If you had to pick seven songs from this year or yesteryear that have meant the world to you in 2016, what would they be? Things get distinctly metallic here, with some help from my final two #7songs2016 picks, and from my good friend Mathew Davies.
#7songs2016 (VI): Metallica – Atlas, Rise!
are quite possibly my favourite band of all. But I could never describe
myself as a fan of all they’ve done. They have taken some very
odd twists and turns over the 25-plus years since their imperial era of
unassailable greatness concluded (as brilliantly summarised by Adrian Begrand just the other day). Their confidence in going wherever the muse takes them is admirable, even if the results are not always listenable. Yet hope always sprang eternal that
they might one day tap into the well of inspiration that made their
music from 1983 to 1988 so special.
Those hopes were realised – at long, long last – in 2016. For want of a better word, Metallica seemed to pull their collective fingers out and – for a handful of songs (in my view) – reconnect with much of what made them so great and so damn fun in their classic era.
For me, the best song from their new album – and their very best song since 1988′s ...And Justice For All album – is Atlas, Rise! Riffing like their was no tomorrow, playing to nothing but their strengths (and leaning heavily on early Iron Maiden), this is Metallica in excelsis.
that he too is partial to a wee bit of Metallica, I asked my good
friend Mathew Davies (HR director in search of new opportunities; editor of GhostCult magazine) if he might fancy penning a word or two
for this post. He has exceeded all expectations, with a great, in-depth review of Metallica’s entire 2016 album Hardwired… To Self-Destruct. Take it away, Mr D…
Metallica’s Hardwired… reviewed, by Mr Mathew Davies of @ghostcultmagazine
sound you can hear is a massive collective sigh of relief. The new
Metallica album, Hardwired… To Self-Destruct, might just be the best
thing this band have done in twenty years.
The standards expected
of the world’s biggest heavy metal band have always been absurdly high,
although this is understandable. Let’s remember something: this is the
band that might not have invented heavy metal but they pretty much damn
near perfected it. Whether you are from the “the first four albums only
and then they are rubbish” school of thought or whether your hopping on
point was later as they went stratospheric with The Black Album or short
hair and hard rock loving around Load, people always, ALWAYS have an
opinion on the San Francisco quartet.
Metallica are the band your
mum has heard of, that your postman knows and that your bartender has
got on their Spotify rock playlist. Consequently, every time Metallica
releases new material, it gets pored over and examined unlike many of
their contemporaries. To be fair, this is a band that doesn’t often help
themselves. The collective cutting of hair and guy-liner application
that accompanied Load back in the 1990s; the Nu-Metal echoes found on
the generally unlovely St Anger; the performance art mis-step of Lulu,
their collaboration with Lou Reed have all played a part in forming what
we now have in Metallica.
It’s been eight years since the quite
liked Death Magnetic and we are now in the place where each member of
Metallica is past the age when police officers are thinking about
retiring so the key question is this: can they still make a decent
Unquestionably, yes. This being a Metallica record, 2016
style, it is not without its faults. It is too long, probably by 20
minutes. The band’s inability to edit themselves has been a feature of
their work for some time now and it is in solid effect here, too. This
is probably why they have released it as two separate discs, as there is
no discernible stylistic difference between the two.
Disc one is
probably the most immediate; Disc Two the more esoteric. It is, however,
one of those records that grows on you with repeated listens. This is
not code for: “I don’t really like it but I will say I will
irrespective of how awful it is”. Rather, the band have packed in so
many riffs, melodies and ideas that the full suite of riches can only be
absorbed after you’ve lived with this record for some time.
begins with its title track: a three minute burst of venomous energy
that sounds equally statement of intent and statement of defiance. The
NWOBHM stylings of Atlas, Rise! will have long term fans nodding their
heads unconsciously; it’s familiarity leaving a sense of warmth rather
than contempt. The twin punches of Now That We’re Dead and Moth into
Flame are reminders that when Metallica want to do balls out stadium
rock then there are really no bands quite like them. Just when you’re
relaxing under a cosy Metallica blanket they decide to up the ante.
Dream No More with its echoes of The Thing That Should Not Be and Leper
Messiah is the record’s darkest moment- the band searching their
collective memories for a black, dark journey into night. They follow
this with the majestic Halo on Fire which I defy anyone not to have its
closing refrain of “Hello Darkness! Say Goodbye!” stuck in their heads
like the most intransigent earworm.
