Fire
Is the outcome of hypocrisy
Darkest potency
In the exit of humanity
Color our world blackened

(Hetfield, Ulrich, Newsted)
©1988 Creeping Death Music, ASCAP

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The blog has moulted. Again. Into something none more black. To quote Jim and Black (no pun intended), chaos has blackened.

Everyone knows of Metallica right? If I was to pose this question to my peers in 1986, I bet no one not many would have answered in the affirmative. I was drawn into their music as a sixteen year old in form four, courtesy of members of the “rocker” fraternity in my batchmates in SDAR. Those were the days of the pirated Apache cassettes that sold for a mere three bucks. The Metallica tape was a mix tape then, with stuff from their first three records (which strangely enough didn’t include the eponymous Seek and Destroy from Kill ‘Em All). To my ears then, their music was really hard-hitting to the senses. The term thrash was the in word among rock circles in school. Stuff only kutus are allowed to listen to[1]. The first ever Metallica tune I learnt back then was the acoustic bit in the middle of Master of Puppets. And I learnt it from my then 12-year old brother (lagi lima paun). Metallica songs were difficult to learn as a beginner, and I still cannot play the guitar solos to this day. Electric guitars were expensive/non-existent[2] for any one of us to try out a Metallica riff with conviction. Besides, no one that I know of then in school was able to pull off a fast Metallica lick, especially on a kapok.

Heavy metal band T-shirts were also the cool thing, albeit semi-contraband, at SDAR[3]. Anyone who had imported T-shirts (double-sided woooo), lagi rock! To be able to do so, you either need to have a sibling/relative studying abroad or spend like RM50 at OAZY (adik nak T-shirt mana?) in the eponymous Pertama Complex. I had to share a Metallica T-shirt with my brother as it cost us (well, my folks) a bomb. The things we’d do in our youth to be… err… cool. I just laugh nowadays. Funnily enough, despite being the lads at school who knew of Metallica in those days, we didn’t know who the band members are. Imported rock mags were expensive and we had no way to find out who was what in Metallica! I noticed a graffiti on a classroom wall when I was a third former which read:

Vocals/guitar: Hetfield
Guitar: Hammett
Drums: Ulrich
Bass: Cliff Burton

I was like whoa. And it explained why budak-budak kutu kept going about Cliff but not anyone else in the band[4]! I also realised they picked that up from the writing credits in the lyrics printed a pirated copy of Ride The Lightning like so:

So, I finally got to know who the ‘tallica guys were, but why no first names, apart from Cliff? I remembered one of my mates pronouncing Cliff’s surname phonetically (Boo-ton) much to my amusement. Another thing was, was it really so kutu to have a written a half-baked graffiti like that? There were some really great ones in the dormitory bogs but my favourite graffiti in school was one that said Spookey markET. I’d leave you to figure that one out. I digress slightly. Coming back to the subject at hand, it wasn’t until after leaving SDAR in 1988, when Polygram Malaysia distributed the $5.98 EP on tape which I bought at a cassette shop at the PKNS complex in Shah Alam. I think I played that tape to death. It was our first exposure to the then new kid, Jason Newsted, on bass. “I raped your mother today” from Last Caress was the most memorable (and funny) one from that album. The thing about Metallica was, despite the major cussing onstage (my dad once said that Metallica was a band jahat, for saying motherfucker), not a single swear word was written in their own songs. Well, up to the Load sessions. Ironic.

1988 was the year i left for Britain. It was also the year Metallica released … And Justice For All. I remembered that it was my first ‘overseas’ cassette – clear casing and cassette. Gila happy. And the following year, they played a gig in Belfast as part of the European leg of their Damaged Justice tour. No way could I go see them as I was then in a boarding school just 81 miles south. Oh well. I got a Damaged Justice (with the American summer dates on the back) tour tee at Virgin Marble Arch though. It ain’t the same, but it kept me happy. Justice was great if it wasn’t for the fact that the bass line was inaudible. Can’t you see the irritated look on Jason’s face in the inlay? It wasn’t until many years later that I finally learnt to play Hetfield’s rhythm part on Justice and One. And I still can’t play Blackened to this very day (I tried it once a long time ago and I was traumatised soon after. Heh.).

When they released the Black album in August 1991, I bought the tape one day in advance from the rest of the world at Victoria in Pertama (yes, I just love the place.). That day I found that I could learn the songs straight away. That meant either I have improved (ahem) or Metallica’s standard has definitely gone the way of the dodo. The self-titled album was great. It won’t match Puppets, I know, but the black album was also the one that led them to mainstream success. Not good news for the Metallica elitist. Which reminds me of what Lars Ulrich said after a show in the A Year and a Half In The Life of Metallica video:

“A lot of fuckin’ chicks. Looks like 50:50. That’s a sign of makin’ it! When there’s 50% chicks out in the house.”

When I was at uni in 1992, I bought a ticket to see them live at the Whitley Bay Ice Rink just outside Newcastle in October. This was my first ever Metallica gig, and I was simply ecstatic. Interestingly, tragedy struck the band in the summer as I found out from the news on TV3 (I vividly remembered it was Wan Zaleha Radzi reading that evening) that a riot occurred in Montreal after a cancelled G’n’R/Metallica show due to Hetfield’s unfortunate accident with the pyro . It transpired that Guns ‘n’ fuckin’ Roses’ (it was Axl’s fault actually, the twat) played an unexpected short set thereafter. The first thing that went through my mind at that time was – damn, the gig’s off. Worst still, there’ll be someone else on guitar (which they did have John Marshall standing in on rhythm guitar for a few gigs Stateside). The good thing was, Hetield recovered fine and was playing guitar again just in time for the UK tour. The day finally came, and I remembered that it was wet and cold when we trundled on towards the venue from the Metro station. I did wonder why the hell Metallica chose an ice rink[5], and this was what awaited us in that excuse for an ice rink:

The whole experience was ace, but I didn’t get to see that view in the photo above, as we were on the floor which was waaay better. Pity we didn’t get to be in the snakepit[6], as it would’ve been awesome. They had no support act, and in its place was a 30-minute documentary video thingy on the recording of the Black album (pretty much an excerpt from the A Year and a Half DVD). And of course, a live telecast from the dressing room. Kirk Hammett wanting his bottle of Newcy Brown, and Lars telling us how they’re gonna come out and play for six fucken hours. The punters simply went bananas when the lights went off and Morricone’s Ecstasy of Gold was reverberating through the ice rink. Metallica played an awesome 3 hour set and I was simply gobsmacked. They kicked off with Sandman, and their set was simply rocking. I was crushed, bounced around throughout. My eardrums were also given a right bashing (I had tinnitus for 2 days). They gave us like one and a half encores. Half because they still hung around after the obligatory pick/drumstick tossing, and then Queen’s Stone Cold Crazy. If you wanna know how I felt like that evening, go watch the Live Shit: Binge and Purge DVD. Ain’t the same as being there, though[7]. Hehe.

In 1996, Metallica threw us fans a curve ball. I was in the doctors’ mess when there they were, hair all shorn off, on the entertainment news talking about their new record. And what’s with the fucking mini afro, Kirk? Damn. Load was a real test but I loved it. Kinda. I didn’t love it more than their older stuff but I feel musicians should mature and evolve[8]. I remembered watching the Pumpkins-like Until It Sleeps video, and I knew there would be repercussions. They came to play Newcastle Arena later that year. I was a little late in booking the tix, and despite assurances from the git on the phone that my seat was one of the best in the house, I wished I hadn’t bothered coming. The seats were at the front of the lower tier but on the same level as the floor. To add insult to injury, the well-meaning ushers wouldn’t let us stand. Idiots. Have they ever had a rock concert before? Not only I was pissed off, but at the same time i was nursing this pre-cold headache. That aside, the gig was just superb. Yeah, despite the short hair, they still rocked the house big time[9]. Even songs like Until It Sleeps sounded heavy as hell. Oh yeah, they kicked off with So What, just like the Fort Worth DVD. They then had this fake pyro accident with the lights crashing down in the middle. Since i didn’t exactly read any reviews from previous gigs, when the first initial sparks was noted in the background during Sandman, I really thought shit was gonna happen. But when the large hydraulic light towers came crashing down, as well as seeing one of the crew members running frantically across the stage in flames? Come on, this had to be all fake. Damn convincing, though!

I’ve grown up listening to their music. Metallica today has changed somewhat but so has this fan. As for their new record, I am a tad disappointed with St. Anger but then some of their songs like Frantic, Dirty Window and Unnamed Feeling have grown on me. I didn’t actually go to any of their gigs after the Load tour 8 years ago as they only played large outdoor events in Britain thereafter. It’s just that with outdoor shows, I can’t see the band unless I am way in the front!

I did, however, caught them live at London’s Earl’s Court last winter. The band was in top form despite all the shit that happened with them in the past few years[10]. They played well, and the new chap on the bass, Robert Trujillo, was simply brilliant.

With their setlist[11] revisiting material from their earlier days (with just three songs from St. Anger heh), I felt as if I hadn’t left that dorm in Seremban in 1986.

All pics taken from encycmet and metallicaworld with thanks.

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[1]No, I was no kutu then. Gua low profile. Hahaha.
[2]Unless you were in the school band where you have access to an Epiphone super strat and an Ibanez Roadstar.
[3]Such attire was ‘allowed’ for fourth formers onwards only, or you’ll be in deep doo-doo.
[4]Strangely enough, no one picked up on a Dave Mustaine having been in the band prior to the then line up.
[5]Newcastle Arena was not built yet then.
[6]Too skint to be a MetClub member although I’m sure in the early days, membership must’ve been cheap.
[7]Whitley Bay Ice Rink set 28.10.1992: Enter Sandman / Creeping Death / Harvester of Sorrow / Welcome Home (Sanitarium) / Sad But True / Wherever I May Roam / The Unforgiven / Justice Medley / [Jason’s bass solo] / Through the Never / For Whom the Bell Tolls / Fade to Black / Master of Puppets / Seek & Destroy / Whiplash // Nothing Else Matters / Am I Evil? / Last Caress / One / Battery // Stone Cold Crazy
[8]Denial ain’t a river in Egypt.
[9]Newcastle Arena set 7.10.1996: So What / Creeping Death / Sad But True / Ain’t My Bitch / Whiplash / Bleeding Me / King Nothing / One / Wasting My Hate / [Bass/Guitar Doodle] / Nothing Else Matters / Until It Sleeps / For Whom the Bell Tolls / Wherever I May Roam / Fade to Black / Kill/Ride Medley / Last Caress / Master of Puppets / Enter Sandman // Am I Evil? / Breadfan / Motorbreath
[10]Go here for my review on Some Kind of Monster.
[11]Earl’s Court, London set 19.12.2003: Blackened / Creeping Death / Seek & Destroy / Fade to Black / The Thing That Should Not Be / Frantic / For Whom the Bell Tolls / Dirty Window / Sad But True / One / Damage, Inc. // Harvester of Sorrow / Nothing Else Matters / Master of Puppets // St. Anger / Enter Sandman // Am I Evil? / Hit the Lights