The enduring cult of Metallica

Metallica will never commit a sin too grievous for its fans to forgive.

Sure, therock legends have tried. They abandoned the breakneck thrash that made them kings of the Bay Area metal scene on 1991’s hard-rockingBlack Album, which subsequently became the bestselling album of the Nielsen SoundScan era.They sued Napster for copyright infringement in 2000 after discovering a demo of I Disappear on the file-sharing site, ruining the fun for head-banging teenagers everywhere. They performed on theGrammyswith Lady Gaga (and a broken microphone). They chopped off all their hair. They madeLulu.

And yetthese past iniquities melt away as soon as the band flicks on its Marshall amps.

That’s because Metallica does not inspire casual fandom. Listeners enter into a social contract in which they pledge to love the band unironically, in sickness and in health, until the end of time. Like a delinquent husband, Metallica will go missing for extended periods, say things they don’t mean in public, and pull some cockamamie schemes to make a quick buck. But eventually, they’ll make up for it by delivering an earth-shattering, two-hour marathon performance of hits and deep cuts, such as on 2017’s WorldWired Tour, which proves this remainsthe greatest and most important metal band alive.

“If you want to live forever, then first you must die!” frontman James Hetfield roared Wednesday night at the Alamodome in San Antonio, before slicing into the serpentine riff of Now that Were Dead, off NovembersHardwired to Self-Destruct, the group’s first proper studio album in eight years and sixth consecutive chart-topper. Such platitudes become prophecy when barked by the militaristic rhythm guitarist, as Metallica have continually cheateddeath and stuck a defiant middle finger to the concept of aging gracefully.

I’m not just talking about the obvious, literal instances, such as the band’s decision to soldier on after the tragic bus accident death of bassist Cliff Burton in 1986. I’m talking about the myriad of bafflingcareer moves over the decades: recording a live album with the San Francisco Symphony; dedicating 30 seconds of theSome Kind of MonsterDVD todrummer Lars Ulrich’s profane, monosyllabic tirades; that paparazzi picture of Hetfield carrying an Armani shopping bag and wearingplaid shorts and flip-flops, inspiring waves of archaic memes; releasing commemorative Funko figures this summer.

Such actions couldve meant career suicide for a lesser band. But that’s the beauty of Metallica fans: We don’t give a shit about cynics from every corner of the internet decrying the group as tragically unhip. When Metallica releases an album or visits our town once per decade, we immediately download the songs to Spotify andmake our pilgrimages to the nearest stadium so we canbe baptized by fire and palm-muted riffs, our absolution for listening to Bruno Mars and Coldplay on repeat. And yes, I say “we,” because in the cult of Metallica, diehard fandom outweighs even the noblest attempts at journalistic objectivity.

The band members know this, and they reward us for our patience. Althoughthe first half of the Alamodome show sagged slightly under the weight offivenew songs, the foursomeredeemed the second act by burning through a whirlwind of itsfinest 80s cuts, fromKill Em Allthrashers The Four Horsemen and Seek & Destroy to And Justice for Alls haunting war ballad, One. Cannons of fire erupted from both sides of the stage as Ulrich played the most iconic double-bass pattern in the history of rock drumming. Giant balloons emblazoned with the band’s logo exploded, releasing a flurry of fireworks that were quickly drowned out by the audience’s rapturous applause.

These moments confirmwhatstaunch rock scholars have long tried to deny but must now confront head-on: Metallica has snatched the mantle previously held by Led Zeppelin for the most megalithic hard rock band on the planet. Guns N’ Roses put up an admirable fight on itscurrent reunion jaunt, but until Izzy Stradlin and Steven Adler rejoin the fold and record another knockout album, the group is stuck in nostalgia mode. U2reaches transcendent and politically charged heights on its ongoingJoshua Treetour, but the music obviously lacks the sonic gut punch that inspiredthousands of teens and parents to hurl their bodies into each other atthe Alamodome.

The members of MetallicaHetfield, Ulrich, lead shredder Kirk Hammett, and bassist Rob Trujillowield their songs like a 10-ton hammer of justice, obliterating fans’ former grudges and preconceived notions. They do not repent for past mistakes or painful absences; they simply unleash one million screaming watts upon their audience and say,“Fuck you, we are Metallica.”

Yet for all the thundering riffs and blinding pyrotechnics, Metallica has endured for 35 years because itnever forgot how to meet fanson their level.Hetfield dropped to his knees at the end of a soaring, cathartic rendition of Fade to Black and held his guitar over the lip of the stage, grinning as he let members of the audiencestrum with glee. He joined Ulrich on the drum riser and banged his head furiously during blistering deep cut “Fight Fire with Fire,” as Hammett flashed himan exasperated look that said, “What the hell are we doing still playing these songs in our 50s?”

In these moments, the gargantuan rock starsproved that they sweat and scream and grit their teeth with the rest of us as they power through their timeless anthems. If the titanic, gleeful, and ultimately inclusive WorldWired Tourproves anything, its that Metallica cant—and wont—slow down.

“We don’t give a shit about where you come from, what you’ve done in the past, what color you are, what religion you believe, what food you do or don’t eat, Hetfield told the Alamodome during one of the evenings most poignant moments. The fact is, we care about you who are here celebrating the night together, and you are Metallica’s family.

Read more:

Comments are closed.

Copyright © EP4 Blog