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 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.
Earlier in the day (at least where i live) i watched a livestream of Metallica headlining the Download Festival (formerly Donnington). They have played several of them over the years, most notably in 2004, when Lars was hospitalized right before the show, and Dave Lombardo, Joey Jordinson and Flemming Larsen sat in for him.
Speaking of… Here is what Jordinson (who is probably having a conversation with Larsen, Cliff Burton and John Bonham somewhere in space) had to say about Lars, in an interview with Metal Hammer magazine in 2016: “A lot of people give this guy shit, but they need to shut their fucking mouths because Lars Ulrich is probably one of the best and most innovative drummers ever. I got to tour with the guy and I watched him play every night from behind the kit, and his double bass was completely on point. He’s also one of the best businessmen that keeps this type of music going; he’s the heart of the whole fucking community, because Metallica are the kings. There’ll never be anybody that will match them, and Lars is a huge, huge part of that. Without that guy, and the influence of that band, I wouldn’t even be sitting here talking to you. Lars is one of my gods and he always will be. That guy fucking rules, period. So when I got the call asking if I’d fill in for him at Download festival, of course I knew everything because he’s one of my hugest influences. I remember playing to his shit all the time growing up and trying to be as good as him. Our technical abilities are way different but I’ll still never be as good as that guy, and getting to sit in his stool was one of the biggest fucking dreams come true. What an honor. I love that dude.”
You already know how i feel about Lars. While the experience and soundtrack of Metallica is what’s helped me tremendously through out this (still relatively new) journey as an amputee; it is Lars that has inspired me to do these drumming posts. And after playing to ‘The Judas Kiss’, i really don’t understand why people give the guy such a hard time. i understand that there have been things he’s done that are not immune from critique; but to totally say he’s a bad drummer makes no sense to me. There is no way Lars could arrange the songs in the way he does, with the mass variations in timing/signatures; if he was such a ‘bad drummer’. There’s no way he could be as in sync with James Hetfield as he is, if he was such a ‘bad drummer’. In learning to play these songs (in my own way, of course), it’s clear that he listens to the riffs, and creates narratives around that.
Up to this point, this song for some reason was the hardest for me to get through. There’s songs to me in the catalog that are actually harder, but for some reason i had a lot of trouble getting through this one. i definitely didn’t attempt to echo all of the rolls and fills done in the song. i’m not that great- which is why i ask again, why are people saying Lars is a ‘bad drummer’?
Either way, i hope i did alright.
‘The Judas Kiss’ is my favorite song on Death Magnetic, the follow-up release to the heavily polarizing (and heavily adored by me) St. Anger. The original/demo version (entitled ‘Gymbag’) was a bit slower, had some additional riffs, and a whole different set of lyrics, the best of them being ‘On your feet, or on your knees/Freedom is just one of these’. That definitely would have fit, but not as much as the finalized more powerful and menacing ‘Judas lives, recite this vow/I’ve become your new god now!’
There’s more than a few biblical references throughout Metallica’s catalog, just as there are veiled (and not-so-veiled) references to addiction. Generally, this song seems to have the (other) running theme of humans generally having the capacity in them to do evil things. Like Judas Iscariot (in the bible), despite being one of the 12 disciples, he was also faced with temptation. With that, he ratted Jesus out. You aim to do good in the world, and everything goes wrong. So what do you do? Your halo turns to fire.
This song, the more i thought about it, made me think of the ending scene of the director’s cut of one of my favorite movies of all time, the 1986 version of Little Shop Of Horrors. Aside from the stark anticonsumerist message (which is why i love it), it’s visually stunning. In line with the theme of the song, Seymour (the main character) aimed to do good as well. He longed to save his romantic interest from an abusive relationship. He wanted the shop he worked at to stay afloat… but he made a deal in which the consequences not only changed his life, but every single person around him, both locally and remotely. It was a deal he could never escape.
So i did the Dark Side Of The Moon/Wizard Of Oz move, and did an experiment to see if things would work out.
And it fit perfectly.
