These are strange times in the metal world. Strange times, indeed.
Slayer are calling it quits after 37 years with one more tour that kicks off later in this spring, and fellow Big Four titans Metallica are ramping up for a 34-date 2018/2019 tour that has metalheads spewing all kinds of happy nonsense down their faded black shirts.
But the situation begs one question: How much more lightening does Metallica have to ride?
Let’s face it: These guys aren’t spring chickens, and their track record for the last 20 or so years (outside of their live performances) has been … meh. Their albums have been lackluster since 1991’s self-titled release (and that may be stretching it), they have graciously flushed exorbitant amounts of money down the toilet (Through the Never), and who can forget the engaging, albeit it slightly embarrassing, Some Kind of Monster, a film that portrayed the quartet as the Kardashians of heavy metal at a time when no one knew the Kardashians and Caitlyn Jenner was still a sports legend named Bruce. And let’s not forget age, that unforgiving bitch. Frontman James Hetfield is 54, just like drummer Lars Ulrich. Guitarist Kirk Hammett is a year older, and bassist Robert Trujillo is the baby at 53.
This isn’t necessarily about age, but rather a changing of the guard in a profession that typically doles out more wear and tear than most. Stadium-sized metallers are simply leaving the scene, whether intentionally or due to their cruel march toward Valhalla. Ronnie James Dio and Lemmy Kilmister have passed, Ozzy Osbourne is throwing in the towel, and Iron Maiden are still holding strong (but who knows for how long … save Steve Harris). Judas Priest are still hanging in there, but maladies threaten to suck the life out of them sooner rather than later. And then you have Slayer, reminding fans that all good things must come to an end.
In a parallel universe, when Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead passed away and the band called it quits, Vermont’s Phish stepped upped their game, delivering stadium-sized jams to rabid fans and filling the void (for many, but not all). Similarly, we are standing at a precipice looking forward to a time in the next five to 10 years when the metal landscape changes dramatically. Who will take the torch from Slayer, emerge as the next Ozzy, or bring the metal to worldwide stadiums like Metallica. Can Lamb of God make the jump? Will Meshuggah step up to stadium greatness? Are the guys in Sabaton ready to carry Maiden’s flag for a new generation of metallers? And what happens on the club level, with legends like Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel, and other torchbearers passing the 30-year mark?
Back to Metallica, though. The question stands. How much more lightening is there to ride? We sure as hell don’t know, but we are certain that this tour will be as bombastic as those before. They remain at the top of their game – for now.
Although our crystal ball is only returning static, we have a few recommendations: See Metallica on this tour. We preach the same about the forthcoming Slayer tour. Make it a point to catch Maiden, Ozzy, and Priest. And give credence to an ever-evolving scene that is as full of surprises as it is heavy riffs.
The times are changing, and there is no need to miss out today on what may not be there tomorrow.