My Rock Education 1: Metallica

At no point of time have I had my own music collection—rock, jazz or anything for that matter. Listening to bits on TV and radio, random songs stored on my computer—mostly recommended, never borrowed out of choice—tuning into classics from my parents’ collective stash, that sort of thing. Never had a shoebox full of discs or cassettes that I called mine. Still don’t.

I had no preferences, no prejudices, no musical taste. Everything they showed on the telly and radio was generally accepted as good, and I was okay with that: hip hop, soul, and pop. I guess I got used to listening to all the garbage thrown at me.

Rock music initiation

I should’ve known it was meant to be when I watched Metallica’s video of Unforgiven Two on VH1, last evening. That set the ball rolling, and my roommate suggested me to watch Some Kind of Monster, a documentary that chronicles the individual and collective lives of the people who make Metallica while they were busy at work on a rock album, St Anger. Not that I didn’t know anything about Metallica, but admittedly, I knew very little.

Metallica rock hall of fame band
A rock n roll Metallica artwork (Credit: Unsplash)

I didn’t know who the players were, their history, their candid personalities, not even their names; just that their music was good—Nothing Else Matters—and loud. I kinda like loud now. That wasn’t the case growing up, loudness and noise was pretty much what I associated rock music (especially heavy metal) with: harsh and uncouth on the ear, and it wasn’t my cup of tea. Who in their right minds would want to bleed their ears to death?

Much has been written about the rock documentary in question, more so of the band, so no point repeating. What I liked most was its amazing insight into the birth pangs of Metallica’s music. The jamming sessions of Ulrich, Hetfield, and Hammett (yeah, I know their names now) in a leased studio, digesting the day’s work, searching for the bits in there that are worthy of a song, and finally etching out the lyrics. There’s method to their madness, controlled chaos, and it was enlightening to see.

But that isn’t all the documentary covers. The album is a mere sub-plot to what the cameras ultimately capture: Metallica’s inner discord, and its struggle to survive. Broadly, it puts people and their relationships in perspective, and their attempts at exorcising their personal demons to flourish again as a group. It’s real-life events, therefore unscripted, honest and truthful and recommended to everyone who wants to know more about Metallica—arguably at their most weakest and greatest juncture. However, be warned that at the end of it, you will feel an uncontrollable urge to hear Metallica’s St Anger album. Guaranteed. Otherwise you aren’t what we describe ourselves as “normal people”.

Metallica on the rock

I should’ve known I was getting sucked into a rabbit hole when I asked my roommate for his Metallica collection. It was past midnight, very unlike me to tune into any kind of music at that hour, let alone rock. But there in my room, at an ungodly hour, I heard St Anger and Death Magnetic for the very first time… and I felt at home. Over two hours of frenetic music, it never felt crude or unsophisticated, but gentle and soothing. It was peaceful in an alien way, and I liked it.

For me, I don’t think there ever was a better time or place to listen to better music other than Metallica.

Nikhil what have you done, mate?