Jason Newsted

#942: My Brushes With Metallica

RECORD STORE TALES #942: My Brushes With Metallica

I don’t mind admitting that my first Metallica was Load.  Yeah, I was one of them.  Hate on if you gotta.

Like many my age, the first exposure came in 1988 via their first music video:  “One”.  To say the visuals were disturbing would be accurate.  Although I did enjoy the song, I didn’t feel the need to hit “record” on my VCR when it come on.  Other kids at school sure liked it, and copies of Johnny Got His Gun were claimed to have been read by some of them.  I figured I could continue to live without Metallica.

The Black album was released in 1991.  I was watching live when Lars Ulrich called in to the Pepsi Power Hour to debut the new music video for “Enter Sandman”.  The new, streamlined and uber-produced Metallica looked and sounded good to me.  I loved when James said “BOOM!” and thought that hooking up with Bob Rock had worked out brilliantly.  The sonics were outstanding.  While I enjoyed the singles Metallica released through the next couple years, I never took a dive and bought the album.  Why?

Three main reasons.  The key one was that I knew, even before I knew I had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, that I would feel compelled to collect all the Metallica singles that I had missed over the years.  That was, as yet, a bridge too far.  Second reason was that I satisfied my craving for that style of Metallica in 1992 when Testament came out with The Ritual.  It had a track like “Sandman” called “Electric Crown”.  It had a song like “Sad But True” called “So Many Lies”.  It was perfect for my needs.  Thirdly, for whatever reason I didn’t think I was going to enjoy “old” Metallica, which again, I would feel compelled to collect.

When I started working at the Record Store in 1994, I had the night shifts alone.  I could play whatever I wanted and sometimes I gave Metallica a spin.  I can remember “Enter Sandman” coming on while I was cleaning, and saying to a customer, “Man I love this song!”  He nodded awkwardly and wondered why I was telling him.

A bit later I was hanging out with this guy Chris.  He was extolling the virtues of thrash metal, and put on Kill ‘Em All.  I was astonished when “Blitzkrieg” came on.  “I know this song!  I love this song!”  I exclaimed as I jumped up.  Air guitar in hand, I started bangin’ to the riff.  “This is a song by Blitzkrieg,” I explained to Chris.  “It’s on the New Wave of British Heavy Metal CD that Lars Ulrich produced.  I didn’t know he covered it.”

This is the point at which I like to say I became a Metallica fan.  Collecting the older stuff was still daunting, and a lot of it was expensive because it was out of print.  Which is really why it took Load for me to finally buy a Metallica CD.

1996 was a glorious but so stressing summer!  I was managing my own Record Store for the first time.  The weather was gorgeous.  The stock we had was incredible.  The stress came from staff, which turned over faster than a dog begging for belly rubs!  There was “Sally” who was caught paying herself excessive amounts of cash for the used CDs she was selling to the store.  There was The Boy Who Killed Pink Floyd who came to work hungover and worse.  And, most trying of all, music sucked for people like me who missed the great rock of the 70s and 80s.

On June 4, Metallica released Load to great anticipation.  Their new short-haired look (a Lars and Kirk innovation) turned heads and it was said that Metallica had abandoned metal and gone alternative.  Of course this was stretching the truth a tad.  Metallica had certainly abandoned thrash metal on Load, and arguably earlier.  Alternative?  Only in appearance (particularly Kirk Hammett with eye makeup and new labret piercing).

Load was the kind of rock I liked.  The kind of rock I missed through the recent alterna-years.  I had been buying Oasis CDs just to get some kind of new rock in my ears.  Finally here comes Metallica, with the exact kind of music that I liked, and at the exact time I needed it.

And yes, I did immediately start collecting the rarities and back catalogue.  Garage Days and Kill ‘Em All (with “Blitzkrieg” and “Am I Evil?”) were both out of print at that time.  I snapped up the first copies I could get my hands on, when they came in used inventory.  We were selling them for $25 each, no discount.  I later found a copy of a “Sad But True” single featuring the coveted “So What” at Encore Records for $20.  The new Load singles were added to my collection upon release.  The truth is, I picked the best possible time to get into Metallica collecting:  when I was managing my own used CD store!  I soon had the “Creeping Death” / “Jump In the Fire” CD.  A Japanese import “One” CD single only cemented what a lucky bastard I was to be working there.

Because Metallica came to me relatively later in life, today they never provoke the kind of golden memories that Kiss or Iron Maiden do.  However the summer of ’96 was defined by Metallica.  Driving the car, buddy T-Rev next to me, playing drums on his lap.  His hands and thighs got sore from playing car-drums so hard.  Load was our album of the summer and it sounded brilliant in the car.  Hate if you hafta, but that’s the way it went down for this guy in the dreary 90s.

 

REVIEW: Metallica – Enter Sandman (Remastered 2021 German CD singles)

METALLICA – “Enter Sandman” (Remastered 2021 German CD singles – 5″ Maxi CD and 3″ Pockit-CD)

The Black Album box set is coming!  Batten down your wallet because it looks absolutely incredible.  Yet on the 14 CDs and 6 DVDs, you won’t find the specific live tracks released only in Germany on the new set of “Enter Sandman” CD singles.  (There is also a glow-in-the-dark vinyl single, but it is missing the live tracks.)  All the discs maintain the style and design of Metallica’s original 1991-1992 singles.  This is an appetiser for what is to come, including two of the newly remastered Metallica tracks.  Proceeds went to German charity.

“Enter Sandman” and “Sad But True” are the two remastered studio cuts included.  The remastering sounds good and the tracks are not brickwalled.  Fans will be pleased to know that Metallica opted out of the Loudness Wars this time.  Good thumping bass, nice and prominent.  Crisp, clear, and loud enough.  “Sad But True” is really punchy.

The live tracks are all taken from Frankfurt or Stuttgart, shows not included in the box set.  The 5″ Maxi-CD and 3″ Pockit-CD each contain two exclusives.  Just like in the days of old, you have to buy both formats to get all the tracks.

“Through the Never” is one of the thrashiest songs from the Black era, and the very dry recording here is evidence of non-tampering.  Tasty wah-wah from Kirk Hammett.  “Damage, Inc.” brings thrash the old school way, Metallica as frantic as ever, barely holding it all together, but making the heads bang no matter what.  By the end it’s a total steamroller.

The teeny little 3″ CD is no less mighty.  “Of Wolf and Man” is choppy and heavy.  Hunting relentlessly like the titular wolf, Metallica are out for blood.  What’s really wild is the long jammy section at the end which contains a surprise.  Finally the Budgie cover of “Breadfan” ends the whole series of tracks with an explosive go-for-the-throat attitude.  Sloppy but foot on the gas the whole way.

What’s better than a wicked set of Metallica CD singles, including a 3″?  What could beat that?  How about if both discs were pressed in black plastic?  Would that do anything for ya?  These limited singles are sure to be collectible for their exclusive tracks and unique traits.  Try the German Amazon site for international shipping.  Contrary to a report in Bravewords, these singles do ship worldwide.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Metallica – “Mama Said” (1996 CD singles one and two)

Part Two of a two-part “Mama Said” review

METALLICA – “Mama Said” (1996 Vertigo CD singles parts one and two)

In order to get all the songs, you had to buy three separate singles.  You needed the 7″ vinyl (reviewed yesterday) and two CD singles.  The total payoff was seven B-sides:  five live, one demo, one single edit.  The 7″ picture disc included “Ain’t My Bitch” live from Irvine Meadows in ’96, and the rest are on the two CDs each sold separately.

The first single ignites the live feast with “King Nothing”, which finds Metallica in an informal mood before kicking into the track.  Though “King Nothing” was eventually released on its own as the fourth single from Load, it was never really one of the best songs from that album.  It slams heavy enough and would have been fun to mosh to.  They go old school on “Whiplash” which has that energy you want out of live Metallica.  The old fans boo the new fans, but everybody gets what they want.  Lars is sloppy as fuck; what do you expect?  When Metallica play stuff like “Whiplash” live it’s not about precision, it’s about energy and this version delivers.

The first CD ends with just a single edit of “Mama Said”, a good ballad with a country twang that some fans might have found unpalatable.  It’s shorter by 40 seconds, starting immediately with James’ lead vocal.  15 seconds chopped at the start and 20 more at the end.  Do Metallica fans need single edits?  No; Metallica was always resistant to compromises like that.  Paul DeCarli was given the job of the edit, presumably being told to get it safely under five minutes for radio.

