Thursday, April 01, 2010

Who Decides: Metallica lead off tracks

Ok by now you should know I am into metal. Then it should really be no surprise that I am a fan of Metallica. In fact, in my class this month I play nothing but Metallica as the students come in. I don't know why I chose April, but I have for the past couple of years now.

Being the fan that I am, I can't really pick a favorite album. To me, they are each unique in their own special way. I remember when the two Load albums came out how much they were blasted by the "fans" as being sell-out albums and now they are highly regarded by those same fans.

So while I can't choose a favorite album, I can choose a favorite lead off track. It's a simple list and it's only one song from each album. I would also like to add, that just because one song is number one, doesn't mean it's my favorite album. So onto the list;

9. Ain't My Bitch (Load) - ok, well something had to be at the bottom of this list. Seriously though, Ain't My Bitch is an average song. It's nothing special. It doesn't really set the tempo for the rest of the album either, like the rest of the songs on this list. Plus, this was the first impression made from Load. Now, there are a couple of other songs that could have taken the lead position, but they went with this one. I guess it is one of the "heavier" songs on Load and maybe that's why it was put there. It is probably the only song on here that doesn't leave an impression.

8. Fuel (Re-Load) - honestly, the Loads aren't bad albums. This one leaves a bad taste in my mouth with the opening lines "gimmie fuel, gimmie fire, gimmie that which I desire." When I am listening to Metallica, I'm not expecting Shakespeare, although there are plenty of deep reflecting lyrics in their music, this isn't one of them. Once again, it's a solid song, but nothing great. I might have gone with Devil's Dance or The Memory Remains, but whatever. I think it is a better song than Ain't My Bitch, but it still doesn't "set the tone".

7. That Was Just Your Life (Death Magnetic) - I am sensing a pattern here. Anyway, this is more like it in terms of "setting the tone". A nice long intro (more to come later) and some pretty fast playing. This album came out after the Loads and St. Anger and people were saying Metallica couldn't play thrash anymore. This song came out and said "oh yeah?". It clocks in at a little over 7 minutes long, like most of the songs on the album. And like most of the songs, it gives you a peek at the long choruses and great soloing. I can't say one bad thing about this song. It's not any higher because the other songs are more memorable.

6. Hit the Lights (Kill 'Em All) - This was the song that introduced the world to Metallica (minus the demos). It had the intro that would be built upon over the next 3 albums and again with Death Magnetic. It really gives you a sense of how great the music is. A nice little solo in between the first verses grabs the listener's attention that this isn't a regular album. One of the faster songs on the album, but for me it is actually one of my least favorite Metallica songs. So why is it so high up? Because it defined the band. You never get a second chance to make a first impression and Metallica didn't let down. The speed, solos, it was truly genre defining. How many songs ended on a guitar solo back then? Not many, but that was Metallica's first impression to the world.

5. Enter Sandman (Metallica) - how I hated this song after about 1997. Some of you might remember how big this song was in the 90's when it came out, other maybe not. When this hit the airwaves & MTV it was huge. I don't even think huge can describe it. Let's face it, this is probably Metallica's most popular song. I can listen to it now and realize it is near perfection for a metal song. Great tempo, sing a long chorus and verses, nice chord progressions, and a radio friendly solo. When you talk about a lead track setting the tempo for things to come, this pretty much nailed it. When I play this song, every year, it gets the biggest reaction of "I know this song". With Guitar Hero it only made this song bigger. I know some claimed this was the beginning of the end for Metallica, but I think of it as the second coming of Metallica.

4. Frantic (St. Anger) - Well the Loads left a bad taste in people's mouths and by now people also said The Black Album (Metallica) was a sell out album. So enter St. Anger. The band was in utter turmoil at the time. Jason Newsted had quit the band and James Hetfield was in rehab. When he came out, they said Metallica was reborn. Things were going to change and they were "going back to their roots." People actually said this album would sound like And Justice for All, because there was no official bass player and on AJFA the bass was turned down so much it was like there was no bass at all. It's only after I typed that do I realize how strange some Metallica fans are.

Anyway, St. Anger was released and this was the first impression of the new Metallica. And what an impression it was; tin drums, no solo, James' off key singing. Through all that though it was a return to form so to speak. It wasn't AJFA or anything close to it, but it did give hope that there was still some thrash in there somewhere. On a side note, if St. Anger had a "normal" snare sound and solos it would be Death Magnetic. Listen to both of them and then think about those two things. Songs are both long and the choruses are also long, not to mention some of the intros.

3. Blackened (And Justice for All) - it shouldn't surprise metal fans to see the top 3 lead off tracks come from these albums. These albums (Ride the Lightning, Master of Puppets, and And Justice for All) are seen as the holy grail of thrash metal.

was the last of the three and like the others they start off with a calm intro, sort of like the calm before the storm. This one was played with electric guitars unlike the others and it doesn't go on as long, but like the others it is simply the only rest for the first song. Blackened is a little more complex than the others with multiple tempo changes, once again setting the tone for the more complex AJFA album. In fact the middle seems like it could be a totally different song. The solo is classic though. You go from this NWOBHM type solo into the classic thrash solo that Metallica was known for and then into something that really just makes you go "WOW! what was that?!?!" And then when you hear the solo going into the chorus, it goes back for more. Amazing. It might be my favorite solo on the list.

2. Battery (Master of Puppets) - nothing much to say, but a classic. The acoustic guitar intro into the drums and electric guitar was pretty awesome back then, and still is to this day. Then into this thrash metal song that only Metallica could write. Battery is one of my favorite songs to listen to and sing along with. The choruses and verses are so great to sing along to. The chord progressions are basic, like Enter Sandman but's that's the only similarities.

Like the other songs in the top three there is a middle part that sort of takes you away. This one isn't as long as Blackened and leads straight into one of Kirk Hammett's best solos. I think my favorite part is the riffs in this song. If you aren't head banging during this song, something might be wrong with you.

1. Fight Fire With Fire (Ride the Lightning) - Kill 'Em All was the birth of thrash, this album saw thrash grow up into something more than we thought it could become; complex, moving, and more than one dimensional.

This is the song that started off the whole "slow intro"-thing that would be present the next 2 albums. The difference is that it was never heard of before. It really sounds like a classical song being played. The riffs are constantly being pounded into your head. The middle section is pretty much nonexistent compared to the other 2 songs. But the solo here might be the best of the three. There are two different "solos" and then onto this part where all you get is about 10 seconds of drumming then the riffs are back. It is the shortest song of the three, probably due to the lack of a drawn out middle section. Of all the songs this is the only one that has the instant transition to the title track. All 3 of the albums were set up similar in terms of types of songs for each spot in the track numbering. I might discuss those later.

So that's the list. Here's to a great month of Metallica.

No comments: