20. Metallica – Metallica (The Black Album)

cd cover 20. Metallica – Metallica (The Black Album)

My earliest memories of Metallica are from Cleveland, when they were one of a few bands I knew of that were “evil”. (evil –> When in reference to music, any band that plays music using amplified instruments, especially the vile ‘electric guitar’, noticeably loud, and had a tendency to sing or scream lyrics in such a way as to make them incomprehensible, or at the very least “angry sounding”. More commonly referred to as “Heavy Metal” music at the time, evil music was to be avoided, except at sleepover parties and when riding in a car with friends old enough to drive. )Well, times change. The sad thing is that this wasn’t really my parents thing, as they’ve been very kewl about the music I listen to (I recall once I was listening to Head Like a Hole and my mom walked in [for some other reason]. As she was leaving she stopped and listened. “Bow Down before the one you serve?” she said, “That doesn’t sound very Christian.” I told her she should listen to the whole album and decide, and she politely declined.)

Like I said, times change. I liked the song “Enter Sandman”, so I figured I’d get the album that was on during a cd shopping spree I had shortly before my Sophomore year spring break project to Louisiana. (You’ll note that this trip was a bit of a turning point in my life. I got really into music on this trip, and though I was already quite interested in the fairer sex, I became damn near obsessed after this trip. [Those who take issue with the “near” part of that claim should rest assured that the Young People’s convention in San Diego the following year turned me into the frightfully all-consumed being you now know and pretend to love.]. It was also on this trip that I discovered that girls liked jackasses, and that many, many people are very stupid. It was quite a trip. One of the best times of my life.) Anyway, I signed up for BMG so I could get a bunch of CDs for free (REM Out of Time, Out of Time, and Monster. Green Day – Dookie, Nirvana – Nevermind, Aerosmith – Get a Grip, and Cranberries – No Need to Argue. yes I still remember which 7 I picked.) Then I went out and bought a few, including Metallica’s Black album. I really didn’t get to listen to it much on the trip.. While in Louisiana we listened to my Animaniacs cd a ton, then the ride home it was almost entirely REM, (it was then that I realized that REM was wonderful, and began obsessively purchasing every album I ever found from them. At present (including singles and imports) I have about 60, but I stopped buying singles and imports after Up was released.. (meaning there’s a few B-sides out there that I really need to acquire).

Anyway, back to Metallica. My friend (and high school carpool-mate) Ryan and I both liked Metallica (well, I liked Enter Sandman at this point), so we’d listen to this album on the way to and from school a fair bit. I grew to find I liked all the songs on it quite a bit. The thing that interested me quite a bit (and I had discussions with my brother about this very thing a few times in the past few years) was that the songs were about a variety of topics. That might sound dumb, but I think it’s rare. Songs are typically about : love, drugs, partying, or how great you are, and how much someone else sucks. One of my favorite songs on the album is Don’t Tread on Me, a song about the USA, and how other countries better respect us, or we’ll blow them the hell up. (Okay, that’s not exactly what it says, but the idea is there: “To secure peace is to prepare for war.”) They’ve also got the riff from West Side Story in the intro, which I think sounds awesome. This album has Nothing Else Matters, which was the second “complicated” song I wanted to learn on the guitar (complicated means it wasn’t just G-C-D). I eventually learned quite a of few of the songs on this album, and as I said before, that makes me like (and listen to) an album a whole lot more. For a long time, this was the “Loud Angry Music” I’d crank whenever I needed loud angry music. Anyway, this is one of those albums that I’ve liked since I’ve bought it. Undoubtedly another album where some will complain that it was overplayed, but with songs like Enter Sandman, Unforgiven, Where I May Roam, Sad But True, and Nothing Else Matters, how can you not play them often?

16 thoughts on “20. Metallica – Metallica (The Black Album)

  1. I’ve said this before, but I think Metallica had their best stuff before this album. Kill ’em All, Ride the Lightning, and Master of Puppets are arguably better. They started to go downhill after this. Their latest CD leaves a lot to be desired when compared to their glory days.

  2. I can understand the arguement… Their style changed quite a bit throughout the years, I think. I can also see people liking their new stuff a lot more than their old stuff. For me, I like this album. I like some stuff off of Master of Puppets/Ride the Lightning/etc. but I also like some stuff off of Load/Reload/Garage Inc. This album was the one where I liked everything.

  3. Total agreement with Tuuk. I was a metal head back in high school (that’s 1986 for you guys), and I lived and breathed “Master of Puppets.” It was the soundtrack of my tenth grade year (1986-87). Then this one came out in college, and it was suck city. No balls, no unbelievably crunching riffs, nothing.

    So this would be the first of your top 25 Ron that I disagree with. I don’t know “Live Through This” very well, but I know this CD, and I think it’s the beginning of the end for a once-great band.

  4. I’m reminded of the complaints made every time SNL tries to reinvent itself, or undergoes a massive cast change. My favorite cast was back when they introduced Sandler, Spade, Farley, Schneider, etc.. Kevin Nealon did the news, and it was just plain funny. Many people complained, and said they had lost their edge, and the show was doomed. But a whole generation/crowd of people liked it, and it was popular… then the cast changed again, and the same thing happened. There’s no doubt that Metallica changed their sound, and this album was a significant departure from their earlier albums of fast, pounding metal. Fans of that genre, and of old Metallica were probably pissed, and probably see this album as “teh suck”, but a whole other crowd loved it. I’m in the later crowd. But now that Will Ferrell and Tracy Morgan are gone, i think SNL kinda sucks.

  5. So does the album with “Head Like a Hole” portray any Christian thought?

    Or was that pretty much a bluff on your part?

    (although I’m guessing that album will appear later on and may address that topic in short.)

  6. Reasons? I’ve read through the lyrics, and they don’t strike me as Christian. Also, reading through the lyrics of his other albums, they again, don’t strike me as Christian.

  7. I was planning on getting into this later. Bottom line: I don’t think he’s saying in this album that he’s a Christan, nor is pretending to be one. In later albums he makes it abundantly clear that he isn’t one. But in this album I think he’s still struggling with the issue, because he’s recognizing a hole in his life.. well, many holes, really.
    A significant part of Christianity is recognizing and accepting that this world is a fallen one, and then recognizing that we can not make this world better on our own, and are in need of someone to save us. I think this album does a fine job of recognizing that this world is fallen and that his life is empty as a result. The songs on this album (and others.. I hope to talk about that all later, I’ve written a bit already) talk about the struggle he goes through trying to find something to fix this broken world, or at least fix his broken life. He tries/looks at the standard things: love, sex, power, money, drugs… but still ends up empty, and his efforts just seem to hurt him further. Then you look at Terrible Lie, which I think is one of the best songs on an album filled with nothing but excellent songs: You see him fighting with God. He’s broken down, and desperate, but still can’t bring himself to believe (it’s uncertain to me if he can’t believe that God exists, or if he refuses to believe the idea that a faith in Jesus will bring salvation.) My view is that he’s still convinced he can bring about his own salvation (am i not living up to what I’m supposed to be?), or the internal struggle within himself is too great for him to handle (the part of him that wants to believe is overwhelmed by the part of him that is so angry with the idea that a kind God can exist and allow a world filled with such suffering and emptiness).

    So are you going to get any “Awesome God” songs on here? No. But I don’t think you need one of those for an album not to be considered “decidedly Unchristian”. I think an Atheist can take this album and say it affirms what he or she believes (or doesn’t believe, I guess, as the case may be) but at the same time, I, as a Christian can look at this album and agree with just about everything he says, and take comfort in the fact that because of Jesus I don’t have to live with that complete emptiness and meaninglessness that those without him are doomed to suffer.

    This music isn’t for everyone, and I understand that. The casual listener would likely hear a song or two and discard it as evil. I think taking songs out of the framework of their album often distorts the message of the song (well, with many good albums anyway. Just think about that the next time you hear Extreme – More than Words) Anyway, that’s my take on the album. If I thought it was decidedly Unchristian, I don’t really think I should be listening to it. Part of the “Reformed worldview” that was drilled into my head my last 8 years of school was the idea to look for Christ in everything, and it really wasn’t that hard with this album, or with this artist.

  8. just a point to ponder / remember as ron continues his album saga. there’s a key difference between un-Christian and anti-Christian. where this album lies, i dunno, but it’s a useful approach to analyzing it.

  9. One reason Pretty Hate Machine appeals to me more than Reznor’s later (Broken/Fixed/Downward Spiral-era) material is that in PHM, there remains a small but important element of hope to counterbalance the pessimism and negativity. In “Terrible Lie,” Reznor is angry with God, but still seems willing to wrestle with his doubt. In later songs, he admits (even revels in) sin, but still recognizes that there’s something not quite right about it; part of him seem to understand that and even feel shame/frustration with himself. “I know it’s not the good thing, and I know it’s not the right thing, but kinda I want to” is probably something every Christian has said to him/herself at times (although hopefully they employ better grammar when doing so than does Reznor).

    By the Downward Spiral, there is very little hope left and as a result I find it harder as a Christian to relate to what Reznor is saying. In TDS, God is dead, there is no good and evil, and man is just an animal. I think there’s insight to be had in his ultimately futilre journey through the various excesses of TDS, but it’s harder to find. I guess I’m rambling now, but my point is that I’d agree that PHM does have quite a bit to say to Christians about wrestling with sin and doubt. That I don’t agree with Reznor’s ultimate conclusions doesn’t change the fact that I can relate at times to what he’s saying, and even find a bit of encouragement in the way he still seems to be looking for God even in the hole he’s dug for himself.

  10. Now the original comment by your mom was “that doesn’t sound very Christian.” To which you responded that she should listen to the entire album. (as though the entire album would change that one line to which she was referring to.)

    This seems to imply that if she were to listen to the album, she would then find it Christian.

    Now I guess this ultimately makes me ask, what do you consider “Christian”? (or Unchristian?) Because there are Unchristian or even Antichristian ideas out there that can fit into the “reformed worldview”.

