Thursday, January 21, 2010

Celebrating the Metallic-Era

In 1996, a company called Neat Records jumped on the post-Load Metallica furor with a clever idea for a release: they licensed a bunch of the original versions of the songs Metallica had covered in the early 1980s, got a guy from a German metal magazine to write liner notes about each band, and put the whole thing out as The Metallic-Era. The implication was obvious: your metal heroes may have betrayed you twice over for the huge paydays, but here's music from back when they refused to compromise their ideals. In fact, we'll do you one even better and give you the original versions of the songs, so we can trade on the Metallica name while you revisit your lost youth without actually feeling guilty for listening to a band you've suddenly come to despise. As an added bonus, Neat Records was ahead of curve, putting out this release two years before Metallica jumped on their own nostalgia bandwagon and recompiled all of their cover recordings into one package.

I don't know how well the scheme worked from a sales perspective, but it got me while shopping in a now-defunct Circuit City in a Massachusetts suburb. Well, I say 'got me,' but the truth is that I was a teenager with an extremely limited music horizon who picked the album up because it had an association with a band I knew and loved, not because I had any of the history of the target audience. Besides, it had some funky cover art that mystifies me to this day: why would you take a money scale (a nice visual dig at Metallica) and stick a skull on it? Now how it will ever work? Besides, if you're going to attack the band's credibility, wouldn't you want to put the money on one side and some representation of integrity on the other?

In any case, the compilation - which I was listening to earlier today - turned out to be a fantastic investment: originally, of course, it was an introduction to a lot of great music. As time passed, however, I found that the track listing combined with the promo ads at the back of the CD booklet gave me enough of an education for me to able to talk a bit of the talk until we reached that magical time when old albums started growing on digital trees.

No comments: