Not that long ago (well OK, maybe it was...), when the roots of my inner music nerd/writer were being put in place (1978, Creem magazine), there were several bands whose records were in heavy rotation on my turntable: Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Bad Company, Black Sabbath, Ted Nugent. At the time, these artists were revered. It's a stereotype, but they did seem like Gods to us. I mean, the announcement of a local tour date would send us into such a state! We'd pop that Machine Head 8-track into the Camaro's deck and drive around obsessing about the upcoming show for hours on end. Surely, these reactions were symptomatic of us just being kids. With our lives stretched out before us, the bands we loved filled up a large portion of a timeline yet to be written.
Real life though would often intrude on our heroes. Reports (sometimes joking) about drug and other abuses just aren't funny when your favorite band disappears for a while — or when somebody dies. Our disbelief at such events would stretch on for days as well. Same Camaro, different vibe.
Metal music has had it's own share of casualties. When Zeppelin's John Bonham died, we were sad, angry, and confused. I mean, here's a man who had one of the glamour jobs of all time: playing in a rock band. How could he throw that all away? Yes, we all knew people in our lives with such problems (alcoholism) but were too young to connect the dots properly. Maybe we didn't want to.
So much of these ideas resurfaced in my head when I viewed Metallica's Some Kind Of Monster. I knew about the alcohol problems (they didn't call themselves 'Alcoholica' for nothin') but figured that, like most people, they'd work it out as they matured. That is finally what happened but it took some time, some not particularly inspiring music (Load and Re-Load), and a whole lot of soul searching. It was interesting, and even a little disturbing, to see James Hetfield seem so open and psychologically fragile. The collision of his sobriety against the future of the band, that's the real world right there. Given what they were going through as a group, I was surprised that even St. Anger came out of it. People seemed to hate that record. I didn't. It's as raw as the emotions spilling out of the guys.