  11. At what point, however, does ‘Looking for Christ’ in things before more of a justification for doing whatever you want? I do things that are decidedly not in line with God’s Will, and for those things I will without hesitation say, “Yep, those probably make God pretty mad”. But if I did those things with Christ in mind, would that negate the negative effects that it might have on me, or make God ‘less angry’? When you listen to NIN, or Metallica, or any other band, are you thinking of God, or are you thinking of music and lyrics ona simpler plane? Do you become pensive and prayerful, or does the music and lyrics change your mood (Angry? Sad? Violent?) because those effects might be more important and telling. This is more ‘individual experience’ oriented at this point as well as what the author had in mind when writing the music. Perhaps that’s something to be taken into account, as well. If I take a Tom petty song, and have a Christian sing it, does it make it Christian, or are we just taking non-Christian things and forcing them into the box labelled ‘Christian’? There’s a lot of things I really don’t think belong in that ‘box’, and I think that sometimes we go a bit overboard with trying to cram things into that box that just don’t belong. (Perhaps this is why I can’t accept ‘Christian death metal’ and things like that. )

  12. Sven -> “a text without a context is a pretext for trouble”. That was my soph. year of High School theology teacher’s mantra. The idea is this: taking one line out of context and labeling it isn’t wise, and is often times in error. I don’t know if I agree with the idea that my statement implies that if she listened to the whole album she would find it Christian, but I would hope it would slow her from saying straight-out that it was not Christian. Was my statement made to convert my mom into liking NIN? No.. it was made so she’d leave my room. But the point made was still valid. I have plenty of examples just off the top of my head that could illustrate this point, from Extreme – Pornograffitti to the story of Lot and his daughters.

    And if the Reformed Worldview is trying to find Christ in all things, and bring all things to Christ, then what’s wrong with recognizing the need for Christ in the lyrics of a Nine Inch Nails song?

    Adam -> If there is an album or group that I find myself liking and listening to frequently, I make it a point to find out what is being said… not in a quest to make them godly or acceptable, but because that’s something that interests me. If you’ve not noticed by now, i enjoy trying to find out what is being said by an artist, whether it be in a movie, a picture, or a song/album. There are times when after reading what is being said I like the music less, and many times when reading the lyrics make me like it even more. When I listen to music, am I meditating on these thoughts? Not all the time, no. Do I become pensive and solemn? Not usually, no. If that’s the only way you can be a Christian, or please God, then I must be mistaken about a great many things.

    Music rarely alters my mood, beyond calming me when I’m angry or stressed. Rather, it’s an accompaniment to the current mood, or a reassurance that the feelings and situations I’m going through are not mine alone to deal with.

    I’ll strongly agree (assuming this was your point) with the idea that this is all and “individual experience” in that a work of art affects each person differently. Now, many times, these affects are similar from person to person, but there are plenty of examples of two people reacting completely differently from the same work. I don’t think I’m just justifying my activities by interpreting PHM this way, as I’ve talked to plenty of people who have reacted similarly to NIN’s work. I’ll say what I said a while back: I’ve had more religious discussions about Nine Inch Nails lyrics than I have about any other music, Christian or Secular.

    I don’t get the comment about the Tom Petty song. I don’t think anyone said that a Christian singing a song makes the song Christian. But then again, there was a chapel at my High School where a guy sang an R.E.M. song (Fall on Me), then gave a message relating that song to our Christian walk. Does that make Fall on Me Christian? I wouldn’t say that. But I wouldn’t call Fall on Me “Decidedly Unchristian”

    As for cramming too many things that don’t belong… I think cutting out an entire group of people [say, The Christian hardcore scene, which I do have some experience with, in that my roommate was very much a part of it, and introduced me to some of it] from Christianity because we don’t think “they belong” is pretty sketchy. If something is “decidedly unchristian”, then sure. I don’t think a connection between Christianity and pornography would be the wisest mix. But I’m aware than there are plenty of strong, moral Christians that are also very into hardcore music. Is there something in the Bible that says music can’t be that loud or incoherent? The Frightening thing is that Swac actually knows those lyrics, and the ones I’ve read are pretty inspiring. It’s not my bag at all, but I’ll admit some of those guys can write a good song.

    Bottom line: Sure, there are things that are good, and things that are bad. But that list isn’t static across the line. What’s helpful to me may not be helpful to you. But don’t say that because it doesn’t help you, it’s not good for me

  13. Wow, somehow I missed this original post and ensuing wealth of comments. So much to address…

    I am one of those that prefers “ol’ sk00l” Metallica (_Kill ‘Em All_, _Ride the Lightning_, and _Master of Puppets_; I even considered _…And Justice for All_ something of a sellout!) to their new sound. I dunno, some bands cut their hair and kept the killer sound (cf. Soundgarden), but it didn’t seem to work for Metallica, for me anyway.

    Kevin Nealon was not funny on the SNL news. Dennis Miller: yes. Norm MacDonald: most of the time. Tina Fey and that other dweeb: definitely. Kevin Nealon: embarrassingly boring. (Note: this has nothing to do, whatsoever, with the original content.

    There’s a lot more I want to mention, esp. WRT “Christian music” and the liberal definition thereof, but it’s bedtime…

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