The Metallica song they never wanted to play live again

Metallica has earned the reputation of being the ultimate roaddogs. Even though they may have put hidden gems into every one of their albums, the thrash legends have always thrived when they took to the stage, crafting songs meant to be played at breakneck speeds amid various metal maniacs. Although the band did stretch the limits of what a metal song could be, they reached the end of the line when working on one of their epic pieces.

Then again, no Metallica song would be easy to perform live. When making a name for themselves in the thrash underground, the band wanted to make songs that were deliberately uncommercial, including tracks that stretched well beyond eight minutes. Following in the tradition of their idols like Black Sabbath, James Hetfield layered one riff on top of another to create a metal symphony whenever he played, including massive guitar harmonies on tracks like ‘Orion’.

By the time the band got to their third album, Master of Puppets, they had created a landmark record for metal that would be heralded as a classic for the thrash genre. Once the band took to the road to promote the record, they were unprepared to lose one of their own during a stop in Sweden.

As the band was touring through the countryside, a patch of black ice led to a horrific bus crash, killing bassist Cliff Burton instantly. As the band nursed their wounds, both physical and emotional, they quickly drafted in replacement Jason Newsted, leading to most of their pent-up emotions being directed at him.

Across their next album, And Justice for All, the band thought it would be funny to haze Newsted throughout the session, leading to most of his bass parts not being used in the final mix of the album. Even though the rest of the band were proud of their performances, Hetfield knew they had crossed the line on the title track.

While the song is a firm condemnation of the backwards system going on in America in the late 1980s, the song’s length was far too demanding for anyone to take on in a live setting. Braving through the song night after night, Hetfield once stormed backstage after performing one of the stops on the tour, proudly proclaiming that they would permanently retire the song.

As Kirk Hammett would recall later on, Hetfield announced, “WE’RE NOT PLAYING THAT FUCKING SONG AGAIN”, thinking that it was far too physically demanding to perform in a live setting. The band also had to consider their stage setup at the time, featuring a blindfolded Lady Justice at the centre of their live show, which would eventually come toppling down at the show’s end.

Aside from the skill required to play the song, the band would consistently have to dodge pieces of the set that crumbled to the floor, with Hetfield recalling multiple occasions where he needed to watch out for pieces of the statue hitting him between songs. While the band took the opportunity to flex their chops on tracks like ‘And Justice for All’, it’s no surprise why they wanted to pair things down when working on The Black Album with Bob Rock.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *