Metallica Fridays (no. 13): Still Making Sense Of Death And Anger

Much of the time, the songs i choose for each week’s Metallica posts have a lot to do with where i’m at mentally at that time, or if the songs are relative to a particular experience. There are also plenty of times i wake up with random songs of theirs in my head.

The morning of making music for this post i woke up earlier than usual, with not only ‘Invisible Kid’ in my brain, but a particular arrangement of it in my head. i couldn’t go back to sleep, so i got out the guitar and began playing what was in my head, over and over… The tiredness hit me, so i went back to bed.

As the day went on, the song shifted into a whole other energy. i decided to use the drums as the foundation, and work around that. The energy of the end result actually ended up sounding more similar to Joy Division or The Cure than what i played in the morning.

The journey of songwriting…

i tried to sing the song in the original key (which is what i initially played on guitar). But that was painful to hear. i’m already not that great of a singer (but i do it anyway). So i guess i’m an alto or a contralto or something? i have no idea.

If you’ve been paying attention, you know that i am a St. Anger fanboi. i appreciate it not only for its representation of a band struggling to find peace with itself in some way- creatively, mentally and spiritually; it’s also an album in which the subject matter is heavily identifiable to me. The album is an experience in catharsis.

i was that ‘invisible kid’ growing up. i was the shy, quiet kid that kept a lot of things inside, until they sometimes boiled over. Like a lot of kids in this predicament i had friends and hung out, and hid a lot of my feelings- until, again, they sometimes boiled over. i wanted love, but didn’t necessarily know how to receive it. Sometimes i’ve pushed people away by showing love in overwhelming ways. i can talk extensively and excitedly about particular things; however, to this day, when people ask me how i’m feeling i struggle with that, and don’t always know how to answer… so i am most likely to give short answers. i always need to be checking in with people, but sometimes the simplest questions seem intrusive, even when they’re not.

The push/pull the invisible kid experiences is very real… “I’m OK, just go away… but please don’t stray too far.”

(All instruments and vocals are by me.)

A few times in 2006 (in the midst of working on Death Magnetic), the band did live performances of ‘The New Song’ (aka ‘Death Is Not The End’). Of course, the various riffs heard in this working version ended up being portions of various songs officially released on the upcoming album, released in 2008- most notably, ‘All Nightmare Long’ and ‘End Of The Line’. It’s always exciting to see them perform new, unfinished and rare material.

Double kick is all over this song (what’s new?); and of course i only have one foot, so i had to work with what i got. People also might look at this song as not being the most difficult to play (and it’s definitely not the most difficult in their repertoire); however, it’s got that ‘Lars timing’ all over it. There’s a number of parts you have to remember.

i love the songs this working title developed into. i also love this unfinished version. Metallica’s songs speak an awful lot about death, but it’s not always about physical death. i didn’t think about it a lot prior to the accident. After it happened , their music helped me make sense of a lot that was going on, and helped in learning to truly make sense of death- of relationships, of particular feelings… of a leg.

Death really is not the end. Death must occur to give birth to a whole new consciousness.

‘The Unnamed Feeling’ is a tough one for me. The lyrics describe every single thing i’ve been through at various periods in my life.

i hate living with depression. i love myself and am grateful for life, but sometimes my brain just snaps and i either desire to, or attempt to end it all. i hate it. i don’t wish this on anyone.

i can’t convince people to love St. Anger as much as i do; i understand why people sincerely do hate it. But the album is a very healing one for me.

(Interestingly, the camera decided to fall during this song. i kept it anyway.)

The One-Bumblebee Band…

It feels really good to be reunited with the drums… The thing is though, not having the drums gave me more space to give love to the other instruments. So of course i became inspired, and said, ‘Lemme just do some full songs.’ i am just a punk kid, and am not at the point of virtuosity (which you can see if you’ve been paying attention to these posts- HA!)

i felt inspired, and got the guitar, bass AND drums out to do some D.C. hardcore (or harDCore). i wore out the Flex Your Head compilation (blurry cover vinyl edition), and there were a couple of songs i felt would be really fun to play. i don’t have the crunch of the early D.C. bands (interestingly, i sound like i’m playing Cali skate punk, with an east coast accent- the best of both punk worlds, i guess).

i don’t drink alcohol or do any type of drugs- i don’t even take so much as an asprin, nor do i do caffeine…. except for the time i laid there in the hospital for two months in an immense amount of pain, and i had to take a gang of painkillers and muscle relaxants. i don’t wish the feeling of morphine, dilaudid (or any narcotics) on anybody. i was so out of it, and had intense nightmares a few times. Also, i couldn’t go to the bathroom.

