Of all the releases to emerge from Metallica’s much-anticipated Black Album reissue, which is set to celebrate the historic record’s game-changing success, the most recent is bound to be up there with the very best of the lot.
Why? Well, it’s an ear-opening, four-and-a-half-minute instrumental blueprint hailing from the Riff Tapes of Jason Newsted, one that sees the former Metallica bass guitar player perform the demo of what would later go on to become My Friend Of Misery.
Of course, it is only a demo track – a bass-only one at that – but remains a revelatory listen for fans, who are now able to hear from where the seminal Black Album hit originated.
The instantly recognizable intro melody hook maintains a note-for-note similarity to the eventual studio version, though relies on some tasty octave work in the absence of Ulrich’s hi-hat rolls and Hetfield and Hammett’s punchy electric guitar thrashes.
Those aren’t the only changes that can be discerned from the original, though, with My Friend Of Misery co-writers Hetfield and Ulrich cutting away Newsted’s extended melodic exploration – which centered around the main motif – to make room for what became the verse and extended sections.
All in all, it’s a hauntingly beautiful version of the track, one that gives us an insight into Newsted’s compositional talents and the inner workings of Metallica’s mythical, masterpiece-producing songwriting sessions.
Newsted has previously spoken about My Friend Of Misery’s inception while in conversation with British documentary series Classic Albums, saying that he initially thought it would be released as an instrumental track.
“I was hoping it was going to end up being the instrumental song for the Black Album,” he explained. “I thought we were going to follow suit and keep having an instrumental song. We didn’t. That’s how it worked out.”
He added, “That was something that I came up with by myself on my old four-track machine when we were just working on tapes.
“The whole idea was to just listen to as much music as possible or different bands and different styles, take it in through your funnel and through your filter, and whatever happens to come out, you know, if you listen to more stuff it’s going to come out more colorful.”
Now, thanks to this new release, we can finally hear exactly how Newsted envisaged the track, for which he received his only songwriting credit on the Black Album.
Newsted will be pleased to see his track finally released to the world, though any displeasure he may have harbored over the tweaks introduced to his original demo are sure to pale in comparison to the fury he felt toward the ...And Justice For All mix, which left his playing almost inaudible.
“I was fucking livid!” Newsted said in a recent interview with Metal Hammer (opens in new tab). “I was ready [to go] for throats, man! I was out of my head, because I really thought I did well. And I thought I played how I was supposed to play.”