Little Shop actually has another connection for me: When i just got out of the hospital, my cousin was my primary caretaker. She fed me, cleaned the commode, washed my clothes, and helped to change the dressings on my leg, when my legs still had major open wounds. Our life’s perspectives and ideologies were vastly different. However, one of the things we shared was our common love of Little Shop Of Horrors. She would come in, and we’d sing the songs, and recite the lines together. i will always cherish those moments.
i am posting two versions here: the one of me playing the song in full (where for some reason the camera decided to cut off towards the end), and the Little Shop version. i also recommend playing the scene to the actual song where Lars is playing.
i always love when the bass opens a Metallica song. It’s a good chance the song will be a head nodder. It’s just a groove.
Keeping up with today’s theme though (of biblical references and temptation and likely references to addiction), we’ve got ‘Devil’s Dance’ (from the other polarizing (and much adored by me)) album, ReLoad. As complicated as ‘Judas Kiss’ was for me, it was also nice to take a little break, and just chill.
i mean… who can hate this song? It’s got one of Hetfield’s best ever ‘YEAH’s in their whole catalog; The bass intros the song; it’s a perfect example of the drums communicating clearly with the rhythm guitar; the solo (as was common during this period) initially had minimal notes, then moved into those blues scales (which i always love), sounding both chaotic and smooth all at once.
One thing i do know: If you take a chance on this song, you WILL dance.
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.”
i’m gonna be honest: there was a point where i just wasn’t feeling it this week.
Depression can do that to you. It’s inexplicable. It comes and goes in quick waves sometimes; other times it takes up a mass load of space. When i’m feeling tired and unmotivated i have to closely watch myself, to make sure i’m not entering a crisis. When playing music is not helping (and it certainly wasn’t helping this week), i know i’m verging on the edge of trouble. When i’m there everything that normally seems okay to play, i can’t seem to mentally make connections. Nothing i play comes out right. Fortunately, it passed right as it was about to get to that edge. As i was recording for this week’s session, a lot of what i was feeling began to pass.
i can’t believe it’s been five months since i’ve started these posts. Five months in this journey of not only Metallica being part of the soundtrack of living and learning post amputation; it’s also been a journey of me working on being okay with just letting go and allowing myself to JUST PLAY. i maintain that listening to and experiencing Metallica prior to the accident is extremely different than it is now. To echo the words of a Mr. Hetfield- When it comes to be a soothing ride towards a new day, there was a semi truck that came my way.
The positive of that will always be a reacquaintance with the things i never knew i would return to in the ways they have… not only playing music, but also myself. And while depression is not something that miraculously goes away, i have become better at reading when the freight train (or the semi truck, if you will) is approaching.
With that, we’ll start with something that might actually feel like a freight train to folks… one of the worst pains in existence on this earth: a toothache. Not too many things will down you faster than a toothache. Apparently Cliff Burton may have been thinking the same thing, because he made a tune (supposedly) inspired by it.
And while i absolutely love playing the bass to Metallica songs, i in no way shape or form am at the level of a Cliff Burton, so i did not play ‘Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth)’. i did play drums to it though. The thing i love about this song is that the band decided to do a song with BASS AS THE PRIMARY INSTRUMENT, AND NO GUITAR on their first album.
No… even better. The DRUMS came in after a couple of minutes. Bass and drums- the two instruments people love to make fun of all the time.
‘Hardwired’ is quite fun to play. It was the last song written for the album bearing it’s name (Hardwired…. To Self Destruct), and it was once again, the band saying, “We don’t need to prove our chops to you, but once again, here you go. Now shut up and stop complaining how we ‘sold out’.” It was a great opener to a pretty emotionally devastating (at least to me) album.
Come on. We had to get here eventually.
Yes, it is ‘Enter Sandman.’ Yes, it has been played to the point where everyone knows the song, whether or not they know the band who made it. As i’ve said several times though, there really is a difference between consuming a piece of music, and listening to a piece of music. ‘Enter Sandman’ really is a great song, in terms of its construction.
