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Essential Media Files: Whatever Happened to James Hetfield?

[Essential Media Files is an ongoing theme where I cover anything and everything media-wise]

When a member of a rock band says to an interviewer "But we're huge in Europe," it's all over. Huge in Europe is just a euphemism for "we are this close to being kicked off of our record label." I mean, John Tesh is huge in Europe. Is that who you want to keep company with?

The latest person to speak those words is none other than James Hetfield of Metallica.

James seems a little disturbed that Metallica's latest effort, St. Anger, wasn't exactly a hot commodity in the U.S. In fact, James said "it's a bummer."

"It's a very challenging record," [Drummer Lars] Ulrich said of "St. Anger," which was constructed by a computer program and features no guitar solos. He added that U.S. rock radio programmers seemed more interested in playing bands like Nickelback.

I think Metallica can find the key to their problems in just three words from the above statement: No. Guitar. Solos.

That's why it didn't sell, guys. Metallica fans are the kind of people who made playing air guitar an art form. Listening to a Metallica album and not being able to pick your invisible guitar is just wrong. Sure, every band has the right to experiment and try out new styles. Just know that the fans may not follow.

Let's go back to Metallica's last good album, ...And Justice For All. That was the last album they would release before they made the transition to the the spit-and-polish sound on the Black Album (Metallica) and, years later, the intensity lacking Load and Re-Load.

One only has to put on Justice and listen to Harvester of Sorrow or Blackened and then listen to Hero of the Day from Load to realize that Metallica did not age well. Hetfield just can't make those guttural groans like he used to. Metallic fans, most in their 30's by now, have moved on. And the new kids just don't want to bang their head to an old man singing about anger and angst. Being a heavy metal star is like wearing a tight miniskirt; you can only do it until a certain age until people start keeping their distance from you.

Metallica wanted to change direction (after twenty years) and play a kindler, gentler heavy metal. The kind that gets played on all the radio stations, the kind that gets you an invite to TRL. Like, say...Nickelback.

Let's just all sit back and listen to Master of Puppets or Kill 'em All and reminisce about the days when Metallica had a raw edge and James could make those scowling faces without looking like his pacemakers just blew a fuse.

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Metallica's all whiny that nobody wants their craptacular latest album, St. Anger. They're even resorting to the "but we're still big in Europe" cliche now, which is a sure sign James'll be shouting "Minnesota State Fair, are you ready to... [Read More]


The problem with Metallica aint the lack of guitar solos or their audience growing up. It's the crap songs and soggy production.

Then again, I thought "Justice" was boring too.

I think I'll go play "Ride the Lightning" again

While I stated that Justice was their last good album, it certainly wasn't the best. That honor goes to Lightning.

My first thought was "Geesh Michele, you are mean" but then I remembered watching them on the American Music Awards the other night. I didn't think of pacemakers. I thought it was a look of constipation.

There's a line I was going to put under one of your '90s album posts, but I never got around to it:

"Part of the reason the '90s were a poor decade for rock was the people who gave us the masterpieces of the '80s either burned out (Paul Westerberg, Bob Mould), or lost their minds (Axl Rose, Prince), or ... whatever the hell happened to Metallica."

Nickleback is the only arguement necessary for the invasion and ultimate destruction of Canada. If "How You Remind Me" doesn't get you into the Axis of Evil, what does?

Metallica still kicks insane ass in their live shows now. Saw them this summer and they ripped my head off. That was the 4th show I've been to of theirs, and they get better every time I see them.

Hey, Bob Mould didn't burn out until at least 2000.

Those Europeans probably don't download all the free Metallica off of the internet. That is why they buy their albums.

That and they like crappy music.

Started a comment, but it got too long so I posted it. Short version: I disagree, sorta.

I'm with you guys on Ride The Lightning! That was the best, and as far as the rest of their music I didn't much care for anything after Justice. There is plenty of great metal these days to make me happy. I could give a shit about Lars and James, go smoke a cigar and masturbate your egos some more, you guys are over.

Holy s***! You mean there was a conversation about Metallica's income going down hill, and they didn't blame MP3's?!?!?!?!

Good Lord! I suppose we'll hear Nancy Pelosi claiming that "GWB is the greatest president this country has ever seen" next!
Will wonders never cease?

I used to be a big Metallica fan, but then they started making newer style music and left their roots. We already have enough crap...no need to make more. AC/DC still sounds like AC/DC.

That, and James Hetfield made a vital mistake IMO: Bad stance on Napster.

I've always been partial to Kill 'Em All. (To me) Seek and Destroy has to be one of the best songs ever written.

Give me The Black Album any day!

Metallica's problem is that they need to find their anger again. I don't begrudge anyone a good therapist if they need it - - but couldn't they have dealt with their anger after they made their last album?

Ok, ok - I'm insensitive.

I thought it was "Belgium" as in, "We're really big in Belgium right now."

Or, maybe that was just Citizen Dick.

I used to play in a darts league which was based out of a pool-hall. Every home game we had, we'd arrive early and stuff the jukebox with quarters, assuring that once the visiting team arrived, they'd be subjected to a punishing back-to-back onslaught of Ride the Lightening and Master of Puppets. Of course, the median age of our team was 27....the average age of the league was 52. We made people so gloriously uncomfortable that it couldn't even be considered a home-field "advantage."

And what's the deal with Lars' drum sound on St. Anger? I had a set of Pearl International drums 16 years ago that sounded better! Ugh! When I hear a song off of STA all I hear is clank*clank*clank.

One of my all time favorites CDs is the Black Albumn after their music starts turning conformist.And Michele I haven`t heard this new one yet but I agree NO GUITAR SOLO is not going to work.For that reason alone I wont buy it.
I don`t listen to music to hear someones philosphy or politics,I listen to it for the music,the sound.If a band changes their sound then I look elsewhere.

...after THAT their music starts...
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Three words?

How about 'Metallica killed Napster'?

That killed them for me. I've seen and listened to so much 'pirated' stuff it's not funny--and I still buy the real thing

The sight of those millionaires chasing down kids who'd downloaded a song made me sick.

i learned to downpick like a motherfucker by listening to james hetfield. "st anger" is a disappointment, not because it is so much of a departure from the metallica standard but, because it sounds so uninspiring. i gave it a chance and then quickly renewed my commitment to indie rock!

I never got Metallica. Just sounded like crap to me, right off the bat. Except for the black album, which sounded poppy.

Pretentious twits, all of 'em.

I have to agree, sorta... the Black album was great, for what it was.. a turn to commerciality. I also have to say that St. Anger COULD be great with a whole new mix. Pump up the bass, downplay the tin cans and add guitar solos and the songs are awesome... I can't believe that put out that "intentionally underproduced" sound.... did they even LISTEN to it first??? I do think the songs are very strong... it's the production that kills it.

I've always liked Metallica. Until this album.

James Hetfield trying to sing/scream like Jonathan Davis makes me want to stick a chopstick in my ear.

Whatever happened to James Hetfield? What I really want to know is what happened to Yngwie Malmsteen!

my roomie came home with St Anger one day. It sounds like it was recorded in a small bathroom. In fact, at ProSound Web, there's a thread where someone asks for a commercially available exampled of terrible mixing, and all the recording engineer dudes agree it's St Anger. St PanBanger.

I really like the Black Album, but St. Anger really angered me when I bought it. I finally figured out why the radio station would only play one cut off of it - because they all pretty much suck, so you heard one, you heard 'em all.

I knew things were bad with Metallica when I heard a song on the radio and thought, "Wow. That sucks. Some band out there is ripping off Metallica and doing it really badly."

And then the DJ said, "And that's the latest off of St. Anger!"


st. anger is the most disgracful thing i have ever heard. If iron maiden and ozzy managed to stay as great as evr all these years, then why did metallica turn heathen. They used to be my favourite band and i was a huge fan, but now i not only say good day to them, i say, lets take a hint from their first album, and KILL UM ALL!

OK people lets come the fuck down!

so St.anger sucked , true , but the black album sound speaking was htere most pro done album and if you guys love metal you shuld stand up aganst the aful music that is played day by day on that fucking MTV and radio!!! (insted of comlaning that a former greate band tryed to survive in that filthy industry)

I completely agree with the previous comment. Show some loyalty assholes. What goes up has got to fall. It's a way of life. Instead of talking about Metallica's downfall, let's continue to enjoy their great, uplifting songs, like escape, from R.T.L. Anyways, I'm out.