Whether you’ve followed them since their thrash origins with Kill ‘Em All, or are merely familiar with their Black Album hits cycled on commercial radio, Metallica is a name that you’d be hard-pressed not knowing. With a loyal global fan-base and endless critical accolades, the legendary quartet has enjoyed an illustrious career unheard of in the realm of heavy metal music – but, despite their stature as metal gods amongst men, their journey has not been without its hiccups. Internal feuds and consequent lineup changes; substance abuse and stints in rehab; trials and tribulations over internet piracy and intellectual copyright; a disastrous Lou Reed collaborative album; hilarity-ensuing fashion choices. However, one thing the band can never be faulted on is its ability to put on a show like no other – and, for their return to Singapore for the WorldWired Tour 2017 on January 22, they didn’t fail to deliver the goods.
Garnering an audience of approximately 10,000 attendees from home and around the region, an army of black-clad fans converged on Singapore Indoor Stadium to witness the ‘Four Horsemen’ back in action, after their last appearance at Changi Exhibition Centre in 2013. Opening with the band’s tried-and-true cinematic intro of “The Ecstasy Of Gold” from The Good, The Bad And The Ugly, prompting a chant that could rival that of a championship football match, the machinegun-fire snare of “Hardwired” set the stage ablaze in blood-red lights, with frontman James Hetfield, drummer Lars Ulrich, guitarist Kirk Hammett and bassist Robert Trujillo making their grand entrance with the breakneck thrash number from their latest album, Hardwired…To Self-Destruct.
Followed by the palm muting-propelled “Atlas, Rise!”, with a chorus riff that pleasantly harks back to Iron Maiden’s “Hallowed Be Thy Name”, the band then dug into their extensive back-catalogue with crowd-moving classics that include the anthemic “For Whom The Bell Tolls”, reckless driving-inducing “Fuel”, and power ballad “The Unforgiven”. Pushing and pulling between the past and the present, fans got a satisfying dose of the band’s most celebrated material, with Hetfield even announcing his surprise at the welcome reception of the new material – of which two thirds of Hardwired were bravely performed. While there were murmurs in the audience of hopes to hear a song or two from St. Anger, Metallica glossed over their controversial album and follow-up Death Magnetic entirely (whether this decision was made out of self-reproach or to place focus on Hardwired is up for debate) – but, unlike many of their peers who’ve been at it for nearly four decades, Metallica’s audience was just as enthusiastic to join Hetfield’s roars on the new material as the old, with songs like “Moth Into Flame” and “Halo On Fire” eliciting the same kind of war cries as time-honoured set staples like “Wherever I May Roam” and “Sad But True”.
“Even Ulrich’s detractors will be disgruntled to know that he commanded the cans adeptly, a potential indicator that he’s finally back to practising his instrument.”
Even with gratuitous solos by Hammett and Trujillo implanted into the set – the former flexing his wah-enhanced wailing, the latter swaggering the stage like a hunched Donkey Kong while emitting deafening rumbles from his five-string – the performance never seemed to wane. Even Ulrich’s detractors will be disgruntled to know that he commanded the cans adeptly, a potential indicator that he’s finally back to practising his instrument – even though a slip-up here and there would have been welcomed warmly with laughter.
Raising the stakes since the band’s previous appearance in Singapore, stage visuals were a prominent and mesmerising feature of the WorldWired date. Fitted with gargantuan LED screens, laser projections and multi-camera coverage following the four icons, the performance was as much a thrilling experience visually as it was sonically. Undoubtedly the most elaborate and impressive marriage of the two was for the World War I-inspired “One”, in which the machinegun-simulating guitars and double kick drums were treated to rapid flashes of white light, while silhouettes of soldiers marching to their demise and explosive landmine debris brought Hetfield’s horrific lyrics to life.
Taking fans on a trip back in time to their LA thrash origins with the crowd favourite, “Seek & Destroy”, the band could hardly keep off stage before quickly returning for their anticipated encore. Seemingly playing faster than they could manage with “Fight Fire With Fire” (evident from Hetfield’s revealing smile to Trujillo as they momentarily lost synchronisation), smartphones and even a few lighters went up in the air to illuminate the crowd for the emotive ballad, “Nothing Else Matters”. And, no matter how dulled the song had become to the ears of diehard Metallica fans, there wasn’t a throat in the crowd that didn’t suffer abrasion as the entire stadium screamed “Exit light!” for the closing classic, “Enter Sandman”.
While Metallica may have spent less time and effort cosying up to the audience with banter and fan-service antics than in previous appearances (Hetfield did affectionately refer to the crowd as “family” on numerous occasions – thank goodness he never truncated it to “fam”), the minimised chit-chat left more room for a show-stopping performance that captivated from beginning to end. Bidding farewell with a promise that they’ll be back soon, we can only hope that they’ll return with a bigger and bolder performance – and so long as they continue to strip away the severity of metal’s stereotypes and make live music all about having fun, nothing else matters.
Banner Image Aloysius Lim Body Images Alvin Ho