Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Stuck in My Head: Metallica, "Lords of Summer"

For the past nearly 25 years, there’s been no more polarizing band in metal, or perhaps all of rock, than Metallica.

Since the release of that monstrous self-titled album in 1991, fans have been thrown into three different camps. There are the loyalists that have followed and defended them faithfully through all of their ups and downs. The folks, like me, who have mixed feelings about their work since that time, but try to keep an open mind despite some disappointments. Then, there are the people who will never be satisfied with anything the band does again and take every opportunity to criticize.

Metallica has given that last group plenty to work with when it comes to the new song, “Lords of Summer,” which they’ve been playing live and released online in demo form.

First, there’s the name of the tune, which doesn’t exactly scream metal. The title sounds more like a traditional lightweight beach song for vacation time. Then, there’s the fact that the best copy we have is an unpolished demo that sounds kind of thin — and will add more fuel to the arguments.

The truth is, though, the Metallica fans who don’t like this tune are probably just being contrary. You have to use a little imagination when it comes to this demo version or the highly distorted live versions you can find out there, but if you imagine it with a beefed-up guitar sound and a little better production, you can hear the monster that it could be. Certainly it has the potential to be as good as anything from Death Magnetic.

Like many of the tunes from that album, it’s got a nice mix of the different elements that have made up Metallica over the years. There’s the galloping thrash of their early days in the lead riffs and verses, then there’s a potential monster groove riff on the chorus, and for better or worse, even a little of the Load era under Kirk Hammett’s trademark wah-wah solo. And despite the fact that I think the lyric is a little silly, after only one listen, I found myself walking around singing “lords of summer have retuuuuuurrrrnnnnneeed” in my head for the rest of the day. 

Metallica, mostly by their own doing, have put themselves in sort of a damned-if-they-do, damned-if-they-don’t situation. There’s no way, at this point, to please all of their fans. But they found a nice niche with Death Magnetic that carries over into “Lords of Summer.” It’s not Master of Puppets, nor is it Load, but if fans of either of those records listen with an honest ear, not having their minds made up going in, I think they’ll hear something they like. I only wish they’d gone ahead, polished it up and given it a legit release so we might hear what the song could be.

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