Loading...
Big Four

Metallica: A Tale of Squandered Potential

Comments (0)

By

Tue, Feb 19, 2013 at 3:35 AM
click to enlarge Metallica today
  • Metallica today

No band has ever failed to live up to its own potential quite like Metallica. While the other three quarters of thrash metal's "big four" (Anthrax, Megadeth and Slayer) still cut records and tour for receptive audiences, Metallica moved on to Kid Rock and Nickelback territory. We're used to it now, but it's easy to forget that this was the band that made Kill 'Em All.

The general consensus on Metallica is this: They peaked with Master of Puppets. ...And Justice For All was a bit of a departure, but still a solid record. Then came the self-titled album, followed by the haircuts (Load and ReLoad), hooking up with that guy from Suicidal Tendencies to make a bad Kyuss record (St. Anger), failed attempts at reclaiming past glories (Death Magnetic) and then, well, Loutallica. I have a more heretical view of Metallica's catalog; I think they peaked at Kill 'Em All and I'm not quite sure what happened afterward.

See also: Lulu Is the Best Album of 2011

Metallica's debut is a pitch-perfect foray into the world of heavy metal thunder. The riffs sound like Motörhead played at 45 rpms, Hetfield's vocals a slightly grittier version of NWOBHM outfit Sweet Savage's Ray Haller. While clearly laying the template for the shape of metal to come, Kill 'Em All is, above all else, a very fast and heavy rock and roll record. The debut records of the other "Big Four" bands feature tighter-than-tight, palm-muted, all-down-stroke riff fests, whereas Metallica's freshman effort still has the little shimmy and wiggle that's made people shake their ass since Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley.

click to enlarge Metallica before
  • Metallica before

Compare the intro of Kill 'Em All to that of Ride The Lightning. The former opens with the bombast of four guys trying to out-loud each during a soundcheck. The latter begins with a little chamber music, an intro that sounds more like harpsichord than rock guitar. It's not that Ride has nothing good to offer. On the contrary, "Creeping Death" stands as one of the band's best efforts not on Kill 'Em All. But can you imagine "Fade To Black" anywhere on their debut?

Now take a look at Master of Puppets: Popular consensus maintains that this is "the best Metallica record." And, indeed, it is an improvement over Ride. "Battery" is a crucial track, while "The Thing That Should Not Be" and "Damage Inc." show the band being heavy and accessible at the same time. They seem on the verge of something really big throughout.

Related Content

Related

Now Trending

Los Angeles Concert Tickets

Slideshows

  • Nico Vega's Album Release Party
    The Sunset Strip burned up the music scene as Nico Vega launched their Lead to Light record release bash Monday night at The Roxy. Dark Waves played an amazing debut performance, while Queen Caveat broke open the the jammed packed club. Nico Vegas frontwoman Aja Volkman danced in the crowd, brought the party on stage, and painted dots on fans foreheads. Good times as always on the Strip! All photos by Michele McManmon.
  • Air Guitar Championship Semifinals @ The Troubadour
    The Southwest Semifinals of the US Air Guitar Championship were held last Saturday at the historic Troubadour Club in West Hollywood. The event determined who would compete as regional representatives at the 2014 National Finals in Kansas City on August 9th. The colorful contestants (many of whom opted for elaborate codpieces) were judged by comedians Kristen Schaal and the Sklar Brothers. The top score was awarded to crowd-surfing guitarist Kingslayer, the mother of a teenage son who also competed wearing little more than an American flag bathing suit. All photos by Gustavo Turner.
  • Lina in L.A. -- Country in the City
    Greg Allman kicked off KCRW and the Annenberg Foundation's free concert series on Saturday evening in cool fashion. The series, in conjunction with Annenberg's current exhibit, "Country -- Portrait of An American Sound," features superstars and rising stars from the genre on an outdoor stage in Century Park, plus food trucks, beer gardens and museum entry. More info at kcrw.com.