May 3rd, 2012 / 6:20 pm

Democratized Moments of Egoism in “Nothing Else Matters”

1. “The Solo,” James Hetfield

Video still (5:12), Youtube

© 1992 Warner Bros.





James Hetfield is the singer, chief songwriter, and front man of Metallica. He wrote “Nothing Else Matters” and is the predominant figure of not just this video, but all their songs, and their entire ethos. This is fine. It’s consistent with the logic of most bands: a guy drapes chords around a diary entry and finds three other guys to fill in the low and high ends. Traditionally, the guitar solo — appearing at approximately 2/3rds into it, whose melodic evocations serve as a tight stringy emotive refrain — is reserved for the lead guitarist, in our case Kirk Hammett; though, here, James had to not just perform the lead solo, but dedicate its duration to filming the nuances of the various facial expressions which all worked together to corroborate this personal rapture towards his own notes. Kirk Hammett is a very competent guitarist and could have easily done the solo. True, one could argue that James wrote the solo, but that is not the point. The point is James has overstepped the guitar solo boundaries. Every time I watch this part of the video I feel repulsed.

2. “The Meta-mirror,” Lars Ulrich

Video still (3:14), Youtube

© 1992 Warner Bros.





What makes Lars Ulrich’s douchebagness simply eerie — as compared to those who concede, even relish, to being so e.g. Kanye West, David Lee Roth, Keith Richards — is that he presents himself as a serious, perhaps even moral, figure in the music industry, making the smug douchebagosity that much more uncanny. (Sting, Chris Martin, and Bono also suffer from this; and Beck is headed there.) Here, in an odd Diderotian breaking-of-the-fourth-wall gesture, Lars looks into the camera as if it were a mirror, adjusting his mane with a self-confidence that makes one wonder if he’s aware of how sparse his hairline is. The message seems to say: You’re lucky to have the view of my mirror. You’re lucky we’ve decided to do this “casual b-reel footage” video in which our extreme pedestrian mellowness is an unlikely and refreshing break, being that we are the gods of music.

3. “Political Photo Op,” Kirk Hammett

Video still (4:08), Youtube

© 1992 Warner Bros.





Metallica’s politics are somewhat vague and contradictory. Metal (as with other subversive-ish genres e.g. punk, goth, and rap) is implicitly “rebellious,” which would logically stand as anti-country or -government; also, they are from the California Bay Area, one of the most liberal places in the Unites States, so one must balance the cloudy lightning-stricken darkness with all this pleasant weather. Much of their motifs (e.g. the Black Album “Don’t Tread on Me” Snake — its flag also seen in said video; “Blitzkrieg,” off Kill ‘Em All, named after Nazi-Germany militia methodology) seem more in collusion with American conservative pro-war reactionaryism. The sausage fest of metal fans comprise of both the most emasculated and homophobic. The camera holds on this shot a little too long, as Kirk Hammett takes a little too much time stuffing what appears to be a $5 dollar bill in a Veteran’s donation box, such that we can clearly see this supportive gesture that reeks of condescension. A five dollar beer will make you feel better, but a five dollar bill will make you feel better about yourself. This was perhaps the best $5 dollars ever spent in the history of public relations. All is fair in love, war, and marketing.

4. “Basketball,” Jason Newsted

Video still (1:54), Youtube

© 1992 Warner Bros.





Even their basketball is black. This is how serious metal is. Jason, the eternal kid brother of Metallica, does a backwards hook shot whose point is left unclear, edited out before the basketball goes or doesn’t go through the net. I imagine the bonus features including demonstrations of their unexpected deftness at Jenga, frisbee, hacky sack, and other things the Grateful Dead would probably be good at. For every unhappy acne-faced boy too shy for girls but too cool for school, he can take a black sharpie and draw the Metallica logo on his binder, thus joining a secret society, an adolescent’s peek into the near profound — of double bass drums and the thick palm-muted crunch of an open low E-string grinding away at a riff. This secret society, of course, is not so secret, but tell that to 5. a kid who just discovered something big, and who cares if the world already knew. Virgin taste always tastes the best. I took my allowance and bought the world I would live in for the half decade or so, opaque plastic beige cassette tapes as light tombstones balanced on my bed, squinting at the tiny lyrics. Metallica’s legacy may be constrained to their first four albums, and their subsequent ventures proof that it’s better to burn out than fade away. I’ll never apologize for pop-‘s stigma and prefix before metal, or anything else, a sweaty shirtless me in my room going fucking ballistic, lanky arms flailing so many times at invisible cymbals I must have, statistically, at least made one basket.


  1. Anonymous

      FYI, Blitzkrieg is not “off Kill ‘Em All.”  It is the B-side to the Creeping Death single and was added to a 1989 releases of Kill ‘Em All as an extra track along with Am I Evil?.  It was not written by Metallica; it is a cover song that was originally written by the band of the same name (Blitzkrieg).  I find this entire article, or whatever you want to call it, garbage. Thank you and good day.

  2. Jimmy Chen

      First off, it’s not “Garbage,” but “Garbage Inc.,” a 1998 compilation album, including rare B-side covers along with the original “The $5.98 E.P.: Garage Days Re-Revisited,” released in 1987, the year your ball dropped. Mind the singular. I find your comment, or whatever you want to call it, so 4 minutes ago.

  3. lorian long

      omg metallica fight rules marie calloway fight ALWAYS.

  4. Anonymous

      FYI, no one gives a shit.

  5. Ultra Vegina

      1987 was when Michael Jackson’s Bad was released. The singer compulsively grabbed his crotch in the promotional video. That’s probably the best move (dance move and plain move) someone has come up with in ages.

      Metallica is pure guano.

      Everything is manufactured garbage and everything is of some other time past.

      I find this piece about Metallica to be wonderful.

  6. Noah Cicero

      I love metallica. I drew metallica on my notebooks. I had sweet metallica shirts. God, I was cool in 94. grew up to be an ass.

  7. Bobby Dixon

      I still have my Metallica shirt designed by Pushead

  8. Steven Vineis

      The crippling disappointment Metallica fans have contended with since the release of “The Black Album” is possibly the greatest narrative arc in music history. The self-absorbed, oft-hilarious, criminally overwhelming, absolutely awful output that has come from Metallica starting with this record is the greatest example of a tarnished legacy.

      And it just gets better.

      I mean, imagine the dude parked in his pickup, 12:03 AM, August 12, 1991. Drinking Reingold by the double-fist. Hearing the first few notes of THE BLACK ALBUM. THE BLACKEST OF THEM ALL. He was there, waiting at the record store doors, hours, FUCKING HOURS, just to get Metallica’s newest record. TURNING THAT SHIT UP. The tense, impenetrable wait, punctuated by head-banging parties, gathered around a keg with his worn, doubly-purchased “Justice” cassette flittering in the stereo. And now, here he is. Others, echoes, compressed guitars, choruses, various spots on the record, life outside the truck…all fans who just couldn’t wait to hear this album.

      “Enter Sandman,” okay, it’s not how the rest of this will be, it’s just the single. And so on. And so on. But that first acoustic strum makes his heart seize. And that melody makes his stomach ache. And suddenly, his dreams, hopes, the agony of what his life has become being in his thirties, in a basement, all comes to a flash before him and the vicious snaps of cassette plastic as the other patrons of the parking lot smash THE BLACK ALBUM to shreds and contend with the inescapable truths of mortality for the first time.

      And then, “Nothing Else Matters” begins.

      And that song, right there, is when our protagonist finally begins to cry, and Metallica is officially over for him.

      That was the song that killed the die-hards. Right there. THAT SONG.

  9. Anonymous

       this is my favorite comment ever.

  10. Steven Vineis

      I’m now considering writing a case study of a die-hard Metallica fan and reporting upon their scene-by-scene reaction of watching “Some Kind of Monster” for the first time. Or like Milgram’s obedience test.

      “Oh, he head-banged to that 4.5-second snippet of ‘Frantic?’ 1,000 volts.”

  11. Anonymous

      i’d read the shit out of that shit

      sometimes i think about that scene in SKoM when Lars sells his art collection for millions of dollars and like collapses with pure ecstasy and i just feel sick.

  12. Steven Vineis

      “You know what really just, makes my dick hard? That kick sound right fucking there. Can we just do all of them like that?”

      (somewhere, off-screen, in a less impressive yet still pretty impressive bloated recording studio, Mustaine puts down his flying-V and sheds a single tear, but blames it on the season, not on the soul.)

  13. Matthew Simmons

      The seed of this terrible fall: Bob Rock produces Metallica’s cover of “Stone Cold Crazy” for that 40th anniversary of Elektra comp, Rubáiyát. 


      Some Elektra publicist called the lyrics to “Nothing Else Matters,” “sexy.”

  14. Anonymous

       You may take the douchebag name for yourself, as well, you dick.

  15. Frank Tas, the Raptor

      Guys MCA is dead don’t any of you care???

  16. Anonymous

      wow, you really stuck it to him there.

  17. mimi

      i’ve been listening to all my beastie faves because i care  

      Flame on, I’m gone
      I’m so sweet like a nice bon bon
      Came out rapping when I was born
      Mom said rock it ’til the break of dawn

  18. deadgod

      They did have a nice line in self-mockery — which I uncharitably doubt that much of their revenue raw material took closely to heart.  If Mom gives permission and even encouragement to “rock” it, how “rock” is it, really?  Not that there’s much deeply wrong with middle-class, politically-leftish ‘rebellion’ – especially compared to middle-class Tea Klan “dissent” (turning into a fave self-descriptor among Tea Asylum tweaters) – , but I think the Beasties were (condescendingly?) more hip to the non-revolutionary character of ‘you gotta fight for the right’ than were their frisbee/ticket-purchasing fans.