I've meant to write this particular piece for some time now, but two significant reasons have kept me from doing so. The first is that I needed the timing to feel right to showcase my endless adulation for my favorite musicians. The second is that I wanted to find a good headspace to write about them so I could do them justice. Metallica is approaching its 40th anniversary. In addition, they have recently celebrated the 30th anniversary of their critically acclaimed album self entitled the Metallica Album, better known as the Black Album, so I feel the time has come to write this long-awaited love letter. And as far as finding a good headspace for writing, I have learned that there is no time like the present. So, here is why I became a Metallica fan.
For those of you old enough to remember, there was a time when music wasn't readily available at the push of a button or the whim of your phone's AI. Instead, you had to go out and hunt for what you wanted at a brick-and-mortar store. The compact disc or CD seemed to be the last leg for the physical byproduct of the music industry. Back in the day, one of those primer brick and mortar stores was Sam Goody, a flagship store responsible for selling a large portion of records throughout the United States and the United Kingdom
Image fr om (Category:Sam Goody - Wikimedia Commons, 2021)
I remember one particular day when I was six years old. I had my regularly planned outings with my Grandmother. It was immensely pleasant spending the day together. She always took the time to go out of her way and reward me with some type of gift, something with the intention of expanding my horizon, and gaining knowledge through experience. This particular day we found ourselves at the aforementioned Sam Goody.
Recalling each aspect of the journey: advancing through the narrow aisles, gazing at the dusty black carpet imprinted with weird imagery of multicolored confetti that you'd find at an arcade. Taking in the dimly lit ambiance and circumnavigating all the horror figurines. Eventually, I found myself scanning the tiered shelves with a multitude of records lined with the same dust as the carpet. Being six years old, my musical prowess didn't go much beyond Barney, so I relied on my eyes. I tried to hone in on whatever I thought looked the coolest. Finally, after what felt like hours, my aesthetically pleasing expedition came to a halt when I locked eyes with my final decision. It was the Spawn soundtrack. Spawn was a movie that came out in '97 about a superhero who was created in the depths of hell. I don't know why it called to me, but likely because I thought it looked cool, and I remember watching the movie with my Dad. The combination of attractive cover art and familiarity was enough to sell me. I insisted on that being my chosen gift for this specific outing. My devout Christian grandmother tried to divert me to something a little more friendly, but I stood firm that this was the CD I wanted. While my grandma's love for her faith was strong, the love she had for me was stronger, and she succumbed to my request and purchased the soundtrack.
Image from (Spawn (The Album) (1997, CD), 2021)
As soon as we got back to my grandparent's house I thanked my grandmother and ran inside, ripping open the tightly wrapped plastic as I went. My grandparents had a deluxe stereo system, one that was most definitely ‘before its time’. I popped the soundtrack in and began to mull through the songs—some were good, some dark, some were interesting. Nothing really caught my attention or blew me away; nothing warranted a replay until I stumbled upon “For Whom The Bells Toll” by of course Metallica. I was immediately captivated by the melodic heavily distorted bass intro. It caught my interest so much that I had to play it in each room of the house, enabled of course by grandma's state-of-the-art surround sound stereo. In the living room, the kitchen. Even outside. I restarted the song just so I could hear Cliff Burton play his signature customized Aria pro bass. The eerie buzz of the systematic bass intro played by a musical genius and a trailblazer for future bassists around the world had caught my emphatic attention, albeit at six years old. From then on I was and am a fan
Metallica is arguably the most decorated and iconic heavy metal band in the world. Even more so, their musical prowess rivals the greatest through a multitude of genres. Ten studio albums. Eight live albums, 43 singles and a plethora of box sets Metallica sold over 125 million albums worldwide.
After the tragic death of their undisputedly talented bassist Cliff Burton in '86, the band found themselves rolling through several bassists, one of them being the notably talented Jason Newstead, who had a massive influence on one of their most successful albums. After Newstead departed with the band, they finally landed on their current—and equally talented—flamenco-like bassist Robert Trujillo. Despite their trials, recent stats revealed that Metallica is the world's biggest touring band ever. To date, Metallica has sold 22.1 million tickets, only second behind U2. In addition, they are the only band to play on all seven continents, including Antarctica. The adulation speaks for itself. But I wrote this piece not because I am inclined to follow the numbers but because there was more of a reason I became a Metallica enthusiast. It was way more than just bandwagon hopping, I assure you. It had to be. I was six when I was charmed by their music. So throughout the years, I asked why? Why am I a Metall
"This is one of the best songs ever written to me." "Their songs aren't just metal; they're beautiful songs." - Elton John
Well, one obvious reason is their talent. Metallica goes above and beyond when it comes to structuring their music. It is so refined and painstakingly thought out. Their song structure is much more elaborate than a lot, but not all musicians. An impactful lengthy introduction, staggered transitions, intense solos all birthed from the heart of a James Hetfield riff. All of their songs are a product of time-staking jam sessions in the studio. That was fully evident with a recent Howard Stern interview. The band was promoting their 30th anniversary of the black album with a box set where 53 different artists covered the respective songs on said album. Amongst the formidable artists was Elton John covering my personal favorite song, "Nothing Else Matters." Further evidence of their musical expertise was on full display when a surprise guest Elton John joined the interview via zoom and said the following: "This is one of the best songs ever written to me." "Their songs aren't just metal; they're beautiful songs." High praise coming from one of the best in the business. Enough to stun lead singer James Hetfield
"As our audience became bigger we started to lose connection, from there we creatively decided to take a turn."
