To play or not to play? That was the question. Metallica said YES! Donington went ahead and was heavier than ever. We bring you an update and an oversight on what they've been up to recently.
It seemed that the Castle Donington Monsters Of Rock Festival was doomed this year. Speculation had been rife earlier this year on who would headline, but as time passed, everyone and their mother had turned down the offer of headlining the event. There would be no festival this year, or so we thought, that is until the shock announcement that Metallica were to break off from their recording schedule to put the festival back on the map and put the smiles back on a hundred thousand faces.
Since their mammoth Where Ever We May Roam tour ground to a halt in the Summer of 1993, what has been going on in the ‘Black Ones’ camp? Despite the lack of product, quite a lot it would seem...
Metallica were supposed to be on am extended vacation for the duration of 1994 but, with itchy feet, they returned to performing with the Shit Hits The Sheds tour which travelled across America. The extravaganza started on May 30th 1994 at Darien Lake Amphitheatre, New York State, and saw the Metallimen playing to between 10,000 and 40,000 per night, by the end of which they’d played to at least one million people, making it one of the biggest grossing tours in the US last year, culminating in a prestigious appearance at the ‘Woodstock 2’ festival on August 13th and 14th.
MISERY LOVES COMPANY!
The major piece of news emanating from their camp over the lst year was the news of friction with their record company. Metallica filed a lawsuit against their US record label, Elektra, after the company rejected a new contract that the band had negotiated with the former head of Elektra Entertainment, Bob Krasnow, at the end of their ‘Where Ever We May Roam’ tour. When Krasnow left the company due to a high-level shake up, Elektra decided they wanted to rewrite it. Metallica argued they wanted more control over their original master tapes so their songs didn’t end up being used without their permission in crass commercials, etc. The suit alleged that their 10-year agreement signed with Elektra in 1984 is now illegal under Californian law, which limits 'personal service contracts' to seven years. Elektra said that Metallica's lawsuit was without merit and that their contract with the band was a valid and binding document and they would vigorously enforce its rights to the fullest extent of US law.
Since the suit was filed, every major label had apparently been in touch with Metallica's management Q-Prime, with offers for the band should they emerge victorious! These offers were ultimately futile gestures as Metallica, through careful negotiations, settled their differences and came out with a deal that was beneficial to all involved.
After the Shit Hits The Sheds jaunt, the band set about concentrating on writing for the follow up to the Metallica album. Drummer Lars Ulrich and guitarist/ vocalist James Hetfield, having been working on ideas and exchanging tapes with the other members of the band, started to record earlier this year.
As far as the recording process goes they are recording the whole album in Ulrich's home studio and have once again drafted in 'Big' Bob Rock (the man behind their multi-million selling last album) to produce it. If all goes to plan, Metallica expect to have the album out by the end of the year, although an early 1996 release is more likely.
However, the recording process is a monotonous process and can grind you down. Sometimes a break can increase the spontaneity in the studio. The first inkling Metallica gave that they needed to hit the road again came when it was announced that they would play a one-off show with Hole and Veruca Salt on the weekend of September 4th/5th. This came as exciting news to their fans, but disappointment set in when it was revealed that the venue was in the tiny Canadian outpost of Tuktoyaktuk, on the edge of the Arctic Circle! The event, labelled 'The Polar Beach Party,' is sponsored by Molson Ice Beer, and, to further the agony of Metallifans, entry is limited to 200 and tickets are only available through a competition.
Metallica must have heard the groans of agony emanating from Europe. Within weeks the Donington show was announced, resulting in tears of joy from fans all across Europe. But hold those cheers for just one second. Donington was the band's only European date this year. There were no European Monsters of Rock Festivals and due to the ticket restrictions many were left grieving at a missed opportunity too see the band.
So, how did this date come about? Apparently Metallica had been approached a few months before the event was announced, but had refused the offer due to the fact that they were concentrating all their efforts on their new album. But the organizers of the event persisted, ringing up the band's management constantly until the band actually sat down to discuss the idea. The prevailing factor in their decision to do the show was that it would be fun. After all, it wasn't intended to be a show to surpass that of Milton Keynes. It was just an excuse for them to get up in front of 80,000 people and crank out their favourite tunes and in the process pass on a lot of the fun to the assembled throng. Nothing more, nothing less.
Metallica had a major say in the support bands for the day. With no second stage this year, the line-up was suitably impressive, even more so when you realise that they only had approximately seven weeks in which to pull the whole thing together. In order the bill ran like a who's who of modern day Metal, and pound for pound it was comparable to arguably Donington's strongest ever bills, which took place in 11984 and 1988 respectively.
AND THE BANDS PLAYED ON!
So, from the bottom the running order of the day began with Corrosion Of Conformity followed by Warrior Soul, Machine Head, White Zombie, Slash's Snakepit, Slayer, Skid Row, Therapy? and ultimately the awesome Metallica. Now of that wasn't a bill to kill for then I don't know what is.
What was lacking in this most diverse of bills was a notable Grunge band, but that's maybe because Lars Ulrich isn't a fan. He recently slated the Grunge bands as being "too cool for their own good!" The self-confessed Metal maniad continued, "When I think back, bands like Iron Maiden, or Judas Priest, and Motley Crue, they would go out and connect with every one of the 20,000 people in the audience. The band and the audience would become one. I went to see Pearl Jam in Seattle, which was their big homecoming gig. There was absolutely no connection between the band and the audience. There's no interaction, there's no kind of vibe."
One had to wonder whether, backstage at Donington, Lars and Skid Row's Sebastian Bach got into such heated arguments over the merits of Diamond Head or Venom that they may nearly have forgotten completely about playing the gig at all!