“Mama Said” album version (top) and single edit (bottom) waveforms

The second CD in the set wastes no time going for the throat.  It’s “So What”, the infamously vulgar Anti-Nowhere League cover that was a B-side for Metallica once upon a time before.  It was so notorious that it became a live favourite unto itself, often turning up in the encores.  That’s followed by “Creeping Death”, an epic way to cap off the live tracks.  That mountainously heavy rock just never lets up until it gives way to another massive one.

The last and most interesting track among the B-sides is the original “Mama Said” demo recorded solely by James and Lars in Ulrich’s basement.  Electric guitar at first instead of acoustic, but beautiful.  The purity of this version, unadorned as it may be, is the reason to seek it out.  The twangy guitar part is in place, as are the lyrics (not always the case with James’ songs).  Metallica could easily release an album of their demo versions, but they haven’t so you gotta get the singles.

Seek these out.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Metallica – “Mama Said” (1996 7″ picture disc single)

Part One of a two-part “Mama Said” review

METALLICA – “Mama Said” (1996 Vertigo picture disc 7″ single)

I can admit that my first Metallica album was Load.  I concede that they were more Rocktallica than Metallica on that album, but the fact of the matter is that for the genre, Rocktallica was good!  A lot of hard rock and heavy metal albums in the mid-90s were not good.   Metallica introduced themselves to me with an album that was what I wanted, when I wanted it.  “Mama Said” was the third single from Load, a an acoustic ballad, and with an exclusive live B-side on the vinyl that wasn’t on the CD singles (to be reviewed next).

The 7″ single contains the album version, not the shorter single edit.  James Hetfield wasn’t afraid of getting personal in his lyrics anymore, and “Mama Said” is about his late mother.  It’s audible that he is getting something deeply important off his chest.  The music is notable for its distinct country twang.  Trash Metallica all you like, but this sounds great.  The thing about Metallica is that they usually (not always) do whatever it is they set out to do, and do it well.

That said, a 7″ picture disc is not the best way to hear Metallica play an acoustic ballad.  It can’t deliver the clarity and dynamics that a CD can.  The B-side, “Ain’t My Bitch” recorded live in California on August 4 1996, is a louder song and can get away with the format a little better.

James gets the crowd to shout “We don’t give a shit!” a couple times before they break into the song.  “Ain’t My Bitch” remains a fun little blast precisely about not giving a shit.  “Outta my way, outta my day!”  It might not be “Creeping Death” you can’t deny it’s fun to just bang along.  “Mama Said” might have been James dealing with deep shit, but “Ain’t My Bitch” says “just forget it and let go”.  Kirk Hammett’s solo on this one is mega fun, and it’s always a bonus to get Jason’s Newsted’s backing growls.  An underappreciated ex-Metallica member.

Including the tracks released over the two additional CD singles, “Ain’t My Bitch” is the seventh of seven total B-sides to “Mama Said”.  All the live ones are from the same show in Irvine Meadows.  If you gotta get ’em all, then “Mama Said” you need this picture single too!  Shame about the audio quality.

3/5 stars

Part Two tomorrow.

REVIEW: Rock Star Supernova – Rock Star Supernova (2006)

ROCK STAR SUPERNOVA – Rock Star Supernova (2006 Epic)

It’s no wonder this band came and went, with Lukas Rossi now toiling in obscurity once again. Even Jason Newsted didn’t want to tour with this band. (Why would he, when he had better stuff going on like VoiVod? He was replaced by Black Crowes bassist Johnny Colt.) Tommy Lee and Gilby Clarke have stated that they really wanted to have two singers, Rossi and Dilana, but the TV execs wouldn’t allow it. That shows you how much integrity is contained herein. Even the name of this band sucks.

Butch Walker (ex-Southgang) created a faceless, generic, dull sounding record with all the modern bells and whistles that scream “ProTools”. He deserved plenty of the blame since he co-wrote all the songs but one. The drums barely sound like Tommy Lee; the band has no identity. There is not one bonafide great song on this CD. There are a couple decent moments on some of the rockers such as “It’s On!”, but this is 40 minutes you won’t get back.

One of the main issues with the album is Lukas Rossi himself, a generic singer with no real identity. He sounds like any number of glam rock vocalists with nothing unique or special. The other musicians are rendered faceless by a batch of songs that are too lame for most Motley Crue albums. But come on — if you have a TV series about finding your new singer, find somebody memorable, you know?

If you bought this, you simply supported the same-old-same-old, plastic, processed, fake, and commercial music that has been rammed down the throats of the world since the advent of reality TV. Really, this just gives rock a band name, because people see this and think it’s actually rock music. It’s not. This is prefab music designed to generate hype and sales. It’s also suspect when I read multiple drummers’ names in the credits.  Thankfully people saw through it and the sales tanked (except in Canada where Rossi is from).

Don’t spend a penny on this music. If you like these musicians and you want to hear them do something cool and different that you probably haven’t already heard on the radio, pick up the following:

Gilby Clarke — Pawnshop Guitars from 1994
Tommy Lee — Motley Crue’s self-titled 1994 release with John Corabi on vocals.
Jason Newsted –- the band Newsted

If you support Rock Star Supernova, you just twisted the knife a little bit deeper into the back of rock and roll.

1/5 stars, and one big stinky piece of cheese.

1. “It’s On”
2. “Leave the Lights On”
3. “Be Yourself (and 5 Other Cliches)”
4. “It’s All Love”
5. “Can’t Bring Myself to Light This Fuse”
6. “Underdog”
7. “Make No Mistake… This Is the Take”
8. “Headspin”
9. “Valentine”
10. “Social Disgrace”
11. “The Dead Parade”

stinkycheese1

REVIEW: Metallica – “One” (Japanese 5 track single)

It’s the end of the Week of Singles 3!  Since it’s Friday I have to leave you with something a little more special.  If you missed any of this week’s singles or EPs, click below!

METALLICA – “One” (1989 Sony Japan 5 track single)

While there is no doubt that this single is indeed rare, when T-Rev and I shared an apartment together in the late 90’s, we both owned a copy.  We figured we must have had the only living room in the country with two Japanese copies of the “One” single by Metallica.  I believe both of us acquired our copies via the record store.  (Unfortunately, neither of us had the obi strip.)

Along with the full 7 1/2 minute version of “One”, this single presents Metallica’s excellent cover of Budgie’s “Breadfan”.  Metallica’s take, which emphasizes the heavy parts, is awesome.  It was “Breadfan” that inspired me to check out Budgie, and then discover yet another one of my favourite bands.  “Breadfan” was always a monster; Metallica simply turned it up.  It is a song that they were born to cover anyway.  The unusual thing is that “Breadfan” is one of Budgie’s most notably bass-heavy tracks (from a bass-heavy band anyway), but Metallica’s cover comes from Metallica’s least bass-y period.  I’m sure Newsted must be digging in deep to play those Burke Shelley bass rolls, but you can’t hear him clearly enough.

Next are two live bonus tracks:  “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” from Dallas, Texas, February 5 1989.  (The 7″ and 12″ singles contained different live tracks:  “Seek & Destroy” and “Creeping Death” respectively.)  I think this period of live Metallica is among their best.  Hetfield’s voice had filled out to max out on the menacing scale.  Newsted was an able replacement for the late Cliff Burton, and I enjoyed his backing growls on “Sanitarium”.

Last and rarest is the original demo version of “One”.  It was recorded to four-track tape:  drums, James’ guitar, vocals, Kirk’s guitar.  That’s right – because it’s only four tracks, there’s no bass!  (Insert jokes about the …And Justice For All album right here: _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ .)  This demo was recorded in November 1987, and unlike many Metallica demos, this one has lyrics.  “One” was a fully-formed song in the demo stage, with only a couple parts unfinished.  It’s remarkable and I’m sure Metallica had no idea in 1987 that what they were writing was going to become a rock classic.  As confident as they probably were, I’m sure nobody in Metallica said, “In 25 years we’ll be playing this at the Grammy awards.”  Yet it’s all there; 95% of the very song that would be played at the 2014 Grammys, with Chinese pianist Lang Lang.

This is a great little treasure and I’m sure “one” day (stinky pun) I’ll add the 7″ and 12″ singles to my collection to get the other two live tracks.

