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[Guest Post] Artist Spotlight: Metallica

The following is a very special guest post from my brother, Mike, who has kindly written up a few posts for me to use when I don't have a lot of time for blogging.

Whether you’re a Metallica fan, a former Napster junkie, or a keen observer of the music industry, you’re probably familiar with Metallica’s Napster lawsuits. In a nutshell, Metallica found out that people were stealing their songs via Napster, then proceeded to take legal action against both Napster and their own fans. And then the music world crucified them.

So for Metallica to offer free music on is quite a miracle! And 17 full shows, not just a few songs! What’s the catch? None, really. You have to sign up for a free account with, and then you’re free to download the free shows categorized under “The Vault.” Not sure why these shows were picked to be free, other than the fact that songs occasionally cut out early or start halfway through.

But who needs 17 free, Metallica concerts of varying sound quality? Well, probably no one. So unless you just want to go gung-ho and download all 17, I’ll just tell you about the ones I have downloaded and why.

1. San Francisco, October 18, 1982. The mix is all over the place, and James sounds like a 13-year-old girl sometimes. So why get this one? Well, for one thing, this features Dave Mustaine (!) on lead guitar, as undermixed as he may be in several songs. The following April he was kicked out and started Megadeth. For another thing, you get a good selection of Kill ‘em All tunes back when they were really new. Plus you get James’ incredibly stupid stage banter. I won’t spoil it, but it’s really childish, funny, repetitive, and often METAL to the core.

2. San Francisco, March 15th, 1985. Other than a few tuning problems, this is a good recording from the Ride the Lightning era, which many consider to be the defining Metallica period. James' vocals are more mature, and Cliff's "hungry grizzly bear" backup vocals in several songs are quite the spectacle. For a young Metallica at the very beginning of metal greatness, this show is a must.

3. Austin, TX, February 3, 1989. This is from the …And Justice for All tour. Metallica were poised to become kings of the music world within just a few years. There's much more confidence from the entire band onstage, and they were also learning how to control their tempos as well. James introduces bassist Jason Newstead as "Jason Newkid," of course, marking the beginning of a 14-year hazing period. This show is an excellent performance that stands midway between the "old" Metallica and the "new" Metallica of the 90's.

4. Middletown, NY, June 17, 1994. Metallica on top of the world, before their fans abandoned them the following year with the Load album. Truly “live album” quality with five great tunes from the Metallica album. Also essential for a really neat Kill ‘em All / Ride the Lightning medley. Metallica was a well-oiled and very professional metal machine at this point.

5. Orlando, FL, July 13, 2003. St. Anger tour this time. Virtually identical in many respects to the NY show, but this time with Robert Trujillo on bass, the third great bassist in a row for Metallica. Also features two songs (!?) from the grossly underrated and overhated St. Anger album and one (!?) from Load/Reload. Wish they could have played more!

So there you have it. Take my suggestions or make your own choices. The above five shows span every major era and lineup of Metallica. I don’t know about you, but I sure am looking forward to downloading the next Metallica album illegally on Limewire (kidding!).

1. Official website:
2. Live Metallica:

Thanks, Mike! Those are some awesome picks. I had already downloaded a few of those shows, but I went back and downloaded the other ones you mentioned and have been really enjoying them. The only show I downloaded that wasn't mentioned here is the August 23, 1995 show from London, UK, which I think is pretty special because it features some Load/ReLoad songs performed nearly a year before Load was even released. "2X4" and "Devil's Dance" are both performed in their entirety, "Better Than You" is jammed on a little bit, and "Seek & Destroy" features an extended jam section that wanders deftly in and out of "The Outlaw Torn". Pretty cool stuff.


Album Spotlight: Nine Inch Nails - The Slip

Well, as promised in the last couple of singles that Nine Inch Nails released, heading to on May 5th yielded yet another great treat, this time in the form of a new album that is totally free to download. The Slip is the 27th official release from Nine Inch Nails (as you may already know, official Nine Inch Nails releases, including albums, EPs, and singles, have a Halo number assigned to them; The Slip is numbered as Halo 27) and was released on the website with the following message from Trent Reznor: "thank you for your continued and loyal support over the years - this one's on me."

