Sunday, March 15

Still kicking ass after all these years

Gretings. For those offended by the title of this post, you might want to skip this entry. For others, keep reading.

Metallica is my other fave band of all time. True, the pair of Petra and Metallica doesn't necessarily fit, at least when put together, but they each have their place in my world. Petra has brought me closer to God, and Metallica has (no, not what you're thinking), helped me cope with reality. No, I'm not doing drugs or anything like that. However, for lack of better phrasing, when your blind/disabled, you need some way of dealing with the mass of stupid people, or those that ask questions such as, "How do you get around campus without going up steps," or the ever popular, "Do you read lips?" Okay, to be truthful, I wasn't asked this second one directly, but a friend of mine was. Anyway, with all the daily stress you got from a job, boss, paperwork, etc., there needs to be an outlet for that stress. Or, in my case, for the dealing with stupid or "misinformed" or "ignorant" people. Metallica has filled that void perfectly. So far, they've been the only group to relieve that stress. There's nothing like putting on headphones, raising the volume, and jamming to Metallica to fulfill that need for satisfaction. Along with playing some truly awesome songs over their history, they've also helped me to calm down after a stresfull confrontation, whether it be with a "stupid" person, a coworker, or a family member. Yes, even family can bring stress.

They've also seen me through my recent training at The Seeing Eye. Many times while waiting for my instructor to come back with another student, I was jamming to Metallica, listening to a CD in the van's stereo and jacking the volume up to, well, loud. Or loud for me. I don't usually blast my stereo, but it's something I've started doing more of with the Sirius Satellite radio, and something I started doing more often in that Seeing Eye van. I often wondered if my fellow students and other instructors would bring this fact up to me at other times in class, saying that they could hear the music from down the block, but I didn't really care. No one ever did by the way, not that it would have mattered. I especially enjoy live cuts, and when the cut of "Cyanide" came on, as performed at Oz Fest last year, well, let's just say that those were times when you probably could have heard the CD from down the block. If you were to pass by the van at that point, which some people did, you would have seen me "head banging," bouncing up and down and I'm sure causing Gucci my new guide to look at me with quisical looks, wondering what I was up to. Those were fun times and ones that I'll always remember fondly.

Oddly enough, my first 'Tallica tape wasn't bought till about 10 years ago when I got the "Black" album that came out in 1991. I really burned that tape up, especially in the dorm at college. I especially enjoyed cranking the songs "Of Wold and Man" and "Through the Never." My first Metallica CD was the S&M double live album in the fall of 1999. I probably scored a little lower on my final exams that semester due to the listening that I did.

Favorite Metallica album: I've been going over this for the past day or so and can't really come up with anything, at least if we go by the criteria of loving each song and being able to listen to each song an infinite number of times without getting tired of it. For Metallica, I need to slightly alter the criteria to be: loving almost every song, since it seems like there's one or two songs I could point to on many of their albums that I could listen to in a pinch, but I really don't like all that much. In other words, if there's nothing else on the radio, then I'll listen to them, but I also won't go looking for these tunes to hear either. So, if that's the criteria, then my fave albums, in no particular order would be: "Death Magnetic," "... And Justice for All," and "Master of Puppets." If "unforgiven III" wasn't on the Magnetic album, then it would be perfect. Not only does it sound lesser than I know they can do, it doesn't even fit the pattern of the first two Unforgiven songs, in style or melody. But it's stil in that group of fave discs.

I've never been to a "live" Metallica show, preferring to live through their own live recordings, on the Live Sh*t disc and the recent incarnation of the Live Metallica site, where you can purchase shows and download them for a nominal fee for your listening pleasure. I'd love to go to a 'Tallica show someday, but for me, whenever I've contemplated going to a show my first problem has always been how will I get there, who can I get to go with, and that's where the desire stops since in my past that would involve having to justify going on a school night or asking a family member, none of whom, except maybe one of my brothers, would even entertain that notion.

In some instances, I love the recorded versions of songs better than the studio versions. The first two Metallica albums fit in this category. Aside from a few songs, like "Fade to Black," "For Whom the Bell Tolls," and one or two others, I really can't listen to those records. However, I absolutely love hearing those songs played live. There's just a certain quality of the live song that you don't get with the recorded one. Perhaps it's that you can hear more of the band's style when they play live; perhaps it's that James interacts with the audience, which gives a special feel to it; or, perhaps it's because it seems like live songs are played faster than their studio counterparts. Whatever the reason, I love the live songs. I read the book, "Slash," by Slash from the former Guns N' Roses superpower in the late eighties and early nineties, and according to him, he said that you can tell more of what a band's like by how they play songs live. I scoffed at that when I read it, but upon reflection and listening to some Guns' songs I have live and some Metallica songs, it makes sense. There's just something about hearing a good live recording, not one where the crowd noise is piped in for affect, or where the lead singer says something generic between songs like, "How's everybody feel?" But one where you can hear how the band fits together and why they're together.

I first heard Metallica on the now discontinued rock music network known as Z-Rock, when they were playing the "Black" album. Hearing "Sad But True" was the song that did it for me. So heavy, but so groovy; it had a slow melodic rhythm that jumped out at me and drew me in. That was the song that I had the thought of, "I've got to check this group out," which I did, slowly over time. Around 1992 or 93, the local rock station in Dallas, 97.1 The Eagle, started something that they did for at least 18-24 months, each night at 11 or midnight, they would play 20-30 minutes of nothing but Metallica, calling it "Manditory Metallica." This is where I really got familiar with the body of work up until that date. In 1997, the Eagle was part of the group of stations nationwide that airred a live question and answer session with Metallica and where the band played certain songs in acoustic form, for several hours one night. I also remember when "Enter Sandman" was big, and you even heard it on the local top 40 station, all be it in a slightly editted and shortened form. It was shortened I believe not so much because of any language, but because the station didn't want to be pegged as a heavy metal station. I think it even went up the top 40 weekly charts for a little while anyway, which was neat to see.

The "Black" album really changed Metallica. Sure, if they had continued in the direction they were headed in after the Justice album, then who knows where and what they might have gone and become. But, in other ways, after releasing the "Black" album in 91, they ended up drawing more fans than they might have otherwise done if they had stuck in the small metal category they were in before. Sure, there was some aspect of poppishness to some songs, like "Enter Sandman." But then again, who can argue with the heaviness of "Sad But True," or the grinding of "Holier Than Thou," and other songs that appeased the metal head. I think they carried on that more mainstream theme with Load and Reload later in the nineties, but still satisfied their core rock/metal fans. They disappointed and lost a lot of people with the "Saint Anger" record in 2003, but I think they gained those fans back, or a good portion of them anyway, with "Death Magnetic" released last year. I read earlier today that the Magnetic disc went platnum after only 3 weeks. Pretty good for an artist who lost many people with their prior record. And yet they continue touring. Any group that tours as much as Metallica doesn't do it for the money; rather, they tour because they want to play live. That's what I want to see in a group I listen to. Too many musicians do it for the money or because they "need" the money and those are the ones I dont' want to support. Metallica is one of the few groups that i'll probably keep digging even 10 years and more from now.

So here's to you Metallica; keep rocking, keep kicking ass, keep giving us great metal. Good on you for what you've done, and here's hoping that it continues for another 10-15 years, or longer.

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