Danica Roem on Metallica

While listening to Mandatory Metallica on @SXMLiquidMetal tonight in celebration of the 30th anniversary of The Black Album, I was thinking about what it meant to me as a teenager in the late '90s, a few years after it debuted in '91. So here's a meandering, rambling story.

Middle school is when my taste in music started expanding beyond classic rock, which is what I was raised on from basically birth. My sister was big into grunge, so I picked up some of that from her (Nirvana, Alice in Chains) along with a few alternative bands (Live Sublime).

So by 8th grade in '97/'98, I was listening to our two modern rock radio stations: DC 101 and WHFS (99.1). Load and ReLoad were still fresh by that point, so songs from those albums were getting a lot of airplay -- but none of it was as heavy as Sad But True.

Up to that point, "new Metallica" to me was Fuel, The Memory Remains, King Nothing, Until It Sleeps, Hero of the Day, etc. I knew "old Metallica" only as The Black Album. I had no clue Metallica had an '80s catalogue, let alone four of the most important albums in metal history.

That changed when I started listening to 98 Rock out of Baltimore during my freshman year of high school. I saw a sticker for it on one guy's binder, so every single night, I would listen to "Mandatory Metallica" -- a three-song block that always included an '80s song.

In order to appreciate their first four albums though, my 14-year-old self needed The Black Album as a gateway. Specifically, I needed to explore that album beyond the five radio hits: Enter Sandman, Sad But True, The Unforgiven, Wherever I May Roam and Nothing Else Matters.

When you're still brand new to metal and listen to Through The Never and Holier Than Thou, it's really like tip-toeing into the shallow end of the thrash metal kids' pool. It was like, "Okay... this is what fast is... try to keep up." But TBA was never about speed.

At its core, The Black Album is really about accessible, stripped-down heaviness without typical rock radio cliches. No two songs to me at age 14 fulfilled that like The God That Failed and My Friend of Misery. To this day, they still stand solidly on their own.

As a Catholic school kid, understanding a song like The God That Failed was a challenge different from anything else I knew. It's wasn't vulgar or dirty; it was a raw lament, told from James about his mother's prayers going unanswered before she died. It's emotionally deep.

My Friend of Misery was just outright dark -- musically and lyrically. I just loved this: "You just stood there screaming / Fearing no one was listening to you / They say the empty can rattles the most / The sound of your own voice must sooth you."

The musicality had a intense heaviness to it that was great but the alienation in the lyrics hit home. James's mom died when he was young. His father then left his family. My dad died when I was 3 by his own hand. He chose to leave. I felt like I could relate to James's turmoil.

In hindsight, it's funny to think that when I was asked in my Western Civ class in '98 if I liked "old" or "new" Metallica more, I said, "old," meaning The Black Album. The guy asking me meant Master of Puppets; I just didn't know it.

So as I started taking steps away from The Black Album into heavier, faster and more technical metal, Metallica's back catalogue finally fell into place for me. I was enough into the band to want to like it -- and, oh damn, did I ever. It's my favorite music, 20 years later.

Later this month, I'll turn 37. I think for metalheads my age, we can all wax poetic about the heaviest/fastest/most technical albums we love until we're blue in the face. For us, we'll always see Master of Puppets as *the* defining Metallica album (though AJFA is my favorite).

But I also think we can sometimes forget this far into our metal journeys just why The Black Album is quite literally *the* biggest album of the Soundscan era, 30 years in the making now.

It's introduced more people to heavy metal than any other record ever. That's just a fact.

Most metalheads weren't raised on the underground from birth. We found our way into whatever subgenres of choice clicked for us, whether they're thrash and melo death for me or goregrind and crossover for others. For so many people my age, The Black Album opened that door.

Meanwhile, just think of how many countless musicians picked up a guitar because of that album or when they did pick up that guitar, they started off wanting to learn "Enter Sandman" and, a year later, they grew that were tapping the "One" solo or playing MOP all the way through.

That's the power of that album. It's brought so many people to this genre of music and inspired *so* many musicians to want to play in the first place, even bands that are infinitely heavier and faster than Metallica. I was one of them -- and, to me, it's *still* a great record.


Folksonomies: culture

/art and entertainment/music/music genres/rock music (0.843608)
/art and entertainment/music/music genres/world music (0.815167)
/art and entertainment/music/music reference (0.786350)

Heavy metal music (0.970981): dbpedia_resource
Metallica (0.968807): dbpedia_resource
Kirk Hammett (0.544996): dbpedia_resource
Load (0.484867): dbpedia_resource
Thrash metal (0.479144): dbpedia_resource
James Hetfield (0.430109): dbpedia_resource
Lars Ulrich (0.374551): dbpedia_resource

 Metallica Twitter Thread
Electronic/World Wide Web>Message Posted to Online Forum/Discussion Group:  Roem, Danica (2020), Metallica Twitter Thread, Retrieved on 2021-10-17
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  • Folksonomies: culture