Why Metal Fans Should Hate Pantera

Why do humans form tribes? If you want to break away from the rest, and not allow them to assimilate you, you must go your own way and militantly, bigotedly, dogmatically, and aggressively keep the others out, or they will try to draw you back into their dysfunction so they feel better about it.

Much of tribalism involves feeling glad that you are not that other guy and his weird tribe of losers, but when it becomes only that, that tribe loses a sense of what they are in an affirmative sense. They lose their goals, their identity, and their pride.

Under such conditions, they do nothing but scapegoat other groups for their own problems, and then rage at these scapegoats instead of rebuilding themselves. This is where the nasty side of discrimination comes out, when people would rather whip slaves than build empires.

Metal, as a tribe, knew that it would always face the risk of assimilation by rock music, since rock music serves as an aggregate of all popular music. It combined Celtic drinking songs, Scandinavian folk, Scots religious music, waltz rhythms, and the minimal framework of Southern blues — itself probably an old Scythian creation — into a standardized product. Metal wants to avoid becoming that product.

We can safely say that rock died in the 1980s, when it bounced back from the 1960s ranting protest music and the 1970s corporate rock, only to resurrect as a folk-hybrid with indie and then be smashed down by punk, giving way to electronic music, then rap, and later the hybrid of the two that is now international pop.

The record labels peaked in the mid-1990s with grunge since this, incorporating metal and punk as an aesthetic while discarding their musical contributions, brought rock full circle back to its roots, but got taken over by the usual emo whiners and cosmopolitan metrosexuals, so lost its momentum.

Pantera played right into this by making a form of speed metal which was barely harder than grunge, embraced blues rather than prog or hardcore roots, and focused on personal drama instead of the historical and mythological focus of the innovators of the genre.

Metallica made songs about terror and triumph, the winds of history, and the clash of ideas; Pantera gave us faded photocopies of horror movies, personal drama, and party songs. It was as if AC/DC took over Testament, then sniffed too much paint at a rest stop.

By turning speed metal into a flavor of rock music, Pantera inverted speed metal, turning a genre that wanted to be a tribe breaking away from the herd into an ultimate song of triumph for the herd which validates herd navel-gazing personal drama and rejected the impersonal, naturalistic, and historical-mythological view of metal.

Even more, they made metal simplistic like glam and inoffensively accessible like rock. Nothing in Pantera would shock the post-1960s American audience, so you could play it in your bar or club without fearing that someone might start throwing chairs. It was a perfect product.

Some might note the homosexual undertones to this music, which simultaneously champions masculinity and presents a wounded version of it, following the general feminization of the West:

…in a culture where men suppress the feminine elements of a naturally androgynous intelligence and women seek to bolster their masculine traits and appearance to become attractive to the most aggressive males. This is a homosexual under-culture or foundation of Western society that manifests in competitions at every level and glories in conquests. The other side of the coin is, the inherent denial required generates a deep and abiding anger; this is what translates into bigotry and hate. The source of the denial is fear and the fear stems from abhorrence at what any naked self-exam would discover: a hyper-inculcated homosexuality at odds with the one’s own cultural myths.

However, to my mind, what we are seeing is solipsism: Western Culture, having lost its direction, worships the individual instead of appealing to social order, and therefore idealizes an individual without context, meaning having stripped away culture, faith, family, genetics, and past to reveal only the will, a “city on the hill” or paragon of virtue in its self-created worship of free will.

Humans in groups make the same mistake every time. Instead of staying focused on goal, which is boring because it does not change, they become focused on the individual and, through that, achieving unity in the group through compromise so that a consensus can be built. This inverts the civilization.

When metal inverts itself, we get music that reflects the fears of the audience — worries about inadequacy, sexuality, power, mortality, and meaning — instead of music which asserts an affirmative direction in which we can move to find fulfilling versions of our fears.

Pantera made the perfect product in that it reflected the broadest section of fans and their fears. It then dumbed down the form into something which offends no one. Finally, it brought in elements of rock, so the fans could be rebels without having to step off the reservation.

If that does not deserve hatred for turning metal into anti-metal, then perhaps at least it deserves recognition for what it is: like fast food or soda-pop, it is a utilitarian reduction of metal to cheap lifestyle object sold at high margin.

Pantera riffs resemble up-tempo versions of 1970s heavy metal with a few muted strums here and there to make them “hard.” Their leads, borrowed from mostly British heavy rock of the 1960s and country music, fit entirely in the center of genericism. The vocals come from emo and NYHC.

