Metallica may not be standard Ave Noctum fare, but it is probably fair to say that they will have crossed paths with just about every metalhead at some point or another. For some they will have simply been a short dalliance when the black album erupted, or perhaps served as a gateway band on the way to more extreme auditory delights, but for many dedicated Metallifans around the world “Birth, School, Metallica, Death” holds true and those fans remain some of the most committed of any band.
The Worldwired Tour has been rolling around the globe intermittently since 2016, selling out arena after arena and I had to have just one more fix before the tour came to an end so I packed my bag and headed off to the beautiful Swedish capital, Stockholm. There was a great atmosphere in the city over the weekend leading up to the gig with Metallica shirts everywhere and the bars full of fans enjoying the mini heatwave.
As Monday afternoon turned into evening, I made my way to The Ericsson Globe which, as its name suggests, is a spherical structure not unlike a huge golf ball. Inside the Globe, the stage was in the centre of the floor ensuring a decent view from anywhere in the imposing structure with banks of monitors suspended high above the stage which would be used to good effect during the show.
I grabbed the obligatory beer and merch and made my way to my seat for Kvelertak. They are a band I like, but I have to be honest and say that at the three other shows on this tour where I have seen them, they haven’t really come across as well as they should have done. I’m not sure whether it is the cavernous arenas, a slightly dodgy mix in the PA or perhaps an unfamiliar (partisan?) crowd but something simply hasn’t been quite right.
With this in mind I was a little tentative as the Norwegians took to the stage, wasting no time unleashing their brand of high energy metal upon a small but enthusiastic crowd. Frontman Erlend Hjelvik looked like a hirsute caveman as he rampaged around the large stage leading the charge, at times wearing a huge owl’s head mask and at others waving a huge flag over the crowd. Their gnarly sound was relentless, with punk influenced outbursts rubbing shoulders with black metal elements and catchy grooves, creating a blistering barrage which was well received by those who had come in early. They were a tight, well oiled machine, and although I still think they are much better suited a small sweaty club venues, they won themselves some new fans during this set.
The energy levels ramped up as the arena filled to capacity in anticipation of tonight’s headliners, Metallica, whose arrival was heralded as always by Ennio Morricone’s ‘The Ecstasy of Gold’. The opening track was not surprisingly ’Hardwired’, and while the band were tight and the sound was good, this felt a little sterile and as though the band were simply going through the motions. Thankfully this was rectified with a more urgent ‘Atlas Rise!’, giving a definite rise in intensity. It was at this point that I realised that everyone around me was sat down, and barely anyone was singing along or head banging or anything. I’m sure I was being frowned upon as the rowdy Brit!
There was then a brief foray back to ‘Kill ‘em All’ in the form of ‘Seek and Destroy’, prompting the first real sing along of the night and then an absolutely blistering ‘Hit the Lights’ which was one of my highlights of the night. During these tracks, the large TV monitors were lowered down showing pictures of the band from the early days, old ticket stubs and so on. The band retreated briefly while Rob did a short bass solo, leading into another older track ‘Welcome Home (Sanitarium)’ which was polished and yet absolutely crushing. Looking around, it seemed that there were a few die hards who knew every word, but also a lot of people who simply had no idea what these tracks were. The band returned to the latest album with a chugging ‘Now That We’re Dead’ which saw four large “cubes” appearing on the stage. In the mid section of the song, the band broke into a percussive interlude with all four members taking part using these electronic drum kits. James introduced another new song with an apology….”Sorry if it’s too heavy for Sweden” before the rarely aired ‘Dream No More’ rumbled its way around the Globe.
The energy levels were picked up once more during ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ with the crowd loudly singing along as the band seemed in a good mood playfully jousting with each other. The magnificent ‘Halo on Fire’ followed with a disappointingly muted response from the crowd.
It has become tradition on this tour for Rob and Kirk to perform a cover version relevant to the host city at this point in the set. Manchester got Oasis’ ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’, Birmingham got Black Sabbath’s ‘War Pigs’, London got The Clash’s ‘London Calling’, and more recently Norway got Aha’s ‘Take on Me’ and the two nights earlier Stockholm got Europe’s ‘The Final Countdown’. I was looking forward to hearing what was lined up for this second night in Sweden, and it only took a few bars before the crowd recognised Abba’s ‘Dancing Queen’. To say this was a little different to the original would be huge understatement! Both Rob and Kirk looked self conscious to start with but soon settled into it with the crowd singing along. Kirk departed, leaving Rob on the stage for a poignant ‘Anaesthesia (Pulling Teeth)’ with images of Cliff Burton projected onto the monitors high above the stage.
Budgie cover ‘Breadfan’ followed, which was good to hear, although it seemed many didn’t know it which was a surprise given the recent re-release of the ‘Garage Days Re-Revisited’ EP. The momentum was kept up with ‘Fuel’ as pyros lit up the arena before ‘Moth into the Flame’ was introduced as being about those seduced by fame and was accompanied by small illuminated drones flying around the stage. There was brief respite while James’ bantered with the crowd reflecting on the age range of those who come to Metallica shows these days and even making a light hearted attempt to play match maker between a 13 year old boy and girl on the front row!
It was surprising that we got to this stage in the set without visiting the ‘Black Album’ but this was rectified with a thundering ‘Sad But True’, leading into perpetual crowd favourite ‘One’ complete with footage from ‘Johnny Got His Gun’ as well as pictures of servicemen from conflicts early in the 20th century on the monitors above the stage. The main portion of the set was brought to a close with an anthemic version of ‘Master of Puppets’ which was another highlight of the set, and yet those around me all remained in their seats, still not singing or head banging or anything.
After a short gap, the band opened the encore in fine fashion with an awesome ‘Fight Fire with Fire’ before a rousing ‘Nothing Else Matters’ brought a change of pace. This juxtaposition worked well highlighting the relentless intensity of the former and the delicate intricacies of the latter. The inevitable set closer was ‘Enter Sandman’ which finally managed to get those around me to their feet as they sung along enthusiastically. This brought another triumphant set to a close before the band spent a while throwing out plectrums and drumsticks to the crowd and saying their thanks.
To many, Metallica are something of a parody of their former selves, with no relevance in today’s metal scene. I’m here to tell you that they are absolutely relevant and they remain a live force to one reckoned with, and even though my heart is now firmly ensconced in black metal, I will continue to proudly fly the Metallica flag as my not sot guilty pleasure.
Review and Photos Andy Pountney