Thank you Kirk Lee Hammett for laying that groundwork. And thank you Bob Rock for encouraging the lyrical changes. ‘Disrupt the perfect family’ honestly is not as powerful as the contrast of Never Never Land and nighttime prayers, with nightmares and the sandman. Given that Metallica have also prided themselves on writing songs where the lyrics are open for interpretation, a song’s subject matter as specific as crib death honestly would not have worked as well, especially given the content of the other songs on the album. i don’t think ‘Harvester Of Sorrow’ pt. 2 would have worked.
i did switch it up a bit. Inspired by the switch-up of ‘The Unforgiven’, i half timed the verses, while the chorus (which was originally half speed) went in the other direction. Interestingly (but maybe not surprising to some), it gave the song a little bit more of a ‘Southern rock’ reading.
(This post is dedicated to Carly, who has helped me tremendously in dealing with some mental stuff. Thanks for the connection.)
Okay… so i am FINALLY doing an MJ-related post. You may be asking yourself, ‘if you’re not that big on pop music, why do you always mention that Michael Jackson is your favorite artist?’
The thing is, while i actually do enjoy his music my love for MJ actually has nothing to do with his music. To me, the art he has produced has to do everything with his experience outside of that art. Sociopolitically, he is an incredibly polarizing figure. He is the physical embodiment of a warning of what happens when you don’t deal with childhood trauma in healthy, wholistic ways. He strongly challenged hypermasculinity- and at the same time embraced particular types of misogyny.
Because he is either extremely lionized or demonized, there aren’t to many examinations of his contradictions in ways that humanize him.
He grew up being trained by the decidedly (so-called) apolitical Motown machine (where he aimed to use that as a virtue as a celebrity), while the world around him- with its political upheavals, police terror upon economically and sociopolitically marginalized communities, and even changes in how art was created- did not reflect that same apoliticism. He went from the lyrical idealism of ‘We Are The World’ and ‘Black Or White’ … to the anger of the visual second half of ‘Black Or White’ and ‘They Don’t Care About Us.’ While being seen as a (so-called) liberal, he espoused unchecked (so-called) conservative values, with songs like ‘Wanna Be (Startin’ Somethin’)’. If, say, a republican politician said something like, “If you can’t feed your baby, then don’t have a baby,” many of MJ’s fans would probably be upset. Understandably, given that said politician has the ability to create policies.
However, Michael Jackson sang those lyrics, and many who would take up issue with the politician, happily sing those same lyrics. Even songs like ‘Man In The Mirror’ and ‘Keep The Faith’ read with a sort of ‘bootstrap theory’ conservatism that he gets away with consistently. i see thousands upon thousands of criticisms when it comes to the ‘persona’ of MJ, but never a solid critique of the lyrical content.
The strongest defense of his conservatism (if people were inclined to defend that sort of thing) is the posthumously released ‘Abortion Papers (aka ‘Song Groove’)’. Given that the man wrote a ton of songs, it’s curious to me why they chose THAT one to be released on Bad 25. His contradictions are vast- and again, if ANYONE else were to do at least a quarter of the things he did, no one would be talking about his impact, even 13 years after his absence on this earth.
‘But the values you espouse are the polar opposite of his- why is he your favorite artist?’
Because he was the very public face of so many of our internal and societal struggles and contradictions. No one has done that before, and no one has done that since. Michael Jackson was the catalyst for me to actively want to work on my own healing from childhood trauma. i had a similar childhood (without the fame, obviously), and i didn’t want to end up like him. MJ’s music (and how he presented himself) isn’t just a bunch of popular culture jargon; it’s about how an African man did his best to survive environments that consistently attempted to box him in. i have a ton of criticisms all day about it, but for all intents and purposes he was declared ‘weird’ both by internal circles and outside of them, and he embraced that weird.
Most probably see him as a larger-than life celebrity (who did some weird stuff); i see him as a person learning to survive in a world that enabled excess and consumption as a means of dealing with any sort of struggle. Whether it’s ‘celebrity culture’ thriving and profiting off of mental health breakdowns, or family, friend or religious communities encouraging you to perform/pray/laugh the pain away; Michael Jackson left this earth never really having gotten the help he needed.
