Sunday, August 3, 2008
Guest Blogger : Alok
The name evokes a wide range of responses:
“Metallica is God!”
“The best Metal band.”
“Innovators of Thrash Metal.”
“Not even close to Megadeth.”
“Metallica is dead.”
But that does not even ruffle a hair up James Hetfield’s... nose. Not even a bit. Nor does the rest of Metallica care about what you or anybody else has to say about what they do. That is the spirit behind Metallica’s music. They don’t make music to please your ears and make you dance happily. They make music that shares their own expression, that lives their spirit. They make music they want to make. If you can associate, they’re happy to share. If you cannot, you can as well go please yourself.
If at this point you’re wondering, “What is Metallica?”, or, “Ah, Metallica! Those guys that play I Disappear”, the rest of the post isn’t for you. You’d probably be interested in the Wikipedia page for Metallica or maybe hearing a few of their albums. Search for them through your internet connection. Or ask a friend having one.
My goal here is not to discuss Metallica, their make-outs, their break-ups or who they’re having sex with. My goal here is to recount an experience, a journey through Metallica’s music. To describe what their music makes me go through. If you’ve been through such a ride, hop in!
My first encounter with Metallica’s music would be “Nothing Else Matters”. Hearing that song being played on a nearby computer, I found myself wandering along a path inside my own self, through a journey of deep emotion: Sincerity and earnest longing in the simple E minor arpeggio the song begins with, pain and suffering in the chorus and refrain, the intense peak in the guitar solo, acceptance and withdrawal in the end. Few songs I had heard before could make me feel that way. .
It would be some time before I would experience the complete Metallica. I didn’t have a computer of my own, and hardly any access to music, let alone Metallica. During the summer, from the random stuff I’d collected from people, I found another gem: “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin, which remains to be the best song I’ve ever heard. Through it I arrived on the album “100 Greatest Guitar Solos”. Hence began my journey into the deep and beautiful world of Rock and Metal music.
The album featured three songs from Metallica: “One”, “Fade to Black”, “Master of Puppets”. It was “Fade to Black” that caught my attention first. There was pain, sadness and depression in the arpeggiated chord progression the song began with. The feeling of helplessness enhanced with Hetfield’s vocals joining in. Something new awaited me further down the song: Metallica’s riffs. It was my first encounter with the real Metallica sound: Loud, Heavy, Electric and Powerful. I found myself swaying under their influence, banging my head and tapping my foot. But what took it away was the guitar solo at the end. I had never heard anything as fast, beautiful and intense before.
“One” was a different experience. Not as light as “Fade to Black”, this song begins with series of riffs interspersed with brilliant melodic lines on clean guitars, with angst filled vocals. However, it is when the song picks up its pace and begins its journey into the mind blowing riff and the angry and intense chorus, that I felt, yet again, the sheer force and power in Metallica’s music, banging my head fiercely in submission. But wait, that isn’t the end. With Kirk Hammett’s blazing solo that shreds you apart in its speed and ferocity, the song ravishes me every time.
“Master of Puppets” is one of the best compositions I’ve ever heard. Beginning with extremely dissonant and “evil” riffs, the song caught me on early. The rhythmic brilliance in the work, the way the riffs switch from one to another and the intensity in the vocals succeeds in building a tension, which is relieved by the interlude: a beautiful twin guitar harmony riding over an arpeggiated sequence of chords. Following its relief is a surge of angry riffs topped by a shredding solo, leading its way back to the tense riffs that began the song. With three different phases to the journey this song leads you through, this song is one talented piece of work.
As I progressed further into Rock and Metal, I moved on from individual songs to hearing complete albums, which is a completely different experience altogether. To a music junkie like me, it’s like reading a novel or watching a movie. Most importantly it’s the picture of emotions, rhythms and peaks that each song paints and the way it blends into that painted by the next song that makes it an experience worth having. Each of Metallica’s albums is a different journey:
Kill 'em All
This album features the raw, early Metallica sound. The songs have less of structure and more of craziness. But that is what makes this album enjoyable. With crazy, energetic compositions like “The Four Horsemen”, “Seek and Destroy”, “Jump in the Fire”, and “Whiplash”, the album is an insane head banging ride.
Ride the Lighting
Featuring a more sophisticated sound, this album is a focused experience. Each song is a distinct experience in itself. Sharp, gloomy, doom-oriented, and dark, the album takes you through a unique journey of fast tempo riffs and expressive composition. The compositions are heavy and fast paced with many structural elements.
Masters of Puppets
Labelled by many as the best Metal album of all time, this album is a dark experience, filled to the brim with heavy rhythms that make your head bang. The songs progress seamlessly into each other, producing a smooth flow of music that is the primary trait of this album. “Master of Puppets” features a very refined sound, but never fails to be heavy. Anger, power, aggression, control and helplessness are the themes that the music explores. But it is the constant heaviness and intensity in sound that makes it a great listening experience.
And Justice for All
Technically Metallica’s most sound album, featuring a different approach than the previous two albums. Metallica’s sound, the core of Metallica’s initial music, remains intact. The album does not provide as involving a journey as the previous two albums do, but has its own features including ultra fast paced drumming and rhythms, odd time signatures and progressive melodies. A very musically strong album if listened to properly.
Metallica 'The Black Album'
The album is titled “Metallica”, but is more popularly known as “The Black Album”. It features a lot of musical directions from Metallica apart from Thrash Metal: songs like “Nothing Else Matters”, “Enter Sandman”, “The God That Failed”, “The Unforgiven”, “Wherever I May Roam” and “My Friend of Misery”. It is the musical variety in this album and the beauty in every song that makes it Metallica’s best-selling album to date.
Load and Reload
“Load” and “Reload” display Metallica’s further exploration into the depths of Music, away from their roots, towards a more “alternative” sound. The songs are compositionally simpler than the previous albums, the song structures follow a more catchy approach, and there is a conspicuous absence of the intense riffs and heavy rhythms that characterized their earlier sound.
St. Anger” is yet another completely new approach to music from Metallica. Featuring a very raw, intense and basic sound, the songs focus more on rhythm and pace than melody. The characteristics of aggression and raw power are easily perceptible from the song structures. The album does not feature guitar solos, and melodies in the songs are structured in a raw, simple fashion.
"Death Magnetic” is the title of Metallica’s latest album, set to be released this September. It is said to feature a more “Old School” and “Progressive” approach. Hell, I can’t wait any longer!
Metallica’s music originates from a very strong sense of rebelliousness, talent, individuality and originality. Whatever they might appear to be, Metallica are musicians first. And it is their Love for Music that is apparent from endeavors like S&M (Symphony and Metallica, which features a beautiful mix of their music played along with the San Francisco Symphony). This Love for music is in abundance in all of their work. The unique, dissonant riffs and chromatic melodic lines, the strange beat structures, the non adherence to musical conventions while still sounding good is proof. And that is what makes Metallica one of the best bands in the history of Rock and Metal music.
This is where he head bangs :P
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