Metallica is in a position that most rock bands can only dream of. They’ve sold over 100 million records. They have the ability to sell out a brand new 50,000+ seat NFL stadium in a matter of minutes. They can pick and choose when and how they tour. They own their song masters to their entire back catalog, and now they own their own record label, Blackened Recordings, which means they’re not beholden to a major record label. Like I said, the stuff of dreams when it comes to rock bands.
However, is Blackened Recordings the real reason behind the delay in the production of Metallica’s new album?
It has been eight years since the release of Metallica’s last full-length release, Death Magnetic. It’s been commented before that The Beatles’ entire career spanned a shorter amount of time. Last week, the to the utter glee of Metallica fans, the band announced that their new album, Hardwired… to Self Destruct, will finally be released on November 18. So what took so long?
Certainly, Metallica hasn’t been entirely stagnant in the past eight years. There was the release of Lulu, the off-beat project Metallica did with rock legend Lou Reed. There was a major effort put into the production and release of their self-funded 3-D film, Through the Never, which reportedly took a total of two years to fully complete. There were a few one-off releases, including the Ronnie James Dio tribute song, “Ronnie Rising,” the Deep Purple cover, “When a Blind Man Cries,” and the original summer anthem, “Lords of Summer.”
And yet, Metallica fans have been salivating for an entire album of all new material. So, what took so long? Over the past few years, the members of Metallica — James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett and Robert Trujillo — have been largely dismissive about the delay, with vague responses like “we’re working on it,” with no real explanation of what part of the process they were currently in. Now, however, we may have some answers, and it looks as if the real culprit may be Metallica’s label, Blackened Recordings.
In an interview with the Twin Cities Pioneer Press, in conjunction with Metallica’s breaking in of Minnesota’s brand new U.S. Bank Stadium, Metallica frontman James Hetfield talked about owning their own back catalog and running their own label.
“We’ve been working on this record, realistically, for eight years. But it’s been two years starting to put songs together and, literally, the last two months is when it all started to come together. There’s no rules anymore as far as you’ve got to do what the record company says or what the manager says. It’s got to be cool and fun for us, that’s the number one priority.”
In that single statement, the conclusion could be made that Metallica had no major record label nagging them about deadlines and due dates. No longer does Metallica have a watchdog insisting on the validity of contracts and timetables. It could be said that as a result, Metallica may have had a form of freedom fatigue — now that they have no one to strictly orchestrate their career, the band has started to slack.
And yet, have they? In addition to the major projects listed above that they’ve undertaken in the last eight years, Kirk Hammett has established a successful annual horror festival (Fear FestEvil) in the Bay Area each year and put together a successful guitar pedal company. Trujillo has slaved over Jaco, a passion project documentary about legendary bassist Jaco Pastorius, and Lars has been hosting film premiere Q&A’s, drawing attention to small films that he has interests in.
So, Metallica has been around the last eight years in one form or another, but now it seems as though the band will be far more prominent for a few years to come. With the release of Hardwired… to Self Destruct on November 18, and the promise of a hearty North American tour in 2017, Metallica is back front and center.
[Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Metallica Through The Never]