The Ninth Album: Is There Hope Left for Metallica?

There’s an interesting article over at The Trukstop about Metallica and their forthcoming “ninth album.” There’s a lot of speculation, based on comments from the band members, that this release will be like “old Metallica” and deliver what fans are craving. But the question is: does it really matter?

I, for one, say no. Metallica is over. They are what they are and will never be more, and that’s okay. They’ve already changed the landscape.

Many fans, the snobbiest ones, if you ask me, believe that Master of Puppets was the last great Metallica album. Frankly, I think they are full of crap. Puppets was the last album before Metallica caught on, and that makes it a “got there first” kind of thing.

The next group of fans will tell you that …And Justice For All was the last great Metallica album, and they may be right. Justice featured the same heavy, fast, double-bass-y angst that people connected with on Ride the Lightning and Kill ‘Em All, only with better, more developed, more mature songs.

Then came the album that changed it all, Metallica, aka The Black Album. A lot of fans will tell you that The Black Album sucked, that Metallica sold out, that this album is all about “feelings” – like it’s something to be afraid of. But it’s not. Actually, at the time, it was awesome.

I remember standing in the boat house of Simsbury High Crew team and discussing how “James… like…. sings, or something” on one of the tracks (Nothing Else Matters). But let’s be honest: Sad But True, Whereever I May Roam, The God That Failed, The Struggle Within… all awesome songs. The Black Album is great, the only thing is it’s actually accessible. And the average Metallica fan doesn’t like that.

See, Metallica is about rebellion, chaos, defiance. It’s about angst, non-conformity, darkness, and anger. It’s about speed and power and head banging intimidation. And when your dad can listen to songs on a Metallica CD and enjoy them, it’s not the same.

So people lost faith. And Metallica cashed in. And their popularity grew. And they conquered the world on their diet of 10 songs every 4 years while real Metallica fans moved on. Some fans moved to rock equals Megadeth. Some got heavier with Death, Slayer, Carcass, and Cannibal Corpse. Some evolved into metal techno like Fear Factory. And some went to lighter fare like Rush and Dream Theater, and in my case, Phish.

Let’s not even get into the whole Napster thing. That is a large part of the reason so many people hate that loud-mouthed Lars. Metallica turned on its fans via Lars’ crusade, and they have paid dearly in fan loyalty.

There’s a lot of text here, but the gist is this: I don’t believe people will welcome back Metallica with open arms. Their music represents an era. The people who are most fitting fans for music like Metallica’s back catalog probably aren’t much interested in it anymore. And the ones who are don’t know and/or don’t care about them anymore because their new stuff is mostly irrelevant. I can barely name a song off St. Anger. Their contributions to music cannot be ignored, but their current status is more the MTV crowd than the teenage headbanger who is listening to Godsmack or System of a Down or any one of the 10,000 bands who are heavier, faster, younger, and more in touch than Metallica.

So, yeah, I’ll check out the ninth album. But buy it? Not likely.

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