5/5 stars ONE_0003

REVIEW: Voivod – Infini (2009)

Part 2 of a 2 part series.  Click here for part 1, Katorz.

INFINI_0001VOIVOD – Infini (2009 Sonic Unyon)

Who would have thought that little band from Quebec, VoiVod, could have survived so much adversity. The death of Denis “Piggy” D’Amour (guitar) in 2005 should have been the end, but yet the band has soldiered on with two albums utilizing his guitar parts recorded just before his death. In addition, unbelievably, the band has even continued on with returned original bassist Blacky (Jean-Yves Thériault) and new guy Chewy (Dan Mongrain) on guitar!

For those who don’t know, shortly before Piggy died of cancer, he had been working hard at recording every idea he had onto a hard drive. He explained to the band, that if they went into his PC they would find hours of meticulously recorded music and detailed instructions on how to use it. From there, Away (drummer Michel Langevin), Snake (singer Denis Belanger) and Jasonic (bassist Jason Newstead, ex-Metallica) buckled down and created the surprisingly awesome Katorz. Incredibly there was still enough music left to create one more album, 2009’s Infini. The fact that both albums are excellent, coherant pieces that add to the already rich VoiVod body of work is nothing short of astounding. It is a tribute to Piggy as an artist and as a person.

INFINI_0004What VoiVod have created here is yet another astounding progressive metal headbanging experience. Loads of droning Piggy chords, odd Piggy solos, insane time changes, and cool lyrics abound. Snake’s lyrics are both thought provoking and cool sounding through a Francophone lens. Even the song titles alone evoke multiple images.

I’m pleased that the band has continued on with Blackie and Chewy.  Their last album, Target Earth was also challenging and excellent.  But that’s another review.  For now I am blown away and grateful that the band have created two monstrously great albums in a row after the death of the man who seemingly defined their sound. As a metal fan, and as a fellow Canadian, I am proud of our metal heritage. I feel Piggy is a huge part of that heritage (the CD itself has Maple Leafs and Fleurs-de-lis emblazoned upon it), and I hope his music continues to live on in the new VoiVod.

Highlights:

“God Phones,” “Destroy After Reading,” “In Orbit,” and “Earthache”.  I love the thunderous chorus in “Earthache”:  “Blah, blah blah, is that all you say?”

Infini is not quite the album that Katorz was, it’s more challenging and abrasive, but it’s definitely one to be proud of.  Very few bands could produce an album of this complexity and intensity.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Voivod – Katorz (2006)

Part 1 of a 2 part series

KATORZ_0001VOIVOD – Katorz (2006 The End records)

When Piggy (Denis D’Amour) passed away of colon cancer in 2005, I thought it spelled the end of VoiVod. It was such a sudden, unforeseen tragedy.  He was only diagnosed that year; the cancer had spread so rapidly that any operation was deemed impossible.  However, Piggy loved VoiVod and he loved music. Knowing his end was near, he recorded hours of new music with his guitar onto a computer. Before passing he instructed the band on how to access the music he’d left them, and they realized the VoiVod dream was not dead. Away (Michel Langevin), Snake (Denis Belanger) and Jasonic (ex-Metallica bassist Jason Newsted) painstakingly went through his final recordings and realized there was an album there. (In fact there were two albums there, but that’s another story.)

Katorz (“fourteen”, their 14th release) was assembled from these parts. It is a loving tribute to the man who defined the VoiVod sound, and it is a gift to us, the fans. As Canadians, we should be very proud of VoiVod. They never made it big like Rush, although Rush certainly took them under their collective wings on the Presto tour. Their sound is anything but commercial — it’s a stunning, disorienting array of unusual droning chords, complex themes and precision drumming. The band have also inserted some of Piggy’s beautiful final acoustic passages in between songs as transistions, all of which are haunting statements about his impending death. Piggy was not known for his acoustic work, until now, which makes it that much more powerful. (The band has suggested in the past that there may be an entire Piggy acoustic album to come.)

KATORZ_0003Through all the hardship, VoiVod have only perfected their art of songwriting. The songs on Katorz are among the best of the VoiVod back catalogue. They have come far from their thrash metal n’ studs roots. From the band that once did a thrash version of the “Batman” theme, their music is still heavy. The complexity that they gradually began integrating in the mid-80’s is tied together with more melody and groove. Certainly, you can find few drummers as talented as Away, and his drumming here is astounding. Away jumps from time change to time change effortlessly.