As i said, i wish that on no one. i was extremely fortunate to not have developed a dependency or addiction. i ran out of the prescription, and never reordered, because i didn’t need to. i am saying all of this to say that for all intents and purposes, i would be considered ‘straight edge’, save the time in the hospital (and i’m sure some reactionaries out there would call me a traitor for even using drugs in the hospital. Whoever thinks that way, good luck with having survived a massive traumatic accident and a limb amputation with no meds). i don’t call myself straight edge, and despite being drug and alcohol free i don’t judge others for partaking.

i love me some straight edge punk though. i mean, ‘Master Of Puppets’ is one of the greatest straight edge-themed metal songs of all time (despite it being written and performed by a band who were alternately called Alcoholica). i was once in a band in the 90s where we were all ‘straight edge’. And of course, even though there were prior songs and artists which eschewed the drug-addled life, there was the (reluctant) foreparent of straight edge hardcore, Minor Threat. Flex Your Head featured other straight edge bands like Government issue and SOA.

One of those songs is ‘Waste Of Time’ by Youth Brigade. As i said, i don’t judge people for partaking, but yo, i love this song. Always have. It definitely was not a waste to do this song. All the instruments got some love- Jerome (the guitar) and his bass and drum siblings.

Help me to name them.

Another song from the compilation i did was ‘Nic Fit’ by The Untouchables. i love the song but i honestly have little idea what Alec MacKaye is singing (save a few words)- so i took what (i guess) were some lyrics from the Sonic Youth cover, and made up a few of my own. Also, i think on the OG Danny Ingram is playing on an open high hat, but i’m playing it on closed.

i actually started this one out on drums, then played everything else around it. Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee…

Crass is one of my most favoritest punk bands of all time (Bad Brains is, to this day, number one for me). They are easily in the top five. The foreparents of the anarcho-punk movement (which is some of my favoritest type of punk), they were a collective that fused art and music, challenging the capitalist ideology/ethos (and all which fall under the umbrella of it, such as patriarchy, imperialism, neoliberalism, commercial media and consumerism).

i love that (being a staunch anticapitalist myself) i don’t even necessarily agree with all of Crass’ viewpoints- they’re Anarchist and i’m a Nkrumahist-Tureist. i mean, there have been a number of Anarchist individuals and organizations who have definitely struggled with Crass on particular positions. There are many shades of particular objectives and ideologies. That said, i have no qualms with paying respects to a band who contributed to my burgeoning ideological development as a teenager. The first person i need to thank is actually Ronald Reagan. i saw him at 10 years old and he inspired me to begin developing even then, an intense hatred for capitalism. i just didn’t have the words for it.

On the music front, one of my favorite things about Crass is Pete Wright. i absolutely love his bass playing, and sadly i don’t really hear anyone talk about him. i honestly can’t even pick a favorite, but ‘Do They Owe Us A Living’ (both versions) and ‘Darling’ (which i do here, but only the bass) are a couple off the dome.

An even bigger thing i love about Crass is that even though they were tagged with the ‘punk’ label they heavily critiqued ‘punk culture’ as being conformist and nihilistic. As someone who identifies as a punk kid (because it was punk that shaped the person i am today), i actually can’t be mad at their sentiment. Also, their primary influences were blues, jazz and various aspects of ‘counterculture’ visual art.

i hope i do his playing at least a modicum of justice. Especially since the bass kept trying to fall!

The final contribution to today’s post is another Crass song, ‘Shaved Women’. This song is interesting because it really does ask us to look dialectically and question our position on particular things. The song does refer to women in France who were seen as ‘collaborators’ to the nazis during the war. After the allied forces won, those women had their heads shaved as a form of public humiliation. Due to the band’s consistent antipatriarchy/antimisogyny messaging, it does force the listener to ask if the women were willing collaborators (for sleeping with nazis), or were they forced to do so in order to survive? Were they assaulted (or worse)? People do things every day of their lives in order to survive (such as have their labor exploited); so we are forced to ask ourselves, how ‘low’ is one willing to go just to feed our ‘screaming babies’ and ourselves? Sexual violence has historically been a major factor in war (which Crass actually did songs about). So would this situation be any different?

The other widely held interpretation is calling to question women who shave their bodies (and adhere to other patriarchal beauty standards). Are these women collaborating with the enemy? The desire to fulfill unrealistic standards (and the consumerism it entails) contributes to the “decadence” that occurs, while “people die.” The more we consume, the quicker it leads to our death.

But! If that’s all we know, do we understand the role of being a collaborator?

Questions, questions…

Crass were pretty open in stating their contradictions. They called for the listener to make up their minds about how something was interpreted. That’s not always necessarily the best thing, considering there are too many people who don’t actually listen to messages, and react to something based on a surface-level reading. However, i do understand what the band means when they say that, especially since they were pretty open about where they stood, when they were a solidly functioning collective.

i am playing Jerome, along with the yet to be named bass and drums…. along with vocals, and a couple of train samples. i’m certainly no Eve Libertine, but… i don’t have to be.

i’m just a bumblebee.

