For the best part of 20 years Metallica’s recorded output has, to say the very least, had its ups and downs and, though I have enjoyed elements of Load, Reload, Death Magnetic and, yes, even St. Anger, the band’s reputation has been carried by their live shows since the early 1990s. So, the release of a new live album from the band was still something I was looking forward to, despite all the fuss they are making about the 3D movie that accompanies it.
Unfortunately, if this album is anything to go by, Metallica may be on the verge of losing even their live power.
Through The Never comprises 16 (well, 15 really as one is Morricone’s The Ecstasy of Gold) of Metallica’s biggest songs from every era of the band’s existence except St Anger, so the tracklist is predominantly ‘hit after hit’ with newer track Cyanide also fitting in with this and promises much.
From the start though its clear that the Metallica of 2013 are not the powerful and intense live machine they once were. I first saw the band live in 2003 and then they were still a force to be reckoned with. Subsequently however this has slipped and when I last saw them on the World Magnetic tour, while the show was excellent, the band’s actual performance was not the legendary thing it had once been and here, on Through The Never, it seems there has been a continued decline into something I could possibly head towards describing as ‘cabaret metal’.
So, I should probably clear up exactly what I mean. On Through The Never it is clear Metallica are technically playing a tighter and less baggy set than at almost any time in their career – gone (thankfully) are the over-indulgent 20 minute guitar solos of Live Shit: Binge and Purge but also gone is any sense of vitality and raw energy that had once been the band’s calling card replaced with a rather stagey feel that may come from the fact that the live shows recorded here feature a huge array of props and sets for the band to work around.
Here what we get, aside from a few moments where that power is hinted at but never realised, is a very solid and mannered performance of some of the band’s biggest songs, but gone is anything to really draw the listener into the music and anything that was what connected me to their sounds more than a decade ago.
I will add, in the defence of at least one member of the band, the moments when Robert Trujillo’s backing vocals cut through and his bass is allowed space, he still seems to have some of what made the band great, even though he is the newest member and was never in the band in their heyday.
So, while this album sounds fine, it is far from special and sounds to me like a band going through the motions and more focused on being a nostalgia and greatest hits act than the real force of new and original music they still claim to be.
And here’s the trailer for the aforementioned 3D movie….