Video Vault Episode 79: Metallica Week


Many heavy metal purists accused Metallica of “selling out” when they first heard The Black Album. Metallica’s then-new songs were simpler, at times slower, and slightly more accessible than their previous work. To many die hard thrash enthusiasts, any deviation from the thrash template was akin to apostasy. Like Judas, according to the slanderous and specious refrain, Metallica sold their soul for thirty pieces of silver. In order to obtain entry into the mainstream, they took the edge off their creativity.

During my conversation with Jason Newsted, Metallica’s former bassist, he described the guitar riffs for the Black Album as “a little more rock ‘n’ roll, a little more swagger.”

When and where did Metallica get the rock ‘n’ roll swagger in its step? Unless they began plotting their eventual “sell out” as children, anyone familiar with Metallica history and biography realizes that it came from an authentic and intimate source. Metallica always had a rock ‘n’ roll influence, and the implementation of that influence was inevitable.

These quotes from my new 33 1/3, and the accompanying videos punctuate the point.

James Hetfield, as a teenager, “had a poster of Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and Joe Perry on his wall, and his mother painted him into the frame, giving him support for his musical dreams, and empowering him to envision himself sharing the stage with his heroes.”

Metallica Honors Aerosmith at MTV Icon:



Metallica Jams with Joe Perry, and others, on “Train Kept A-Rollin’” – a Tiny Bradshaw song Aerosmith transformed into a hit and live staple:



“I listened to AC/DC every day to get into the frame of mind of the drums in the background, supporting the riffs, and having swagger.” – Lars Ulrich

“For Those About to Rock” – AC/DC:



“Wherever I May Roam” – Metallica:


It wouldn’t take long for the teenage Ulrich to examine every note of Deep Purple’s live record, Made in Japan, with surgical style precision.

In high school, Hammett, like many budding guitarists, considered Hendrix a hero…

“What sounds good at two in the morning in your bedroom doesn’t always transfer well into the studio,” Kirk Hammett said, remembering his experience coming up with the guitar riff. While all the neighbors were asleep, Hammett was casting a spell using his guitar. He was an alchemist combining the wraparound riffs of ‘Smoke on the Water’ and ‘All Right Now’ with the heaviness he had heard earlier that evening on the Soundgarden album, Louder Than Love.

“Purple Haze” – Jimi Hendrix:



“Smoke On The Water” – Deep Purple:



“Enter Sandman” – Metallica:


When Ulrich returned to California, he found that his timing was serendipitous. The general of hard rock, Mister Lemmy Kilmister, had arrived in the Golden State with his army of speedfreakers, drinkers, and womanizers. As Motorhead moved up and down the Pacific coast, so did Lars, riding right behind the bus in his old car, following his heroes from town to town, show to show.

“I couldn’t believe that a human being was singling like this,” James Hetfield remarked while reflecting on his first experience listening to the acidic tongue of Lemmy Kilmister*.

Metallica and Lemmy Kilmister, Live in Nashville:


* Yes, Motorhead is officially in the category of heavy metal, but Lemmy Kilmister has always insisted that his band plays Little Richard, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis style rock ‘n’ roll at breakneck speed – a speed metal twist on early, original rock ‘n’ roll. As he routinely announces after taking the stage for live performances, “We are Motorhead, and we play rock ‘n’ roll.”

– David Masciotra



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