2016 Preview: Metallica

Their triumphant headlining performance at the Glastonbury festival in June 2014 was an emphatic reminder that Metallica remain the biggest, best-known and most successful heavy metal band in the world.

That reaffirmation was surely welcome, for the past decade has not been overly kind to a group who moved into rock’s premier division with the release of the Black Album 25 years ago. Indeed, since the release of 2008’s Death Magnetic collection (No.1 in 34 countries) Metallica have suffered a number of humiliating setbacks which have rather tarnished their reputation as shrewd, sure-footed industry leaders. By their own admission, the group’s (now discontinued) Orion Music + More festivals lost millions of dollars; Lulu, their critically savaged 2011 collaboration with Lou Reed has sold fewer than 35,000 copies in the US; and 2013’s bold but misjudged Through The Never film proved a box office disaster, recouping just $10 million of its $32 million production costs.

Arguably the most damaging aspect of these ill-fated experiments, however, has been the fact that they’ve fuelled a mounting suspicion among fans that Metallica would rather do anything than write and record new Metallica music.

Ahead of the band’s Glastonbury appearance, drummer Lars Ulrich claimed that the follow-up to Death Magnetic was “ninety per cent written. It’s just gotta be kind of assembled,” he said.

Twelve months on, guitarist Kirk Hammett revealed the group were only “twenty-five per cent, maybe thirty per cent” into the process. Hammett’s subsequent admission that he’d “lost” 250 riff ideas on a misplaced iPhone hardly inspired confidence. And only one new song, _Lords Of Summer _(unveiled in demo form in March 2014, and recently unpromisingly said by Ulrich to be “not so bad”), has to date featured in the group’s concert set-lists. The announcement, in October, that the group have begun album studio sessions with Death Magnetic engineer Greg Fidelman has therefore been greeted with a certain amount of caution.

It is perhaps understandable, then, that Metallica are keeping concrete predictions about what will be their tenth studio album to a minimum. Bassist Robert Trujillo has suggested that the new material is “special and unique, but still heavy”, while Hammett has intimated that the album is “along the lines of Death Magnetic” and promised: “We’ve got some heavy stuff going.”

“We still have drive, we still have energy, we’re still inspired,” the guitarist told New York radio station DJ Rich ‘Bull’ Gaenzler in November. “I think that we’re not done yet.”

With deluxe remastered and repackaged versions of 1983’s Kill ’Em All and 1985’s Ride The Lightning albums set for release on Blackened Records later in the year, and the band collaborating with American writer Matt Taylor on a commemorative book to mark the 30th anniversary of 1986’s Master Of Puppets album, 2016 already looks set to be another busy year.

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.