And so we conclude Heavy Metal Week with a stone cold classic. An irrefutable corner stone of the genre. Metallica’s showstopper One from 1989’s …And Justice For All.
Metal is by definition a collection of adolescent clichés. Fixated with war, anger, rebellion and disillusion there’s a good reason why for many ‘it’s just a phase’. People (for the most part) grow out it. Those that don’t, still grow. They just retain the love of the thrill. They continue to admire the musicianship, the compositional dexterity and the dramatic elements of the lyrics.
Metal is opera which uses rock and roll’s tools. It puts them up on the stage and lets the fans loose in the pit. But it is opera. It is high art indeed.
Metallica have been the Daddies of metal for 30 years. And rightly so. Their respect for the genre, it’s founders, it’s fans and it’s conventions have all taken their turns at the front of the Metallifesto over the years. They’ve honoured their forebears Motörhead, Maiden, Sabbath, Diamond Head, Thin Lizzy. They’ve diversified with country tinged ballads, obscure art projects, 3D Cinema and setting records.
The first time I really paid attention to them was when I purchased this single. A pound from the bargain bin in Martin’s. There were 5 copies. Me, Ben, Mark, Hugh and Fizz all bought one.
It did all the things an Iron Maiden single did. It told a story, a war story. It had complex guitar parts and a cool picture on the front. But something set it apart. It was a cold austere sounding record. The music sounded chiselled in marble not rough and hewn by nature. It was clipped in the bass area. And the drums were complex and busy trying to not sound like drums but like machine guns.
It was fascinating. We all took different things from it. Some of us were fixated with the story, a man in battle loses all his limbs and his ability to speak see and hear… So is he still a man? Others got their guitars out and copied that intro. After a week Mark could do the first 30 seconds of One. After two weeks he could get a minute in. Hugh went in with the drums. Fizz took his guitar to other parts. The song was teaching us. Two minutes in would take months to master.
Metallica. What a band.