After the ambient, haunting, all-instrumental Ghosts I-IV (which was only released 2 months ago), The Slip represents a return to more familiar sonic territory. All of the NIN trademarks are here: vocals that range from a barely-heard whisper to a full-on scream, frenetic drumbeats, pulsating synths, guitars that are sometimes distorted past the point of recognition, and beautiful piano lines underscoring it all. It's definitely not as adventurous as Ghosts was, but given Reznor's message, I think a more traditional sounding album was exactly what he was going for.

The poppier sound of With Teeth and Year Zero can still be heard in songs like "Discipline" and "Echoplex", both of which are among the strongest songs on the album. "Discpiline" has the same kind of dirty-disco sound that "The Hand That Feeds" had, making it danceable and totally rocking at the same time. "Echoplex" also brings The Fragile to mind, being somewhat mellower and more guitar-driven.

Some of the drum sounds on this album are also particularly noteworthy. I especially like the sound of the drums on "1,000,000" - I can't recall the drums on any NIN song ever sounding so alive, and since the song starts off with nothing but drums, it really grabs the listener's attention. The following song, "Letting You", has some of the fastest drumming I've ever heard on a Nine Inch Nails song; they sound more programmed than live, but they really contribute to the aggressive feel of the song.

The Slip's emotional centerpiece comes in the form of a suite of songs that starts with "Lights in the Sky", a quiet, piano-driven ballad with some of the most gut-wrenching lyrics Reznor has ever written. It leads smoothly into "Corona Radiata", a lengthy instrumental piece that has two distict parts to it. The first is somewhat ethereal sounding, with the main melody played on what sounds like a heavily muted and processed piano; the second is very dark and ominous, with droning guitars, rising and falling synthesizers, and lots of noise, ending with what sounds like a scream that gets silenced just as quickly as it began; I think there are perhaps still some Ghosts making their presence felt in this song, which is fine by me. Another instrumental piece, "The Four of Us Are Dying", follows, this time with more of a Fragile feel to it.

Also included with the download is a PDF with liner notes and artwork for every song. As I mentioned in my review of "Echoplex", the artwork is very intriguing and looks like it could be a part of something bigger. Perhaps most intriguingly, the artwork for "Letting You" includes an element from the Year Zero artwork - does this imply a relationship between the two, or is it just a cool symbol that Trent wanted to reuse? Whatever the case, it is clear that, even if he is cranking out new music ten times faster than he ever did before, he has put an enormous amount of thought and care into the preparation of this album.

All in all, The Slip is one of the nicest surprises I've received so far this year. It contains everything that I like about Nine Inch Nails and is a great reminder of why I love this artist so much in the first place. I can't recommend this album highly enough, so if you are at all interested, please go download a copy for yourself and let me know what you think. Happy listening!



Song Spotlight: Nine Inch Nails - "Echoplex"

Trent Reznor just doesn't stop. Less than two weeks after the release of the "Discipline" single, yesterday saw the release of another single called "Echoplex". Unlike the last few free Nine Inch Nails releases, this one was released on NIN's iLike page.

"Echoplex" is a farily upbeat sounding song, with a driving drum beat reminiscent of Year Zero's "The Beginning of the End" and "Survivalism". The guitar and bass are both very prominent, and at times the vocals remind me of the end of "Somewhat Damaged" from The Fragile. In other words, it has the Nine Inch Nails stamp all over it. If you're already a fan, this track will very likely appeal to you; if not, it probably won't do much to convince you otherwise (although stranger things have happened). I just feel that Trent has been on the biggest role of his career these last few years, and I have been thoroughly enjoying all of his output; "Echoplex" is no exception.

Like "Discipline", the "Echoplex" MP3 comes with embedded lyrics and artwork, as well as a comment stating "Go to May 5". The artwork for both songs also looks like it is a part of something larger; it really looks like another new Nine Inch Nails album is just over the horizon.

So while we're all waiting to see just what it is Mr. Reznor has planned for us on Monday, please go check out "Echoplex" for yourself. Happy listening!