I used to be a huge Metallica fan. (Doesn’t Kirk have lovely hair? I used to have hair like that.)
Over the summer of 1986/87 I played Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets back-to-back, non-stop.
I wore out the vinyl.
I cried when Metallica’s bass player Cliff Burton died in a bus accident in September 1986.
But Burton’s death was nothing compared to the tragedy that Metallica were to bring upon themselves five years later, in 1991.
Metallica were the Gods of thrash metal. They defined the genre. And they used to sing about wholesome things like mass murder (Kill ‘Em All, 1983), dying in the electric chair (Ride the Lightning, 1984), cocaine addiction (Master of Puppets, 1986) and governmental corruption (… And Justice for All, 1988).
But then … they sold out. Big time.
The second definition of selling out refers to putting aside musical quality or original intentions in favor of commercial success, where a distinction is made for those who achieve success without changing their original sound. The difference between the two is often subjective. Whilst artists may change their musical direction for commercial reasons, such as pressure from major labels who require songs to appeal to mass markets a change in sound may also be part of a natural progression of creative maturity.
An example of an artist being accused of selling out is the band Metallica, whose 1991 eponymous album has been considered as the turning point in the band’s musical direction, and have been called the “poster boys for musical un-integrity” after the band’s attempt to sue fans downloading their music through Napster. The album, known as The Black Album, saw critics and Bob Rock, the album’s producer, acknowledge that there was a move away from the band’s previous sound. Rock claimed that the change stemmed from the band’s desire to “make the leap to the big, big leagues”, whilst some fans blamed Rock himself, going as far to eventually create an internet petition demanding the band cut their ties with him. However, other fans did not consider the change in sound to be significant enough to be considered selling out and others accepted the change as part of a natural evolution of the band’s style. Ultimately The Black Album became the band’s most commercially successful, going 16x platinum, but the differing reaction by fans to the album is an example of the difficulty in labelling an artist as a sellout objectively.
Was the release of the Black Album “part of a natural progression of creative maturity”? No. There is no difficulty whatsoever in labelling Metallica, circa 1991, as a sellout objectively. They sacrificed their musical integrity on the alter of commercial success. And what unparalleled commercial performance! The love of money is the root of all evil.
I used to joke that the members of Metallica had been abducted by aliens and replaced by Bieber-like body snatchers for who-knows-what nefarious alien purposes. One similarly aggrieved fan wrote an entire comic strip premised upon the abduction of the real band members and their replacement by simulacra. (I wish I could now find it.)
True Metallica fans don’t mince words.
I remember driving one morning just after I had received my drivers license. I was 16, it was summer in Minnesota, and the local radio station was about to debut the new Metallica song, Enter Sandman. Life was great. I was so pumped and nervous as I’d been a fan since before Justice was released. The song came on…and so began one of the worst days of my adolescent life, and I’m not sure I’ve ever recovered. Serious life-bummer. I was more let down than the first time I got dumped by a girl. To my credit, I kept it together and didn’t plow my car at high speed into a huge tree to spare myself the pain I was feeling.
The biggest piece of shit ever written by Metallica! I dont know if it is because they enlisted Bob Rock (WANKER) to ptoduce this album or if it is because they got lazy. Real dissappointment. I Know many people like this album and defend it but it is a pice of shit. Sorry all u Metallica die hards out there. I’d rather listen to myself take a shit than have to listen to this garbage.
I was an atheist in those days. It’s only now that I realise that Metallica did far more than sacrifice their musical integrity on the alter of commercial success. They sold their very souls to Satan. This fact is hidden in plain sight. Let’s take a closer look at the Black Album.
The first thing to notice about the Black album is … it’s very black. Metallica’s logo can just about be made out in the darkness of the top-left-hand corner. Black is the devil’s colour. (Sure, it’s also New Zealand’s national colour, but Metallica sure weren’t thinking of the All Blacks when they squeezed this one out.)
Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. (NIV)
In the bottom-right-hand corner is a stylised, coiled serpent, that bears an intentional likeness to the rattlesnake on the Gadsden flag.
Notwithstanding that “Don’t tread on me” is a libertarian slogan and the Gadsden flag rattlesnake is a libertarian icon (I have no idea what happened to the missing apostrophe in ‘dont’) let’s see what happens when we take the snake, flip it horizontally and tip it on its side.
Now we see the true nature of Metallica’s mascot. It’s a serpent, its coils spelling out 666—the Number of the Beast of Revelation—and shaped into a slide to take you down on a one-way trip to never never land. This is snakes and ladders but with no ladders. Snake, rattle ‘n’ roll!
That’s the album art, it’s pretty clear.
What about the lyrical content?
Well, the very first track is Enter Satan. (Or, rather, Enter Sandman, but we all know who Sandman is.)
Say your prayers little one
Don’t forget, my son
To include everyone
Tuck you in, warm within
Keep you free from sin
Till the Sandman, he comes
Take my hand
We’re off to never never land
Nek minnit, you belong to Satan.
Sad But True.
I’m your life
I’m the one who took you there
I’m your life
And I no longer care
I’m your truth, telling lies
I’m your reasoned alibis
I’m inside open your eyes
Holier Than Thou
Little whispers circle around your head
Why don’t you worry about yourself instead?
Who are you? Where ya been? Where ya from?
Gossip is burning on the tip of your tongue
You lie so much you believe yourself
So I dub thee unforgiven.
You labelled me,
I’ll label you.
So I dub thee unforgiven.
Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us? Nope. I dub thee unforgiven.
Wherever I May Roam.
And I’ll redefine anywhere
Anywhere I may roam
Where I lay my head is home
…and the earth becomes my throne
It’d pretty clear who this song is about.
The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”
Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”
Don’t Tread On Me
Liberty or death, what we so proudly hail
Once you provoke her, rattling of her tail
Never begins it, never, but once engaged…
Never surrenders, showing the fangs of rage
Don’t tread on me!
OK, so I can’t really knock this one. 🙂
The exception that proves the rule? It’s a half-decent song, great lyrics! (But it still plods like no speed metal I ever heard.)
Through The Never is a trip through never never land with your new friend, the Sandman.
Through the never Never
Nothing Else Matters is hardly an improvement on nihilism, the doctrine that nothing matters.
Forever trusting who we are
And nothing else matters
In God we Trust? No, apparently it’s in man we trust and God doesn’t matter.
Of Wolf And Man
Therefore I am
Harvest the land
Taking of the fallen lamb
Off through the new day’s mist I run
Off from the new day’s mist I have come
Pulsing with the earth
Company we keep
Roaming the land while you sleep.
More roaming the land, going back and forth on it. While you sleep. (Never mind that noise you heard. It’s just the beast under your bed, in your closet, in your head.)
The God That Failed
Pride you took
Pride you feel
Pride that you felt when you’d kneel
Trust you gave
A child to save
Left you cold and him in grave
I see faith in your eyes
Never you hear the discouraging lies
I hear faith in your cries
Broken is the promise, betrayal
The healing hand held back by deepened nail
Follow the god that failed
There are two further tracks but I can’t go on. It’s a desperate, dire, demonic album.
And, quite apart from that, it’s a steaming pile of the proverbial. So watch your step.