In short, Pantera made a perfect product out of speed metal, and it appealed to an audience not so much of morons but of conformists and denialists, or those who want to believe that everything is going well in the world so their only concern should be their personal bourgeois status.

Like the navel-gazing novel which borrowed as much from the self-help as the fiction section, the civil rights politics of fearing personal inequality so much that society should be forced to subsidize it, movies about superheroes and other id-drama of the least self-aware population in history, Pantera reflected our self-consciousness in a social context, not a desire to make art that pushed us to improve ourselves.

If we distill Pantera down to its essence, it would be a drunk guy telling you that he feels your pain, bro, and it’s all going to be okay once you knock back a few Natty Lights and show him on the doll where your last girlfriend hurt you. I can’t think of anything less “metal” than that.

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45 thoughts on “Why Metal Fans Should Hate Pantera”

  1. P3TR1F13D P3N15 P3RF0R4T0R says:

    When has whipping slaves and building empires ever been mutually exclusive endeavors?

    1. Always, in my view. Slavery is a late empire thing when you have lots of useless people you don’t know what to do with. Empire building consists of having lots of useful people instead.

      1. P3TR1F13D P3N15 P3RC0L4T0R says:

        There has to be some form of slavery, even if its just tax slavery. Gotta fund building your little empire somehow, even oblivious moderns know that. Shit really starts falling appart when those slaves are set free.

        1. Let me take that a bit further: there needs to be some kind of compulsion. No one can control the will of another, but he can force him to OBEY. The best among us act from impulsion; the rest act only when forced by a throbbing 3′ man-member pressing at the gates of sin.

  2. Metalevangelist says:

    I instinctively hate every nu-metal and progressive metal band. I’m such an animal. Hail Fenriz!!

    1. Walter says:

      Okay

    2. What’s wrong with progressive metal? I mean, most of it blows goats, but that’s not much different from the other genres at this point.

      1. Cynical says:

        I can’t think of a single time “progressive metal” has ever been good when it’s been labelled as such instead of as a death metal band that happens to be progressive (Therion, Morbid Angel, Demilich), a speed metal band that happens to be progressive (Metallica), etc.

        1. Hmm. “Progressive metal” is a term like “melodic death metal” and “classical music” in that it has a clear meaning in plain language, but when assigned to a specific subgenre, is often used to cloak some truly mediocre stuff.

          For example, when Pestilence Spheres first came out, we all called it “progressive metal” because that was how you described, in the vernacular, musically ambitious versions of genres; you could probably have anything but progressive grindcore or progressive hardcore, since those are contradictions in terms, although some albums like The Process of Weeding Out seemed to qualify.

          Now, there seems to be a genre called “progressive metal” which refers to all the stuff which started with Dream Theater, themselves seemingly a Queenrÿche plus Van Halen mashup. I think of most of it as musically ambitious rock with some metal riffs.

          Same with melodic death metal. The term originally meant death metal that used melody a great deal, such as Sentenced or Necrophobic. Then someone created a genre of squeaky video game music played on guitars and used the same term for it.

          1. Cynical says:

            Thinking about this more — I think there’s also an element that genres in metal have been divided up and even named by artistic intent. “Heavy metal” was rock quartets that made music expressing “heavy” ideas. “Speed metal” was about speed thrills and pummeling rhythms. “Thrash metal” was music for skaters (thrashers). “Death metal” and “black metal” were metal going more overtly into the realms of the morbid and the occult. Now, when we have “progressive metal”, what’s the idea — that you’re just going to play complex stuff with no expressive idea behind it? Well that’s lovely. Same with “melodic(k) death metal”. Yay, you’re “melodic”, now what’s the expression? In general, genre names that describe the outward form of the music like this will tend to end up containing sucky for this reason (arguable exceptions for “speed metal” and “doom metal”).

            Re: “Grindcore that is progressive”, don’t forget about Gridlink/Takafumi Matsubara!

            1. Seems true: there are “spirit” names (speed, thrash, grind, death, black, doom) and “category” names (progressive, melodic, core).

      2. Metalevangelist says:

        Ok I was a tad ironic. There’s some good progressive stuff, Coroner used to be pretty cool and I sometimes listen to Tool. They put some cool Indian odd time signatures in their music.

