Metallica’s new album, Hardwired… to Self-Destruct, has been released upon the world today. It is my favorite ‘tallica release in years, and everything we’ve come to love about the kings of metal in one career spanning package.
With every listen of the album, the nostalgia of my 30 year experience as a fan hit me many times, and left me thinking about the importance of Metallica to our genre, and even the world. More importantly, I thought about what has gained them the title as metal’s greatest band, and how they've managed to stay that way.
1. Metallica, The Humble
Metallica wasn’t always the biggest metal band in the world, and they never forget it. Like any other band, they did their share of relentless touring, writing, and building from humble beginnings to get where they are today. The sub-genre climate of the early 80's was not as open minded as it is now, which meant these hard hitting, fast shredding, noisy thrash underdogs had to work hard to gain the attention they deserved. Metallica's success didn't happen over night, and they wear it proudly on their sleeve through out their career. They are a band that made it through fan experience, not MTV and radio spins. Where many bands of their size have shed older songs from the setlist permanently, and form attitudes of vanity, Metallica embraces the fan favorites, pays constant homage to their own heroes, and keeps their ear low to the ground. The return to form found on Hardwired is a perfect example of this. Being the greatest metal band in history doesn't come easy, but they understand what it is to be an ambassador and fan of this genre. Something many other bands forget, with even the slightest bit of success.
2. Metallica, The Loving
Metallica loves their fans unconditionally, and constantly gives back. From leaving their set list up to a fan vote, to creating one of the best festival experiences I’ve ever attended, to endless contests, special fan club experiences, granting life changing wishes, working with charities, supporting the troops, joining their local beach clean up, supporting local business via Record Store Day, and countless other efforts, they are always inventing new ways for their fans to experience the love of Metallica. Having met the members, I could vouch for their friendliness and genuine appreciation to supporters around the world. Even while busy with an album cycle, Metallica makes the time to spread the love. Just recently, they quietly helped gather 9 tons of food for abandoned children and animals in Colombia, and headlined NYC's Global Citizen festival to raise awareness on environmental issues. These are some of the many great deeds that has been common place for the band over the years. I’ve yet to see another band pour so much dedication into their fans, everywhere in the world.
3. Metallica, The Leaders
One topic that constantly comes up in the music industry is "how do we break new bands?" Being the largest metal band ever, Metallica has shown their support and gratitude for the scene many times over by curating festivals and tours with much smaller bands they personally enjoy. Why is this such a big deal? Well, because Metallica can sell a place out on their own, and doesn't need support bands on a bill with them, but the fact that they insist on bringing artists up in the world speaks volumes of the kind of guys they are. This action not only helps the bands they work with, but benefits the genre as a whole. Whether they're shouting out new acts, or enlisting them on stage, getting praised by Metallica is probably the best press a band can get.
4. Metallica, The Fearless
With the exception of maybe Load and Reload, no two Metallica albums sound the same sonically or musically. This is huge! When a band does this, it means rolling the dice with your fan base, and creates intense soul seeking for a fresh perspective with every writing session. This is not only one of the hardest things any artist can do to themselves, but it’s also a very ballsy move for a band to do while trying to maintain a longtime fan base, like Metallica's. Where most would shy away from drastic changes, Metallica has always been a band to embrace it, and I can’t respect them enough for it. From the classically adored bass heavy instrumentals like "(Anesthesia) – Pulling Teeth" and "Orion", to game changing ballads like "Fade To black" and "Nothing Else Matters", they have made a career of being fearless leaders in changing the script for metal. Simply put, they can do whatever the hell they want! Their collaboration with Lou Reed, Lulu, is a prime example of just that. While Hardwired… To Self Destruct might be my favorite Metallica album in two decades, I have a tremendous amount of respect for their constant boundary pushing through out their career.
5. Metallica, The Insatiable
If there is one thing always on the Metallica agenda, it’s to find new ways to be Metallica. From their constantly evolving larger than life stage show, endless fan interaction, lovable antics, trying their hand in the IMAX film market, organizing their own festivals, performing secret events, or creating a music video for every song on their new release, they’re always creating a spectacle worth talking about. This is the very reason Metallica will always remain relevant although years pass between album releases. They're never on a break, they're just working on something else! Staying busy, reinventing, and letting their fans in on the action has truly made them the great band that they are.
In a nutshell, there is only one Metallica, and they’re great at being Metallica, the most adored metal band in the world.