with them MONTHS before he went to the show with me- i can attest they will continue to reach many types of people outside of the metal community. i mean, despite me liking some metal, i’m in no way, shape or form a metalhead. i’m more of a punk kid, jazz is my favorite music, and i love house music. But Metallica definitely has been one of my favorite bands over the years. —————————————————————————————————————–
Another thing which has happened apparently, is that several people decided to sarcastically ‘recommend’ St. Anger and Lulu to folks who may have discovered the band through Stranger Things. i don’t have social media accounts, so when folks told me about this, silly little me thought these recommendations were sincere.
But i forgot that it’s social media we’re talking about.
These sarcastic comments are what’s actually inspired today’s post. As most who follow this site already know by now, i absolutely love and adore St. Anger. While it is not my absolute favorite album (Load still sits on the top of my list) St. Anger has become one of my top 5. It is also the album i listen to the absolute most in their catalog.
People do talk about the album being one you have to be in the mood for to listen to; i’d say that goes for every album on earth. i don’t disagree at all with comments that describe it as a perfect album when you are angry or depressed. The album has become much more significant to me than that. i think the album encompasses so much more than anger- despite the title. People consider St. Anger to be the band’s rawest album; i don’t think the album is any more or less raw than Load, which again, walked so St. Anger could run. Also, like Load and ReLoad, it’s fun listening to the variations in the left and right channels, something that was not as distinguishable with prior albums. Maybe it’s the punk kid in me that cherishes the album; maybe it’s the fact that it’s a therapeutic set of songs. It’s an album that charted the introduction of a band who was forced to face self-reflection and maturity.
As much as i love and adore the album, it’s not one i expect everyone to like. i’m not naive or dazed enough by my own appreciation for it to see why it’s a polarizing work. Whether or not people like it though- one thing i know for sure is that people need to respect it.
i hope that one person (or 10) who finds that ‘recommendation’ picks up St. Anger and actually loves it.
Now onto the song: ‘Sweet Amber’, a song which, sadly, they have only played live one time- 2004, in Lubbock, Texas. While the song’s primary narrative is driven by the band ultimately being forced to do some type of radio promotion (as depicted in Some Kind Of Monster); like many of their songs, there are veiled and/or vague references to addiction: “Chase the rabbit, fetch the stick/She rolls me over ’til I’m sick/She deals in habits, deals in pain/I run away but I’m back again“
My favorite lyrics in the song though, are these:
She holds the pen that spells the end She traces me and draws me in
i do not follow Lars much at all, in terms of the playing, save for a couple of things (if you know the original song- which you should- you’ll know what i mean). i was just having a bit of fun, and this is what ended up happening.
Admittedly, i only heard Lulu a couple of years or so after its official 2011 release. i was having a conversation with a friend about Metallica, and he had mentioned the album. The first two songs i heard were ‘Brandenburg Gate’ and ‘The View’, and i was so distracted by Lou Reed that i didn’t necessarily give attention to the whole work. i’ve never been much into Reed’s delivery at all- i was never a fan of the Velvet Underground or his solo stuff (at least not until his Buddhism-inspired instrumental works). Upon first listen of these Lulu tracks i said, ‘OH NOOOOOOOOOO… WHY??!!’
i then of course actually listened to (and got) the album some time later, and i ended up having an appreciation for it. This gets singularly declared a Lou Reed album (with Metallica as backup), but to me it’s as much their album as it is his. While i’m still not that fond of Reed’s delivery i’m not as dismissive as i was upon first listening, because in many ways it’s actually effective. i know that the poetry is inspired by/based on the Lulu plays by Frank Wedekind; some of it is incredibly difficult to listen to though, and not only because of the delivery. That said, one of the greatest/most effective pieces in this whole album is ‘Junior Dad’, a song i have been known to defend as much as i do St. Anger. i know people tend to make fun of the song (due to its almost 20-minute length, as well as the fact that it’s on Lulu); however, it’s an incredibly moving piece on resentment and growing older, and was actually a perfect way for Reed to go out.
i haven’t even talked about Metallica yet. They were wonderful on Lulu. They had the arduous (for lack of a better word) task of backing up Lou Reed, who notoriously did not suffer fools. They proved they were up for that task, banging out some glorious riffs. They produced some solid tone poems, and it’s something i would love to hear more of from them.
