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I’m opposed to Metallica on this one. And no, I’m not talking about the greenie environmental garbage and other assorted left-wing political nonsense that is being pushed at this event. Though I was a bit chuckled at the irony that oil speculator and laughing stock Al Gore hosted this joke and accepted sponsorship from Dow Chemical, whose ownership of Union Carbide has a direct connection to some notorious water poisoning incidents. This isn’t about being revolted by useful idiots who can’t be bothered to research who’s paying the bills before trying to make a pointless political statement that will be quickly forgotten. This is about a band that, in the process of whoring themselves at every live venue under the sun and riding the coattails of their past accomplishments of more than a decade ago, put on one of the most piss poor performances I’ve ever heard.
It’s generally an accepted premise that when playing to a crowd of non-metal oriented hipsters who are used to recycled 60s and 70s revivalism ala White Stripes aren’t going to go for thrash metal, so hearing 3 of Metallica’s most radio friendly songs off their multi-platinum commercial venture “The Black Album” was to be expected. Nevertheless, even straight line fanfare can be pulled off with some energy, and that’s where things really fall apart. James Hetfield’s voice is all over the place, there are times when he is barely audible and other times where he’s obnoxiously loud, begging the question of when it was that he forgot how to position himself at the microphone. His high range comes through at about half volume, and his lower range which tries at being rough and aggressive, is utterly sloppy. Likewise, the rest of the band sounds sluggish at best, particularly Lars.
The real deal breaker and ultimate reason why this was not merely a jest, but an utterly painful one to boot, is the weak sound of the collective whole. I distinctly remember these songs sounding heavy as an anvil when they were first offered up in the live setting throughout the 90s, even after the wretched “Load” albums. The guitar sound is about as mushy and watery as it was on said late 90s hard rock albums, the bass is a non-factor, and the drums have that same annoying popping tendency that ended up taking the wind out of the already shredded sails of “Death Magnetic” a year later. This doesn’t really even sound like Metallica, but more akin to a 5th rate high school aged tribute band at a relative’s birthday party, save a much bigger audience that is equally as unresponsive as the former.
Masochists would be well advised to stick to the medieval torture chambers where the pains are minor by comparison, but for the extreme ones who want something on par with the threshold of hell, don’t endorse this with your money. A simple trip to Metallica’s youtube page will give you not only the audio, but visual version of this monstrosity to gouge your eyes out to. Likewise, political activists who support the cause are recommended to just go to Kevin Wall and Al Gore in person, and hand them the money along with the typical verbal hero worship and ass-kissing that cynical realists like myself can’t be bothered with. As long as this sort of drivel isn’t being encouraged economically, there may be hope that it never happens again.
Oh god, I purchased this mini-EP from the iTunes store the other day for a mere 3 dollars, thinking since the proceeds go to a 'good cause', this can't be too bad of a waste. The three songs present here are, in their original studio forms, fairly good and catchy tracks from the Black Album, but on this live EP, recorded in mid-2007, they are a complete disaster. The heavyness of the music has been compromised in favour of a 'softer' sounding mix (probably to appeal to the non-thrashers present there), Sad But True sounds completely castrated. The clean guitars during Nothing Else Matters and the into of Sandman are lacking the necessary low-end to give them the distinctive Metallica sound. However, the instrumental performance is decent, but the guitars
are really buried in the mix behind the loud drums and vocals.
Now, in comparison to the vocals, the weak production is insignificant. James truly sounds awful, just listen to Sad But True and hear him buff several notes while yelling like a drunk. The following two tracks are
also performed with the same half-assed vocals, which totally takes away from the songs, especially the chorus of Sandman which is supposed to go BOOM! but instead just kinda lets out a little squeaking fart.
Even though this was only three dollars, I am very unsatisfied with my purchase. I was not expecting something outstanding, considering the song selection is as banal as it gets from Metallica's catalogue, but it does surprise me that Metallica would actually release this crap sounding the way it does. If you want to donate to charity, go ahead and do it; there are several ways to do that without having to download this terrible EP.