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The misadventures of being a bargain bin cowboy occasionally lands one's lasso on some surprising satisfying past curiosities, but more often than not, the gain is proportional to the price. Granted, singles are usually not a terribly profitable venture, but when a measly dollar is all that's in view, it offers a little more staying power than a dinky little McDonald's hamburger. Thus is the tale of my rendezvous with Metallica's iconic commercial breakthrough single Enter Sandman, a polarizing musical affair for most who had any level of familiarity with the band prior to their recent success on MTV via their previous album, let alone their core thrash metal fan base from the early underground days of the mid 80s. While the author of this review will not deny being captivated by this song originally as it hit the radio just after his 11th birthday and he was still fairly new to metal, suffice to say, the years and further education into what constitutes metal have not been kind.
This was one of the few occasions where Kirk Hammett's rhythm playing became the focal point of the song, though Urlich and Hetfield definitely had massive input into honing this thing into it's final outcome. However, the true master behind the scenes of what occurs on this ode to the land of nightmares is Bob Rock, whose devotion to AC/DC oriented minimalism results in a very stagnant listen where a single riff cycles through a frustratingly long series of gradual changes and is only greeted with an occasional and fairly fleeting turnaround. Likewise, the early 90s obsession with overproducing the drums results in a sound that is massive, but also so much so that it almost becomes unintentional parody (see Queensryche's Empire for another example of this). From an overall production standpoint, every little moving part is so well mixed and nuanced that it is, for lack of a better word, perfect. Consequently, this perfection serves to attempt to mask a lack of power in the idea department, which plays well to rock radio trustees (who were the overwhelming majority at the time) but is about as telltale of a sign of antagonism to the spirit of metal, thrash or otherwise, as one can possibly make.
If the A side of this fit of commercial pandering stood alone on this release, it would not have been worth it's dollar price tag, but there is a somewhat redeeming B side to consider. The cover of Queen's "Stone Cold Crazy" was originally released on a 40 year anniversary compilation put out by Electra Records, but this was the first opportunity for Metallica fans to hear this cover without other stuff gumming up the listening experience, and it does present a few saving graces. It reaches back to a time just before Bob Rock took control of the creative process, and features the band playing faster than their "Black Album" peak tempo. It's rawer, nastier, and far more vital than just about anything that ended up rounding out the LP in question, with maybe the exceptions of "Through The Never" and "Struggle Within", and actually passes for a thrash song. It's pretty easy to see the line of succession from Queen's songwriting here and the eventual riffing style of Diamond Head, Blitzkrieg and a few others that would pave the way for Metallica's widely heralded debut, and the only mind boggling part of it all is why Metallica waited until 1990 to give this song a proper studio nod.
From a buyer's perspective, this is not really worth seeking out as the "Stone Cold Crazy" cover ended up on the Garage Inc., which is probably also a more readily available purchase for second hand treasure hunters, though there's a healthy level of crap to go with the good there. Likewise, this doesn't come with a demo version of the A side that would really make it a worthwhile go for completists, even if they are absolutely in love with Metallica's 1991 mainstream venture. From a metal standpoint, this is half good, half abomination; but even to a casual consumer of this longstanding art form, the sandman is offering little more than a snooze fest followed by a jolting wake up call.
You can't expect a 5 minute metallica single to rule, especially considering what their last output was. In AJFA, metallica were left with fringing riffs to use which were repeated a trillion of times. Looking at the song construction of AJFA, it was clear that those guys were out of ideas. But at this point, the ideas were totally zero and so Metallica quit playing thrash metal music altogether. Not a bad thing, as long as they keep things intresting.
The principle problem with this single is the same as what happens to all bands when they are out of ideas. The song sounds good for first couple of listens, but then it gets boring. The song starts with an acoustic guitar riff ( as expected ) which is OK, definitely better than Battery. But after the build-up Battery contained excellent pace and blazing riffs. Enter Sandman is midpaced and contains only two or three midpaced riffs.
The verses are OK. The chorus is somewhat good, but after a few listens it gets on the nerves. The riff work is poor. Metallica always had a problem in writing mid-paced rifs. Leper Messiah need I say more? The lead work is so-so, not too inspiring. The drum work is non-eistent at best ( it's Lars Ulrich, what else can you expect ). In the middle section there is a chanted prayer by Hetfield which tries hard to be creepy, but in the end becomes a complete joke. Judas Priest, Nightcrawler, this is not.
The song is OK for a listen or two. The problem doesn't lie in the abandoning of thrash, but in their inability to keep things intresting. Technical individual performances? We don't find them in a Metallica song. If you like ACDC, you will like this. If you like Guns n Roses, you will like this. If you like abominations like Van Halen and Aerosmith you will like this. The rest please stay away from it.
“Enter Sandman” was Metallica’s first single off their commercially most successful album that was named after the name of the band itself. It is lyrically about a child facing his nightmares and a music video was made for the track, which revolved around the lyrical theme of the track. It was later disclosed that this track went on to become one of the most demanded and most played tracks on the radio following “Paranoid” and “Stairway To Heaven”.
This track features Kirk’s first riff with his work with the band. It originally consisted of a two bar riff but as suggested by Lars the first bar was repeated thrice and it was this version that appeared on the album. (That can be seen in Metallica’s documentary “Classic Albums”). The track clocks in at over 5 minutes and the whole song revolves around the base provided by Kirk’s riff. The whole track is clean and simple with no complex parts in between as wasn’t the case with Metallica’s previous releases. James’ voice is nothing less than perfect and Bob Rock has done a great job with the production. Full marks for the excellent production.
Along with this track there is also a cover of Queen’s track “Stone Cold Crazy” but I refrain myself to comment on it because it has already appeared on Metallica’s cover album, “Garage Inc.”
The setbacks to this track are that the song is too damn repetitive and has a weak solo. Also being the first track off this album it disappointed a huge number of Metallica’s fans who were expecting signature Metallica style thrash, whereas they were handed this radio friendly less aggressive version of Metallica.The only way to enjoy this track if you were a long-standing fan of this track is if you are an open-minded metal head. If you are looking for something that sounds remotely as the band’s early works then this is NOT for you.