Wednesday, May 23, 2012
What "Fade To Black" Means To Me (2012 Orion Music Contest Submission)
At their core, Metallica has always created what I like to call “bedroom records”. These are the albums which we retreat to in our darkest hours where we find a place of solace and turn to the music for answers. On the surface, Metallica’s music may instigate aggression and serve as a funnel for pain, but their music is more spiritual than anyone gives them credit for. One of the keys to the lasting legacy of Lightning is how the band gently wrapped melodies around an impenetrable thundering wall of music. Over time I found myself returning to this record as new mysteries are unveiled and the songs guide me. There's a ferocious side to the record and an equally composed yet superbly solemn side as well. The key to being truly innovative and creating great art is to take chances and to wear your heart on its sleeve. Metallica did this with arrangements that had shadows of orchestral arrangements, an acoustic guitar and even dare I say it, a ballad, "Fade To Black". Beneath the destruction and death, "Fade To Black” is a song fans wrap themselves up in. People put the headphones on in their bedroom, they grab their vinyl, stare at it and somehow they hope that the circular disc can make sense of their inner tribulations. I’m not sure if there is anything more gripping than Hetfield soulfully singing “I was me but now he’s gone” and the lyrics leave us with the impression that the story ends in tragedy but musically, it radiates positive reinforcement simply by the empowering performances. Particularly interesting are the wailing orchestral solos provided by Kirk Hammett adding a texture to the band that would be mimicked time and time again along with the monolithic accompaniment that late and great Cliff Burton’s bass provides under Lars Ulrich’s gallant drumming and James Hetfield’s unremitting rhythm guitar. “Fade To Black” has the poetic splendor of U2, the bedroom intimacy of Springsteen and the raw aggression of Black Sabbath and AC/DC. Metallica managed to create epics that wouldn't just let you bang your worries away, but you could also crawl inside of to find shelter and no song on Lightning does this better than “Fade To Black”.
On Ride the Lightning Metallica provided a road map of possibilities for an entire generation of music fans allowing the metal genre to become something more than a fly by night fluke; they helped metal become art. Metallica didn't just spin the metal world on their heads; they showed us that heavy metal could compliment one’s life forcing us to not just make sense of our scorn but to overcome it as well. Art is capable of tinting your world into unexpected colors and opening your mind to new experiences. If “Fade to Black” (and “The God That Failed” from 1991’s Metallica) has taught me anything, it’s to not stand down in the face of fear. In our existence as we roam the Earth, we will be confronted by inconsolable tragedies and inconceivable shadows but we can learn from them, challenge ourselves and with the ammunition of knowledge through their music, we will be well equipped for future battles. During these times, it’s easy to retreat and let the pain get the best of you, but listening to the serene and strapping arrangements on “Fade To Black” completely complements the ominous lyrics inducing a sense of strength and clarity. At my darkest moments, I have found myself returning to this song time and time again. It’s not that I ever thought about ending my life, but it consoled me the way best records do. Quite simply, it made me feel that I was not alone in this existence. Hearing this song meant Metallica had to experience the same trials and tribulations but somehow they made it through somehow. The song to my ears has never been pro-suicide, but a telling tale to its listeners. One has to remind itself that every great success story in life has come about because that given person didn’t give up when their back was pushed against the wall. Through heartache, loneliness, aching, career dissatisfaction and personal tribulations including death, I know I am not alone.
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