The always nasal whine of Snake will not appeal to all, but it is part of the VoiVod sound and identity, and his lyrics are as jittery and potent as ever. To me it’s like Megadeth. I can’t handle a lot of Mustaine’s singing in a day, but in small doses it’s quite palatable.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Katorz is that you cannot tell that anything is wrong with Piggy or the band.  His playing is as unique as ever, pushing the boundaries as he always has.  Check out the noise solo on “Mr. Clean” and you’ll see that Piggy was stretching out to the very end.  Song-wise, Katorz is seamless.  It sounds as if the band wrote and recorded it together, as they always have.  There is a certain coldness to Katorz, but that’s VoiVod.

Katorz is thinking-man’s metal. It is over-caffeinated, constantly pushing the extremes (X-Streams?) and restless. More importantly, it is a tribute to one of the great guitarists that made Canada proud. Piggy was great not because of his speed or dexterity, but because of his sonic uniqueness. Piggy’s sound was like no other, droning and headache-inducing, just like VoiVod’s music. Our country is a sadder place without him.

Highlights:
The whole album, but especially “The Getaway”, “Odds & Frauds” and “The X-Stream”.

A beautiful noisy mess. 4.5/5 stars.

Part 263: METALLICA’s Fan Can #4 (Video blog)

RECORD STORE TALES Part 263:  Metallica’s FAN CAN #4

Less a story, more a show-and-tell.  I purchased this rare Metallica Fan Can via a staff member of mine.  Her name was Wraychel, and she had a Metallica Club membership.  When she told me that year’s Fan Can (#4) was available for pre-order, I asked her to get it for  me.  The Fan Cans were legendary!  I can’t remember what I paid.  It was a lot.

Don’t mind the dust, but enjoy the video.

REVIEW: Metallica – Six Feet Down Under EP

First of a two-part Australian Metallica EP extravaganza!  And check out KamerTunesBlog for an awesome Metallica discography series

METALLICA – Six Feet Down Under EP (2010 Universal)

This Metallica EP for Australia only, Six Feet Down Under, will be of limited interest to casual fans. The EP (the first of two for Australia) is a decent tour souvenir for those fans, but for fans in Canada or elsewhere who will have to pay much higher prices, this is mostly just a collectible.  The sound quality varies wildly.   The tracks were selected as songs that were not often (or ever) released as live B-sides before.

TALLICA SIX FEET_0003The oldest tunes from ’89 (“Justice” and “Beholder”) are from audience bootleg sources, and are very rough. I have heard much better bootlegs.  The idea was to give fans rare tracks recorded in Australia, so this really is something geared towards collectors.  I’s hard to critique the tunes beyond sound quality, because it’s not like you can really discern bass parts or cymbals and so on.

The ’93 tunes are “Through The Never” (extremely sloppy, especially on the rhythm guitar) and “The Unforgiven”. These songs sound a lot better. “The Unforgiven” in particular is a very nice version. Metallica had started recording their shows via soundboard by now.

Then we jump ahead to the ReLoad tour. Personally, I really liked Load, but I wasn’t very hot on ReLoad. I was still excited to hear live versions of “Low Man’s Lyric” and “Devil’s Dance”, but quite frankly, they sound uninspired.

From 2004 we have a really cool live version of “Frantic”, one of the best tunes from St. Anger. Whether you like it or not will depend on how you feel about St. Anger. I liked this version. Wisely, Metallica decided to include only one St. Anger tune. The other tune from 2004 is “Fight Fire With Fire” which is, once again, very sloppy. But hey, at least you know it’s live.

There are liner notes included as per most Metallica singles and EPs. This just explains the purpose of the EP and the sources of each track.  Sounds like something you’d be into? Then go for it. If you’re not intrigued, don’t plop down the big bucks if you’re buying it on import.  I will say that Metallica aren’t ripping the fans off; this “EP” is 52 minutes long.  By way of comparison, Diver Down by Van Halen is 28 minutes.

3/5 stars

Come back tomorrow for a look at Six Feet Down Under Part II.