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There comes a time when someone possessed of even the slightest sliver of common sense has to put his foot down and say that the case for innovation has its limits. While it is very true that without innovation any art form will wither and die, the same case could be argued for everything needing water, yet if you immerse anything not possessed of gills or a structure otherwise conducive to filter oxygen from H20 in nothing but it, the object will drown. This is the dilemma that many bored metal bands seem to be suffering from of late, with Metallica being among the chief offenders, wandering from one bizarre project to the next with no accounting for consistency in any respect. While most might be taken aback of even shocked by what appears to be the first representation of a certain flop of a collaboration with Lou Reed, I’m not, and I’d venture to argue that my assessment and that of every other detractor of their output since the mid-90s should function as a big “I told you so” to anyone who expected a good product here.
The most common defense of this song is that it isn’t an official Metallica project, and should thus be treated differently. I will be charitable and assume this to be the case, despite the fact that the Metallica brand name is included on this album and not one or two, but all 4 members in congress are functioning in a full time musical capacity. At best, what is heard on here can be summed up as a really redundant, sloppy, 3 riff traditional doom song with a fair infusion of hard rock. While nothing on this song can be qualified as redeemable, particular note should be taken of Lars’ drumming, exuding a banality to it that is frightening. There’s no fills, no turn around, no transitions to speak of, just an awkward straight beat that switches between down tempo and middle of the road. The riff set is a droning knockoff of a number of stoner riffs I’ve heard somewhere, playing up the pentatonic sensibilities and murky tone of Iommi circa 1971, yet failing to add any detailing apart from two noise-driven lead breaks out of Hammett that sound like a catatonic failed attempt at emulating Dave Chandler.
The many problems this song suffers from don’t end with a poor performance out of Metallica, and I’d argue that they are the lesser offenders here. The real annoyance is the middle ground between speaking and singing (the Germans call this Singspiel, and it was utilized in a modern atonal opera of the same name as this single’s full length album in the 1930s by Anton Berg with far superior results) that Lou Reed is utilizing during his vocal sections. Not only does it completely clash with what little is going on here musically, it is utterly flat and dead, almost as if a recently reanimated zombie from “The Last Man On Earth” is dictating the lyrics. James Hetfield chimes in occasionally during the slightly faster sections, sounding his usual half-assed self, as has been the case since “Load”. To chalk the production of this monstrosity up, picture the deadened drum sound of “Death Magnetic” and cross it with the hollow, limp guitar sound of “Reload”, and take away any semblance of energy that any of the songs on those albums still managed to have.
Good people of the world should mind the risks of getting drunk on one’s own ego after being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, because this is quite a telling case of checking one’s brain at the door. I literally got more enjoyment suffering through the catastrophe that was “St. Anger” that this song, and given the ridiculously long time lengths advertized on “Lulu”, I wonder if I will be able to survive an hour and a half of this brand of punishment. I wouldn’t say buy the upcoming album because of the likely accusations of human rights violations that would follow, but for those who like it long and painful, waiting a few weeks after the release will probably see some people either giving it away, or asking for a currency number that jingles. Somewhere in a bar or couple of bars in America, both Jason Newstead and Dave Mustaine are laughing their asses off right now.