‘Iced Honey’ (the first song i play here from Lulu) is one of those songs where Reed’s cynical delivery is effective.
If I can’t trap a butterfly or a bee If I can’t keep my heart where I want it to be If no matter how much soul and heart I put to the wood If a flaming heart is not that good
A caged bird is going to always find a way to escape; and even if they physically are not able to do so, their heart is never as cold as the one who cages them.
It’s another song where, like the rest of the songs on this post, i did not follow Lars. While there were some clear ‘Larsisms’, i just went where the music took me, and it sounds nothing like the original (again, listen to the original, and you will see…).
i just hope i did an okay job.
And finally… Say it with me: I AM THE TABLE.
Yes, last but certainly not least, we have ‘The View’, one of the first songs (again) i ever heard from the album. This song (of course) met a life of its own (because… table); however, in the context of the whole album i actually appreciate it. It reads as a conflict between the moral and immoral, the holy and the sinful, and the religiosity of things- that is, that which consists of habits.
I am the truth, the beauty That causes you to cross Your sacred boundaries
i have no idea if any folks who became familiar with the band through the show will see this site; if you happen to stop through- welcome, and i hope you enjoy what you hear. While the posts i have here are songs from two of the most lambasted albums in the band’s catalog, these are songs i definitely appreciate; and i hope, as always, others can find some value, joy or inspiration out of them.
i have no idea why, but that gets to me every time. The chord which envelopes the lyric (which is a C if i’m not mistaken, and is the only time i think it’s played) is one of the most moving in the song- ‘Wherever I May Roam’. Jason Newsted’s bass dances around the chord as it’s left hanging for a few counts, while Lars Ulrich plays in half time. It’s a quick change- as an exclamation or declaration of sorts, before returning to the main theme of the song.
Carved upon my stone My body lie but still I roam
As i’m still not able to physically travel far to many places without assistance; my mind is still able to travel as far as it’s ever traveled. To echo the sentiment of a lyric Gladys Knight once sang, using my imagination is a way for me to ‘keep on keepin’ on.’ It is with this feeling that i connect with the song.
As simple as Lars’ drumming is during the bulk of the ‘Bob Rock years’ (in comparison to previous albums… and even from St. Anger on), there’s a range of interesting fills and time changes he does, which i never noticed until much later. His drums during this era are mixed with a particular ‘wetness’ that makes it cinematic. As does ‘Roam”s electric sitar intro by Kirk Hammett.
It is a well-crafted song, in a sea of many other well-crafted songs.
One of my favorite things about ‘Ride The Lightning’ is the rhythmic illusion-type intro. i cannot be the only person who listens to that song, and the riff turns around after the drums kick in. After playing it 20,000 times on drums, it doesn’t happen as much, but it’s still there.
This song is similar to ‘One’ in that it’s a fairly plainly spoken perspective of someone floating in between life and death- except in ‘One’, that person wants to die, because they have no capacity to see what is going on around them. They are being forced to exist by those who want to use him as an example. In ‘Ride The Lightning’ they are moments away from leaving this earth at the hands of an electric chair. Both songs humanize both characters. In ‘One’, the character is asking God to awaken him from what has to be a dream; if this is reality, he wants to be taken away. In ‘Ride The Lightning’, the character is experiencing a nightmare (but it’s real life), and asks those who have the ability to pull the plug, “Who made you God to say/’I’ll take your life from you?'” Both characters are in situations beyond their control, and outside human forces are controlling whether or not they live.
Whether or not that was the intent, ‘Ride The Lightning’ can be seen as a rumination on the death penalty, just as ‘One’ can be seen as a rumination on assisted suicide. But as with many songs in the Metallica oeuvre, there can be more than one interpretation.
One of the key components to deciding an album’s effectiveness is sequencing- not an easy task. The first song (if done effectively) sets the stage for the rest of the album. For a debut album, that song sets the mission statement, if you will.