This Is It (which i finally watched after 9 years of boycotting it) is the WORST movie i have ever seen in my life. MJ was clearly going through the motions, and his voice was diminished where, even at the final scene after the credits’ roll, he’s just having a mini tantrum. The movie was terribly edited, and was a clear cash grab/rush job. For 2.5 years i was in the midst of writing a book on MJ, where i interviewed people who were impacted by him, who loved him and who worked directly with him. The book’s primary theme was not a biography, but it was about him being the catalyst to my own healing. He passed, as i was 3/4 of the way done. After June 25, 2009 i ceased writing it, out of respect to him. i never really looked at the book again, and honestly don’t have a desire to.
i felt incredibly disgusted by a film like This Is It, because Michael Jackson, to me, was more than an entertainer. Past the music and the image, his impact reached people in places who don’t even have much access to many of those things. All This Is It proved was that Michael Jackson’s labor was exploited, just like the rest of us. Capitalism be capitalismin’.
So doing this post wasn’t that easy for me. Because as much as i like MJ’s music, i realize that i don’t really CARE about the music, as much as i think about the impact he’s made on my life in ways outside of it. MJ’s music didn’t get me through hard times (like, say, a Metallica). MJ didn’t influence my political analysis (like punk did). MJ got me to get up and dance- but just getting up and dance isn’t what makes you my favorite artist.
i tried playing to a number of songs, and it was hard. I wasn’t necessarily in a mental space because again, while there are songs i find some value in, i don’t connect with the songs in the same ways i connect with (again), a Metallica. i mean, ‘Childhood’ is a musical rationalization for why the dude should continue problematic behavior. “I am the way i am because… bad childhood. SO LET ME BE ME!!!” i’m like, ‘Michael, i had a traumatic childhood too homie. No excuse.’
But i digress…
The other thing about his music- particularly with later stuff- is that its base is drum programming. So i need to practice the songs a little more to get to an arrangement that makes at least a modicum of sense. i’m not a John Robinson or a Jonathan Moffett. i’m not the best at ghost notes (yet), and ghost notes are ALLLLLLL over MJ albums. With that, i figured i’d start out with some earlier stuff.
i suppose we will be chronological here, and start with some Jackson 5. From (the one of my favorites from that era) and Third Album we have the deep cut ‘How Funky Is Your Chicken’. The post 60s era of Motown is my favorite, because (a. the musicians got to show their chops a bit more (as opposed to the constraints of appealing to ‘Middle America’), and (b. While not incredibly revolutionary, the music had more political subject matter (to Berry Gordy’s chagrin).
‘Chicken’ is a fun song; it’s one of many that highlighted a ‘dance craze’ (shout out to Rufus Thomas). Can y’all do the funky chicken? DO ITTTTTTTT!
Next, we have the title track from a (from my vantage point) pretty slept-on J5 album, ‘Skywriter’. The song had an early use of the flanger, plus some pretty dope bass lines. The album also has the very questionable ‘Touch’ (which the Supremes also did- it was not unusual for Motown groups to do a lot of the same songs). That song is WAY too adult for a bunch of kids to be singing.
Nevertheless, ‘Skywriter’ is fairly innocuous, considering.
Finally, we have one of my top 5 favorite MJ songs of all time, ‘Take Me Back’, from one of my top favorite albums, Forever, Michael. Though they popped out on occasion on other albums, that was the album where you really began to see some of the beloved flourishes MJ did as an adult.
i have every J5 and MJ album on vinyl; two of the singles from Forever, Michael (‘Take Me Back’ and ‘We’re Almost There’) are the first time i recall there being completely different mixes from the album versions. In interviews, he stated that Forever, Michael was the first album where he felt free to contribute to making decisions in regards to the process. The album was a clear nod to varying musical styles and artists popular around that time- Chicago and Barry White among others, but of course it’s got Michael’s stamp all over it. With its horns and strings (plus MJ’s desperate vocals), ‘Take Me Back’ sounds simultaneously hopeful/optimistic and downtrodden.
