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Why I'm a Metallica Fan: Part 2

The Songs

By James U. RizziPublished 12 months ago Updated 12 months ago 16 min read

It has been just about a year since my inaugural piece on my deep veneration for my favorite band, after launching part 1 I received an overwhelming amount of support and culminated interest of communal love for Metallica and their music, so much so that I felt an overwhelming need to do a part 2 almost immediately. I had a plan, and potent encouragement, backed by such a wonderful community. So why did it take so long? The answer is very similar to the reasons I displayed in the first piece. Reason one, stamped with permanence among most things in life, I never think its the right time. Reason two, I still don't think I can do the band justice. Again I familiarized myself with the two commonplace solutions. One, it will never be the right time. Second, this is so much more than doing the band justice. This is about influence, this is about the people, this is about common ground among turbulence, this is about music, escapism. This is about what it means to be a fan.

The final tipping point that weighed the scales in the interests of doing part two, had to do with what seemed to be perfect timing. As previously stated in part one, artistic exhibition (in this case music) can be an absolute saving grace for some people, obviously, me included. You ever get that staggering aura of realization when you hear, read, or watch something, that hits you just right? Speaks to you in volumes of understanding when it seems no one understands? The deep interlocking hands of destiny found their way together when I was set upon a recent path of self-reflection, contemplating of all things, my past. Reverting back to childhood. Prescreening some of the most polarizing moments, dissecting them with what I would hopefully consider a more experienced brain. Couldn't rightfully tell you why, or what I was looking for but as fate would have it perfect convergence. Popping up on my very particular news feed was the announcement of Metallica releasing their 11th studio album, entitled 72 Seasons. No doubt intrigued, I did a deep dive into the matter and uncovered the meaning behind the title.

72 seasons Album Cover

72 Seasons was inspired by a book that lead singer James Hetfield read about, you guessed it, childhood, reflecting on the first 18 years of your life or in this case, 72 Seasons. Throughout his reading James learned to Address the undoubted amount of darkness in his early childhood and some of the band's turbulent past, while gaining skills on how to cope with those issues as an adult. Noting that hope beyond understanding is just on the horizon.

“Some things are more difficult than others — you know, some things you can't unsee and they're with you for the rest of your life, and other things you're able to rewind the tape and make a new tape in your life. So that's the real interesting part for me, is how you're able to address those situations as an adult and mature." - James Hetfield

So there it is the never waning internal compass tracking to an indisputable beacon of relatable light. Practically shining on my keyboard instructing me to write. So here is part 2 of why I'm a Metallica fan: the songs

With heavy-laden guidance explained in the intro above I decided to use this piece to explain about some of my favorite songs and how they affected me on a deeper level. Beyond a showcase of the band, I hope this brings people not only a little insight on Metallica, but more importantly on their own life, and how the draw of the things you love, and certain intangibles in their presence, (whatever they may be) pull you away into something better.

The following list is five of my favorite songs in no particular order, with a little background on each and an explanation of my personal collection. Metallica die-hards may find some of the choices a little odd, considering I waver from a few of the hits. But that's the wondrous beauty of personal connection, you never know what’ll hit.

Nothing Else Matters - Album: Metallica

Starting off with a bang, Nothing Else Matters may be my favorite song of all time. Nothing Else Matters was released in 1992 on their self-entitled album called Metallica, more widely known to the adoring fan base as the black album.

Easy to see why they called it the black album

The early 90s saw a monumental shift for the band, a new producer changed the whole layout of their recording tactics, a new bassist, and a collective agreement to divert from the thrash metal sound a bit, replacing it with a more slow tempo conducive to a ballad. Interwoven with heavy bass riffs and well timed acoustic intros saw the band's 5th studio album skyrocket the charts to being one of the best selling albums of the band's history. Among the hits Nothing Else Matters was probably one of the biggest and most diverged from the usual Metallica song, it could be easily explained as soft rock. Originally intended for his girlfriend, lead singer James Hetfield tried to compose the intro over the phone while speaking with her. That's why the acoustic intro in the beginning is all open notes, he needed a free hand to hold the phone. Obviously, my introduction to the song I didn’t know its background was centered around a love and relationship however I was able to captivate my very own meaning. Its orchestra-like sound and serenading accompaniment gave an overall arc of tranquility enough for me to get lost and devise my own interpretation. The meaning for me was simply this; laid out intently by the lyrics. my one decidedly driven goal or appointed passion at the time was all that I should worry about, and all that I should cater to. All the arbitrary, complexities of the world would fade away because I had what I needed, and nothing else mattered.