As mentioned in other posts, one of my greatest drumming inspirations (when i was regularly playing in bands with folks) was Hugo Burnham of Gang Of Four. The band’s debut album, Entertainment!, is one of the greatest post punk/punk albums of all time. Of course it was one of those albums that contributed to my burgeoning political analysis as a teenager and young adult.
‘Ether’ is one of the greatest examples of a band decisively producing their mission statement. The song (which is about how British imperialist forces stole Northern Ireland) matches the theme of the album’s cover, which plays upon the land and human exploitation by those who came from Britain, into the u.s.: “The Indian smiles, he thinks that the cowboy is his friend. The cowboy smiles, he is glad the Indian is fooled. Now he can exploit him.”
The song has two perspectives; one of the invader/colonizer, and the invaded/colonized.
Dig at the root of the problem (Fly the flag on foreign soil) It breaks your new dreams daily (H-block Long Kesh) Father’s contradictions (Censor six counties’ news) And breaks your new dreams daily (Each day more deaths)
At the end, it addresses the interest in the land is both to control its people, but also to exploit resources:
You’re looking out for pleasure (Under Rockall) It’s at the end of the rainbow (There may be oil) The happy ever after (under Rockall) It’s corked up with the ether (There may be oil) It’s corked up with the ether (under Rockall)
It does make me wonder how many people were dancing to the reggae and funk-laced punk rhythms of Gang Of Four, The Mekons, Delta 5, The Slits and other bands, without actually listening to the messages- just how people today had no awareness that Rage Against The Machine was a ‘political’ band, despite the extremely clear messages in every song.
And as you may already know, i love a good 16th note disco beat (and some funk bass) in punk and metal. Those discordant guitars add to the counter-rhythms, making post-punk some of my favorite music.
Look Sharp! (as well as the next one or two albums) by Joe Jackson got lumped in with the wave of post punk/pub rock bands of the late 70s, such as Ian Drury, Elvis Costello and Lene Lovich. While each of those artists had a distinct sound of their own, i recognize the similarities enough in how people are able to frame particular artists in particular compartments. Joe Jackson probably departed from a lot of that on the greatest level (with Declan Mcmanus/Costello as a pretty close second), as he fairly quickly began diversifying his craft by covering Louis Jordan, Duke Ellington, paying tribute to Sonny Rollins and Nuyorican culture, adding classical elements (eventually making whole classical albums), adding the great Sue Hadjopoulos on congas, and more.
In ‘One More Time’ (the introductory song of Look Sharp!) Gary Sanford’s intro riff (one of my favorites) slightly echoes Nile Rogers (even if subconsciously). Graham Maby (one of the greatest, most underrated rock bassists of all time) comes in, with one of my favorite bass lines of all time. Dave Houghton comes in strong with one of the greatest uses of the toms in a chorus.
In the earlier years, Maby (who still plays with Joe Jackson, and is the only OG player who does), used to DOWNPICK this riff- and they played it MUCH faster live! He now alternate picks it, which is understandable.
i only saw NoMeansNo live once in the mid 1990s; however, i am incredibly glad i got to see them before their retirement in 2016. They are one of my favorite bands of all time, and while i in no way, shape or form as good a drummer as John Wright, he has definitely been a massive inspiration- i was actually in a band (my first band, actually, where i played guitar) where we covered ‘Two Lips, Two Lungs And One Tongue’ from Wrong.
Speaking of Wrong… While Mama, Sex Mad and Small Parts Isolated And Destroyed (albums i had on vinyl) are excellent ‘modern post-punk’ albums with funk and jazz elements; in keeping up with the theme of this post, ‘It’s Catching Up’ (the opening song on Wrong, released in 1989) came with a different kind of power. My favorite NoMeansNo song of all time is another one that intros an album (‘Now’, from 1991’s 0+2=1); that said, ‘It’s Catching Up’ is pretty solid competition. NoMeansNo are one of those bands who have never had a bad album.
i’ve mentioned this in other posts, but i will say it again; whatever songs i do, i have to connect with them in some way. That connection can be emotional or spiritual; it could be that a memory that was jogged up about the song when thinking about something else. It could be that the artist i am covering has played a significant part in my life’s journey.
