Metallica roars back with live album
It has been nearly half a decade since Metallica properly released an album and its latest offering is an electrifying live performance of the songs seen in the band’s first feature-length movie, “Metallica: Through the Never.”
If watching the IMAX, 3-D feature film gives you a front-row seat to a Metallica concert, then the album places you right on stage with vocalist/guitarist James Hetfield, drummer Lars Ulrich, guitarist Kirk Hammett and bassist Robert Trujillo.
The band manages to submerge the arena in a raucous, clean and crisp sound, capturing auras usually only heard in a smaller venue, like a club or ballroom.
When the core of your band (Hetfield, Ulrich and Hammett) has been performing together since 1983, your chemistry is fortified and unwavering. Not many bands are able to achieve such a tight and refined sound unless they have been together for multiple decades (see: The Rolling Stones, Mötley Crüe, Aerosmith).
The album opens with the same song Metallica chooses to play before hitting the stage for every performance: an instrumental of Ennio Morricone’s “The Ecstasy of Gold.” This helps paint the setting for fans who have never seen Metallica perform live, offering the same exciting build-up that takes place before one of the biggest bands in the world explodes into the first song of the night.
The first track on the album is “Creeping Death,” which is kicked off to a roaring crowd that can be heard singing along to guitar riffs in various parts of the album.
Most of the songs on the album are performed a little bit faster, a little bit louder and a little bit more passionate than on the studio recordings.
Some of the more exciting points in this two-disc, 16-track set is “Fuel,” which is perhaps the most straight-forward and simplest song to sing along to, if so desired. The band really shines on this track, especially Hetfield, as he begins to command the crowd and lead them in chants and evoking thunderous responses.
Another high point is “One,” the sixth track. The opening sequence of the track (about a minute and a half) sounds like a war has broken out on the stage — complete with distant gunfire, huge cannon-like booms, crackling of machine guns and helicopters zooming overhead –which sounds incredible if listened to with headphones. As the war-like sounds cease and the crowd begins to cheer, a slow, single guitar intro from Hetfield quiets the crowd.
This slower track really shows off the dynamicism of the band. The track showcases the band’s attention to detail, playing slower, singular riffs, which gradually get faster as the song progresses. By mid-point, Ulrich is pummeling his drum hit with a double bass and the twin guitars are frantically hiccupping to mimic machine gun fire. Hammett then demonstrates why Rolling Stone magazine has named him the 11th greatest guitarist of all time as he belts out a blistering guitar solo.
Legendary songs like “Master of Puppets” and “Enter Sandman” can be found on the second half of the album. These songs sound so much richer, louder and energetic than the studio versions.
The album ends rather interestingly, with the band opting for “Orion,” an 8-minute instrumental song, played to an empty arena. The track features each band member showcasing their hall-of-fame skills; however, one has to wonder why they opted to perform it to an empty and quite arena.
Despite this minor blemish, the record is otherwise outstanding. For a band that’s members are between 48 and 50 years old, this album showcases incredible vocals from Hetfield. The 50-year-old frontman’s vocals have improved only with age. Ulrich’s drumming has yet to deteriorate. Hammett’s guitar prowess is profound in both technique and style. Trujillo, who arguably has the toughest task in playing bass lines from the late Cliff Burton and the championed Jason Newsted (as well as the lines he wrote for the band’s most recent studio album, “Death Magnetic”), does a terrific job.
“Through the Never” is a welcomed addition to the Metallica catalog. Some of Metallica’s most classic songs, although legendary, show their age if listened to on the radio or in your car. Recording technology has made stratospheric leaps and bounds since the 1980s and early 1990s, when Metallica’s classic songs were originally recorded.
Providing an album of some of the band’s most famous songs, performed at feverous speeds, with crystal-clear quality and welcomed dramatics is a treat for anyone.
This album is not just something for the completests or those who need all-things Metallica, but it is for anyone who is a fan of all the Metallica songs heard on the radio and in stadiums. Think of this record as a “greatest hits” album on steroids.