The Worst of Metallica: A Race to Rock Fucking Bottom (2/3)

Welcome back to this week’s special column series about Metallica, you’re about to wish you didn’t return for part two.  Because this time we’re looking back at all the worst parts of Metallica, the things that should not be and should have never happened.  For most of you out there, you already know where this is going.  In the early 2000’s, Metallica had long lost their thrash metal sound to the overwhelming mediocrity of the Load/RELoad cycle, a double album of covers that is at least half decent (thanks to being 1980’s era recordings), another double album of symphony-backed live renditions that is actually pretty cool, and the laughably dull and repetitive “I Disappear” single from the Mission Impossible 2 soundtrack, which would inspire Metallica’s first big blunder of the 2000’s, the Napster trial.  See, piracy was nowhere near the scale it is on the internet today, or even 5 years from the time of the Napster trial, but Metallica and specifically Lars Ulrich felt the need to build a couple more gold plated swimming pools for themselves and railed against the free sharing of music files on peer-to-peer networks.  They won the case, which is why in 2016 Metallica was premiering Hardwired to Self-Destruct 24 hours earlier than anywhere else on Napster, which is now just another streaming service… Fun stuff.  Lars used to brag about using the wonders of internet piracy to show people Death Magnetic before it was released as well.

But I wasn’t even pirating music or listening to Metallica when that all happened.  For the next bit, I’m going to be referencing a lot of things which were featured in Metallica’s 2004 documentary film Some Kind of Monster.  But after the Napster trial, Metallica was in a serious state of disrepair as Jason Newsted left, James Hetfield spiraled into alcoholism and Lars Ulrich continued to be a pompous troll, spending his days peddling his awful artwork to million dollar auctions and crying in a studio with Kirk Hammett and Bob Rock.  When James got sober and returned, Metallica decided to include a shady, tenuously licensed psychologist named Phil Towle in their recording sessions and even let that fat hack Bob Rock play the bass in their new material.  Some of the genius results of these sessions included disallowing Kirk Hammett to play solos on the upcoming record, not including any guitar solos period in the upcoming record, letting Dave Mustaine come over to cry on the couch, and having Lars and James scream in each other’s faces for the entertainment value of it all.  Yes, this was certain to produce some promising new material…

In another surefire move for success, Metallica auditioned for a new bass guitarist.  This of course came after letting Bob Rock play all the bass on the actual new record, which would prove to be a very smart decision come judgement time.  Among those who auditioned were Mike Inez (Alice in Chains), Eric Avery (Jane’s Addiction), Pepper Keenan (Down/Corrosion of Conformity), Twiggy Ramirez (Marilyn Manson/Nine Inch Nails/A Perfect Circle), Danny Lohner (Nine Inch Nails/A Perfect Circle), Scott Reeder (Kyuss/The Obsessed), and Chris Wyse (The Cult).  In the end though, Metallica went with Robert Trujillo for their new bass guitarist.  Robert had previously played in Infectious Grooves and Suicidal Tendencies, and was also touring with both Ozzy Osbourne and Jerry Cantrell.  A solid selection, but that wasn’t going to matter much when June 5, 2003 rolled around.  Metallica were releasing their new album at the time, St. Anger, and it would go down as a monumental moment.  A monument of total failure.