Even though i’ve written songs over the years (and continue to), i never exactly focused on the construction of a song in the ways i do now. Doing these challenges has given me a bigger insight into it all. It has also led me to think even more how one doesn’t have to know how to play music in order to critique it; however, i think the critique would most likely look a whole lot different if they did. It’s not easy to construct a song, and while i don’t think it’s necessary to like every song on the planet i am beginning to have a bit more general kindness for people who take the time to do it.
i am not playing these songs in the ‘traditional’ way they tend to be covered (not only because i’m an amputee, but i’m also not that great in comparison to those who play this music), but doing this really has given me a much bigger appreciation for Metallica’s music- and music in general. Eight months ago, if you told me i’d be playing ‘Blackened’ i would have laughed at you.
Is it better to play it in your own way (making lots of mistakes along the way) and find your groove until you finally hit a point where it feels right; or is it better to complain that you aren’t getting it ‘right’, and not play at all? For someone who’s not that great at drumming (again, in comparison to the many who play to this type of music) to be on the 19th week of learning, practicing and covering Metallica songs… i’d say that is an accomplishment i’d never thought i would see.
i enjoy doing this every week; it’s incredibly healing, and it helps take my mind off of the more traumatic things happening in my life. Doing this is incredibly humbling. This was the first week though, where i’m really starting to just let go and truly embrace it all. i’m calculating it via ‘spiritual math’ (as Clint Wells of Metal Up Your Podcast tends to say) when i choose which songs i’m going to cover each week. Honestly, the songs choose me. The more i do this, there are songs i begin to connect with in ways i hadn’t before.
‘Am I Savage’ is one of those songs.
It’s actually one of my favorite songs in the Metallica catalog. That said, though (of course) i listened to it enough for it to be one of my favorites, i never LISTENED to it until doing it for this post. People focus on that amazing riff (you know which one i’m talking about), but really, it’s an incredibly haunting, moving song. On the surface it can be interpreted as another one of those ‘werewolf/maybe Ktulu’-type songs. On the musical tip, the opening riff reminds me of something Duane Denison would play, merged with the obvious Sabbath influence. Lyrically is where it hits a bit deep.
Say hello to junior dad The greatest disappointment Age withered him and changed him Into junior dad Psychic savagery
This is exactly what i thought about when actually listening to ‘Am I Savage’. ‘Junior Dad’, the almost 20-minute final song on the much maligned Lulu, the collaboration the band made with Lou Reed. While the lyrics (inspired by German playwright Frank Wedekind’s ‘Lulu’ play cycle) had some questionable things on occasion, i love the music. That said, ‘Junior Dad’ is an incredibly moving piece, and it is one i return to.
In the piece, the narrator laments the fact that he sees his father- a man who despised him- in himself. ‘Am I Savage’, to me, holds a similar theme. The video accompanying the song involves a man becoming more and more distant from his family, coworkers and other surroundings… and eventually himself. Like much of the Metallica oeuvre, there are various songs- some veiled and some not so veiled- regarding familial relationships and addiction. Instead of the desired connection with nature of ‘Of Wolf And Man’ for instance, is the “savage… scratching at the door” the “dog at (the) back step” from ‘Low Man’s Lyric’?
Is the beauty the high, and the beast the withdrawal?
Inheritance, the past has bit again
James Hetfield has been very open about his father leaving at the age of 13, and his mother’s passing at 16. In the documentary Absent, he addressed the roots of his struggles with alcohol addiction, where he “masked feelings of abandonment.” He also spoke about utilizing particular tools of eschewing emotion, in order to deal with said abandonment, since everyone he loved tended to leave. It was an “easy way to not get close to anybody.”
I feel, The ever changing, you, in me
You saw a little bit of the patterns in Some Kind Of Monster, where he describes celebrating his son’s first birthday in Russia, hunting bears and loading up on vodka for fuel. It got to the point where his wife made an ultimatum, a move Hetfield says saved his life.
He also acknowledges a particular “integrity” that comes with closing yourself off; however, he also says that “most of it is the shield.” On the vagueness of lyrics (despite them also being personal), he says that people are going to “relate to the struggle, and know that there’s someone out there helping speak about this.”