The ‘Metallica Fridays’ posts were birthed for this reason.
Before we get into why the title of this post is the way it is, i do want to briefly (re)discuss a memory: December 3, 1991- the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium. It was four months after the start of the first leg of the Wherever We May Roam tour. i had just turned 15 one month prior. ‘Battery’ was my favorite Metallica song (and honestly, probably my favorite song of all time at the time). i didn’t make the connection that they were touring for the Black Album. i was entirely fixated on wanting them to do ‘Battery’.
i have seen hundreds of bands as a teenager, and most shows are a blur- including this one. i don’t remember them doing ‘Through The Never’ at all (which makes me sad, since it was my favorite song off of the Black Album at the time, and still is). i don’t remember any of the guitar, bass or drum solos, and i have a vague remembrance of the banter in the opening film and between songs. i vaguely remember the Justice medley, but ultimately i don’t remember this set list at all. From the looks of it this was a pretty great show (i mean, they played ‘Whiplash!’ ‘Creeping Death’! ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’! ‘Eye Of The Beholder’ (as part of the Justice Medley- A SONG THEY NEVER PLAY ANYMORE!!! Part of that medley was also ‘Frayed Ends Of Sanity’, ‘…And Justice For All’ and… ‘BLACKENED’!!!- BUT I DON’T REMEMBER IT. i don’t even remember them playing ‘Master Of Puppets’, the title track from my favorite album of theirs at the time. i guess that makes me a terrible fan- heh heh…
While not remembering the majority of the show, i remember what happened directly after the show. That said, i DO remember them opening with ‘Enter Sandman’ very clearly though- the first song in a 2.5- 3 hour set (of 22 songs!!!). i remember them playing ‘Battery’ as part of the second encore- the song i had been waiting for all night. When i heard that opening riff, i went OFF.
And i DEFINITELY remember the final song of the night (and the third encore): their cover of Queen’s ‘Stone Cold Crazy’ (from their 1974 album, Sheer Heart Attack, and b-side to ‘Enter Sandman’). i remember James Hetfield introducing the song by saying something like, ‘This song is by the not so straight band, Queen…’ Something like that. It’s funny that i remember those things, but not the much else of the show. i already liked Queen (and songs like ‘Sheer Heart Attack’ (from 1977′ News Of The World) piqued my punk sensibilities), so i was very pleased with Metallica’s cover. Of course, they Metallica’d it up (with some lyrical changes, the little tail at the end (as opposed to the abrupt end) and no harmonies in the chorus), but their cover is just as good as the OG.
Let’s keep it real- i know there’s the direct connection and influence with the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM), as well as punk bands like the Misfits, Discharge and GBH; but Queen walked so bands like Metallica could run. Queen had ‘thrash metal foreparents’ like ‘Stone Cold Crazy’ sit right next to pop hits like ‘Killer Queen’, and didn’t stutter. Would any of their albums post-Kill ‘Em All be as they were, without the musical diversity of Queen albums? Who knows. i also wouldn’t be surprised if Metallica (and especially bands like Guns N’ Roses) took performing cues from Deacon, Mercury, Taylor and May.
So here we are… jogging that precious memory back from December 3, 1991. i am not as good a drummer as Roger Taylor or Lars Ulrich, but it’s my little tribute.
(Also, you can’t tell me that Lars was not influenced by Roger Taylor in any way. Look at side by side videos of them (not just drumming wise, but interviews as well), and you’ll know what i mean.)
So here we finally are…. St. Anger.
If you’ve been following these posts up to now, you know that there are songs from the album spread throughout. This week though, i was particularly feeling it. Sometimes there are songs i want to do for these Friday posts, and when i go to do them it doesn’t feel right. But this week, St. Anger felt right. And i began to think more about it.
St. Anger is the Metallica album i actually listen to the most.
You heard that correctly.
With all the Puppets, the Justices, the Black Albums, the Hardwireds… With all of those beloved albums, yes… i continually return to St. Anger. WHY??!!
