Metallica, The Full Arsenal: A Badass Experience

Though you may not know this due to the conspicuous lack of metal-related posts in ‘Gorilla Suit (how’s that for an abbreviation? Clever enough?), I’m all about metal. I listen to metal almost exclusively, read metal magazines, and even sing in a progressive shameless plug.

This, of course, means I’m a fan of Metallica, arguably the biggest band in metal and possibly the world. There are a lot of fans who walked away during the 90’s because change is terrifying and RIP Cliff Burton—apparently the most amazing bassist in the universe. I didn't. Sure, the first five (yes, five) albums are superior to what came afterwards, but Metallica was always Metallica, and I personally loved what they did in “Death Magnetic”, and even more so what they did with the “Beyond Magnetic” EP.

I saw them live back in ’09 when they came to Mexico City with the Magnetic World Tour (for a show during which they shot the “Orgullo, Pasión y Gloria” DVD), and, despite being intoxicated to a level some experts might refer to as “Fuckin’ shit-faced, yo”, I do remember losing my shit throughout the entire show. When Metallica announced they were not only coming back to Mexico City, but also to start a tour with a brand new stage, it was a miracle I can credit to a particular friend that I managed to get tickets to this show not only for myself, but also for some very special people, one of whom manages a great shameless plug. This new show was called “El Arsenal Completo” (“The Full Arsenal”), which meant that Metallica isn’t touring with one album in particular, but celebrating their thirtieth anniversary by playing their many hits from their long and exciting history.

These are my thoughts on the experience. If you, uh . . . somehow care, then – Spoilers, I guess?

The tickets me and my three amigos scored were for the August 4th show, on a Saturday, and had us standing up, which meant, in that venue, access to a fantastic lounge just outside the concert area. This lounge includes everything from quick access to bathrooms to food stands and, most importantly, beverages—this last bit was great for me because I needed to rid myself of a level 5 hangover to prepare myself for the onslaught.

Apologies for potato quality, but you can appreciate the
coffin-screens in this picture.
In something I now regret, we stayed in the lounge drinking for too long, and didn’t get to see the opening act—Maligno, a Mexican band—so I can’t comment on their performance.

Once inside, I was very excited to see that because of the nature of the stage’s set-up, a circular dais in the middle of the venue, we were extremely close to the action despite our late arrival. We got there just in time to hear the now traditional “The Ecstasy of Gold” (by Ennio Morricone) as the band rolled on stage. The place was falling apart with contagious excitement. As always, they opened with “Creeping Death”, which they immediately followed with “For Whom The Bell Tolls”. This was an interesting choice, as they started with two songs from “Ride the Lightning”, and not from “Kill ‘Em All”, their first album. As bands do with stages like this, everyone except the drummer circled around to be in contact with the crowd so no matter where you stood, you'd have each member playing a few feet away from you at some point.

 After the band’s introduction by the always likeable James Hetfield, they moved on to “Fuel”, a badass, energetic and frankly vulgarly underrated song which caused a massively awesome mosh to break right around me. Also, giant tongues of fire on stage. Thrash. Metal.

Bad. Ass. Bass. Solo.
Hanging from the ceiling rig, there were several coffins (a reference to "Death Magnetic", of course) that functioned as stage screens that showed art and video from the songs being played. For instance, for "Sanitarium", they played a pretty cool video of a character in a mental hospital. That kind of clever and topical stuff, you know.

“Ride the Lightning” followed, and this was the first time the new stage flexed its stuff. A large electric chair and a set of tesla coils appeared from the ceiling creating mo’fuckin’ lightning and shit. In my stupefied state of mind, it was pretty damn awesome. In something that surprised me, “One” came right next. As expected, there was an extended segment of simulated gunfire as a prelude to the track just to tell everyone, even non-fans, that “that one song I like” was coming up.

I don’t necessarily need to say that they played like champs, at full speed, and the sound was crisp and fucking loud (at one point I walked out for a quick bathroom/beer break with my brother and couldn't hear what he was saying). James’ voice was great if a bit on the clean side; the sound would’ve benefited from a harsher timbre.

“Cyanide” and “The Memory Remains” followed, two songs not everyone likes but that were nonetheless played with gusto. I was particularly excited to listen to the “ReLoad” track because it’s one catchy, groovy song. “Leper Messiah” came right next as a huge surprise to everyone—something from “Master of Puppets” that's not often played. This was followed by “Sad But True” (fucking amazing energy throughout this track), “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” and then the very epic “…And Justice For All”.

During “…And Justice For All” we are treated to another cool new effect of the unique stage: the statue of Lady Justice we all recognize from the album cover is built as they begin playing the badass instrumental intro. When the song ends, the statue collapses to a huge ovation. This is another one of those contagious “get the crowd excited” moments that will get even the most cynical asshole cheering. I do think it was a bit disappointing that they built the statue in front of us, so seeing it crumble was a bit expected and anti-climatic.

Yours truly (far left), a friend, and my very special lady at
the end of the show.
Next up was “Fade To Black”, which is my personal favorite Metallica track and one of my all time favorite songs. An extended bass solo from the very badass and very underrated Rob Trujillo (this man’s presence on-stage is intoxicating) followed, and it was a good way to introduce my pants to cream. Heavy and exciting. And just so we don’t lose the momentum, the familiar chords that start “Master of Puppets” resonated throughout the domed venue and holy shit everything fell apart. “Master of Puppets” might be the single best song to hear Metallica play live. It’s just insanely powerful; one of the most fun and violent mosh pits in which I’ve ever had the pleasure of lovingly crushing assholes. Like with the other iconic songs, a representation of the album—this time a series of tombstones—appeared on stage.

The next three songs were a great cap: “Fight Fire With Fire”, “Nothing Else Matters” in one hell of a warm moment, and finally: “Enter Sandman”. I won’t spoil the particular thing they do with “Enter Sandman”, because it was stupidly exciting.

James' pick: a friend's trophy.
For the encore, they played one of my favorite covers off “Garage, Inc.”: “Stone Cold Crazy” by Queen. I was one of the very few attendees who actually knew the song, but it was awesome to hear it live. It had a whole different vibe than the album version. As always, they closed with “Seek & Destroy”, the only track they played from their debut album. During this, a knife-weilding hand coming out of a huge toilet appeared on stage as a nod to the band’s very charming original debut album cover.

The band said good-bye to us, assuring us they love playing in Mexico—and stupid as it sounds, I pretty much believe them; the energy from the crowd is spectacular and the band really seemed to be feeding off it. They weren’t playing songs off those albums you don’t like, they were playing all those songs that captivated you either as a kid or as an adult. They were playing the songs that defined a genre of metal, and they were doing it like they did it in their twenties. “The Full Arsenal” is a magnificent, exciting show that no Metallica fan should miss.

Scratch that, it’s a show that even those who now hate the band should see, just as a reminder of what they used to love. It’s a celebration of the band, and particularly a celebration of the music that made the band great.

This concert also takes the cake as the worst headbangover I’ve had in my life, slightly winning over Amon Amarth’s “Surtur Rising” tour.

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About The Damn Beast

Pre-op trans-minotaur, sci-fi/fantasy/horror author, metal singer, videogame journalist, pop culture blogger. I also lift heavy things and put them down again repeatedly to occupy more space.
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  1. Lepper Messiah is off of Master of Puppets.

    1. Brainfart acknolwdged. Apologies deployed. Correction confirmed.

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