        1. Coroner was always fun back in the day. Atheist? At the Gates? Cadaver is sort of on the edge, rhythmically at least, kind of like Carbonized on that second album. I think a lot of these guys listen to King Crimson.

          1. Birkenhain says:

            Man, Cadaver are one of the few „hidden gems“. I came across a garage sale recently and scored a copy of In Pains … for 5€, in great condition. A hessian turned devout Christian was selling his precious collection.

            1. Absolutely. I found this one at Rhino Records in the used rack for some absurd price years ago, took it home and immediately loved it. I started playing it on the show and people hated it, but eventually saw how it fit really well into a dark nocturnal adventure mixed with things like Demigod, early Sentenced, Eucharist, Therion, Infester, and Gorguts.

              1. Oprah Winfrey says:

                I’m listening to this for the first time in about a decade and really enjoying it. Maybe my attention span has grown in the meantime (hooray for me!) but I can’t believe how dynamic this is without being a cluttered mess. Really great stuff to unexpectedly rediscover and finally appreciate.

  3. Edwin Oslan says:

    With all due respect, and as someone who reads your amerika.org site, this is an incredibly bad take. If you just don’t like the music of Pantera, then okay, that’s your call. But to claim that “Nothing in Pantera would shock the post-1960s American audience” is a wildly ignorant claim considering MTV has done a news report questioning if Pantera is a dog whistling white power band, and then Anselmo went on to give weight to such claims with his pro-white rants during the group’s Far Beyond Driven tour. But, even if the critique is JUST of the music or lyrics, Anselmo rants CONSTANTLY about what’s wrong with the United States, and they’re not PC rants; listen to “The Underground in America” about American underground music subcultures for a perfect example. Christ, you praise Metallica and call Pantera an easily digestible “every man’s band” as if you’ve never heard the self-titled black album, which is about the most digestible album on the planet full of AC/DC inspired groove. And Pantera’s three platinum and one gold record don’t compare to the multi-multi-multi-millions Metallica has sold the world over; yeah, THEY’RE totally not the every man’s band. And then to claim that Pantera just does 70s rock but with a bit more distortion and palm mutes also makes me wonder if you’ve ever actually heard Pantera; if you want a real criticism of Anselmo’s singing style, you CAN claim he copped it from Exhorder singer Kyle Thomas, which is a pretty common claim that I can respect. But, otherwise, the hate and rage in Anselmo’s voice is pretty damn intense. And besides, what’s wrong with American hardcore? You don’t like the Cro-Mags, Black Flag, or Negative Approach or sumthin? K, cool. And, furthermore, there’s nothing inherently wrong with inserting some good ol’ fashion ZZ Top style groove into their sound; that’s just how Dimebag Darrell, Rex, and Vinnie Paul play, because they’re from Texas and they were raised on hard rock. So what? And thanks to Anselmo’s influence, they mix the 70s stuff with hardcore and grindcore. I think ZZ Top crossed with thrash, hardcore, and grindcore is COOL, thank you very much! Hell, Seth Putnam of Anal Cunt even sings ON The Great Southern Trendkill (to which Anselmo returned the favor by singing on the Anal Cunt album 40 More Reasons to Hate us). And, among other stuff, Anselmo was practically a walking billboard for all things underground, wearing Darkthrone and Eyehategod t-shirts in like 1994, exposing his knucklehead, beer guzzling fans ever darker and crazier styles of music. On top of that, Anselmo used his money and power to bring bands like Morbid Angel, Neurosis, and Anal Cunt on tour with them, HELPING rather than hindering underground metal. Oh, and have you heard of Housecore records or his Housecore music and horror movie festival that he funds out of his own pocket, just to FURTHER help give voice to the underground? Again, if it’s just the music you don’t like, FINE, but this cultural critique of Pantera is totally barking up the wrong tree.

    And, not to get pedantic here, but when you used the term “speed metal”, I think you meant to say “thrash metal.” Speed metal is the uber-melodic yet fast classically influenced stuff that Helloween and Running Wild do, while thrash metal is the ugly, dark, dissonant, and nearly monochromatic stuff that Slayer, Sepultura, Sodom, Kreator, and Destruction do. Just to clarify.

    1. Hey! Great to see you over here. Thanks for reading. Let me clarify.

      I think you meant to say “thrash metal.” Speed metal is the uber-melodic yet fast classically influenced stuff that Helloween and Running Wild do, while thrash metal is the ugly, dark, dissonant, and nearly monochromatic stuff that Slayer, Sepultura, Sodom, Kreator, and Destruction do.

