Last week, Metallica debuted a new song live and then posted its demo recording online. The song's called "Lords of Summer," and releasing the demo was a pretty smart move. This way we can actually hear what's going on in it without having to try to make out awful live recordings taken on fans' cell phones.
However, the song itself has some serious issues. The shame here is that it's almost there. This could be an awesome Metallica song; It has all the necessary components. It just needs some fixes before it's ready for prime time, much like their last album, Death Magnetic. If Metallica does these five things, they're well on their way to actually making a great new album.
5. Change the Lyrics James Hetfield used to be known for some seriously thoughtful lyrics on some deep subjects. Sure, there were silly tracks like "Hit the Lights" or "Of Wolf and Man," but he could also produce words that rivaled some of the best lyrics in metal.
"Lords of Summer," however, suffers from the same lyrical laziness that plagued Death Magnetic. Can you really see the Metallica of old making a pun like "All Nightmare Long" or turning out a stupid rhyme like "Cyanide/ I've already died?" Step your poetic game up a bit, Hetfield. Or just write about Satan or something. Metal cliches beat "lords of summer bring the sun."
4. Sing Lower Hetfield's voice is shot, which has been apparent for a long time. So why does he insist on singing everything in a higher register than he is physically capable of performing? He sounds mediocre on the studio recording, and he's clearly straining. Live, he's just blowing it. It's not 1986 anymore.
He settled into a comfortably deeper groove with his vocals in the '90s, but ever since St. Anger he's been trying to hit high notes he hadn't been able to comfortably hit in 15 years by then. Fans love the deep growl, so why not stick with it and ditch the constipated highs?
3. Quit with the Intros One of the most annoying tropes of modern Metallica is that apparently they think every song needs an intro of some sort. Instead of just getting to the point, they eke out some nonsense prelude mostly consisting of the song's main riff played slower than in the rest of the song, with some additional drum fills. Then they play the riff the regular way a couple of times before they actually get to the first verse.
I get this. Metallica used to do it in the '80s too. The difference is they didn't do it on every song. Metallica today follows this pattern for each and every song they record, and it's such a tired cliché in their music that it has got to stop. Just jump right in and get to the point already, guys.
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2. Write Shorter Songs Christ, guys, not every song needs to be eight minutes long. Not even '80s Metallica forced every song to be this long. If a song came out that way, so be it. But if it only ended up being 3-5 minutes, nobody cried about that either. Yet since Death Magnetic, they've apparently decided that recapturing the magic means wringing out songs for as long as possible.
The problem is that most of these songs cannot sustain themselves for that long. The reason a song like "...And Justice for All" worked despite its length was because it had many twists and turns. Metallica today writes in the same "verse-chorus-verse-chorus-solo-bridge-chorus" structure they did in the '90s, only drag that out beyond sustainability. Chill out on the repetitions and let the song flow naturally.
1. Vary Up the Riffs More Holy shit, remember when you could actually tell one Metallica song from another? Look, I'm not saying go back to the extreme variations from song to song like they did on Load and Reload. They're trying to be metal; I get that. But you can play a little bit around the fretboard, you know?
In trying to sound like Metallica again, Hetfield is seemingly incapable of writing riffs that don't all sound the same in some way. He also can't seem to craft anything with a particular melody. Mindless-beatdown thrash riffs only go so far. One thing old Metallica did so well was allowing a song to breathe a little bit, but the new Metallica just seems to riff along relentlessly around the same tired power chords they've been playing since the '80s.
You can still be metal without causing ear fatigue, boys. Amp up the melody and let a song breathe.
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