Disc Two kicks off with
Confusion (originally titled Lima) which is a riff festival wrapped
around a simple guitar melody and all the better for it. The woefully
titled ManUNkind (which I can’t help seeing without thinking of Jose
Mourinho’s football club) is miles better than its title might suggest, a
surfeit of hard rock stylings that feels fresh and relaxed. Here Comes
Revenge is probably the strongest track on the disc where the band’s
ability to build momentum leads to a chorus pay off that is worth the
wait. Am I Savage? follows and sounds like a long lost track from Load
but with an added layer of freshness and jagged guitar melodies that
will have you reaching for that entry form to the European Air Guitar
Championships. Having said that, I’m not sure that the well intentioned
Murder One, a tribute to the late Motorhead singer Lemmy is anything
other than merely “alright”- it’s a bit cliché ridden, lyrically, and
not the classic that you will have hoped the band would have been able
to pull off. The blessed relief of Spit out the Bone– a less anxious but
no less frenetic version of Dyer’s Eve for the 21st century closes
proceedings. It’s a track of enormous fun- ultimately disposable- but
evidence of a band who are closing this album of effort and heft with
relaxed, collective playing; they are having a blast. They may not be
the last gang in town anymore but they can sure as hell play like they
This may sound entirely self-evident but Hardwired… sounds
like a Metallica record. In a good way, too. There are more guitar
harmonies on this record than the band have had for some time and this
is entirely welcome. It’s the sound of a band who don’t need to try but
do so, effortlessly. It will not convert naysayers, it will not change
your world view but there are considerably far worse ways of spending 80
minutes in this short life. No one writes riffs like this band and, for
that alone, we can remain eternally grateful. They may have given you
plenty of opportunity to doubt them but, on this big, sprawling and
often utterly compelling record, faith has been resolutely restored.
For more Mat Davies:
#7songs2016 (VII): Motorhead – Iron Horse (Born To Lose)
Today (Christmas Eve, 24 December 2016) should by rights have been the 71st birthday of one Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister. A year ago today, I blogged about my love and admiration for Lemmy on the occasion of his 70th birthday. I was aware that he had been very ill and was frail. But I had no idea of the awful, looming truth that he would die just a few days later.
I learnt of his passing when I woke
and checked my phone one night during last year’s Christmas holidays. A Twitter DM from a good friend let me know the horrible, breaking news. I went back to bed in tears. Lemmy’s passing affected me like no other “celebrity” death (if the “C” word could ever rightly be applied to Lemmy; I think probably not. He is so much more than that).
For me, Lemmy is perhaps the greatest rock ‘n’ roll lyricist of them all. A true gentleman, witty and wise. An incredible life force. His music rang out for nigh-on five decades, inspired by the seismic impact of hearing Little Richard in the 1950s. As self-deprecrating and as aware of the folly of the human condition as his lyrics and his “Born to lose, live to win” philosophy were, Lemmy always declared that his music was intended to uplift, to take people out of their hardships and “make you feel 10 feet tall and immortal.”
My good friend FlipChartRick penned a lovely tribute to Lemmy in the days immediately following his passing. His description of Motorhead’s unique musical purity is perfect:
“Motorhead stripped it all back to a guitar, drums and a distinctive driving bass, a raw sound with an energy and urgency that outpunked the punk bands.
In doing so they set the scene for the 1980s when bands got louder and
faster until it was impossible to tell what was punk and what was heavy
metal any more.
Metallica would be the first to admit they are one of those louder and faster bands that owe a huge debt to Motorhead. The Motorhead influence on their first album is undeniable (even down to a song entitled Motorbreath). They’ve covered a brace of Motorhead songs over the years (including Damage Case, the song that gave this post its title).
I agree with Mat that Metallica’s 2016 Lemmy tribute Murder One is less-than-classic. But Metallica’s new album concludes with a truly beautiful nod to Lemmy. In Spit Out The Bone, bassist Rob Trujillo takes an unshowy, aggressive but melodic bass solo that is purest Lemmy (just before the three-minute mark).
Today, on what should have been the great man’s 71st birthday, please spare a thought for Lemmy and for those who loved him.
Lemmy is an irreplacable loss to the world. But his music is always the touch of a button away, as blazing with life and wit as ever.
The song Iron Horse/Born To Lose is purest Lemmy, purest Motorhead.
I’d like to conclude this #7songs2016 post with another take on Iron Horse/Born To Lose. A moving acoustic version from the outstanding 2010 album Adrift by Scott “Wino” Weinrich.
Ride the road that don’t have no end…