Unnamed Feeling - Album: St. Anger

Here's where division may occur amongst the Metallica faithful. After the previously mentioned black album in 92, the band leaned even more into their balladic temperament. The decision was charged by the obvious success of the new sound. Which had some of the die-hard fans who loved the early thrash metal reeling a bit. Come 2001 while prepping for their 8th studio album St. Anger. The band would face its most significant turmoil to date. The first blow would come in the form of a filed lawsuit against the file-sharing app known as Napster, alleging that the digital file distributor (Napster) was guilty of copyright infringement and racketeering. A shutter of division would wave through the fans, many among them rejecting the band citing that music is what matters, not the money. tensions were high, drastic measures were taken when the group brought in a life coach to strengthen bonds and get everybody on the right track. Even going so far as to document the whole experience, and sharing it In a feature length film entitled Some Kind of Monster.

2004 documentary

This it would seem would be the final straw for the long-time bassist Jason Newstead who would soon depart the band. Mid-recording sans bassist, James Hetfield would make the drastic decision to check himself into rehab, leaving the completion of the album and the state of the band in the air. Through it all the album was completed and their new and current bassist Robert Trujillo would join the trio. However, the even newer sound of the album drove so many more fans away. No guitar solos, dirty riffs, and a new upturned snare drum were too much of a diversion from its original sound. All that being said why did I even put a song from the controversial album on the list? in order to fully explain my choices I believe I have to stake some of my own vulnerability, (for most likely the rest of the piece) I'm more than willing to do so if it lends itself to the story, and more importantly, to potentially help someone else.

Coincidentally the year was 2003 the release of the album St. Anger. Little did I know one moment in my life would be so copacetic with this album. This is the year I had my first panic attack. A string of unusual feelings, hastened by an overwhelming fear that was brought on by symptoms that were far too closely related to an untimely heart attack. I didn't know what it was then. During my recovery I tried grasping at reality wherever I could.

That was my first stint into the profuse world of anxiety. Or what James Hetfield likes to call the unnamed feeling. I had such a deep-rooted connection when I heard it, it spoke to me in a magnitude nobody could speak at the time. A fast scratchy interlude to the chorus was purposely chaotic to insure those feelings of fear. Like nails on a chalkboard. What followed were some of the most relatable lyrics of that time given the situation. Meeting each indispensable line with a formidable sense of agreement.

“I'm frantic in your soothing arms.” Yes, I get that.

You fool you fool it'll be here soon.” Very true.

“Been here before,” Repeated over and over again.

Admittedly you'd think this counterintuitive. So much talk about anxiety in a negative light would leave you more anxious. But the fact of the matter is sometimes unquestionable relatability to a confusing situation is far better than a solution. It brought a modicum of comfort knowing that my favorite band in the world was familiar with the unnamed feeling.

The Unforgiven - Album: Metallica

This unrelenting power ballad can only be categorized -- in my eyes -- as the anthem for the empathetic. A divisive look into the struggles of the kindly human who receives nothing but strife for his good deeds, creating an inward indignation that would set the standard for the rest of his life albeit a little too late. I couldn’t even begin to tell you how close I’ve become to this song as I’ve grown, ironically beautiful, considering the context is about personal realization throughout life. Now following the all-important theme of vulnerability, I could get into my personal struggles with empathy and how I’ve dealt with it, and the sometimes unfortunate repercussion of putting yourself out there only to be crushed because it made you an easy target. But I don’t think that’s necessary. We have all been on the unfortunate receiving end of undeserved backlash when all we’ve been is kind. Living for everybody but yourself.

The song has a naturally beautiful understanding of these viewpoints. Opening with an acoustic ambiance to that of a Spanish-style guitar, James bares his soul in this spaghetti western inclusive sounding track, with a heavy emphasis on vocals. Aside from its very poignant message, the song combines one of my other insatiable hobbies, that of storytelling. So much so that the song itself spawned two sequels, following the aforementioned kindly human, and his journey of love, loss, and gratifying realization. In my opinion, this song has some of the best lyrics frontman James Hetfield has ever written. When Isolating just his words, you can see it has a resounding prose quality to it, piercing through that veil of composed music into understanding.

Among some of the most pronounced lines:

Deprived of all his thoughts The young man struggles on and on he’s known A vow unto his own That never from this day His will they’ll take away.” The indignant promise that everything he has left, however little, nobody will take from him gives me goosebumps every time I hear it.

And there’s part of the chorus: “What I’ve felt, What I’ve known Never shined through what I’ve shown Never free Never me So I dub the unforgiven.”

