Thursday, November 30, 2017

Metallica - All Nightmare Long

For the longest time I have had mixed feelings about Metallica. I love Metallica, they are the premier American metal band, and more so than any other band they brought metal music to the mainstream. I love Metallica’s first five albums, and there are good number of really goods songs on their sixth and seventh album. However, Metallica did sell out.

Selling out is a controversial and complicated thing, as the nature of it is largely subjective. Some die hard fans think the slightest change in a band’s lineup or musical stylings is an automatic sign of selling out, some defend a musical group they love even when they blatantly start doing indigent things solely for money. I do not feel that Metallica sold out when they made their first music video for the song “One,” that was just them finally having the resources to do something artistic like they never could before, and the “One” music video is freaking epic. I do not feel that James Hetfield wanting to sing a country song was him selling out, that was just some strange different thing he wanted to do. I do not feel that having he Black album produced by a different production company was selling out, that was just that next logical move for the distribution of their music.

I think the movement Metallica sold out was when they promised to perform a live concert of their new album, the Black album, and they just played the CD for everyone instead. I mean, what the fuck was that about? Maybe they were not totally corporate whores at that point, and the Black album is amazing, but that moment, that was the beginning of the end.

Then Napster happened. I respect that Ulrich did not want his music stolen, but talk about fighting against technology, and talk about unappreciation for the real goal, which is sharing your art with the world. The point is, Metallica made it clear they cared more about money than making music and while Load and Reload had some great songs, there was a big dip in overall inspiration and quality. Then “St. Anger” came out in 2003, and I thought I was just about finished with Metallica forever.

If all you want is money, then I am specifically not going to buy your music. Your head is in the wrong place. Go home Metallica, you’re drunk.

So… I sort of have mixed feelings about Metallica. On one hand I love them, and their earlier music is some of the most important metal music ever. On the other hand, they behaved like such sad prostitutes for such a long time and the music they made was really bad probably because of it.

In 2008 “Death Magnetic” came out, and despite everyone telling me it was pretty good, I put off listening to it for six or seven years. When I finally did listen to it, I was forced to admit that it was pretty good. It was not a return to providence like “Master of Puppets” but it was a huge step back in the right direction. To recover from the cringe that was “St. Anger” Metallica had to go back, to go forward.

I have made it pretty clear what early day Metallica charms me the most, their obsession with death, and deeper than that, their interest in horror of the Lovecraft variety. What better way to return to form than to have Metallica write a new song about cosmic horror.

The single song I took the greatest liking to from “Death Magnetic” was easily “All Nightmare Long.” Long before I began to dissect the lyrics, as is my want, I could feel a Lovecraft vibe. Metallica had worked such magic in “The Call of Ctulu” and while being fundamentally a very different song “All Nightmare Long” had that same dangerous ambience. I could tell it was a Lovecraft inspired song, even before I dove into the lyrics.

As it turns out “All Nightmare Long” is about the Hounds of Tindalos. I have read every story by Lovecraft… and I had no idea what the Hounds of Tindalos were.

"Hound of Tindalos"
by Mike Franchina
As it turns out the Hounds of Tindalos are not from a Lovecraft story, but are from a story by Frank Belknap Long and later these creatures were folded into the Lovecraft mythos by August Derleth, and I had to look all that up. Apparently, Lovecraft did mention the extra dimensional beings in “The Whisper in Darkness” but I do not remember that.

The Hounds of Tindalos exists outside of space and time and they hunger for something in human life that makes them hunt out humans once they can make a connection to them. If I am understanding what I have read online correctly they are creatures of sharp angles and can therefore pass through any angle less than a hundred and twenty degrees, whatever the hell that means exactly. I suppose rational do not apply to abominations from other dimensions.

Like a lot of creatures of otherworldly terror, the Hounds of Tindalos are very mysterious, even in the stories specifically about them. The appearance of the Hounds is unknown as no one who has ever seen them has survived but apparently their appearance is somewhat bat like, and the name comes more from their nature than their form. But how does Metallica describe this?

“Hunt you down without mercy,
Hunt you down all nightmare long.”

This is an amazing chorus whether you know about the terrible Hounds of Tindalos or not. Some determined killer unrelenting hunting down their prey, possibly during sleep, possibly during a waking nightmare; either way this is intense and exciting, and it makes for a great metal song.

“All Nightmare Long” is pretty great for a few reasons but it represents hope. How does a nightmare song about being mercilessly hunted down by otherworldly monsters represent hope? The content is not hopeful, the existence of the song itself is hopeful, just as “Death Magnetic” is an album of hope. Metallica needed to go backward to go forward. By returning to form, even just a little there is the new hope that future Metallica songs will be good, and maybe they can add to their already impressive catalogue.

Now all I have to do is listen to “Hardwire… to Self-Destruct,” maybe I’ll get around to it in six or seven years.

Until next month, keep on rocking in the free world.

- King of Braves

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