      Is it still 1988? We had this debate back then. Everyone referred to Metallica as “speed metal” to keep it distinct from “thrash,” which was not just a crossover style of music but culture, since it included skaters and heshers (and skins) in the same audience.

      It’s all speed metal, except Slayer of course, since musically they’re closer to death metal album the first album.

      But to claim that “Nothing in Pantera would shock the post-1960s American audience” is a wildly ignorant claim considering MTV has done a news report questioning if Pantera is a dog whistling white power band, and then Anselmo went on to give weight to such claims with his pro-white rants during the group’s Far Beyond Driven tour. But, even if the critique is JUST of the music or lyrics, Anselmo rants CONSTANTLY about what’s wrong with the United States, and they’re not PC rants; listen to “The Underground in America” about American underground music subcultures for a perfect example.

      This all came after the damage was done. Let’s look at the history: Cowboys from Hell came out in 1990 and included big MTV HIV hit “Cemetery Gates.” Then came Vulgar Display of Power which was their big “hard” pose album, including MTV favorite doop dee whee riff song “Walk,” which got every tuffguy in the world in the mood to beat his girlfriend and rape his dog. Only on the following album did Pantera try reaching out to an underground audience, and they did so clumsily, with events for which they have subsequently apologized multiple times, implying they were insincere. This is not Ian Stuart here; this is an entertainer, speaking out to what he hopes is his audience. I feel for Phil in this one, since I don’t think he’s a bad guy at all, but he found himself in the center of an epic storm of feces.

      Christ, you praise Metallica and call Pantera an easily digestible “every man’s band” as if you’ve never heard the self-titled black album, which is about the most digestible album on the planet full of AC/DC inspired groove.

      I remember everyone talking about the new Metallica single back in 1989, and then “One” came on, and I realized, wow, they’ve lost it. This is the sell-out. That was not an uncommon opinion back then. The song had too much in common with that weepy Megadeth song and “Hallowed Be Thy Name.” The old fans bailed out before the Black album, and it’s best I don’t comment on that, because I wailed about it so much many years ago.

      Also please do not consider this rant designed as being in any way against AC/DC, who are an honorable hard rock band. They have always said that they are rock ‘n roll, and they just like to play with distortion. Angus Young remains one of the best guitarists in music, and in my view, AC/DC have never misrepresented themselves, and while my interest faded since “Thunderstruck,” I don’t think this band have ever shipped a bad album. They’re like the Australian lounge Iron Maiden.

      Again, if it’s just the music you don’t like, FINE, but this cultural critique of Pantera is totally barking up the wrong tree.

      Maybe, but if I think it’s insincere, I sort of have to say why, and then point out where that stands vis-a-vis (I always wanted to use that term) metal, don’t you think?

      1. Doug says:

        The “maybe it’s not altogether bad” mentality is going to be our fatal flaw.

        1. I read this reply a couple times before finally realizing that I agree. We have to be purists and elitists because although reality comes in shades of grey, (check this) paths do not. You either go on the left path or the right. Yes, you can strike out on your own, but you will end up closer to one or the other, especially since on a globe, they will wrap around and be more like hemispheres than paths. So are you north or south? East or west? Realist or symbolist? At some point, it boils down to this. If we are serious about avoiding assimilation, the only path is to be utterly intolerant of any assimilation or the steps right before it, which means a certain dogmatic and militant purism like the hardcore guys wanted all those years ago. IF YOU ARE A FALSE, DONUT ENTRY.

          1. Doug says:

            I was going to submit a multi paragraph stream of conscience but at the last minute thought this was better, and perhaps could’ve been worded better. Thanks for the reply.

      2. Edwin Oslan says:

        Sure, that’s assuming you think they’re being insincere. Not sure how “sincere” anyone in the entertainment industry is, whether it be a mainstream pop star or some underground band. Curiously, you brought up Ian Stuart of Skrewdriver. I would reckon that a white power band is about the most sincere a band can be, since they’re killing off ANY chances of widespread commercial success. Anything OTHER than that comes in degrees. So, I guess I don’t see the relevance there. And, if you want to keep metal purely elite and uncommercial, you’d probably only be able to listen NSBM bands or Arghoslent.

