Note: This piece first appeared in Australian Guitar #134. Subscribe to our print edition here!
Ahead of their monumental Australian stadium tour this October, we’re brushing up on our panoramic knowledge of Metallica (‘cause when you’re as bad at math as our editor, you’ve gotta make up for it somehow).
Words by Matt Doria.
I is for Injuries, of which the members of Metallica have sustained more than any one band realistically should. None more than Hetfield, of course; alongside the two shattered wrists he endured on the Damage, Inc. run – which resulted in a legal clause in his contract with the band’s management that forbids him from skating while they’re on tour – the frontman has fallen down his fair share of stage doors (one, during a 2017 show in the Netherlands), herniated several discs in his back in a 2000 jet-skiing accident, and most notably, copped some walloping third degree burns to his hands, arms, legs and face when he inadvertently walked into a 12-foot blast of pyrotechnics during a 1992 co-headliner with Guns N’ Roses. In case you need a visual cue, Newstead described his view of Hetfield’s skin as “bubbling like on The Toxic Avenger.” Yum.
J is for Johny Zazula, the man who helped kickstart Metallica’s career after hearing their 1982 demo, No Life ’Til Leather. Zazula shopped the band around to a handful of labels based in New York, but after they all turned their noses up at Metallica’s gritty, breakneck-paced thrash metal, Zazula cashed in some favours and paid for their studio sessions himself, signing them to his own Megaforce Records label and releasing their debut album to a level of critical acclaim and commercial success that most major-signed metal bands only dream of tasting.
K is for Kill 'Em All, the aforementioned debut album that catapulted Metallica to the top of the heavy metal food chain. Almost titled Metal Up Your Ass – because of course it was – the 51-minute shredfest was an instant hit with critics, and gave Metallica prime real estate in the new wave of British heavy metal (NWOBHM) movement – y’know, despite being an American band. To this day, jams like “Seek & Destroy” and “Whiplash” remain essential cuts for any metalhead worth their patch-strewn denim, and staples of the band’s live show.
L is for Lulu, a collaboration with proto-punk prodigy Lou Reed that stands as Metallica’s objective biggest misstep, and one of the most divisive records of all-time. It’s the antithesis to everything Kill ‘Em All represented – obnoxious, overlong and punishingly weak; released in 2011, its legacy has been relegated to occasional mentions in articles like this, and led to extremist Metallica fans attacking Reed in droves. On a positive note, Lulu showed Metallica’s willingness to experiment, and even if it ultimately didn’t pay off, the concept of an avant-garde metal epic was undoubtedly solid.
M is for Monsters Of Rock, the all-star 1991 tour where – on a lineup featuring fellow guitar lords in AC/DC, The Black Crowes and Pantera – Metallica played to a record- shattering 1.6 million Russians. Held in Moscow – right in the midst of the Soviet Union’s demise, no less – the free daytime festival was an immediate entry into the annals of rock history; a Russian Woodstock, where the hippies, acoustic noodlers and copious amounts of acid were subbed in for mosh-staved metalheads, fretboard warriors desperate to wreak havoc, and an ungodly volume of vodka.
N is for Napster, the pre-Spotify music sharing platform that Metallica had a vicious rivalry with. After discovering that an unreleased demo (“I Disappear”, which was set to feature on the Mission: Impossible II soundtrack) had leaked on the peer-to-peer service, Metallica launched a cumbrous multi-million dollar lawsuit against Napster. The tiff came to a head publicly at the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards, where Napster CEO Shawn Fanning presented an award in a Metallica shirt, remarking, “I borrowed this shirt from a friend. Maybe, if I like it, I’ll buy one of my own.”
O is for Overproduction, which marred the 2008 release of Death Magnetic with its sloppy mix and ruinously compressed dynamic range. A direct result of the ‘Loudness War’ – “an ongoing industry effort to make recordings as loud as possible,” as described in The Guardian – the record’s initial release featured all instruments cranked well beyond their breaking point, which led to a muddy, convoluted sound. Fans turned to Guitar Hero for a cleaner mix of the LP (as developer Activision had their own set of stems to work with), and in 2015, a distortion-free remaster hit digital platforms for wider consumption.
P is for Pilsner, the family of beer in which Metallica were inducted to with Enter Night, their collaboration with wide-scale craft brewery Arrogant Consortia. Described as “a crisp and refreshing pilsner that, much like the band, transcends genres, shatters preconceptions and challenges convention,” the 7.5 percent ABV brew hit local bottle shops earlier in 2019. And with its heavy presence on other legs of the run, punters can expect to see cans of Enter Night slung in abundance on the Australian WorldWired tour.
Q is for Quintana – Rob Quintana, to be specific – who owns the distinct credit of having come up with one of the most distinguished band (and brand) names in the world... Second only to The Beatles, maybe. Metallica was one of the two titles Quintana was mulling over for a fanzine he was developing in 1981 – the other was Metal Mania, which Ulrich convinced him to run with when the drummer realised how sweet Metallica sounded for the underground jam project he was tinkering away on at the time.
Thursday October 17th - Optus Stadium, Perth WA
Sunday October 20th - Adelaide Oval, Adelaide SA
Tuesday October 22nd - Marvel Stadium, Melbourne VIC
Thursday October 24th - Marvel Stadium, Melbourne VIC
Saturday October 26th - ANZ Stadium, Sydney NSW
Tuesday October 29th - QSAC, Brisbane QLD