"We promised our fans we'd play a new song and we've been writing and creating away and we're going to throw something at them on Sunday," Metallica's Lars Ulrich told Rolling Stone last week. "We have something lined up that is fairly representative of where our creative headspace is at right now. It's one of those things that's like, 'Here, we're writing and we're creating.'"
The metal legends debuted the new song — the epic, eight-minute "Lords of Summer" — at their concert in Bogotá, Colombia Sunday night. It's the band's first original music since 2012's Beyond Magnetic EP, and those tracks were outtakes from the band's 2008 LP Death Magnetic. Metallica are on the first leg of a tour they've dubbed "Metallica by Request," which takes them to South America, Europe and Canada and finds fans voting on all but one of the songs on the set list from their 140-or-so-track oeuvre. ("Lords of Summer" being the sole holdout.) UPDATE: Listen to Metallica's studio-recorded "garage demo" of "Lords of Summer" here.
The song's chorus includes the line, "The Lords of Summer have returned," but Metallica may as well be talking about themselves, considering the song falls in line with the sort of lengthy thrashers that have served as the group's meat and potatoes since the mid-Eighties. It opens with a plodding riff that gives way to chunky, faster thrashing, and before long, frontman James Hetfield is singing about fire and shaking grounds and all the sorts of apocalyptic things Metallica are known for.
But while the song sounds fully crafted, Ulrich says things change. "We did the same thing when we went out and played a bunch of dates in 2006," he says. "We were writing and played two different new songs over the course of that summer, and none of them made the record [Death Magnetic]. One was called 'New Song 1' – going out on a creative limb, here – and the other was called 'New Song 2.' That's how deep we went. There was a couple of pieces in 'New Song 1,' some of the middle bit ended up in 'All Nightmare Long,' and the intro bit ended up in 'The End of the Line.' That's how we work; stuff just gets changed around, moved over and this goes over there and the rest of that gets sacked and that ends up in the intro in song five." [Laughs]
"So who knows what's going to happen with this stuff," he says. "But we are off and running and have been creating away in the studio and now we're going to go out and play and sweat and share and we've got some new music that we want to throw everybody's way. And maybe by the time we get to Europe, there will be a different song or different thing or different arrangement. Who knows? We'll sort of take it one step at a time."
For now, Ulrich is happy with the way "Metallica by Request" is turning out. "It makes it a lot easier for me, because I don't have to do the set list," he says with a laugh. But the tour serves another purpose, too. "We like to leave the studio and get out and be inspired by playing some shows," he says. "We've done that a lot in the last few album cycles. So getting out and playing is a vital part of writing and creating."