        Regarding thrash metal being a “crossover” culture, that’s just not true. Thrash metal was distinctly METAL. Crossover thrash was the crossover culture. Thrash metal = Slayer, Destruction, Sodom, Kreator, Sepultura, Voivod, Razor, Whiplash, etc., crossover thrash = hardcore punk + thrash metal = Suicidal Tendencies, D.R.I., Corrosion of Conformity, Agnostic Front, S.O.D., Cryptic Slaughter, the Accused, the Crumbsuckers, etc. THOSE bands were the ones who attracted the skins, punks, skaters, and head bangers. Though, I SUPPOSE, Metallica crossed the proverbial chasm when covering Misfits tunes.

        “One” is a “sellout”, but “Fade to Black” and “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” are legit? How do you square that? Isn’t “Escape” from Ride the Lightning a “sellout”? It’s pop-metal. Hell, how is anything past Kill ’em All not a “sellout” if Metallica were deliberately expanding their sound with lengthier arrangements and melodies that normal, mainstream metal fans could dig? Going by this logic, pretty much anything that isn’t “Hit the Lights”, “Whiplash”, “Battery”, or “Damage, Inc.” is a “sellout.” Your argument seems to be that Metallica was legit metal, but Pantera was insincere, as if Metallica were doing everything in their power to repel normies. Like, what? You make Metallica sound like they were Sarcofago or something.

        As far as “Cemetery Gates” and “Walk” go, I get it; you don’t like those songs. I personally am not a huge fan of “Walk” either, but I can still cut a rug to “Cemetery Gates.”

        1. I agree “Cemetery Gates” is a good song; in my view, it’s because it stayed true to its glam roots (like it or not, glam is good pop, therefore emphasizes melody in songwriting, and makes for better songs that the bouncy stuff).

          I tend to view selling out as a spectrum, with there being reasonable adaptation to the circumstances (first three Metallica albums) and then crossing the line into being primarily motivated by popularity.

          Thrash, as we knew it, was the DRI, COC, Cryptic Slaughter, Dead Horse, Fearless Iranians from Hell, Stormtroopers of Death, M.O.D., etc. material. Music for skaters.

          Slayer was the only band that really had a foot in both worlds. Metallica covering the Misfits came a bit later.

          1. Edwin Oslan says:

            “Cemetery Gates” is a good song, because it’s a good song. For my money, “Watch the Children Pray” by Metal Church, a similar light to heavy ballad, not too different “Cemetery Gates” or for that matter any of Metallica’s ballads, fills me with more dread and feelings of impending doom than really any thrash, black, or death metal. So, ya know, it’s all contingent on your taste, I guess.

            So, given that you agree that “selling out” or “sincerity” in music is on a spectrum (heh, aren’t we ALL on a spectrum for even HAVING this debate???), why is AJFA the beginning of the “sellout” phase? Not enough bass? C’mon, this is weak. That album is just as strong as its three predecessors. In FACT, you should be all about anti-censorship songs like “Eye of the Beholder” and “The Shortest Straw.” And the title track itself basically IS the American government now, so, like what’s the deal???

            Dude, Metallica covered “Last Caress” and “Green Hell” by the Misfits in 1987, and they were wearing Misfits, Discharged, Charged G.B.H., and Exploited t-shirts in like 1984. I’m DEFERRING this point to you. We can go further and count Overkill covering “Sonic Reducer” by the Dead Boys and Megadeth covering “Anarchy in the U.K.” by the Pistols, but I don’t think any of these individual cases make the greater point. Though, maybe in your circle thrash metal was called speed metal the way, in some circles, Jews, Italians, and Irish are still considered white :)

            1. maelstrrom says:

              The problem with AJFA is none of the songs go anywhere. Lyrics being secondary, those two tracks you mentioned go on for far too long before eventually ending. Most of the songs on the album could have 3-5 minutes cut without anything of value being lost. Not saying there’s anything wrong with long songs, but there has to be a narrative. The title track has the most interesting ideas on the album so it gets the most airplay

              1. The warning signs on this album: too much focus on vocals, and rhythm was more “bouncy” than “driving.”

                I like “Blackened” and “Dyer’s Eve” however.

                True, there were some goofy tracks on previous albums. I don’t really listen to Master of Puppets much anymore, but “Orion” is a standout.

            2. the left is the truth says:

              People hate Justice because of the One video. Which I honestly don’t get. Not only is that still one of the best metal videos (even if it is a band cutting back to a movie), its still disturbing today.

