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James Hetfield: Cliff Burton Would Have Shown ‘Resistance’ to Metallica’s 1990s Albums

Christopher Polk, Getty Images
Christopher Polk, Getty Images

In recent years, James Hetfield has been brutally honest about the more maligned Metallica efforts as well as their failed ventures like the Into the Never film. In a new interview with Team Rock, he reflected on his personal bond with “ally” Cliff Burton and how the late bassist would have perceived their work following his death. He also offered some critical thoughts on everything from 1991’s ‘The Black Album’ through 2003’s St. Anger, going as far as calling the Load and Reload era the “U2 version of Metallica.”

When asked what Burton would have thought of Metallica’s output from 1991 through 2003, Hetfield revealed, “Well, I certainly would have thought there would have been some resistance, for sure.” Grateful for what they accomplished with producer Bob Rock on their eponymous record, he returned to the notion of Burton, adding, “I think Cliff would have probably interjected some different stuff, getting his bass heard and some more musically challenging things, probably.”

Turning his attention to Burton and the mid-’90s, Hetfield underscored his discontent with this period, stating, “I would certainly think that the Load and Reload [era], I would have had an ally that was very against it all – the reinvention or the U2 version of Metallica.” When asked if he was comfortable with this point of Metallica’s career, the frontman responded, “No, no, not at all.”

“There’s some great, great songs on there,” Hetfield admitted, continuing, “But my opinion is that all of the imagery and stuff like that was not necessary. And the amount of songs that were written was… it diluted the potency of the poison of Metallica. And I think Cliff would have agreed with that.”

“Well, I’m not sure,” he pondered when asked if St. Anger was a new start or the end of this era he had been discussing. “For me, St. Anger kind of stands alone. It’s more of a statement than an album. It’s more of the soundtrack to [Some Kind of Monster], in a way. There’s some really interesting and cool riffs, some great songs on there. But sonically it sounds fragmented, which is exactly where we were at the point. But in that fragmentation it brought us together. So it was a very necessary piece of the puzzle to get us where we are today,” Hetfield concluded.

All eyes are on Metallica this month as the legendary Bay Area outfit will be releasing their long-awaited new album, Hardwired… To Self Destruct. Three songs — “Hardwired,” “Moth Into Flame” and “Atlas, Rise!” — have all been released and pre-orders can be placed at the band’s website.

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