For those that were too young to remember, thrash metal pioneers Metallica stirred a tonne of unwanted controversy when they lashed out at online music pirates like Napster, leading to lengthy court cases with those peddling their music and stealing their riches. While it led to some fans going so far as to burn their CDs and merch to distance themselves from their heroes-turned-capitalists, and made founding drummer Lars Ulrich possibly the most hated man in music, Ulrich’s predictions on the future of artists’ livelihoods have led many to look back and reconsider his warnings, replacing scorn with a touch of regret.
But now, with Spotify, Apple Music and Tidal (kinda), there’s no going back to times when artists had full control of their music – and it seems that Ulrich and co. have finally gotten the memo that if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Not only has the band worked with their former nemesis, Napster, to make their entire catalogue of music available on the streaming service, but the band is giving back to fans and reclaiming the online playground with the release of their tenth full-length, Hardwired… to Self-Destruct, by creating a music video for each of the twelve tracks of the album, plus a bonus re-recorded single, “Lords of Summer”.
The collection of YouTube-hosted music videos not only marks a return to their thrash roots and the melding of trudging palm-muted chugs and hooky vocal melodies found on The Black Album that spearheaded Metallica into the mainstream, it also presents one of the first times in recent memory that the band has strayed from strictly performance-style music videos, venturing into animation, parody and filmic narrative.
Music videos for lead singles “Hardwired” and “Moth Into Flame” give fans more of the same old (of which there are no complaints), while the album’s deeper cuts take on a much more interesting visual turn. “Atlas Rise!” takes fans back into the studio for an intimate recording session reminiscent of “Nothing Else Matters”, where others complement bone-crushing riffs with engaging short films. “Confusion” transports viewers into the panic of a PTSD sufferer, while “Spit Out The Bone” tells an epic tale of a man-versus-machine apocalypse. And though diehard fans will undoubtedly be familiar with the band's penchant for monkeying around, "ManUNkind" makes this explicit with a tongue-in-cheek take on black metal culture. An undisputed highlight from the collection is “Murder One”, translating Metallica’s tribute Lemmy with a psychedelic graphic treatment that’d earn a nod of approval from the late metal icon himself.
While a lot has changed since their Metal Up Your Ass swagger from 35 years ago, the four horsemen have proven that they’ve still got plenty of tricks up their leather sleeves. And, having recently stunned eager audiences by beginning their WorldWired tour right here in Asia, we’re confident there are plenty of surprises to come.
View the music video collection in the playlist above. Metallica returns to Singapore for the WorldWired Tour on January 22, 2017 at Singapore Sports Hub. Tickets available at sportshub.com.sg.