        2. Cynical says:

          “Fade to Black” has been discussed on these pages in years prior: https://www.deathmetal.org/news/metallica-removes-problematic-language-from-master-of-puppets/#comment-729991

          tldr version: There’s a difference between a ballad and an attempt at a “Beyond the Realms of Death”-style epic. “Fade to Black” is the latter. “One” and “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” are the latter.

      3. Olivier says:

        Is it still 1988? We had this debate back then. Everyone referred to Metallica as “speed metal” to keep it distinct from “thrash,”

        I listened to this stuff in 1988 and i can’t remember us ever referring to Metallica as speed metal. Stuff like Racer X and Helloween was speed metal, but Metallica and Slayer were the quintessential thrash metal bands, to us at least.

        1. Cynical says:

          Go look at the last page of the booklet for “Altars of Madness”. Or listen to some Slayer bootlegs and hear Tom Araya ask the crowd if the like heavy metal, black metal, and speed metal… while the word “thrash” notably never leaves his mouth.

        2. LordKrumb says:

          As I recall it, the “thrash metal” and “speed metal” genre labels weren’t really important in the mid-late 80s. For a year or two, those terms were used interchangeably by commercial metal magazines, underground zines, bands and fans alike to simply describe the visceral effect of a band’s music, rather than to classify that band in a genre with distinctive compositional characteristics.

          I suspect the thrash metal term became far more widely used than speed metal simply because the word “thrash” was a more visually exciting metaphor to describe the music, and so it became the default designation for any band that played metal that predominantly featured fast riffs and fast drumming. I’d be surprised to find the term “speed metal” being mentioned in any metal magazines after 1987.

          This was probably due to those who had the largest platform and influence (professional journalists and big bands) who misunderstood or simply didn’t give a shit about the distinctions between speed metal and thrash or the origins of those genres. Assigning bands into strict genre categories only started to really matter a few years later when additional metal genres emerged and there were hundreds more bands to be marketed.

          By that time, thrash & speed metal had been eclipsed by the rapid emergence of grindcore & death metal and there was no commercial, academic or journalistic need to look back and examine the rise and fall of speed & thrash metal and correctly re-classify those genres and bands. As far as I’m aware, this site is the only publication which has ever done that.

  4. Jeff says:

    Anselmo might not be smartest tool in the shed and Pantera’s always been junk, but he’s been way more sympathetic and in tune with the extreme underground than any other mainstream metal personality. Don’t know what he listens to now but back then he was in Necrophagia for a bit, regularly applauded Rigor Mortis, Morbid Angel, etc. Don’t think even the guys in Slayer gave a shit about death metal so have to give him credit for that much at least.

    1. the left is the truth says:

      Slayer NEVER gave a fuck about extreme metal. They thought they were kings of the hill and no band more extreme than them would become more successful. They were right, but they definitely got left behind in relevance.

      1. We need aristocrats who could have retired them with knighthoods after South of Heaven.

    2. Edwin Oslan says:

      Phil Anselmo was and remains a walking encyclopedia on underground music, horror movies, and boxing. He’s not “smart” in that he’s not politically or philosophically intuitive, nor does he read much outside of his fields of interest, BUT he definitely gets that there’s a cancel culture, and that he’s against it, at very least. His latest comments about guns were a little gay, and his apologizing for this “white power” troll were a little weak, but, hey, he’s only human. He currently runs Housecore and continues to push all manner of weird, underground, and sick music. And he plays a hella mean guitar in the hardcore punk band Arson Anthem with Hank III on drums and Mike Williams of Eyehategod on vocals.

  5. frozenlake says:

    Metal fans hate Pantera already.

  6. Bill says:

    The Insane Clown Posse of metal, with fans to match.

  7. Turin Turambar says:

    Brett, I wonder why you think And Justice for All is more commercial than the previous Metallica albums. It’s not in this article but I’ve seen it before.

    Apart from One I think it’s their least accessible album. The songs are longer than before, the arrangements are relatively complicated, hooks are almost absent, the production – while sterile – is arguably too loud and glaring for casual listening, and the lyrics deal with things such as apocalypse, corruption and madness. So what gives?

    1. LordKrumb says:

      And Justice for All was Metallica’s last great album for all the reasons you mentioned, perhaps their joint best overall release along with Ride the Lightning. It was weakened by One, but the three previous albums also had weak tracks – especially Kill ‘Em All which I think receives unwarranted high levels of praise, even in hindsight.

