One big happy family

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

At one point during a mid-October phone interview, Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo touched on the subject of potty training.

It's an unlikely topic when discussing the world's biggest metal band, but the subject relates directly to life for the four members of Metallica since the 2003 release of St. Anger. This period has seen the band rebound from the brink of a breakup and reclaim its position as undisputed kings of metal.

Trujillo, previously a member of Suicidal Tendencies and Ozzy Osbourne's band, replaced Jason Newsted in Metallica at the tail end of a tumultuous period that coincided with the making of St. Anger.

During that project, the band gave filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky full access to their activities, initially thinking the project would produce a making-of-the-album video. Instead, Berlinger and Sinofsky documented the band's near-disintegration.

As chronicled in their film Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, Newsted's departure caused Metallica's longtime members James Hetfield (vocals/guitar), Lars Ulrich (drums) and Kirk Hammett (guitar) to take a hard look at themselves through group therapy. Partway into that process, Hetfield confronted his long drinking habit and went into rehab.

What was initially expected to be a five-week stay grew into the better part of a year. During that time, Hetfield stayed out of touch with Ulrich and Hammett, and his extended absence caused them to seriously fear that the band was over.

Hetfield, of course, eventually finished rehab and returned to the band, but with a determination to stay sober and put his family first (he's married and a father of three).

Against this backdrop, work resumed on St. Anger, with producer Bob Rock filling in on bass. Once the disc was finished, Trujillo replaced Newsted, getting an all-access pass to the band's rebirth, which continues with the recent release of the powerful new CD, Death Magnetic.

Which brings us back to potty training.

According to Trujillo, life has changed for the whole band, and Hetfield isn't the only one putting family ahead of Metallica.

"We've grown so much," Trujillo said. "We all have families now. In the last five years, Kirk had two children, I've had two children, Lars has had a child ... If I have a question about potty training, at least I know two guys I can go to for advice."

While there have been bumps along the way, the band had reached a more positive, productive place by the time work began on Death Magnetic two years ago.

The band teamed with legendary producer Rick Rubin, who encouraged live recording in the studio to recapture the spirit of early albums like 1986's Master Of Puppets and 1988's And Justice For All.

The more organic approach worked. Death Magnetic features performances that crackle with fire and precision. The new disc also comes with extended arrangements and razor-sharp solos that more closely recall Master of Puppets era than the concise songs of 1991's self-titled disc.

The tour stopping at the Schott on Sunday is performed in the round -- a setting that puts the band closer to the crowds. Trujillo said the set could find Metallica dusting off early songs they haven't played in many years.

"It's going to be fresh and it's going to be exciting," Trujillo said of the shows. "We're thinking of new fans, too. We want for the new blood to go out there and experience a Metallica show at its fullest."