As We Watch Metallica in Singapore Last Month, We Ask Ourselves, Should They’ve Quit While They Were Ahead?

Images Aloysius Lim

There they were, the godfathers of thrash metal, present in front of their eager only-black-t-shirt-wearing 10,000-member family they worked tirelessly to build for over three decades. What was it about Metallica that people still admired? We asked ourselves. Sure, they defined the sound of thrash metal. Their very existence is the reason bands in this particular genre are able to express themselves the way they do, but their music hasn’t been able to captivate people the way it did when they put out Master of Puppets or the self-titled album (also referred to as the Black album). Proof of that claim was seen through the engagement fans had when they performed songs from the early days of their career in comparison to ones from Hardwired… to Self-Destruct.

So, what was it about them that caused an emotional reaction from their fans?

Nostalgia.

Nostalgia sells extremely well. That’s why bands like Def Leppard, AC/DC, and Guns N’ Roses are still being booked for shows. Being able to watch a music act that resonated with you during a difficult time during your life, or someone you’ve grown up listening to, will always be a good idea even if their careers no longer are (hello Bon Jovi). Everyone has seen posts with captions along the lines of “My 14-year-old self is dying because I met (insert artiste’s name here)” — the cruel yet amusing irony here is that you are probably still your 14-year-old self if you are reacting to that musical phase of your life. But every human being enjoys going back to a moment that made them feel the most; Metallica did that to us.

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Seeing them for the fourth time was exciting because it’s been close to seven centuries and a half since we were surrounded by sweaty middle-aged men that smelt of beer and cigarettes — to each his own, alright? — at a heavymetal show. But mostly, it’s because we were curious to see what else had changed with Metallica since we last saw them. Did they add something to their stage setup that would make this tour more distinctive? Would they close with ‘Nothing Else Matters’? Well, they added some sick lasers to their vibrant light show — it was coordinated to Kirk’s riffs, goddammit! — and closed with ‘Enter Sandman’ instead.

While those might have broke the pattern a bit, it was still a little underwhelming. After observing the climate inside of the Singapore Indoor Stadium — the fans, the band, and the general excitement for this group — the thought of how much better it would have worked out for Metallica had they quit while they were ahead was becoming more difficult to ignore. If they had only agreed to make special appearances after their success, they probably would have been able to preserve their legacy and most importantly, their artistry. Now, instead of remembering Metallica for only being headbanging geniuses, the narrative always, always concludes with someone saying, “But their newer stuff isn’t great,” and no artiste deserves that.

Metallica performed at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Sunday 22 January ’17.