When Metallica emerged in the early 80s no one ever expected them to ever be classic elder statesmen.
The cover of their debut album Kill ‘Em All is still the one of the most iconic metal sleeves of all time, doing away with the horror and mythology that typified the scene through the 70s. The hammer, the pool of blood and shadowy hand looming is still one of the most striking images of the era, kicking off a 10-year period when they’d legitimately become the biggest rock band in the world, while still leading the so-called Big Four of thrash along with Slayer, Anthrax and Metallica.
Fast forward 36 years, you can’t help doing a double-take seeing James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett playing the US National Anthem at the NBA finals, a few days before playing Slane Castle, reserved for the world’s most legendary rock acts (give or take the odd Robbie Williams, the Verve or Stereophonics).
Slane owner Lord Henry Mountcharles has said in the last few years that he’s a rocker at heart, and while not exactly dissing the odd soft-rock or indie booking, he got back in headbanger territory with Guns N’ Roses in 2017, and has now settled on Metallica – the heaviest band to ever play the iconic Castle grounds.
Metallica are in the middle of their Worldwired tour – trying to stay vital in a metal scene that’s splintered into hundreds of sub-genres. It was a lot easier in 1983 when they mixed metal with brutal hardcore and thrash was hammered out.
Their most brutal years may be over, but scanning their setlists for this tour, they’re digging deep into the past, juggling the diehards with the passive metallers, playing their biggest Black Album cuts like Enter Sandman, Sad But True and their ‘ballad’ Nothing Else Matters’ along with stone tablet iconic tracks such as Master of Puppets, Ride the Lightning and Seek and Destroy.
While I marvelled last year at Slayer’s ability to capture their headbutt intensity in a huge hall like the 3Arena, we’re going up many notches for Slane – an even harder one to pull off than a stadium given the venue’s prestige.
But Metallica’s a hulking, well-oiled metal machine never buckles under the pressure, from the Ecstasy of Gold intro to the outrageous pyro to the odds-on bet they’ll do their thrash cover of Whiskey in the Jar-oooo-aaah!
And as the biggest branded metal band on the planet, pure diehards (with plenty of cash) can visit the actual travelling Metallica museum and drink Metallica Enter Night pilsner. But even if you’re not financially in the black, a regular punter will catch the biggest rock show of the year, with fireworks going off way before the encore.
- Metallica play Slane Castle this Saturday, June 8