Beauty and the Beast are colliding
While i definitely do play instruments i don’t identify as a musician. It was only within the past few years where i identified as a writer, despite writing for decades. While that riff (yes, that riff) is one of their greatest, it’s the words i connect with the most here, having struggled with some of the same things- with an alcoholic mother, emotionally absent/narcissist stepfather, people dear to me leaving this earth, and closing myself off to people due to fear of rejection.
Transforming into the people you worked hard to escape is scary.
Speaking of words… the next song for this post has only been performed once (in London, UK (August 20, 1987) while ‘Am I Savage’ has been performed zero times (!!!)). ‘Crash Course In Brain Surgery’ stays faithful to the skeleton of the Budgie original, but of course it’s done in the Metallica way- it’s got twice the fills (where the OG only has about a couple), the singing got left out of the bridge (similar to ‘Breadfan’), and while Burke Shelley (who physically transitioned over the past year) does end the song with a few ‘Yeahs,’ it pales in comparison to what James does, which to me is second best only to ‘Fuel’ in all of the band’s catalog. The whole song is great (as is Budgie’s original) but sometimes i just replay that ‘Yeah Yeah… YEAH YEAH!’ over and over… and over.
‘Fight Fire With Fire’ (performed only 339 times- last on May 12, 2022 at Belo Horizonte, Brazil)) is absolute proof that i’m not a musician. i have absolutely no idea what i’m doing technically, but i did what felt decent (at least for now). The funny thing about all this is that when i isolated the drums i did, the way the song is SUPPOSED to be (on the up beat as opposed to the down beat) made more sense. i didn’t change the pattern at all, but when i was playing with the song (and when i would listen to all tracks) the drums would constantly mentally flip back and forth consistently. Despite me not switching patterns, flipping them in my head actually helped me get through the song. As anyone who reads this blog knows, i am a major fan of rhythmic illusions. So of course this is one of my favorites of the band. i am trying to imagine how a bunch of 21, 22-year olds sat and wrote a song like this. The song totally messes you up, structurally, trying to play it. It has to be one of two things: (a. Cliff Burton (who co-wrote the song (and was the primary influence of the intro) used his knowledge of music theory and composition to help craft the songs, or (b. the dudes (for the most part) ultimately had no idea what they were doing in terms of structure, and they were just going on adrenaline and did something until it sounded great.
i know that Lars’ long-time drum tech Flemming Larsen (who recently left this earth) did give him some drum lessons around this time. So perhaps that was a contribution to the construction of this song. However it happened, ‘Fight Fire With Fire’ is definitely one of the greatest album intros of all time.
And of course i can’t keep apologizing for doing no double bass on these tracks… I ONLY HAVE ONE FOOT, Y’ALL! i do what i can. It’s better to play with one foot (and not be perfect) than not at all!!!
Also… this song will always be timely.
i honestly like how James Hetfield puts it: He describes his musical relationship with Lars as one being of Lars as a frustrated guitar player, and he being the frustrated drummer. Jason Newsted also described Metallica as a ‘two-man garage band,’ something to that effect. The more i play to this music the better i begin to understand what they are talking about. Traditionally, the bass and drums tend to follow one another. But Lars ALWAYS follows James. ‘Fight Fire With Fire’ is a perfect example (out of many) of this occurring.
i decided to do a little challenge: play the Metal Hammer version of ‘Fight Fire’. After i was done, i wanted to cry. Their set from 1985’s Metal Hammer festival is in the top 3 of my favorite Metallica shows of all time. i messed up a few times but you know what? i did it. The fact that they did even FASTER versions of this song… i just can’t. Having performed live on stage a whole bunch of times, that adreniline definitely gets to you. But dang. To play that fast and not be sloppy (and yeah, sometimes they were) is a mean feat. To play that fast on bass with fingers… To play that fast with mostly downpicking… To play the skank beat and double kick that fast consistently…
Say what you want and will about this band. But playing these songs give me an even bigger amount of respect. The fact that they are able to laugh at their mistakes does the same.