Friday, August 22, 2008

The Mea Culpa Attempt

I wasn't entirely fair when writing about Metallica's set list of their European tour back in May. Well, maybe except about digging a whole in the ground, I think I got that one right.

One cannot judge the quality of a band solely by looking at the set list of one of their live concerts; it is not completely honest even if in Metallica's case the songs they play live are a perfect proxy for their decrepit songwriting abilities in these modern times. But more explaining is needed for the shortcut I've made to be entirely comprehended. So let's look at another mythical band, Iron Maiden, and the set list of their "Somewhere back in time" 2008 world tour which ended somwhere in Poland after making a stop in the Metal Town of Wacken. To play for the cheerfull guests gathered there of course. The most recent song Maiden played is from the 1992 album "Fear of the Dark" and they enchanted the audience with 17 songs. They put up an excellent show both visually and musically and they rock stronger than ever. Since I never saw Metallica live I cannot make any comparison on these premises, but nevertheless you should all know that Maiden still kicks ass in their fifties. But where the comparison can be made is between the albums Metallica and Iron Maiden put out during the last 10 years. Both bands are uncontested Metal giants, but while the last 3 Metallica albums - Load, Reload and St. Anger - are barely listenable for an old school fan Iron Maiden has continued steadily on the road they paved back in the 80's with good albums - Brave New World, Dance of Death, A Matter of Life and Death - with 2 or 3 songs on each of them worthy successors of the 80's classics. Now it's easy to understand why Metallica playing Master of Puppets in 2008 after many years of crappy songwriting leaves a bad taste in your mouth while watching Bruce Dickinson wave the British flag during The Trooper (1983) makes me want to scream until my chest explodes. It's the difference between slowly sinking into oblivion while still trying to grasp at the last floating lifeboat and gloriously bringing the past into the present and making it sound better than ever. Iron Maiden is not the only example, Kreator is another one, although they play much more songs from their recent albums - Violent Revolution and Enemy of God - in their live shows while blasting the audience with classics on steroids like Extreme Agression, Flag of Hate and Tormetor. Thrash Metal has never sounded this good. To close the argument, all the difference between these two bands comes from the musicians which are the heart of the songwriting : Metallica's Clif Burton passed back away in 1986 while Iron Maiden's Steve Harris was always there and the band rebuilt itself during the late 90's with the return of Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith; similarly Kreator's Mille Petrozza has been the core of the band since the beginning and the guy knows how to pick his fellow musicians. Just like Chuck.

Before ending here's a live recording of Metallica's Fade to Black with Cliff Burton handling the bass duties. That should put a smile back on your face.

This being said, I wish you all an excellent in-between time after the morning coffee and before the teeth brushing or vice versa. And watch Heaven and Hell. Because everything pales in front of such magnificence.