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Metal Mondays: Bands shouldn’t change their brand just for more money

In August, I was lucky enough to get to see Metallica in New Jersey with my dad on the group’s “M72 World Tour.” It was amazing, and both nights were filled with Metallica’s staple pyrotechnics and iconic loudness. All members of the band seemed to be playing just like they would have been in their prime.

Before the shows began, a couple of commercials would play on the electronic boards around MetLife Stadium and Metallica’s stage setup. Most of them seemed pretty standard: a Liquid Death advertisement, a video where Kirk Hammett and Rob Trujillo support the All Within My Hands Foundation, etc.

However, one commercial stuck out to me as particularly out of place. In an ad for Metallica’s Blackened Whiskey, James Hetfield adorns a cowboy hat and a suede jacket, which turns into a simple black button-up shirt after a cutaway from the whiskey.

After watching the ad, I told my dad, “There is absolutely no reason that James Hetfield, one of the most iconic people in rock and metal, needs to be wearing a cowboy hat.” That was when I realized what people in the metal community meant when they said Metallica “sold out.” 

Originally, I thought people who said that were just trying to act like they were above liking Metallica. I always enjoyed their early music, and their self-titled album — also known as the Black Album — is not that bad, even if it is more stadium rock than thrash. 

But I saw Greed’s face that night in the clip of Hetfield sliding a cowboy hat on his neatly trimmed hair. It reminded me how much the band sacrificed when they released the Black Album; Metallica’s music would never be able to return to the same intensity heard in “Master of Puppets” and “Ride the Lightning.” 

The four members of Metallica are probably the richest people in the metal industry right now, but they left behind the old, angry sound that Metallica fans love. While they played these songs at their show, the band played many newer songs that the crowd didn’t connect with. Instead of playing more classic songs like “Am I Evil?” or “Jump In The Fire,” they played singles from “72 Seasons,” which had the lowest first-week sales numbers in years.

Metallica may have the most infamous track record of “selling out,” but it is hardly the first band to alter its image and sound just for the money. Kiss dropped its iconic stage makeup in the 1980s to look more like the hair metal acts that were dominating the charts at the time, and have since gone on multiple farewell tours. Green Day abandoned its punk roots in 2004 to release “American Idiot,” making the band commercially successful but an unrecognizable band to longtime fans.

This is not to say bands cannot change their sound. I want my favorite bands to be able to do what they want, musically and financially. If they keep making music that sounds the same solely for the sake of the fans, they will get burnt out and lose the passion they started with. If they get the opportunity to sign with a record label that will allow them to have more outreach and make a better livelihood, fans should be happy for them. Now, that does not mean we should ignore when bands take advantage of their fans and release a money grab, or when they leave the metal industry that built them up.

Many bands have changed their sound significantly and still stayed true to their fans. For example, Sepultura dove into nu-metal territory in 1996 with the album “Roots Bloody Roots,” but still incorporated thrash influences. Additionally, Sepultura still honored its Brazilian heritage and politically charged messaging in its music, keeping a very similar tone to previous works.

Some bands never significantly change their sound, and that has also been successful. Pantera is one of the biggest groups in metal, and the group stayed largely consistent with its blisteringly heavy groove metal. Slayer was thrash metal at its peak, and it kept the breakneck tempos and blasphemous lyricism turned up to 10 until the band’s last show.

When you compare the bands labeled “sellouts” to bands like Sepultura, Pantera and Slayer, it makes you question whether it was worth it for Metallica or Kiss or Green Day. While they may have higher net worths, their lows will always be a stain on their legacy. Fans of Metallica will never be able to forgive what the Black Album did to their favorite band and the metal industry as a whole. Fans of Slayer will always remember how the band always delivered for its fans.

I still love Metallica and Kiss, and I like the occasional Green Day song. It is just important to remember no matter how metal and rock ‘n’ roll spirited bands may seem, they still have to make a living. While this can happen within metal record labels, it is a lot harder than it once was to do that. However, the only way there could ever possibly be a true metal revival would be if up-and-coming metal bands stayed within the metal record label realm and stayed strong against offers that would make them the next band to be labeled “sellouts.”

Jackson McCoy is a freshman studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to share your thoughts? Let Jackson know by emailing or tweeting him at or @_jackson_mccoy_.

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