Then the biggest gut punch of the ensemble: “A tired man they see no longer cares. The old man then prepares. To die regretfully, that old man here is me.” James revealed that the whole time the character in his story was him. A completely unbarred exposure once again, showing relation through mutual understanding, by giving himself to his listeners.

Saying this when asked about the song that fact becomes all that more true. “The Unforgiven’ was basically about alienation and, kind of, regret in life,” Hetfield explained to Maximum Guitar in 1998. “I lived my life for other people, trying to please everyone else except myself and at the end of the day blaming everyone else instead of yourself and not really taking responsibility for yourself.”

This song has indefinitely taught me to live for myself other than the preconceived notions of those around me. Otherwise, you won’t live up to your true potential or, as James puts it, won’t see what might have been. Try your best to not let society take away who you are. The first step on the arduous track of self-exploration will always be forgiveness.

Fade to Black - Album: Ride The Lightning

The year is 1984. A newly formed Metallica had just set their sites on recording their second studio album entitled: Ride the Lightning. After a tough and burdensome battle to get their debut record on shelves, they tackled their new record with renewed vigor, hoping to capitalize on fresh momentum.

Far be it from their lustrous present, Metallicas' early years were not so exuberant. The couch-surfing bandmates took to eating one meal a day while sleeping at fan's homes gigging across the country prompting their debut album and testing out songs that were to be slated for Ride the Lighting. Far from the sold-out stadiums of today's tours.

A unified decision was made when drummer and co-founder Lars Ulrich wanted to go back to his home country in Denmark and begin recording the album. Lars had always been keen on recording in Europe indefinitely considering, that's where his roots are, coupled with the fact the producer Flammeing Rasmmues of Sweet Silence Records produced the album Difficult to Cure by a band called Rainbow which Lars enjoyed so much he cut a deal with Flammeing to start working on the new album. Prior to their trip a Uhal of equipment was stolen. In one fell swoop the entirety of their Tourgear was gone including James' signature amp, a sentimental piece as it was gifted to him by his very dear late mother. To make matters worse recording so far from home would take its toll on the already unsettled band, who after 3 weeks became severely homesick. Financially incapable of affording much at the time they had to sleep and live and the studio and record late at night because the majority of European bands had their bookings during the day.

Sweet Silence records in 1984

These innate and very real feelings are what birthed the idea and conception for the song Fade to Black. In apt with absolute catharsis the band chose to put their feelings into craft.

Now ultimately here is where I staggered a bit. While the source material for the song is already heavy, its culmination and finished product deal with some very bleak concepts. Although I've already permitted a declaration of vulnerability I Still got hung up so much so, that I forgot why I loved the song so much in the first place. Luckily the consultation with a very dear friend reminded me. I had mentioned the song's visibility of suicide and depression, noting it may be too heavy for the piece, their response to the weariness was exactly what I needed to hear.

"There’s nothing wrong with talking about that stuff, I think we too often shy away from mentioning it outright, and then we stereotype it into a more abnormal and terrible thing when in reality people just struggle and need to feel seen" - Oneg In The Arctic

And there it was, stunning realization Lifting the fog of mental health taboo. I remembered why Fade to Black was so close to my heart. Metallica wasn't afraid to put their real-life transgressions on the table and show the world that this stuff really happens, and it's ok to talk about. James even went as far as clarifying there was really no contemplation of suicide. Instead, the song was really about how one can feel helpless when struck with events you can't control. It's normal and healthy to wallow in sorrow, at the end of the day it's up to you to turn it around.

Further clarification to that point, James had this to say while performing the song during recent performance:

Its acoustic intro (seems to be a theme here) overlaid with electric guitar soloing and every ascending progression of intensity set its sights to be an ultimate classic; reminding you all that in the throngs of your worst and deepest sadness, you are not alone, you are not powerless, if a song that speaks of such things rode the charts for years and will be remembered for years to come, there's no fear in opening up. I'll say it again because it bares repeating. You are not alone.

(Anesthesia) pulling teeth –Album: kill em all

This song may be my biggest divergence from all the rest for a plethora of instances. But combining the landscape of Metallica’s discography and cross-referencing it with my distinctive captivation I landed here, a purely instrumental track that settles on the scope of a single instrument, the bass. Surly one would question any established link to a favorite song that had no lyrics or an interactively laid out musical arrangement, like you'd expect from a high-grade band, but for me, the incessant draw wasn't any of those things, it was more for the man who composed the song and the instrument he represented.

