CD Review: Metallica - Some Kind of Monster

By Mark Sussman
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Metallica - Some Kind of Monster
1 out of 5 stars

"Monstrous" has always been an apt word to describe how Metallica goes about the business of making music. And for Metallica it is very much a business.

The boys in Metallica at least the current ones have always had three-piece suits under their black leather pants. Sure, back in the day the hard-drinking rockers earned themselves the nickname "Alcoholica," but such is the business of rock and roll. Such is the way a mostly mediocre band accumulates oh-so-ephemeral rock and roll cred.

Metallica also happened to record some pretty awesome metal songs back in the day. "Master of Puppets" off of the album of the same name is probably one of the best mainstream rock songs of the last 15 years. Its insistent, driving, almost obsessive refrains are too loud, too fast, too dark. There was something that transcended James Hetfield's signature snarl in the sledge-hammer repetitions of "Obey your master."

The band pretty much peaked with their self-titled album, or "the black album." Most radio-listeners over 18 can probably hum along to "Enter Sandman." That may not sound like much, but consider Metallica's previous fan-base: mostly typically maligned, white, teenage metalheads. Now they've "transcended" their genre to reach the knob-twisting, MTV consuming, "I buy my records at Wal-Mart without the swear words" demographic.

But of course they were still, at heart, a metal band, right? Fearlessly individual, fiercely loyal to their fans, right? If a Metallica fan couldn't afford a CD priced at $17.95, surely the band would have no objection to said fan listening to the music anyway, right? Especially considering the band made their early reputation through metal fanatic tape trading circles, where their live shows and records would be endlessly taped, copied and distributed. Because they would not actually be losing record sales if someone who lacked the ability to purchase a copy of, say, St. Anger got it at an expense to no one. Right?

Not according to Metallica drummer and courageous intellectual property pioneer Lars Ulrich. The band, at Ulrich's behest, sued Napster and led what has become a full-blown industry war against file sharing. I guess a real fan would have pulled a few more double-shifts at Wendy's.

But, of course, when a band sells more records, they get more money. And when a band gets more money, it can afford to take more time to produce better sounding, higher quality records.

Take, as an example, Metallica's new EP Some Kind of Monster. While not an official album, the EP clocks in at a little over 43 minutes, making it album length. Wow. Those guys in Metallica sure are keen. They priced what is essentially a full-length album at $9.98. Swell.

Until you take a look at the track list. The EP is comprised of two studio tracks, or rather one studio track twice. That track is "Some Kind of Monster," which is also available on Metallica's last record, St. Anger. It hardly seems superfluous, however, considering nobody bought that record.

Both the original version and the radio edit appear on the new EP. The latter is actually a blessing, given that the uncut version contains a ponderous, pointless and musically inept introduction. The radio edit allows the listener to get straight to the verses and sorry excuse for a chorus. When Hetfield screams, "This is the voice of silence no more" at the end of each verse, you'll wish it wasn't. The rest of the lyrics are just as bad, expressing some kind of vaguely political or social outrage. But directed at whom?

The musicianship sounds as uninspired as the songwriting. "Some Kind of Monster" has one riff comprised of four notes. And those four notes are bland, generic and ready for a car commercial, which makes sense because the CD is essentially a $10 promotional item for the new Metallica documentary serendipitously entitled "Some Kind of Monster."

The rest of the EP is comprised of new live versions of songs from the early part of Metallica's career. This is a somewhat paradoxical move on the band's part. On the one hand, it reminds fans that Metallica wrote some great songs back in the day. On the other hand, hearing the hollow shell of a once-great band trot out their classics can only make a fan yearn for two things: the good old days and their $9.98.