Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy. Here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album or band is unique in some way & not every submission was reviewed. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog) (last update 5/23/2017)

August 8, 2012

Metallica ~ Metallica/The Black Album (aka self-titled)

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Style: thrash
Label: Elektra
Year: 1991
Home: California

Members: Kirk Hammett ~ guitar
James Hetfield ~ vocals/rhythm guitar
Jason Newsted ~ bass
Lars Ulrich ~ drums

I hadn't listened to this album for years when I put it on for this review. I sometimes wonder if people still listen to it like they once did. When it first came out, I remember well, you couldn't get away from it. I even had my mother listening. But, so many years, tours, bandmates, controversies & albums later there's become so many shades of Metallica that one can't just randomly choose an album & feel as satisfied as ever. There's too many choices. Do you put on the Cliff Burton crunch era climaxing with Master Of Puppets that made the thrash mold forever? Do you turn to the Load or St. Anger albums of the sparse sounds of apocalypse era? Or, do you go for the current Death Magnetic stuff ... or even the poetic abomination Lulu? Or, do you go for the chart-topping breakthrough self-titled album, come to be known as The Black Album, that turned so many of us to the band initially ... including myself, though I'd seen "One" on MTV but didn't know the band beyond that single epic durge from the previous album. It's the sign of a band that's continued to grow that an answer doesn't come quickly. The problem is, for many of us, there's no album quite like The Black Album in the Metallica catalog. The progressive metal that came before was successfully trimmed away, here the songs are just a bit shorter & a bit tighter, while after came some directions that don't rate too high generally with a majority of fans & critics. This album was a climactic moment, musically & career-wise, & could not be repeated. Thus, it leaves us in a lurch. There is no questioning why it was successful or remains a career highlight ... I mean, the echoing drums & sparse riffing of opener "Enter Sandman" still is as powerful as ever, while how can one not headbang & scream along to "Sad But True"? But, does it represent Metallica now in the long term? Did it then? It's an important stepping stone in their musical growth, but what does it say about the band? It's certainly the album I'll recommend to someone young who doesn't know Metallica & I feel may not be a big metal fan. Though, is it even the best Metallica album? I know I tend to go to Master Of Puppets & rarely hit the post Black Album outings, if at all. But, am I giving new fans the best introduction to the band? In many ways, absolutely. At its best the album is as strong as one could ask from a thrash band, as sparse, chunky, heavy, with pretty much any musical nuance & mood one might want. The songs are more straight forward than what Metallica was doing, but just a touch of experimenting remains (i.e. "Nothing Else Matters"). Bands have gone faster, more complicated, sparser, blacker, angrier certainly, but there is magic in this album. There's a few songs I'd remove on the later half that are a bit imitative, but its a minor qualm. Certainly, the album churns out more variety over a couple songs than many bands do over an entire release. Though, really, this might not be one of the best thrash albums. Some may say that its really not thrash. I know, I loved it but didn't consider myself a thrash fan until I got into Megadeth. But, I think one can say that this might be the best mainstream thrash album. The greater thrash albums by Megadeth, Testament, Pantera, Anthrax or whoever never had the commercial success upon release like this album, except maybe Megadeth's Countdown To Extinction but that wasn't as big as this Metallica moment. This point offers another question ... none of which really can be answered & I'm not trying. As Metallica has moved beyond the album into other territories, so have other bands. Maybe more than ever the Metallica versus Megadeth argument rages. Are Metallica really the top thrash band? Ignoring their live show which is certainly one of the best to answer that question. I tend to be a Megadeth fan, I'll confess. The lyrics, Dave's voice, the playing, the lyrics, everything gets me on a level Metallica doesn't. Megadeth's worst album invites me & hits me more than Metallica's worst, excluding Lulu. But, can one even compare these peers as they really are quite different. Metallica is controlled where Megadeth is raw, Megadeth is also far more angrier a lot more of the time, let alone seemingly more socially conscious. Plus, there's two guitarists versus one. I can clearly remember when this album landed & the uproar it caused. It was like a treasure everyone owned & yet it still remained valuable. Today, looking back, does a new fan still have the same view of the album who wasn't there, still sucking up the music with as much praise & enjoyment as my generation did? As someone once said to me, anyone can enjoy the Beatles, but if you weren't there you'll never really appreciate or know their music. Is that accurate? I've always been a Rolling Stones fan ... so what do I know?

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