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Blues Without the Heart and Soul - 25%

Hidius, July 7th, 2008

When I first got this album I valued it for its bluesy feel. If I wanted to just relax and listen to something cool and laid back, this was it. However, after two years of sitting in my iTunes library, I realized I wasn’t listening to it. I never listen to it anymore. I guess after the first few listens I just lost interest completely. The fact is, it’s really boring, not just for a Metallica album, but for blues-influenced rock in general.

Ain’t My Bitch rocks a little, but I personally prefer 2x4. Even with the cheesy vocal effects and the rather drab solo work, 2x4 is the second best song off the first half of the album. Only Bleeding Me is better, and then only because the instrumental work is beyond what the rest of this album shows. Until It Sleeps was not one of the songs I valued for its bluesy feel. I found this song to be a slightly more lively, but less metal, remake of Nothing Else Matters, another dreadfully boring song. Hero of the Day was similar. The rest of the first half was bland attempts at sounding like metal with a blues tinge.

The second half was even worse because that’s where they introduced another influence, this time far worse than simple blues. Country has no place in metal, I don’t care what anyone says. Even when I listened to this album for its blues feel, I skipped the country-style tracks. All I can say about the second half is that I enjoy the drawn out downer Outlaw Torn, again, for its bluesy feel. And, for whatever reason, I don’t know, the lyrics to Cure appeal to me. The rest, though I thought it had merit at one time, does not actually have merit.

The mistake that is most commonly made with regard to this album is to listen to it and expect metal. It is not metal, it is rock. I think the band even admitted this when they put it out. Whatever. I listened to it and knew it was rock. But after the initial enjoyment of blues rock wore off I forgot this album even existed. Going back to it while perusing my iTunes library, I realized why. It may be rock but it is boring rock. Even true blues has a soul, but this has nothing. A few good licks and lyrics, but these are spread far too thin to redeem the album as a whole. As such I now only have the four songs left.

Some may enjoy the blues rock on this album even after the first impression wears off, but I didn’t. Eventually the sheer drabness of the songs made them totally forgettable. The blues should have meaning, a soul, a heart, an atmosphere of loss or longing bordering on depression that is characterized not by pining away but by the fact that one’s life situation is not what one wishes it were, but that one can overcome the harsh times and still live life. The blues is about showing that you have been through Hell, and showing that you can get over it because you’re strong, not about whining because you’re too weak to deal with that Hell. It is in this sense that blues can have a place in metal, but that is not what Metallica gives us here.

I have since discovered ZZ Top, a far superior blues rock band. Their single song Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers rocks ten times as much as this entire album. And if you really want to hear blues with a heavy edge, pick up their album Eliminator, because that one has a soul, that one has vitality. It even has a touch of humor with the song TV Dinners.

In sum, this is not where to look for metal, and yet it is also not where to look for blues rock. I don’t know exactly what it is, then, except a waste of compact disc materials.