So there you have it… el uno abejorro banda musical, lejos de la colmena por el día. i hope it’s not too bad.

(This post is dedicated to Cicely, Eli and Shamole)

Lars Ulrich. Yeah, i said it.

My favorite band in the whole entire world is Earth Wind & Fire, my favorite artist is Michael Jackson, my favorite music is jazz, and my favorite drummer is Art Blakey. i’m a punk kid who gravitates more towards post punk, and political/anticapitalist hardcore and punk.

i know, i’m pretty mixed up. So where does Metallica fit into all of this?

i enjoy metal music but i would not consider myself to be much of a metalhead. However, Metallica has been my favorite metal band since the age of 14. When i was regularly playing in bands i never played any of their songs in my life. Remember, i was (and still am) a basic drummer (and guitarist, and everything else). But something happened- i got hit by a truck, broke both my legs, and got one of them amputated. My journey with Metallica has been massively different as a whole adult in her 40s, than it was as an angry teenager.

Just like Earth Wind & Fire and Pharoah Sanders are healing salves for me when i am down, Metallica’s music has taken me on a journey in my healing in this period of my life. Not only are the songs well crafted, but they have an emotional resonance i didn’t necessarily grasp when i was younger.

Clyde (as i mentioned in the introductory video) was the catalyst for me getting back into the drums; Lars Ulrich was the inspiration. i was inspired to be up for the challenge.

The first Metallica song i ever learned on these here drums was ‘Blackened’- perhaps one of their most difficult songs in terms of time signatures. It’s also my favorite song of theirs.

Some days are better than others (obviously) but i practiced the song almost every single day… and then one day i got the timing. Is it perfect? Nope. But i continue to practice so i can get better at and refine it. i don’t know if i will ever be on the level of the type of drumming on …And Justice For All (my 2nd favorite Metallica album of all time; Load is no. 1) and i obviously can’t do double bass (i have one leg, remember?), but i figured out ways around it, and did it in a way which fits the basicness that is my drumming.

(pssssssst… there’s nothing wrong with being a basic drummer. And yes, those are Ahead/Lars sticks.)

All the tracks i played to were drumless (which you could find on Guitar Hero). i’ll probably come back and have a ‘Metallica Fridays’ post or something (not Mondays- that was already taken. HA!). Who knows?

Lars… duder, if you ever see this, thanks.

Master Of Puppets was my favorite Metallica album for 30 years (until Load knocked it out the spot), and to teenaged me, ‘Battery’ was the jam. It was the greatest song i ever heard about the thrash scene and moshing (still is; D.R.I.’s ‘Thrashard’ comes second). The play on words is excellent. James Hetfield’s pen and riff game are dope, and the solo is one of my favorites from Kirk Hammett. i remember seeing Metallica on the first leg of their Wherever We May Roam tour in 1991, and just turned 15-year old me was waiting all night to see ‘Battery’. And when they finally did it at the encore, i lost it.

So of course… i wanted to be up for the challenge. This is another song where the timing is not the ‘usual’ 4/4. i messed up a few times, but SO WHAT! (no pun intended).

‘That Was Just Your Life’ is one of my most favorites to play to. Sometimes i play along to the live version, which is almost twice the speed of the album version!

And finally… A LITTLE BASS!

An Introduction, Plus A Few Songs.

Here lies the journey…

‘The Traffic School Song’ was one of the first songs i was messing around with on the SPD-30 (Octoapad).  This specific audio/video situation was recorded back in November 2021.  i am working on getting an actual set (as that will help me get better) but the Octapad has been a great way for me to get some muscle memory back. 

Playing along to The Clash’s ‘Janie Jones’…  i’m definitely not perfect, but the journey is not about being perfect. 

And finally…  one of the most challenging parts of the journey so far!  D.R.I. is one of my favorite hardcore/thrash bands.  Even though i have played drums (and guitar) in several punk bands i was never a hardcore/thrash/metal/’traditional’ punk drummer.  Though i played in bands i never had a set of my own.   Because of those limitations i saw myself as a pretty basic drummer (which i still am!!!); my primary inspirations were post punk players like Hugo Burnham (Gang Of Four), Robert Grey (Wire) and Valerie Scroggins (ESG); as well as folks like David Lovering (Pixies). 

Will i ever get to the point where i’m as advanced as an Art Blakey, a Terri Lyne Carrington, Billy Cobham, Tony Royster Jr., Chris Dave, Tony Williams, Sheila Escovedo, Buddy Rich, Bernard Purdy, Neil Peart, Dave Lombardo, Mike Portnoy, Max Roach, Jeff Porcaro, Louie Bellson…  and the countless other amazing drummers and percussionists- including those on sites like youtube?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  What counts most is the journey, and the things i learn along the way. 

And while i am CERTAINLY no Felix Griffin, ‘Mad Man’ is an extreme challenge and a workout (for a basic drummer like me), as well as fun to play!