BLOGRONAUT: “DEAR METALLICA; LET ME WRITE SONGS FOR YOU.”
I’m going to talk about Metallica and their new record. Now, I’m sure this topic has been beaten to death in metal social circles by now, judging from all the opinions on this site alone, but I am going to offer something that no one has so far – a solution.
I read Dallas Coyle’s recent blog on this very subject, and while I share his level of adoration for this band, I’m going to have to refute one main point he made; arguing that Death Magnetic is a good album. It really isn’t, in my eyes. It wasn’t in the eyes of many others either, based on a quick skim of MetalSucks. But let me ask, did you really expect it to be? The last time everyone liked the latest Metallica record, the first Bush was in office. I haven’t expected anything resembling greatness out of this band in a long time, because I know that they’ve lost their edge. That’s not an insult, its an ironic occurance in life, not unlike waiting twelve years to grow hair on your balls, only to lose it on your head fifteen years later. Just like pretty much every once-great rock musician ever, that flame of inspiration has been blown out by age, money, Bob Rock, or whatever else that will make you a different person than you were when you wrote the good shit.
As Death Magnetic proves, its going to take more than Rick Rubin coming in and trying to “produce” these guys back into sounding like Metallica (to which I’ll admit, he came very close). The record sounds almost as bare bones as “…And Justice For All”, and even includes some elements (palm muting, guitar solos, double bass) that sound like a metal band. The only thing missing here is the riffs. And the dynamics. And maybe some songs whose quality justifies them being eight minutes long.
So here is my solution; stop writing music. I don’t mean stop making albums and touring. You obviously love doing it, and I, as an unconditional fan wouldn’t ever wish for your career to end. If The Rolling Stones are allowed to remain active, then you certainly should be. But let someone else come in and help write your songs for you. Ok, more specifically, let me write your songs for you!
Many multi-platinum artists who are past their creative prime have had outside parties come in and co-write with them. A perfect example is Ozzy Osbourne. Here is a guy who over twenty years put out a bunch of records with Black Sabbath, then went solo, making albums that progressively became diluted versions of themselves. At some point in the late 80’s, someone – presumably while listening to “Crazy Babies”, the single from 1988’s No Rest For The Wicked – had the bright idea to bring in some fresh blood to the songwriting team. Between the combined efforts of Motorhead’s Lemmy and a young-and-hungry Zakk Wylde, 1990’s No More Tears is a front to back assault of hard rock hits. All it took was a couple objective ears, who understood what Ozzy stands for and what fans want from him, to oversee the songwriting process.
This is similar to the service I am offering Metallica. Listening to Death Magnetic, I hear music that is almost up to par with the twenty-years-younger them. Hindsight is 20/20, but if you had given me a month with them after they had written and demoed these songs, we would have sat there and fleshed 90% of this music out a bit more, adding those classic Metallica harmonies, coloring up the clean parts, throwing away shit solos (“what’s up Kirk, I thought you were Guitar World’s 1988 player of the year?”), and spending a little more time coaching the vocals (“come on, show me the Hetfield! EYEAH-EYEAH-NOOOO-AH!”). I’ve listened to Metallica since I was a little kid, and I know exactly what the disillusioned fans are missing from this band. Sure, these days Metallica could shit on a plate and it would sell 500,000 copies in the first week, but wouldn’t it be that much more rewarding if they were actually reclaiming the metal throne at the same time?
If you are really trying to recapture that classic Metallica essence, you guys are on the right track, just not quite there. I know my band has sold about 0.034% the records you have, but I am confident that I could whip you guys into shape so you can put out a record that matters again. I’ll charge you one quarter of what you paid Rick Rubin. In fact, I’ll even offer a money-back guarantee that you’ll win over all the nay-saying fans who might have given up on you. This is all out of love for you guys. I want you to have a long and fruitful career, playing stadiums and putting out records until you physically can’t anymore. Think about it, dudes.