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Metallica reigns mighty with latest album, tour
Absence clearly makes Metallica fans’ hearts grow fonder.
Case in point: “Hardwired ...To Self-Destruct,” the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame quartet’s 10th studio album, and first in eight years. It debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in the U.S., where it’s already certified platinum, and in 56 other countries. The track “Hardwired” also was nominated for an award at the Grammys, where Metallica delivered a technically flawed but still furious performance with Lady Gaga.
So all’s well that ends well after a long wait, but this kind of success isn’t something Metallica takes for granted.
“We’re certainly aware of things like anticipation and the fans’ desire for Metallica material,” guitarist Kirk Hammett, 54, says by phone from his home in the San Francisco Bay Area, where Metallica is based. “But we’ve found that just because you’re an immensely successful heavy metal band, that doesn’t guarantee that everyone’s going to like everything we record. We’ve experienced great success in the past with stuff we’ve recorded and not so great success in the past with stuff we’ve recorded.
“So our attitude going into a new release is hope for the best, expect the worst. Just because we’re one of the biggest bands in the world doesn’t mean we’re going to sell biggest-band-in-the-world record numbers. At the end of the day you just have to live with your participation and knowing you’ve done the best you possibly could.
“That’s good enough for me.”
The quartet was hardly absent during the eight-year gap between “Hardwired” and its 2008 predecessor, “Death Magnetic.” The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009, made the controversial album “Lulu” with the late Lou Reed in 2011, staged an Orion Music + More festival for two years (in 2013 on Detroit’s Belle Isle) and made a movie, “Metallica Through The Never,” which combined concert and dramatic sequences. The group also played live dates every year, mostly in Europe and South America.
Hammett, meanwhile, launched an annual Fear FestEvil horror festival, and bassist Robert Trujillo released a documentary about late bass icon Jaco Pastorius.
“We just over-obligated ourselves,” Hammett says of the interim. “We said yes to way too many things. We needed to prioritize this album, but we didn’t start prioritizing it until much later.”
“Hardwired” introduced a new collaborator in co-producer Greg Fidelman, and spread out its 12 songs over a pair of CDs — even though the nearly 78-minute running length could have fit on a single CD. “We’ve been around long enough that we definitely have experience with album sides, and we wanted to give that experience to people who maybe weren’t familiar with it,” Hammett explains.
The sessions were odd for the guitarist, however. Before making the album Hammett lost a cell phone that he says had “thousands” of riffs for potential songs. That neutralized his contribution to the album. Hammett notes, “I did not have as much material as I wanted to have.” James Hetfield cryptically told Planet Rock that Hammett “was dealing with life. He had a lot of life things going on for himself, which he’ll choose to talk about if he wants.”
Nevertheless, Hammett focused on being Metallica’s lead guitarist, sinking deep into creating parts for the tunes Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich came up with.
“I felt like (the solos) were my one time to really put my mark on the songs,” says Hammett, who’s also become an active critic of President Trump on Twitter.
“So what you hear on this album is totally stream-of-consciousness, hot, in-the-moment musical ideas that had very, very little time or preparation put into them — and in most cases no time and preparation put into them.
“The whole idea was to come up with something new and different and unique, which was a really scary thing for me to do because I didn’t know if I could pull it off in the same way that I have pulled off playing solos in the studio in the past. But I like to think I did.”
Hammett and Metallica have been promoting “Hardwired” on the road since before its release. The group’s WorldWired Tour began in October in Latin America and played in Asia and Europe before this North American leg started during May. The group plans the run into 2018 and is talking about reviving the Orion festival for the back end of the tour. At its end, however, Hammett hopes Metallica will head back into the studio — and he promises to keep a closer eye on his phone this time.
“What I would like to see in the future is after we finish the touring cycle for this album we should take a little bit of time off and just think about getting right back into the studio and creating some more music,” he says. “I don’t think anyone, including the band, wants to wait another eight years again, or even six years or five years. It’s too long, and it doesn’t help anyone taking that long. All it does is extend the waiting period and people get impatient.
“So, yeah, I would really like to not follow the precedent that was set with this album on the next album.”
• If You Go: Metallica, Avenged Sevenfold and Volbeat perform 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 12, at Comerica Park, 2100 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Some tickets are available at $76.50-$160.50. Call 313-962-4000 or visit olympiaentertainment.com.
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