Monday, February 7, 2011

A Brief Digression Towards Things Important

Man, I'm telling you, I'm in crisis. I've been trying hard as hell to get into Death Magnetic, the most recent Metallica album. I'm failing.

I've loved Metallica for what may actually be two decades now. I came to them a bit late, being that I was 7 when Kill 'Em All dropped, and I don't think my parents were too interested in me getting into that before 2nd grade. But I do have quite vivid memories of coming upon ...And Justice for All, courtesy of my childhood pal Larry, who was listening to it at our friend Anthony's house. On a Walkman. Awesome. I subsequently came upon the rest of their work and fell immediately in love. I was a grumpy teenager who had just decided to learn how to play bass, which turned into a grumpy teenager who was learning to play guitar, and the Hetfield-Hammett-Burton axis of evil is about as much as you can ask for in the way of inspiration. Hell, I think I got into Mozart because of Master of Puppets, so don't try to tell me that metal will do nothing but turn me into a Satan worshipper. I actually ended up at Notre Dame, and I didn't even combust.

But Death Magnetic is a problem. There are elements of it that I like. The band is better than it's been in many a moon and their writing is closer to the classic material that I prefer. And I really like Robert Trujillo, who I thought was a beast in Suicidal Tendencies. There's a lot to like on this album, but it keeps underwhelming. And, then this morning I had a thought.

Rick Rubin and whoever engineered that sucker really dropped the ball. The sound of the thing stinks. It's not as beefy and full as it should be. Beyond some intermittent moments of lightweight playing, the whole album seems like someone stole all of their gear and rented them a bunch of stuff from some diet metal band. It's not chunky enough. And thundering, pummeling, propulsive chunk is what Metallica is all about. At least in my mind. And it sounds digital, which is a large, steaming bunch of BS. Everyone knows that the right way to get a good metal sound is to overdrive the crap out of a wall of tube amps. Tubes, as you all know, are analog, as are hands and guitars. Putting them into ProTools and compressing them down to digital files is like putting a whale in a fishbowl. Someone call Fleming.

In other music news, I have been reading Motley Crue's autobio The Dirt. If you were alive in the 80s and/or care about metal, you should read this. It's amazing. And the Crue deserve a lot more credit than they may get. I defy all of you to watch their Carnival of Sins DVD and then tell me that they don't still kick ass.

I've found a new metal band worth a bit of your time, and they're local. Memphis-based Sacrum. Check 'em out. Nice stuff. Powerful, agile stuff. Check it out.

Also, to bring things full circle, for those of you guitar nerds like me, the new Guitar World print edition has a ranking of the 100 best Metallica songs, as they see it. Now, I have plenty to pick about, but I'm happy as a clam to see that Creeping Death made the top of their list. It's a personal favorite of mine, the first Metallica song I learned how to play, and perhaps the best way to convince Christians that heavy metal and the Bible aren't mutually exclusive.


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