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Hetfield's transition from focusing on external subjects (war, the government, H.P. Lovecraft) to matters of the self would persist into the band's next era, and "Nothing Else Matters," with its openness and unabashed sentimentality, would become Metallica canon.
"That solidified, I think, that we were doing the right thing, writing from the heart about what we felt, and you can't go wrong that way," he says. "I'm grateful that the guys forced me to take it out of my tape player and make it Metallica."
It has been 31 years since Hetfield wrote "Hit the Lights," often considered the origin point for American thrash metal. Not every song he has written since has been as fast or as raging, and there have been oceans of detractors to call out his band for going too far afield from its roots. But as the band that has done what they do for longer than anyone, it's hard to say that Metallica are the ones doing it wrong. There aren't any career arcs Metallica has felt compelled to or even had available to follow, and theirs will be a legacy of highs and lows, with much debate over which eras qualify for both categories. But in the end, such virulent conversation can only be inspired by those with monumental levels of influence, a distinction Metallica shares with a precious few.
Orion Music + More, with Metallica, Arctic Monkeys, Avenged Sevenfold, Modest Mouse, the Gaslight Anthem, Eric Church, and more, takes place June 23 and 24 at Bader Field in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
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