For the 145,000 live-music starved fans who made their way to Sacramento's Discovery Park over four days, the much-delayed Aftershock Festival was a glorious opportunity to both get your bearings in a world regaining some semblance of normality, and to lose them completely – to surrender to the heady euphoria of loud guitars, breath-taking production and an overwhelming sense of community.
If any band has been charged with the ability to bring all those sensations to a climax, it is, of course, Metallica. Headlining two of the nights, alongside Cypress Hill and The Original Misfits, the West Coast behemoths closed out the festival with a special set playing 1991's world-conquering The Black Album in full – albeit with a twist.
Among those losing their shit was Mastodon drummer Brann Dailor, who had played earlier on that day, and whose long history with the headliners included supporting them at Wembley Stadium in 2007. Here he gives us his exclusive step-by-step take on a set that's destined to kick off a new chapter in the metal history books.
Metallica at Aftershock: the view
“I threw caution to the wind and went out to the audience and watched, as a true patron and fan of the band. I was in a VIP-ish area where people maybe paid a little bit of extra money to be in this one section, but everybody was super-excited, and it was just jam-packed with people who are just having a blast.”
Metallica at Aftershock: the entrance
“I'm jealous of their intro. The Ecstasy Of Gold is just perfect. They've been using it for so long now, and when it finally starts, everybody gets really excited. And then Hardwired opened up the set. It's cool, I like that song, I think Death Magnetic and Hardwired…To Self-Destruct are pretty great Metallica records.
“So that was a great opening, and then they played The Four Horsemen and Welcome Home (Sanitarium). That song definitely has a special place in my 13-year-old heart. It really just got me headbanging and I just got lost in it. It reminds me of a classical piece of music – it goes through different movements, and it’s got these beautiful passages.
"A lot of heavy groups that were inspired by Metallica, I feel they only latched on to the heavy thrash aspect, and kinda forgot that the thing that makes Metallica really special is the ability to be softer and have that dynamic. They have those beautiful passages of arpeggiated guitar, so I think that when we started Mastodon, the thing we learned from Metallica was to include the beauty with the beast, because I think it really works well in tandem.”
Metallica at Aftershock: the Production
“There was this crazy video wall stuff that they had going on at the back of the stage. They giant video cubes that were angled just off kilter. A lot of it was footage of them playing – they had a couple of crane cameras that were sweeping in, and you could see the guys doing their thing up close. Some of it was pre-filmed footage of people trapped in those boxes, trying to get out, so that looked wild.
“They always have an insane production and it's always something cutting edge. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that it's just four dudes up there playing metal. When I was a kid, I had the impression that they were a huge band, but that they were also like the older kids who grew up down the street from me, even though they’re out there playing arenas. I feel like they never really lost that.”
Metallica at Aftershock: the banter
“James Hetfield didn't do the ‘Famil-EHH!!’ chant. It seems to me that for a lot of bands, the in-between song banter might be the last thing to come back for people. They were just like getting on with it, it was really song after song after song. It wasn't stilted in any way, but I think you almost forget that aspect of it after being away from the stage for a couple of years and only having maybe a few shows back in.”
Metallica at Aftershock: The Black Album
“I had no idea what the set was going to be beforehand. I talked to Lars briefly before the set, and he was like, ‘Man, we played 17 songs the other night, and now we're playing 17 totally different songs!“ but he didn’t say they were going to be playing The Black Album. It totally worked live. They’d played a video that showed the making of the album, and that sort of set it up.
"And then they went into it, and I think everyone was expecting Enter Sandman, and it wasn't, and then you realise they're going backwards and you're like, cool! It worked because then towards the end of the set then you get Enter Sandman, which makes sense. You want that to be one of the last three songs of the set.
“The Black Album hit later for me. I was 15 or 16 around the time it came out, and I liked it, but the same year Death’s Human and Mr. Bungle’s album came out, and I was into that stuff at that point in time. I loved all the singles, of course. Between The Unforgiven and Enter Sandman, I don't think they played any other videos on MTV, so you couldn't avoid album really.
“Having said that, Nothing Else Matters is one of the best songs ever written. That's when everyone gets their pseudo lighters out. It definitely has a heavy impact on the audience. It’s just a beautiful song, and you wouldn't expect a heavy metal band to have a song that good.
"I remember watching Apocalyptica do it and the whole audience was just singing along. We were in Europe and me and Brent were by the side of the stage watching. Metallica weren't even there, and it's being played on cellos and the whole audience is just singing at the top of their lungs, and man, I got choked up. That's how good that song is.”
Metallica at Aftershock: the End
“People were collectively a little bit drunker as they got towards the end, but Enter Sandman is the perfect song for that. People’s inhibitions had all melted away, and then the song comes in. Everybody can say what they want, ‘Oh, I've heard it so many times and it's at every sporting event’, but if Metallica are there onstage, and they are playing it, and there are 30 or 40,000 people, everyone starts jumping up and down and they love it. It's a blast.
"No wonder Metallica had the success they did from that record – the writing is just top-tier, and Enter Sandman is another one of the greatest songs ever written. When that thing hits, and then BOOM! the fireworks go off, oh man, it's just too good. It's one of those songs where they were probably in the studio and they just knew they had something special.”
Metallica at Aftershock: the encore
“Fight Fire With Fire and Creeping Death were a perfect way to end. The fireworks show was going on, and it was everything you'd want a Metallica show to be. They closed with Creeeping Death when I was 14 and I saw them with Queensrÿche and they closed with it here and it’s like… there you go.”
Metallica at Aftershock: the aftermath
“There was a lot of looking around at each other and high-fiving strangers, and being happy, being at a festival, watching your favourite band and just having an awesome time. It was like, man, we all needed this really bad. Thankfully there's a band like Metallica that can bring all those people together and celebrate music and celebrate what's hopefully becoming the end of this really horrible pandemic that we've all been through together.”
Metallica's The Black Album (Remastered) Deluxe Box Set and The Metallica Blacklist are available now. Mastodon's new album, Hushed And Grim is released on October 29 via Reprise Records