St. Anger is widely regarded as one of the worst albums of any genre of all time, and at the time, was by far the worst album Metallica had ever released.  Depending on how loosely you define “metal”, it was a contender for the single worst heavy metal album in existence.  Now all that was seen in the Some Kind of Monster documentary aside, there are quite a few more reasons for the horrible reception of St. Anger.  Not having guitar solos, especially for a traditionally lead guitar driven band like Metallica, was a deal breaker for many.  But what was even worse was the sound of the drums on this album.  To say that St. Anger’s drum work needs improvement is a huge understatement.  For this album, it sounds as if Lars went and got some large steel drums and garbage cans to use as a crudely constructed drum kit.  So now not only was the average, pedestrian drumming style of Lars Ulrich boring the shit out of listeners, it was outright offensive in it’s actual sound.  Bass guitar is essentially a moot point on this album, as it had become standard in Metallica releases to not give a shit about the bass work since the death of Cliff Burton all the way back in ’86 and the subsequent “2-guitar and no bass” attack of …And Justice For All.  Kirk Hammett might not even be on St. Anger, I couldn’t tell because there were no guitar solos, let alone ones to bitch about the over-use of the wah-wah pedal in.  James Hetfield sounds hoarse, tired, uninspired and bored.  The vocals are fucking boring as hell and the lyrics are total shit.  The songwriting here in general is just fucking atrocious.  These songs are all far too long and repetitive, repeating 3 or 4 sections ad nauseam for six to nine minutes each.  To say they needed to be shortened would be to acknowledge them as listenable, which as well all know is not the case.  Shorter songs wouldn’t have helped because these songs are still fucking terrible!  They were so bad, they made people long for the days of Load and the “Ain’t My Bitch”es of the Metallica catalog, and that is just fucking pathetic.  The orange-fisted St. Anger would be supported by the Madly In Anger With the World Tour (groan) which featured such vital and luminary opening acts as Limp Bizkit, Godsmack and Linkin Park, which we know are totally in the same subgenre of metal as Metallica as evidenced by the nu-metal sounds of St. Anger.  Now, they also did have a self-titled era Deftones and The End of All Things to Come era Mudvayne as opening bands on this tour, so they did in fact have some of the better bands in nu-metal supporting.  By the time this tour made its way to Cleveland on September 21, 2004, I had already seen the Some Kind of Monster documentary and understood the reasoning that resulted in such a low-effort, low-maintenance, low-pleasure album as St. Anger.  This is still the only Metallica concert I’ve ever been to (as of 2016 publication of this article), Godsmack were the opening “monkeys flinging feces” act, and Metallica had already dropped performing any St. Anger material aside from “Frantic” and “St. Anger”, but I was also only 13 and this was only the 2nd concert I had ever been to (first was Ozzfest 2004).  Metallica were still bringing it to the forefront in the live setting, so maybe St. Anger was just going to be Metallica’s all time bottoming out period.  It did however produce the only music video with an axe-armed professional skateboarder Eric Koston locked in a walk-in freezer, to my knowledge, so there was one entertaining thing to come out of the St. Anger album.  That and the 2004 documentary Some Kind of Monster, which I would absolutely recommend for fans of documentaries and films about music in general.

Five years after St. Anger, Metallica released Death Magnetic.  Death Magnetic was ridiculed for having insanely terrible production values once again, but the music itself was the most lauded since the Black Album for Metallica.  On Death Magnetic, Metallica decided to make thrash metal, what a groundbreaking concept.  Metallica would now tour with opening bands like Lamb of God, High on Fire and Gojira.  Things actually seemed to be going well in alternate-reality Metallica world for the time being, so I guess one day Lars woke up, took a swim in his seventieth gold plated swimming pool and once again decided how to shake things up a bit, a.k.a. how to piss off my broad and endearing fan base once again.  And then one crotchety old man asked Metallica to become his backing band for a double-album concept album about German sex workers and Jack the Ripper.  The world wasn’t ready for Metallica Velvet Underground, no, actually nobody was, nor ever will be, ready to listen to the sweet, sweet torture that is the Lou Reed and Metallica collaboration album, LULU.

If St. Anger was flat out infuriatingly awful, LULU is fucking hilariously terrible to an unbelievable degree of suck.  Never before and never again will something be as intentionally horrible sounding as LULU.  You see, Lou Reed has always been very much inconsistent, even in the Velvet Underground days in my opinion.  Who would have thought that Metal Machine Music, an intentionally troll-ish noise music piece, would end up being better than at least one other album to feature Lou Reed?  Who could have predicted that Metallica would release an album 8 years after St. Anger that unquestionably sounded worse and less appealing than the ring of Lars’ snare drum in that album?  This album begins with Lou stating “I would cut my legs and tits off when I think of Boris Karloff”, and the lyrics only get more disturbing and worse from there, with the delivery of Abe Simpson.