While Load is actually my favorite album of theirs (and as i love to say, Load walked so St. Anger could run), St. Anger is the one that means the most to me. Ultimately, while people are repulsed by the chaotic nature of the album, it’s actually the reason i love it.
i don’t get upset when people say how much they hate St. Anger. The album is full of a mishmash of copy and paste riffs and beats, no guitar solos, an infamous ‘garbage can’ snare, ‘therapy 101’ lyrical content, and a production as if it was recorded in a cave or tunnel. The album gets linked to a lot of ‘nu-metal’ that was produced at the time; however, while i’ve heard of a lot of the bands tagged with that label, i’m not familiar with the actual music made by those bands. So for me, St. Anger stands on its own without those influences.
On the surface, it is my favorite album to work out to. On a deeper level, There is no way an album like this could be made without it being chaotic. Load/ReLoad (lyrically) were rooted in the same mental health and addiction struggles St. Anger depicted; however, a whole band wasn’t openly on the brink of a breakdown. With Load, it was much easier to reinterpret some of the lyrical content, because you weren’t necessarily familiar with the root. With St. Anger you couldn’t escape that (especially if you watched Some Kind Of Monster, the documentary charting the journey of this era).
On the film, James Hetfield states: “It is the best mirror we’ve ever had in our lives.” On St. Anger, he says: “Everyone was pretty vulnerable with each other. And it made us stronger.” He’s also talked about “a lot of (the) growing up (that) happened” in the process of recording the album. Self-criticism is crucial for any progress to happen in life. St. Anger was the musical accompaniment to the self-critical process of Some Kind Of Monster. The Playboyinterview (published in 2001) were the first public tinges of a band on a sinking ship. Most people who read it or knew about it (including myself- the interview was actually circulating on the internet at the time) were most likely thrown off by the candidness, and were still surprised by Jason Newsted’s departure from the band. i didn’t see this performance until years later, but most people who did see the original airing of the VH1 awards in the year 2000 were not aware that (the aptly titled) ‘Fade To Black’ would be the final song Newsted performed live with the band. This includes the rest of Metallica.
Everything is dialectical. Jason Newsted leaving not only held a mirror up to the entity that is Metallica, but the humans within it as well. The perceived/assumed/creative chaos of St. Anger is a direct contradiction to razor sharpness and coldness of what has previously shaped the band’s identity. Each song on the album was a chapter in the collective mind and experience of the band, but for all intents and purposes it (like every other album) was still a vehicle for exploring the mind of James Hetfield. As everyone did contribute to lyrics for this album; since Hetfield is (usually) the primary lyric writer in the band, it does make me wonder if the others who contributed wrote what they imagined would be his perspective, or were they writing to chart their own mental health journeys as well. ‘Frantic’ set the stage of someone who is aware their addictions have utilized more hours in the day than desired; by the end of ‘All Within My Hands’, you’ve met someone who, despite talking about control being the driving force of things, has lost complete control.
Again, i totally understand why someone would hate this album.
Anyone trying to play anything off of this album- unless you are absolutely skilled at everything- might need a little bit extra time to learn these songs. For some of the songs, there is no solid BPM or count you could follow. Time changes/signatures are all over the place. Everything about this album, as far as i’m concerned, despite the copy/paste nature of it, is as complex as Justice (which was ALSO a copy/paste album, just much colder, cleaner, and drier). Both albums have a lot to do with grieving the loss of a bassist.
So while Load walked so St. Anger could run; St. Anger walked so METALLICA could run. In more ways than one.
Within St. Anger is that much-maligned, universally panned, never performed second to last song, ‘Purify’. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS SONG. To me, this is the thematic crux of the album. while i could (obviously) be wrong about the song’s intent, i interpret this song is about therapy itself, and the use of it to strip away any illusions or pretenses- whether it’s the image of the entity which is Metallica, or the accoutrements that accompany said entity (the addictions and behavior fueled by it). i don’t think the message of ‘Purify’ is to forget the past as a whole, but to not hold onto it as a crutch. The cobwebbed skeletons are the coat rack in the closet, and you keep putting more and more clothes on it, hoping the coat rack doesn’t break.
