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Monday, April 6, 2009

Metalli-coda: The Great Metallica Debate Wrap-Up

Posted By on Mon, Apr 6, 2009 at 10:00 AM

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On Saturday, heavy metal titans Metallica was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony ended with the band performing “Train Kept A Rollin’ “ — Cleveland’s unofficial classic-rock anthem — with members of Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, the Yardbirds and the Rolling Stones. Gentlemen, as if the quarter-million-plus crowds weren’t enough, you have now officially arrived.

Granted, Metallica hasn’t been strictly a metal band for years. And 1991’s “Unforgiven” has not one, but two sequels. But last year’s Death Magnetic — produced by Rick Rubin, who’s worked with Johnny Cash, Neil Young, and fellow Rock Hall class of ’09 inductees Run-DMC — is thrashier than anything they’ve done for damn near two decades.

So, to cap Scene’s commemorative Great Metallica Debate, we ask: What does Metallica’s Rock Hall induction mean for metal? Answers by D.X. Ferris (the paper’s designated Metalhead), 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). If you think they’re full of shit, let us know what you think in the comment section.

PS. Flea seemed like a total WTF? choice to induct Metallica. Instead, he gave one of the great induction speeches, passionately explaining why bands like Metallica matter, and lovingly eulogizing late original bassist Cliff Burton. Check out his speech here.

And now we promise: No more Metallica talk until they visit the Q in October.

Wardlaw: When Chris and I were talking after the ceremonies, he made a good observation that until he saw the induction, he wasn't aware of how much the honor really meant to the Metallica guys. I've always had a huge amount of respect for how they've handled themselves as a band, particularly the way they've stuck with their management company Q Prime in the good times, the not-so-good times and during times when other high profile clients (ex. Def Leppard) were bailing during the past few years for different management. Hey Def Leppard, how did that work out for you? Metallica took a credibility hit with the Napster era, but recovered from it well. I saw everything that I needed to see during Friday night's party at House of Blues. It was really incredible to see that Metallica remembered completely where they came from, as demonstrated by the 150-plus friends, current and former associates that they flew in for the weekend celebration. They're still music fans — witness James Hetfield locked in conversation with Joe Perry from Aerosmith. They remember their friends, including one "friend" in particular — former RIP Magazine editor Lonn Friend, who famously chronicled the birth of the Metallica Black album via a series of articles in the pages of RIP. Lars Ulrich talked to many throughout the night, with giant bear hugs for quite a few of them, but spent most of the night talking to a circle of three or four friends in particular, who floated in and out of the conversations all night long. It was that same group of friends that was still there with Ulrich at the end of the night, still swapping stories and laughs about the old days. The Metallica members are just people at the end of the day, and it was visually evident how grateful they are to have accomplished what they have accomplished as a band and unit, and they have gratitude for remaining relevant as a band during the same year that they are being inducted to the Hall of Fame. What does Metallica's induction mean for Metal? That's hard to say. Hetfield obviously reeled off a list of bands that aren't in the Hall yet, and should be: Rush, Kiss, Thin Lizzy, Iron Maiden, etc. I think that those are all bands that might/should find their place in the Rock Hall eventually. C'mon, you GOTTA put Maiden in there! I think it is potentially a harder road for a band like Slayer, but if Slayer can win Grammy Awards, I guess that really, anything is possible. I found myself wondering if it was any coincidence that they sold tickets for the induction ceremonies for the first time on the year that Metallica was being inducted. For anyone that was in the building, it was evident how many of those 5000 seats were occupied by Metallica fans. I'll end with a plea: Public Hall really looked nice after $500k worth of renovations for the induction ceremonies. It would be a great thing to see concerts return to both Public Hall and Music Hall in the coming months and years. So many legendary artists and concerts have passed through those two halls, and it is criminal that these beautiful facilities are so underused.

Akin: What does Metallica's induction mean? Well, for the Rock Hall folks, it meant that they were able to put on a show that actually sold well and got some national attention unlike they've probably never had before. To me personally, who has seen the band over 30 times, and has stuck with them and taken mad criticism for actually enjoying the Black Album, Load, Reload and St. Anger, I don't know that it means anything more than a band that I have truly loved since their inception has been acknowledged by the world as one of the best ever. That's kind of cool. It almost means that I was right about something all those years ago. It's cool. Finally, for Metal. Hmmm ... that really is a tough one. I don't really know that it means much to metal, to be honest. While it's great that Black Sabbath and Metallica are in the Rock Hall, the fact that a whole lot of hard work, underground groundswell, and truly great bands in between the two are still waiting for their just due. You have to question that it means anything at all to the validation of Metal as a musical artform. I'm a lifelong metalhead, and I love Metallica and Black Sabbath, but the real test for a "hall of fame" is their ability to truly understand the art form which they are evaluating. Metallica is the biggest band of the last 25 years — them or U2 — so they were a fairly easy choice. If the Rock Hall truly wants to be taken seriously by our group of music lovers, let's see some real understanding of the genre. Let's get Deep Purple in there. How about Judas Priest? Iron Maiden? The great Motorhead. Maybe Saxon. Let's not have the token "in between" pick of Def Leppard, who sold a shitload of records but ultimately evolved away from metal. Let's fill in the blanks between Black Sabbath and Metallica, so that their inductions don't look like they are flukes in a genre that doesn't exist. I'm not a big fan of the Rock Hall because the political climate of it makes it a sham. That Madonna went in before Kiss ever made the ballot is a crime. For metal, I don't think Metallica's induction means a whole lot, but it's still cool that they got in.

Ferris: When the band emerged in the 1980s, it was Metallica fans — and metal fans in general — against the world, as illustrated in songs like “Whiplash” and “Damage Inc.” As with hip-hop, there was considerable debate from pop and rock fans whether the genre was real music. Even though metal musicians could clearly play better (not to mention faster and louder) that whatever bullshit was all over the radio. And the arguments go on. More than 25 years later, metal has grown from an unpopular, niche genre to an industry. It’s still kept alive by non-profit college radio shows, but metal also has a devoted satellite radio station (when they’re not submarining it to play all Metallica for a month), and it’s a perennial presence on outlets like rock radio, MTV2 and Fuse. In a town like Cleveland, if you know what clubs to hit, you can catch at least five metal shows a week, everything from touring neo-thrash bands to homegrown sludge and grind groups. And now Metallica — once the heaviest of the heavy bands, still among the biggest of the big — is in the Rock Hall. Yes, there’s just as much hip-hop as metal in the hall. And no, it’s unlikely we’ll see another thrash group in there. And Bon Jovi will go in before Kiss. But full-on, indisputable metal now has a representative in the ultimate rock-and-roll-acknowledgement establishment. A band that wrote “Fight Fire With Fire,” chanted “Metal up your ass” and covered songs like “So What” and “Last Caress” is in there beside Elvis, the Stones and Madonna. As we came up through the metal ranks in the ‘80s and ‘90s, Metallica were our champions, and they took it as far as rock 'n' roll can go. —D.X. Ferris

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