- 06 Jun 19
From the Hot Press cover...Paul Nolan looks at the enduring success of Metallica, ahead of their appearance at Slane this weekend.
In 2019, Metallica operate in a rarefied sphere of superstardom occupied by precious few other acts. There’s the Rolling Stones, U2, Guns N’ Roses, Foo Fighters, Springsteen – and after that I am running out of names. What makes their achievement all the more remarkable is that Metallica have conquered the globe whilst remaining true to their metal roots, and not compromising an inch on their artistic vision. The group’s Slane date is part of their WorldWired tour, currently scheduled to run until November – by which time James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett and Robert Trujillo will have spent three years promoting the accompany album, Hardwired... To Self-Destruct. Another blistering collection of skull-shattering riffs and pulverising drums, the commercial reception for Hardwired... offered further proof, as if it were needed, of Metallica’s megastar status.
Topping the charts in a genuinely mindboggling 57 countries, the record also became Metallica’s sixth consecutive US number one – just the second time this feat has been achieved by any group. The band have retained a core of songs from the album in their live shows, alongside such evergreen metal anthems as ‘The Unforgiven’, ‘Sad But True’ and ‘Enter Sandman’.
It’s notable that the four members of Metallica are all recognised as charismatic individuals in their own right. Over the past couple of years, Ulrich’s It’s Electric show on Apple Music has made for excellent listening, with the drummer attracting a range of fascinating guests from the worlds of metal, hard rock and indie, including Joan Jett, Maynard James Keenan, Dave Grohl, James Murphy, Noel Gallagher and more.
Hetfield, meanwhile, is also a compelling and insightful interviewee, as I discovered when I met the frontman at Dublin’s Marlay Park, when Metallica played there in 2008, around the release of Death Magnetic. In the hours before the gig, the feeling around the house on the grounds was somewhat surreal, as a bunch of hacks awaited the group’s arrival. Tenacious D were part of the support bill, so Jack Black was wandering around – the most A-list star we spotted until Ulrich drove up in a golf buggy.
He was followed shortly by Hetfield – and I was escorted in for a summit with James, in a makeshift production area on the first floor of the house. After being introduced, I was pleasantly surprised when Hetfield said he already knew Hot Press, having read of a CD of early Thin Lizzy recordings we’d given away with an issue the previous year.
There was certainly plenty to discuss, with Hetfield having been at the centre of Metallica’s remarkable 2004 documentary, Some Kind Of Monster. The film captured the recording of the previous year’s St. Anger – complete with group therapy sessions – which was undertaken after Hetfield completed a stint in rehab for alcoholism.
“I found the recording of Death Magnetic a lot more comfortable,” said Hetfield. “This was kind of the fruits of our hard work on St. Anger. One of the things said by Phil, the enhancement coach or whatever you want to call him, was that the work we were doing was not for that record, it was for the next one. That stuck with me, and it’s very true. We had everyone and their brother surrounding us and helping us, trying to mediate and get us in the room together.
“This record was pretty much the opposite. No one was there: it was the four of us left to our own decisions on when to start, when to end, everything. It was our time to fly and grow up a little bit again, after falling so hard. So it was actually great to have a lot of the responsibility, and obviously working with Rick Rubin, the phantom producer as they call him, who’s not there all the time, it was very good for us.” Given Thin Lizzy’s spiritual connection with Slane, it’s fitting that Metallica are to finally headline the venue. Indeed, Hetfield will also be joining Adam Clayton and a host of other notable names appearing in the Philip Lynott documentary Songs For While I’m Away, which is due to hit screens next year.
But first up is that hotly anticipated Slane gig – we also recommend getting there early for Ghost, the brilliantly subversive doom metal crew fronted by “demonic anti-Pope” Papa Emeritus. It should all make for another incredible occasion.