      Thankfully, with digital audio it’s very easy to edit out weak tracks from an album and enjoy the best songs without distraction. I listen to Justice regularly but haven’t heard One for many years. The album flows very well without it.

    2. Dickship says:

      Justice was the album that got me into heavy music back when i was a little fucker and its still better than most of the shit ive heard since

      1. Jeff says:

        You haven’t heard much then, quantitatively or qualitatively. I have plenty of nostalgia for Metallica and AJFA too but fuck me they were such a musically limited band. They happened to stumble upon some iconic moments and props to them for that but there were so many contemporary bands that blew them out of the water in terms of musicality, creativity, brutality, you name it.

    3. Leaving aside the production — seemingly a career decision — the main problem is the bouncy, goofy, happy stuff that was proto-numetal obviously designed for a “rock” audience. This was why everyone turned away groaning. “Harvester of Sorrow” is the archetypal speed metal for normies track, with more vocals than guitars in the composition and lots of jaunty bouncy stuff that could easily fit on a Nirvana album (if whining was added).

      1. LordKrumb says:

        Ha! I’m surprised you seem to have such an unflinchingly negative judgement of Justice!

        Out of interest, have you (or other readers) heard the unofficial “Justice for Jason” version of the album which features Newsted’s bass mixed louder so that it’s actually audible? His bass lines don’t add anything. I wonder if that’s down to his shortcomings as a bassist, or if the bass lines written for to him play were rushed out as an afterthought, or what.

        Can’t say I detect many notably “bouncy, goofy, happy” elements on Justice – in particular the “goofy, happy” characterisations – when comparing it to previous Metallica albums. There’s plenty of goofiness on Kill ‘Em all, but I guess one has to take into account the style of most of its contemporaries that were still partly rooted in glam.

        “Harvester of Sorrow” isn’t the most compelling track on Justice but has some very effective interplay between the vocals and the driving chop of the rhythm guitars, which is also used to great effect as accompaniment for the solo section.

        Surely the previous album’s “Leper Messiah” and “The Thing That Should Not Be” were more akin to proto-nu-metal than anything (excluding “One”) on Justice? Aside from “Orion”, the tracks on Master of Puppets rarely deliver much that is musically superior to Justice, especially as “Sanitarium” is basically “One (mk.1)” – i.e. both songs push the “metallic rock ballad” archetype far beyond the barely acceptable limits established by “Fade to Black”.

        1. Kill ‘Em All and Ride the Lightning hold together because they stick with the NWOBHM structure, Blitzkrieg riff shapes, Motorhead textures, and Discharge tempi. I have my criticisms of Master of Puppets as well, mainly that I no longer listen to it often if at all because it is falling apart artistically so much, sort of like Seasons in the Abyss.

          …And Justice For All was such a smashing disappointment that it took me years to want to get into it, but I could never see it as an integrated voice like earlier albums, more like a few forays in different directions. Clearly the band wanted rock stardom of some kind or another, and it came out with these songs that to me appealed to the simplistic, like “Harvester of Sorrow,” “The Shortest Straw,” and “One.” There were others which were noble attempts to work in some musicality, but in doing so lost the singular focus and became too vocally-driven, like “Eye of the Beholder,” “Blackened,” and “…And Justice for All.” The two rippers, “Frayed Ends of Sanity” and “Dyers Eve,” seem to me to be the most passionate, but in retrospect kind of one-dimensional, leading to a sort of protest rock self-pity. I like the instrumental.

          I feel about the same about Master of Puppets. “Battery,” “Damage, Inc.,” “Leper Messiah,” and “Disposable Heroes” kind of fit into the crowd-pleasing ripper category but really have little appeal. The instrumental is the best thing that the band ever did. “The Thing That Should Not Be” is fun but almost a Megadeth song in how slow it is to develop, and how little is there. “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” has its moments but seems very teenage awkward, like an idea that never came together and became a collage instead.

          I like the first album because it is consistent and, within its range, finds a voice and expresses itself both clearly and with a sense of adventure. Select tracks after that are worth attending to, like “Fight Fire With Fire” and “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” plus the instrumentals, but at this point I’m already looking for a Slayer, Exodus, Nuclear Assault, or Prong album to be honest.

  8. I read everyone’s comments.

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