Five years is a long wait between albums, especially in the era controlled by record labels. Your career and audience could disappear within that time. The scene itself could change dramatically.
The self-titled multi-platinum “Black” album came out in 1991. After a two and a bit years global trek, the band released the “Live Shit: Binge & Purge” box set in November 1993.
And then they disappeared from the public eye.
We didn’t know it at the time, but in 1994, the band got into an argument with Elektra, which underwent massive personnel changes that year. And they felt that they were not getting the love and respect they deserved.
So in 1995, Metallica sued to get out of their contract but before it even went to court they sorted out their differences.
For the band to stay with the label, Elektra had to give the band a larger royalty on its music and they had to hand over the master tapes of all the records. The band basically didn’t want the label to control the masters and issue constant “Greatest Hits” or “Best Off” albums that rip off fans or to give the music to corporations for advertising. It was the best business move they did.
By June 1995, work on the album started. In September, they played a few live shows and premiered “2 x 4” and “Devils Dance”.
In January 1996, basic recording for the album was finished. When the album was sent for mixing, some of the tracks had different titles. “Ain’t My Bitch” was just “Bitch”. “Cure” was “Believe”. “The House Jack Built” was just “Jack”. “Mouldy” became “Hero Of The Day”.
And I remember reading a Guitar World issue in July, 1996 and the interviewer just heard a song called “F.O.B.D” and it was described as a “hypnotic, pop tinged” song. We all know this song as “Until It Sleeps”. And another song called “Dusty” which was described as a “ZZ Top on steroids groove”. This became “Poor Twisted Me”.
At this point in time, the self-titled album known as the “Black” album had done 9 million in U.S sales, plus many more millions worldwide.
Metallica didn’t really care about anything as they just moved the needle again to suit themselves and experimented in heavy blues rock territory this time around. And at 78 minutes and 59 seconds long, it was the longest Metallica album.
“Aint My Bitch” has got that “My Sharona” vibe from the outset but goddamn it, the riff is addictive. It’s got all the classic Metallica elements. A foot stomping groove, some fast alternate picking, a hooky chorus and a lot of blues rock, which reminds me of “Holier Than Thou” merged with a little bit of Motorhead.
And wait, what’s that, a slide guitar for the solo. Goddamn right it is.
“Out of my way” alright.
“2 x 4” has this Aerosmith swagger with a lot of Texan dirt. And what about the psychedelic vocal section when they sing, “friction, fusion”.
“I can’t hear ya talking to me”.
Make sure you stick around for the solo section. The song feels like it goes half time there and it then slowly rebuilds up musically, while the guitar solo also increases in intensity.
“The House That Jack Built” has an ominous sounding intro, as James starts singing, “open doors to walk inside”.
How groovy is that verse riff?
“Until It Sleeps” is what Metallica is all about, merging melody with aggression. If you don’t believe me, check out the menacing clean tone sections.
Then there is a vibrato like guitar that keeps ringing as the bass riff starts for “King Nothing”. The outro reminds me of the “Enter Sandman” outro like when the truck hits the kids bed in the video clip.
“Hero Of The Day” is the shortest song on the album, which has a lot of major key elements and a bit of a Southern Rock vibe, before it chugs along into blues rock and metal territory.
“Bleeding Me” percolates until it explodes. This kind of musical drama reminds me of the 70’s acts and how they would build a musical story.
And how good is that outro and Hammet’s solo.
“Cure” asks the question “if you believe”. I do believe in this blues metal boogie rock of Metallica as Hetfield talks and sings and rants his way through the song. Towards the end, Hetfield is converted as he screams, “I do believe”. It’s an underrated album cut.
“Poor Twisted Me” brings out that classic ZZ Top style of boogie. And it’s also got some Danzig/Misfits in the mix and a bit of Led Zeppelin’s “The Wanton Song”.
How good is the vocal melody on “Wasting My Hate”?
The acoustic intro doesn’t give any indication of the song that would explode afterwards.
After “Nothing Else Matters” and “The Unforgiven” it was just a matter of time before we got a simple strummed song. That honour goes to “Mama Said”.
And how good are those country licks in the Chorus?
“Thorn Within” has this AC/DC like descending riff which is already a tick in my book.
“Ronnie” is another classic ZZ Top song that ZZ Top didn’t write with its rumble and tumble boogie riff and Billy Gibbons style vocal.
Finally, we have the closer, “The Outlaw Torn”. This song quickly became a favourite for me. The syncopated drum, bass and guitar groove, keeps building until it explodes into the riff that would become the Chorus. It then settles down again, with just bass and drums while James Hetfield delivers one of his best vocal performances as the song moves between the verses and choruses.
And we don’t get to hear the full outro, as it had to be cut down due to no more space on the CD to include it. But if you purchased one of the singles from the album, the full version is put there as a B-side.
“Load” is a different Metallica but still a very strong Metallica.
Play it loud mutha. \::/