The Major Jason Newsted Contribution To Metallica’s ‘Blackened’
Metallica’s song ‘Blackened’ became one of their most iconic songs, and it was praised for its eco-sensitive lyrics, describing the harm humanity has caused to our world. The song’s lyrics were written by the band’s frontman James Hetfield and reflected his concern about Mother Earth while depicting the world’s end. This seven-minute song was significant for the band as they made it their first track in the album ‘…And Justice for All.’
‘…And Justice for All’ was Metallica’s fourth studio album released in 1986, and it is the first album to feature the bassist Jason Newsted after the death of their former bandmate Cliff Burton. It also divided the music critics and the fans into two as some considered it deep, heavy, and meaningful; others said the songs were too long, and they couldn’t hear the bass well throughout the album. These criticisms finally led the band to switch styles later to release their most iconic album, ‘Metallica’ or more commonly known as ‘The Black Album.’
In their live concerts, the crowd wasn’t generally pleased by the songs’ length and heaviness, as it wasn’t enjoyable for neither the band nor the listeners. However, the fourth track, ‘One,’ quickly became a regular on their setlist. The album also emerged ‘Harvester of Sorrow’ and ‘Blackened,’ which were songs frequently played in their later performances.
Jason Newsted And ‘Blackened’
‘Blackened’ was a particularly important track for Jason Newsted. While ‘…And Justice for All’ was his first album with the band, ‘Blackened’ was the first song that had his signature. The entire album is known to have inaudible bass sound, which was also one of the criticisms it received, but their brand new bassist contributed to the album differently.
The song’s riff could easily be considered a creation of Hetfield because it has down picking, which is his most characteristic technique. However, to Metallica fans’ surprise, the riff was actually written by Newsted. Being a new member of the iconic band, Newsted was very happy that Hetfield liked his improvisation during a jam session. He talked about this exciting moment in an interview with Song Facts in 2013 and stated how incredible it was to have created something the Metallica frontman likes.
Here is the story as told by Newsted in 2013:
“That was a very special time in my life. This was when James [Hetfield] and I were first becoming friends. He was someone I looked up to greatly before I joined the band – we all did. Anybody in any other bands, even the guys in the bands around us, even Exodus and Violence, we all looked up to James. He was just a special gifted person, still is.
So we were getting to be friends, and we’d stay over at each other’s house or apartments, and we’d take care of each other’s animals when we went on vacations and these kinds of things, got to be pals. We were in my one-bedroom apartment. I had my little four-track Tascam set up in the corner of the bedroom, and we were jamming on our guitars, just playing through some riffs. And I played that.
That ‘Blackened’ riff, and he goes, ‘Dude, what is that?’ Because it was really pretty crazy. The original thing is a very fast alternating thing. Man, it’s pretty tricky, actually. I mean, the one that ended up on the record is pretty tricky, too, but the original one is really tricky.
He picked up on that, and we recorded that bit. And he goes, ‘Let’s build it to this, and build it to this.’ It was a moment. I was actually composing a song with James from Metallica, and he was approving my riffs and saying, ‘This is going to be a Metallica song.’ That was a big, big moment for me. We had already been on tour together and, so I had a giant Damage Inc. tour poster on my bedroom wall right above my little station where I had my speakers and my little four-track and the two or three guitars in my collection.
And there we were, I could paint that picture for you very plainly. It was a very, very big moment for me because I was getting approved from The Man to have my first chance on having one of my compositions on a Metallica record. So that was a very special time.”
Interesting Facts About ‘Blackened’
Aside from being important to Newsted, the song is also a huge deal for the band. They valued it so much and foreshadowed its success that they decided to make it the first track on the album. Including many heavy tracks on their controversial record ‘…And Justice for All,’ ‘Blackened’ was different from the rest of the songs.
The main reason for that would be because of the song’s emotional aspect. Even though the metal sound throughout it might seem far from emotional, a unique technique was applied to the intro that would stop people and make them think about the band’s genius. The band reversed the song’s intro and formed an echo from itself.
You can listen to the intro of the song reversed and normal below.