Yes, the vocals and delivery of Lou Reed here is scarily reminiscent of Homer Simpson’s dad, only instead of funny stories about tying onions to your belt and trading 5 bees for a quarter, we’re instead treated to lyrics with a sex offender registry’s worth of bizarre fetishes and endless ramblings.  James Hetfield pops in to let everyone know that he is the table on the legendarily hilarious “The View”, an internet meme classic that still lives on today.  Like an alcoholic trailer park supervisor who believes himself to be the liquor, James lets everyone know that he’s an inanimate object and nothing is going to convince him otherwise, as Lou rants on about wanting to watch him commit suicide and how he worships someone who actively despises him.  Man, speaking of actively despising, I don’t think I could actively despise this entire album anymore than I already do.  In writing this, I actually had to listen to this piece of monumental dog feces again, and man do I fucking hate this.  According to Wikipedia, this is an album categorized as “Avant Garde Metal” and “Experimental Rock”, but I think the only thing avant garde about this is finding horrible new lows at which to suck, and the only experimentation going on is Lou Reed’s sexually experimenting with a black guy’s penis and a dog with an exceptionally small penis.  These are actual specific things referred to in the lyrics of this album, and I think I’d even take St. Anger’s 12-step AA program and lifestyles determining deathstyles over Lou’s desire to “waggle my ass like a dark prostitute” or to be “spermless like a girl”.  It’s as if Grandpa Simpson decided he were Mr. Garrison, and then decided to get Metallica to play along.  Well, if there’s one thing Metallica succeeded in trolling all the way with the LULU album, it was doing the impossible and making St. Anger actually sound palatable and preferable to at least one other album in their discography.  As I mentioned in the last column, LULU was so horribly received by the listening public, that Megadeth’s album TH1RT3EN which was released the same day outsold LULU by over four times the amount of records.

Because of the long and damage-control ridden distance between LULU and the now released Hardwired to Self-Destruct, in the down time I had feared that LULU’s reception may have permanently silenced Metallica from releasing new music.  That wasn’t the case, but there was one person who’s career was dead ended by LULU: Lou Reed.  Lou Reed died on October 27, 2013, leaving behind a legacy which concluded with his final release, LULU.  Such began a bizarre re-evaluation of LULU, with people like David Bowie and music critic Robert Christgau suddenly heaping praise at LULU.  Make no mistake, this album is fucking horrible and will remain the absolute worst thing to bear the Metallica or Lou Reed name in recorded history.

So with all this hate being sent in Metallica’s general direction, it leads us to really wonder, what are the worst Metallica songs in their entire catalog?  There’s surely a large amount of respondents who would say “anything after 1988”, “anything after 1991”, even “anything after Cliff died”.  But I think that this article has gone on long enough with the anti-St. Anger and anti-LULU circle jerk, and now we should count down the bottom three songs in the entire Metallica discography.

3. Nothing Else Matters (Elevator Remix) – Nothing Else Matters single (1992)

“Nothing Else Matters” is in itself another highly controversial installment in the Metallica discography, being a full blown power ballad which saw major commercial success back when it was released.  However, I actually like Nothing Else Matters mostly because of that guitar solo in the actual version.  This version, however, is a lame remix which strips out every element of the original which could be considered metal, leaving the skeletal acoustic guitars and Michael Kamen arranged orchestral pieces.  Now while this song in it’s original version is not terrible, this version is a neutered, watered down boring piece of shit.  While it’s not as bad as, well, all of St. Anger, I had to give this a mention because it’s such a boring and ridiculously needless amended version of the song.

2. Little Dog – LULU (2011)

The nadir of LULU, this is eight minutes of Lou Reed talking about having sexual intercourse with a dog over totally random acoustic guitar plucking and feedback.  “A puny body and a tiny dick, a little dog can make you sick”, “As long as you can raise your little doggie face up to a cold pussy, you could have a taste”, “Follow me around while you sniff your shit in the wind, money can do anything”.  Yeah, that’s enough of Lou Reed and Lars Ulrich playing Red Rover for me, throw it in the trash, shit’s deader than Lou Reed.

And your winner of the Dave Mustaine Award for Worst Metallica Song of All Time is…

1. Mama Said – Load (1996)

Of all the “experimental” directions Metallica have gone and shittily attempted in their career, this one-off attempt at mainstream country music is hands down the worst fucking thing Metallica have ever done.  Because in 1996, while Metallica were busy aping the sounds of Alice in Chains and Soundgarden on most of the Load album, this song attempted to ape the style of redneck cousin-fuckers like Garth Brooks and Tim McGraw instead.  Thank fuck that Metallica never attempted to continue down this path, because I don’t know if I could handle any more of this wanna-be hick bullshit.  And this was a fucking single?!  Who in the fuck would play this, not even Metallica’s most die hard fans could possibly enjoy this warmed over, no-assed attempt at country.  It’s like looking at a prediction of the future hillbilly retard sound bands like Nickelback, Hinder and Theory of a Deadman would be polluting the airwaves with 10 years later.  In all honesty, I would rather listen to any song from St. Anger or LULU before I went back and listened to this limp piece of incestuous garbage.

Well there you have it, a journey through the absolute bottom of the Metallica discography.  In the third and final article of this series, we will finally discuss Hardwired to Self-Destruct, legally available in stores as of 28 minutes ago.

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