Old paint, old looks Cover up the past
It’s time to move, so you have to clean out the closet.
Strip the past of mine My sweet turpentine
In an interview he did with Road Recovery, Hetfield says, “You wouldn’t really like me if you knew my story, if you knew what horrible things I’ve done. I’m coming to grips with that, ’cause I have groups of people that I’m able to share all my horrible stuff with. Shameful, extremely shameful, dark stuff. Some of it is things I’ve taken from my parents and carried it a little further. Other ones, I’ve been able to drop some of that. Other ones I’ve picked up on my own and created. Shame’s a big thing for me.” In an interview he did with Joe Rogan he talked about the experience of therapy/treatment “tearing you down to bones, ripping your life apart; anything you thought about yourself or what it was, anything you thought you had; your family, your career, your anything… gone.” He mentioned how the purpose of this process is to “slowly rebuild you.”
For me, this is what ‘Purify’ is about.
‘All Within My Hands’ (well, the album version anyway) is another maligned song. Everything about this song is perfect. Its imperfections are what make it perfect.
(The generally preferred alternate version is just as amazing to me. Like many songs done from earlier years with more recent readings, this version is more pensive, as if they escaped the fire, not unharmed, and are ruminating on the experience.)
There is absolutely NOTHING about this song that carries the usual Metallica metaphors. “Love is control/I’ll die if I let go.” All who love me, this is your verbal warning. I WILL crush you. This is the story of a person who doesn’t have the capacity or willingness to give love in the same ways they desire/receive from others. Love is conditional. LOVE IS CONTROL. CONTROL IS LOVE.
“You wouldn’t really like me if you knew my story, if you knew what horrible things I’ve done.”
Hetfield initially sings with a self-aware smugness, and as the song progresses he is pleading, and descends into instability. All instruments follow this slow descent.
It is a brilliant look into a particular mental health struggle, and an even more brilliant ending to a soundtrack covering various aspects of mental health and addiction.
This album resonates with me greatly, as a person who has particular mental health struggles, who has experienced varying levels of trauma (the biggest one, losing a leg i guess), who has struggled with loss and rejection… and as a person who hasn’t struggled with alcohol or drug addiction, but who grew up with a mother who was an alcoholic. In terms of myself, i struggled with an addiction to food bingeing, as a result of struggling with rejection and abuse. In terms of dealing with people, a portion of my life was also played out in a song like ‘All Within My Hands.’ i hated when people left, so i did some things i thought would make them stay, but all it did was push them away. i relapsed with the bingeing a few times (all without people knowing- as far as i know), and had to do a lot of work to be where i’m at now, in terms of my relationship with food, and myself. Fortunately i currently do not have the same struggles with food i have had in the past, but i know that it’s something always lurking around the corner.
In terms of my relationships with people, i did a lot of work practicing non-attachment. It’s not about not giving love or compassion to others; the non-attachment i worked on was practicing the understanding that people come in and out of your life, and you learn something from all of those people. The non-attachment is in not holding on to toxic relationships (whether it’s you performing that toxicity or someone else) and thinking something loving or beneficial could be produced out of them. In practicing this non-attachment i have learned to accept myself as a whole person, instead of seeking validation from those who clearly don’t love me in the same ways.
“…I have groups of people that I’m able to share all my horrible stuff with.”
The other role of non-attachment in my life is understanding and accepting there are those who do contribute positively to my life who may not have the same capacity for connection i have. i am a person who does need daily check-ins, but not everyone does. If i don’t hear from someone for a few days it doesn’t mean they love me any less.
I CAN’T CONTROL HOW PEOPLE LOVE ME. But i can control how i respond to that love.
(It is interesting and amusing how at the end i miss the crash cymbal, but i thought it was fitting for how chaotic the end is, so i decided to just let it happen).
Quoting Hetfield once again; on St. Anger (an album even the band knows has divided the fan base, to the point where they joke about it), he says that it’s an album that has “found its people.”