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The Sound of Metal

Truth be told,Metallica has always been more than just another band. For a few,they were the inspiration to pick up the guitar and make its strings screech that electrifying lead solo from Unforgiven.

Written by JimmyJacob |
October 30, 2011 4:15:56 am

With Metallica performing in India,here’s a look at how they won the mantle of the crown prince of metal

Truth be told,Metallica has always been more than just another band. For a few,they were the inspiration to pick up the guitar and make its strings screech that electrifying lead solo from Unforgiven. For the less talented,they were the stepping stone to appreciating a new genre of sound. Heavy metal.

It would be safe to assume that most metal enthusiasts in India have been initiated to this genre of music either through Metallica or Iron Maiden. But the most ardent Bruce Dickinson (lead vocalist of Maiden) fan would agree that Metallica packs more power onstage — and that too without spooky lights and grinning Eddie mannequins.

Metallica’s story proves that life can take you places,provided you play the right strings. When James Hetfield first responded to an advertisement by drummer Lars Ulrich,seeking “metal musicians to jam with Tygers of Pan Tang,Diamond Head and Iron Maiden”,he probably didn’t imagine that the resultant collaboration would,one day ,sell over 100 million records across the globe.

Today,30 years since it sprouted out of oblivion in 1981,Metallica stands apart as the crown prince of metal. It’s been a long journey,and the band,for better or worse,has played a crucial role in alternately shaping and shaking the foundations of music biz.

The first significant milestone in the band’s journey to musical glory was Kill ’Em All (1983), their debut album that underperformed financially but managed to gather a cult following through tracks like The four horsemen,Seek and destroy and Whiplash. Though it didn’t really meet the standards that define Metallica today,the album served to lay the ground for more successful ones in its wake,including Master of Puppets (1986),… And Justice for All (1988) and the all-time cult classic The Black Album (1991).

Now,this may not be something that Metallica would take credit for,but it unwittingly spawned a second band — almost as great where musical genius is concerned — through the expulsion of Dave Mustaine in 1983. Though the reason for Mustaine getting the boot was supposed “drug and alcohol abuse”,the ex-Metallica lead guitarist formed Megadeth,a band dedicated to playing “faster and heavier” than his ex-buddies. Well,he succeeded,and Megadeth is now a part of the “Big Four of Thrash”.

In the following years,Metallica released Load (1996) and ReLoad (1997) with songs like Hero of the day and The memory remains,which topped the charts and achieved critical success. The albums proved that Metallica was capable of serious lyrics dealing with the bigger issues of justice and drug addiction.

Hetfield and his troupe,however,have been known for taking hard decisions,some of which ended up alienating their fans. The first happened in 2000,with the file-sharing website Napster. Peeved that I disappear,a track created for Mission Impossible-2 ,had been leaked on the Net before it was released,Metallica filed a suit against Napster and won. Napster users who had ever downloaded a Metallica track were barred from the service. This move was widely criticised and might have eroded some of the band’s fan base.

Another idea that backfired was Metallica’s decision to give its 2003 album,St Anger,a “raw garage feel”. Though it did have its moments,many of their more traditional fans rued that the album did not have enough guitar solo. Nonetheless,St Anger won the Grammy for Best Metal Performance in 2004.

Over the years,Metallica has been the inspiration to new-age musicians,including Jonathan Davis of Korn and M Shadows of Avenged Sevenfold. And even when they are just playing covers,their versions turn out to be better than the original,for instance,the Celtic folk song Whiskey in the jar.

Even if Metallica has made some unpopular decisions in its long career,for its fans,it is the quintessential metal band that created rock anthems like Enter Sandman and left generations singing “Exit light / Enter night / Take my hand / We’re off to never never-land.”

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