There is an inherent stigma amongst the general population and even some musicians that the bass instrument is solely a support instrument. Viewing the guitar or even the drums as the facet tool of the rockstar lifestyle. In relation to real life, it can certainly seem that way characteristically, especially if You're always the support person and not the acclaimed Rockstar you still wish to be. The yes person, the one willing to get everyone over but yourself because quite frankly it felt good. The “ill-get- you-there” person and I don't even need any credit, not that any would be given. That's the bass. Not intrinsically of course but to a majority of viewpoints.

Cliff Burton of Metallica (arguably one of the greatest bassists of all time) changed that script and turned it on its head as if the stigma was never there. A gifted and well-trained musician (the only trained musician in the band) picked up the bass early on in life after studying piano classically for the majority of his childhood making a vow to his late brother that he'd be the best bass player ever, and that's exactly what he did. Practicing six hours a day from the age of 13 until his untimely death during a bus tour accident. His short three-year stint with the band set the tone for decades to come. He decidedly took the reigns. Influencing their music with his bigger-than-life style and his unknowing attitude to show the world he was more than one dimensional he was more than just support, he was more than just a bass player he was a musician.

This couldn't be more evident on his solo instrumental track on their debut album Kill 'em All. Where cliff took an amalgamation of everything he's learned and loved, and spliced it into one major, challenging original, and massive piece. With an intro that included the stylistic eloquence of classical composers like Beethoven and Mozart, adapting arpeggiated triads much like you'd find in the intro to Moonlight Santa. Before interluding into a mash-up of southern rock and blues then crescendo into an all-out screeching melody with heavily incorporated distortion set to the more relevant tone of thrash metal. This combination of bass solos was truly a showcase of superb talent.

This unordinary inclusion of an instrumental solo on a debut album, (let alone a bass solo) and Cliff's undeniable determination to be the very best I believe truly set Metallica apart in the metal scene in the early 80s. It opened a door to an ever-winding path of success that they still tread on 40 years later.

This infinitely cemented the unfortunately hard-to-realize fact for me and so many others. We don't have to be defined by preconceived notions, or stifled by our environment, we are more than just support. Carve a blazed trail of your own volition, with whatever passion you choose. If a young man from California with a dream and a bass can change the trajectory of music forever, just imagine what you can do.

“Those who start things have an advantage over those who follow.” - Cliff Burton.

So there you have it. After a year of contemplating and second-guessing why I'm a Metallica fan part 2: the songs finally delivered. A tried and true continuation of a piece that was undeniably close to my heart. Because of my vow of vulnerability mentioned earlier, I can tell you this through the remarkable outlet of writing and timely destiny, that this piece had unfortunately been delayed. Mid-way through, life unfortunately became turbulent, and reluctantly I had to pause.

As I came back to the present I slowly clamored for my proverbial stabilizers. Being that I hadn't yet delved too deep into the new album I had decided to dissect the track list, hoping it would provide some much-needed relevance or understanding. It had so many times in the past after all. Who knew the whole album would strike the chord it did? You could joke with the fact that this would be a given. I'm obviously a super fan, i'm biased, but more than just that the alignment, content, and how it related to what I was going through was far too perfect. Was it magic, fate sorcery, how could they possibly always get what I'm going through? I think the answer is far simpler and more profound than that. Metallica fearlessly exposes what we lack in life. This time around following such woeful and uncertain years they expose that we are hurt, we are afraid. 72 seasons is centered symbolically around darkness, and the light that follows embodying the notion that beyond the greatest strife is the greatest hope.

Im often asked by an unruly abundance of people why I listen to the same songs all the time. First off I do listen to other songs believe it or not. second, you can't mess with the classics, better yet these songs are emphatically connected to me commanding so much of my early and present life that there are in fact, MY classics. You'd think that later on in life you'd have less to influence you. Less to learn, but the simple fact is after 72 seasons it's quite the opposite. Adulthood tests you in the only way the complexity of life can. With that sinking realization I'll leave you with this. When cut on the frayed ends of life, by whatever distributive cataclysm brought you there, just don't forget what got you through it all. Don't forget your classics.

*Side note (for more wonderful satire, enchanting poems, and other worldly fiction go ahead and give my friend a follow Oneg In The Arctic)

60s music80s music

About the Creator

James U. Rizzi

I cant wait to see what I can create here.

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Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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Comments (3)

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  • Mike Singleton - Mikeydred10 months ago

    Excellent article on an archetypal band

  • Melissa Ingoldsby12 months ago

    A very in-depth and emotionally resonant piece on your musical journey! Well done 🥰

  • Oneg In The Arctic12 months ago

    James, this was epic. Just, well done. (Also my some of my fav songs in here so woot woot)

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