The Great Metallica Debate — Round Five

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On Saturday, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum welcomes Metallica to the ranks of popular music’s all-time greats. The band did as much as any group to establish and define thrash metal, then gradually slowed down and became one of the world’s biggest rock bands.

To celebrate the Frisco phenoms’ hard-won recognition, Scene presents The Great Metallica Debate. D.X. Ferris, the paper’s designated metalhead, is moderating. He’ll introduce topics, which will be answered by Chris Akin, Classic Metal Show host and webmaster of Pitriff.com, and Matt Wardlaw, former Metal Show host, Radio 92.3 Inner Sanctum host, and proprietor of music blog AddictedToVinyl.com. For the record, we all were into Metallica way before Bob Knight and your little sister.

Aside: The band deserves the recognition, but screw Sirius/XM satellite radio for replacing their metal channel with 24-hour Metallica for a month. The bonehead programmers are doing everything in their power to fuck up their dying company.

Today’s topics: Best Metallica song, and Worst Metallica Song?

Best Song?

Akin: Without question, "Disposable Heroes.” From the machine gun fire opening riffs through the bewildered screams of "Why am I dying" toward the middle, this is the single moment in Metallica's history where they were able to keep their power, showcase emotion, and just flat out rip it up in a
way no one had done before, and really has done since. While songs like "Battery,” "Master Of Puppets" and really anything else through the black album were fantastic, there's no denying that "Disposable Heroes" is where they hit it flawlessly. I was especially pleased to see that when Kerrang did their Metallica tribute, they held that one out for Clevelanders Chimaira.

Ferris: "Disposable Heroes." There's simply nothing like it. Not in Metallica's catalogue, not elsewhere in metal. The riff is otherworldly. Although it was immediately their best song, in 1986, its one weakness was that it seemed theoretical and academic: Vietnam was a distant memory, and our generation hadn't seen a drawn-out war. Thirteen years later, it might be their most best social commentary. Sadly.

Wardlaw: "Battery" is at the top of my list. Certain bands had a knack for always having a killer opening track, album after album, and "Battery" certainly took care of biz on the Master of Puppets album. Really, virtually all of the Master of Puppets album brought lots of headbanging induced neck pain — the same kind of neck pain that would eventually inspire Jason Newsted to leave Metallica for the greener pastures of Echobrain. Sorry, had to get that one in there. "Phantom Lord" is a close second, and rounding out my top three would be "Of Wolf and Man" from the Black Album. I've never been so good at choosing just one. One of my favorite parts of Metallica's recent return to form with Death Magnetic has been to see them finally play tunes like "Battery" balls out in a way that Metallica fans haven't heard for nearly 10 years.


Worst Song?

Ferris: Maybe the funniest thing I've ever seen was Avril Lavigne and Sum 41 covering "Fuel" at 2003's MTV Icon tribute to Metallica. I never liked the tune, and I haven't been able to listen to it without snickering since. But that's not Metallica's fault. Their worst song is "Ain't My Bitch," the aimless tune that ushered in the Load era. It sounds like the band is just out of ideas, from concept to execution. When Hetfield growls — how does it go? — "It ain't my use / It ain't my fault / It ain't my / BIIITCH," it's just sad. Though we must give them props for the sublime ambiguity of the term "bitch" — NOT.

Akin: "Ronnie" from Load. Was there any, ANY at all, use for Metallica to record a blues number that sounds like a bad Lynyrd Skynyrd outtake? I think not. Not only is the direction of this song atrocious, but Hetfield's over the top inflections and country accent is abysmal. If I didn't know any better, I would swear that this was recorded at the end of a drunken Beatallica rehearsal than in a studio by Metallica. That's not a slap at Beatallica, either. They are good at what they do, but you have to imagine that after a long night of crafting Metallica songs with the Beatles while drinking heavily, they inevitably move to fucking around with combining Metallica and other bands. That's what this piece of dogshit sounds like. Here's the reality of it - without going and listening to it, can you even remember one line from the song? Probably not ... and that says a lot as a Metallica fan.

Wardlaw: Disagree completely with "Ain't My Bitch." "King Nothing" is definitely a better tune when talking about the Load album, but "Ain't My Bitch" was good for cranking up the monitors to embrace one's inner Hetfield, while screaming "Ain't Myyyyy Bit-CHA!" It's also very embarrassing if someone happens to walk in while you are doing this. Still ashamed. In a rare moment that almost never happens, I'll agree with Chris on the choice of "Ronnie." I'd rather hear Met's version of "Tuesday's Gone" or even "Whiskey In A Jar" any day over "Ronnie." And now that I think about it, I'm still kind of pissed about the acoustic versions of tunes like "The Four Horsemen" that they thought were a good idea in the late ’90s. That might have been the most underwhelming night ever at Blossom, watching Metallica play some of their most classic tunes acoustically. Who woulda thought that Metallica would be the low point of the day? That's exactly what happened after strong opening sets from Days of the New and Jerry Cantrell that evening at Blossom.

Stay tuned: National Nobody Stop Talking About Metallica Week will continue tomorrow. Casual fans, welcome to our world. —D.X. Ferris

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