Metallica's connection with its fans has such a strong foothold in how they write and perform their music. That became truly evident in a recent interview where founding member and drummer Lars Ulrich said the following: "As our audience became bigger we started to lose connection, from there we creatively decided to take a turn." he even went further going on about how wonderful it is that their fans gravitated to the band for all different motives." You could line up ten different Metallica fans, and each one of them will have a different reason they are a fan"- Lars Ulrich. That attention to detail bleeds through and finds its way to its much appreciative listeners.
Beyond their unmistakable musical presents. I find their personal and emotional presence most captivating and probably the biggest reason I and many others like me, are fans.
From early on, the band has been open about sharing their personal and collective hardships ,Pulling back the curtain and allowing that to pour out into their music deepens the connection they have with their fans.
"Music was the voice I never had"- James Hetfield.
Starting at an early age, the lead singer and guitarist James Hetfield was candid about his life experiences. Plagued by an absent father and a mother and sister who had passed early on. These consecutive heavy blows left him immobilized, and he began to withdraw. Searching for a way out of his Torment, he found solid ground through the love of music. citing as far back as nine years old when he took piano lessons. He frequently goes on about how music saved his life. A young man who was afraid of the world, afraid to speak, found his courage through music. "Music was the voice I never had"- James Hetfield. Later in life, in '81, James found a call to arms when he saw an ad in the paper The LA recycler posted by now drummer Lars Ulrich campaigning about starting a metal band. From then on, the band succumbed to the usual pitfalls of touring artists. Drugs, Alcohol, partying and fighting plagued the band during the early years of their career. Landing Hetfield in rehab multiple times. As part of a therapeutic endeavor and a display of willingness to expose their shortcomings, Metallica came out with a documentary about their struggles recording their 2003 album "St. Anger" shortly after James' most recent stint with rehabilitation entitled: "Some Kind of Monster ". This just cemented the realization that they were willing to open up and put their being into everything they do for the love of the craft. This is why I gravitated to the band in the first place.
"it means a lot to me that my darkness can connect to your darkness"- James Hetfield.
Like many other people, I have had my share of trials and tribulations, Hardships that would render me unstable at times with immeasurable bouts of uncertainty, causing emotional, spiritual, and physical pain. During each one of these seamlessly hopeless episodes, I knew I had somewhere to turn. Metallica's music reminded me that we are not alone. Some of their relentless desire to pour their heart into everything they do allows me to find common ground with giants. It went beyond inspiration; it was a deep and unbreakable connection founded in overcoming misfortune. They have been a testament that you can and will overcome anything. It was said best in an interview when a fan asked a question. "What is the most difficult situation you personally or the band has endured?". James spoke about all-time highs and lows he and the band went through, but what he said at the end highlighted my original assumption. "Music is such a great therapy; it means a lot to me that my darkness can connect to your darkness"- James Hetfield.
My scrupulous endeavor to unearth the true meaning of my adulation had finally come to a head when after nearly two decades, I finally got the privilege to see them live. Met life stadium was filled to the rafters, about 50,000 strong. As soon as Ennio Morricone's- Ecstasy of Gold rang out through the packed stadium (intro song that the band used preceding their entrance for almost the entirety of their career.) I was hit with a gut-punch of emotion. A driving wave of realization slammed over me as a culmination of 20 plus years of fandom and its related emotions came to light all at once. Overcome with sentiment, I couldn't help but well up with tears. I'm not afraid to admit it. I took inventory of my unit and the close accompaniment of fans, and I realized they were overwhelmed with some degree of passion because it turns out I wasn't the only one who was watery-eyed. A massive crowd unified for their triumph of mental anguish through music by a band that we found some type of commonality in is truly a beautiful thing.
So, to answer the question which this piece is centered around: Why am I a Metallica fan? If I were to give you the short answer, it would sound familiar. Just as front man James Hetfield did when he said music saved his life, it turns out Metallica’s music saved mine.