Friday, August 22, 2008

Metallica - The Day That Never Comes

We'll it's finally here, kiddies. Time to start that latest round of whining, screaming temper tantrums from the hyper-caffeinated, under-sexed pack of American Idiots known as Metallica Fans. How did it ever get to this? Of all the arenas in American life to wage the cultural wars, why here? Why this? Damned if I ever know. If I ever become lucky enough to pose the question to God Almighty and live to tell the tale, my money's says the great answer will be an intergalactic shrug.

Somewhere in the early '90s, somewhere after the band's legendary two-year world tour, Metallica's self-titled "Black Album" split the fan community straight down the middle. It's been open sectarian warfare ever since; although, it has to be said, the screaming tantrums have been coming almost exclusively from the other side. See, that's the fun part of any civil war. It's always the other side's fault. I keep this little bit or Orwellian doublethink in mind as the hours to the next election grinds away. Don't blame me. I voted for Kodos.

It's funny that the endless trashy turbulation that is evoked at name of Metallica. I can't believe the old men are still around, still finding ways to piss everyone off. The kids scream and pout about greedy Lars and those music downloads, the Great Global Music Shoplift that has destroyed the music industry as we know it. How dare he expect us to pay for his albums! How dare he expect to earn more money! He has enough! By the way, I just downloaded the album from that new up-and-coming band. Whatever happened to those guys? Why didn't they make another album?

When I was 18 years old, I walked into my dorm room at the humble College of St. Scholastica. I hadn't owned more than five albums my entire life. I was raised during the culture wars of the Reagan Era, the days when fire-breathing televangelists pumped your minds full of fear and prejudice. We were too young to realize that we were being served warmed-over leftovers, fecal piles from the zombie brigades for the Jim Crow army. I hope I'm not being too harsh, I think to myself. Then I pick up the newspaper and read of yet another megachurch preacher busted for stealing money from his followers. Mansions. Fancy cars. Private jets. It's the year 2008, and the Leper Messiahs still roam freely. The Pharisees and Saduccees ripped open wounds in this land that never heal.

This was the world I was struggling to escape when I entered that dorm room. My roommate was a Minnesota kid named Carl. He liked weightlifting and videogames. And he loved Metallica. With a ratty, worn-out cassette tape copy of Ride the Lightning, the Black Album, and a radio show called "M-M-M-M-Metal Shop," the melodic thrash of Metallica opened my eyes to the beauty and cruelty of the world. I felt like Alice in the land of Oz, enveloped by Technicolor for the very first time. I've been on that long, strange trip ever since.

Back in the '80s, the rock 'n roll witchhunt was in full force. There needed to be a scapegoat for the crimes of the Pharisees, and as usual, youth culture was to blame. Elvis Presley's hips shook the walls of Jericho, or something like that. Heavy metal rock bands were the prime offenders. An endless stream of videos, books and lectures convinced a nation that heavy rock was pure evil, truly the root of all evil. The killing fields of Cambodia, the death squads of Central America, the torture chambers of Pinochet, the chemical weapon assaults of Saddam Hussein. All of these things paled in comparison to Led Zeppelin and Stairway to Heaven, and those damned evil subliminable messages hidden in Jimmy Page's guitar solos.

It's a miracle we're not drowning in millions of Manchurian Candidates. You may be one right now and not even know it. But don't worry your pretty little head about it. Just sit back, watch some TV. Watch American Idol, watch 24. Have another energy drink. Have another beer. Why don't you pass the time with a little game of solitaire?

There's something violent and viscious about the American Empire. Some great cancer at our core, causing us to rip one another to shreds like wild dogs. We live in a perpetual rage, drowning in a drugged haze of anger, fear, alcohol and caffeine. And the Masters of Puppets pull all the strings. And we tear our hearts out with bared teeth. And the darkness of the human soul becomes darker still. We survived the outsourced torture of Latin America, torture by remote control. Now we do it ourselves. In the daylight, with gleeful smiles on our faces. Guantanamo Bay is officially declared the Empire's 51st State. The American flag replete with the skull and crossbones, or perhaps the coiled snake of the old Colonial Culpepper's Brigade: Liberty or Death. Don't Tread on Me.

Something is very wrong here. Something is dangerously wrong. You've felt it all along. We should not be doing this. This was not the Fate of Mankind. The prophets tried to warn us. The true desciples of Jesus, so many of them who are gone now, taken from us. Murdered. Mahatma Gandhi. Medgar Evers. Malcolm X. Martin Luther King. There are moments in the game when you realize, if you perceive closely, with the right kind of eyes, that the fix is in. The tide will only be allowed to rise so far, then pulled back. When Malcolm was murdered, when Martin Luther King was murdered, when Bobby Kennedy was murdered. It's been hell ever since. Now we're shouting obscenities at one another because Metallica got haircuts and discovered the Blues. We're killing ourselves to live through one oil war after another. We're cutting down the trees because no Lorax can be heard to speak for them. Our cities drown, and cruel sadistic bastards like George W. Bush and John McCain dine and laugh. They dine on our ashes, laughing while poor Americans drown in the streets. And in August of the Year of Our Lord 2008, the Presidential race is effectively tied. Something is very wrong here. The Fix Is In.

The Empire has been galloping headlong for the past fourty years, churning out a world of disposable heroes and a blackened globe. There is a webcam in the Arctic where you can watch photos of the North Pole, retreating, melting every day. We will soon witness a spectacle not seen since Moses parted the Red Sea. The North Pole will become open water. There are no atheists in foxholes, the old saying goes. Well, we shall see, children. We shall see.

To most minds, this sounds like mindless rambling. I'm drifting, roaming, skipping rocks across the waters of my mind. Perhaps. But I think not. Metallica was the key that unlocked this world to me. They taught me the virtues of creativity, the need to explore, the freedom to see everything and know everything. They taught me one of God's most crucial lessons: the name of the game is boundary dissolution. We are not meant to be caged into walls. We are meant to shatter them into the dust.

So what does this have to do with the new song from the upcoming album Death Magnetic? Nothing. Everything. The Democratic Convention is in three days. George W. Bush is trying to recreate the Cuban Missile Crisis, when he's not sluggishly fighting off another night's hangovers. John McCain promises to become the Dr. Strangelove President. He will bomb Iran, or maybe North Korea, or maybe Russia, or maybe all three. He may just ride the bomb himself. Just don't ask him how many mansions he owns. Yahoo! Yahoo! Yahoo! Yahoo!

Rock 'n roll used to be engaged with the world. Music used to matter. Maybe you think it doesn't anymore, that the aging rock stars should only serve as your personal fluffers. Just another set of kicks while channel surfing. But I don't buy that bullshit. I'm willing to bet Metallica doesn't either. They sure as hell better not. But I don't worry. James Hetfield hasn't let me down before. He's led us this far out of the rat maze. We'll make it. Just have faith.

And stop this damned sectarian civil war, you crybabies. Cliff Burton was a hippie. A headbanging pot-smoking hippie. Wrap your heads around that paradox. Then stop sniping at each others' heels. The evil minds that plot destruction are on the loose. Watch yer backs.

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