At the start of each year, most metal fans will turn their attention towards upcoming releases, and eagerly await their favourite band’s latest album. I think it would be fair to say that the for the past few years (with greater emphasis on this year), the number one album on the majority of fans’ wish lists would be a new Metallica album. I cannot even begin to delve into the numerous twists and turns that has come to define the ongoing saga of that elusive album. Every time there’s a tantalising glimpse of the band demoing or recording in the studio, it is quickly overtaken with one of the band’s many projects. Lets face it, the band has done anything and everything imaginable (playing big name shows, making their own film, playing Antarctica, curating their own festivals, etc.) EXCEPT from making a new album. However, amid all this speculation and excitement it might be worth asking: why should Metallica bother making a new album?
In all honesty, the band don’t really have anything to prove from releasing new music, nor are they dependent on it. Sure, their latest output in the past twenty years may not live up to the standards they set from their early works- but to create five consecutive classic albums (Kill ‘Em All, Ride The Lightning, Master Of Puppets, …And Justice For All, The Black Album) is beyond what most bands are capable of. So even without a new record to add to their collection, they still possess one of the strongest back catalogues to satisfy fans, old and new alike. And that’s before you even consider the financial success of those albums. This year alone The Black Album has sold 90,000 copies, which is highly impressive for an album that will be twenty five years old this year. Not to mention the three other albums that make up this year’s best selling metal releases so far (see http://www.metalinjection.net/its-just-business/record-sales/disturbed-megadeth-metallicas-black-album-top-selling-metal-albums-of-2016-so-far) This has meant that Metallica have made an incredibly lucrative career for themselves- they’re not entirely dependent on constantly releasing new music and touring to pay the bills like any young, new band is nowadays. So it begs the question- if there’s nothing to lose from not creating new music, what is their to gain from doing the opposite?
While I’m sure a new addition to the Metallica back catalogue will boost their record sales and stimulate renewed interest in live tickets and merchandise, it really won’t have a significant impact on their career trajectory. Look at it this way, when you’re performing in some of the largest venues across the globe, where do you go from there? Metallica are without a doubt one of the biggest metal bands of all time, and have really reached the ceiling for a successful metal band- if there’s nothing to be made from following a typical touring and album cycle then why not explore new ventures, however ridiculous or time consuming. They’re pretty much free to pursue whatever ventures without any detrimental effect on their career- after all, they’ve been doing that for the best part of thirty years.
Now, hypothetically speaking, what would happen if they did release a new album. Well, you’d have to consider what overall sound and direction the band would be aiming for, and the expected reception from fans. Lets say that the band opted for a ‘return to their roots’ sound, where their thrash riffs come to the fore. Now whilst there will be a large portion of fans who will be more than happy with this, there will be an equal share of fans who will say that the band have “sold out” and are “trying too hard to please older fans”. On the other side, if Metallica choose a bold, experimental new direction, then there will be plenty of fans that will spew the same old “RIP Metallica” spiel we’ve come to expect from close-minded fans (Lulu anyone?). Whichever way you look at it, half the fan base is going to be upset- is it really worth the fuss?
Despite all of this I still want a new Metallica album- I’ve spent the last six years on the ‘new album bandwagon’, following every new development from the band. To deny me any new Metallica music after so long would be cruel.
What do you think? Are you excited for a new Metallica album? Are you dreading the thought of a possible St Anger part II? Feel free to leave a comment and like this post to have your say.