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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, Oct. 2, 2014

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In Music

Metallica frontman James Hetfield and friends hit town Monday night.

Metallica brings its heavy sound Downtown Monday


Whether they admit it publicly or not, the people who run the TV news departments in Milwaukee and Wisconsin live by a rather simple credo:

Weather and Packers. Or, if you prefer, Packers and weather. If the opportunity to feature either one arises, you're probably going to have a pretty good chance of grabbing an audience.

For Keith Hastings, the program director at WHQG (102.9 FM), the band Metallica has a similar effect.

"It's pretty close," said Hastings, whose station known as "The Hog" has had the heavy metal heroes in heavy rotation for much of the band's career. "It's hard to make a bad decision with them.

"In the 1990s, rock radio hailed the band as being as important to business as Led Zeppelin was in the '70's. That is saying a lot."

In the nearly 20 years since the music industry started using "Soundscan" to track album sales in the U.S. and Canada, Metallica has moved more than 51 million albums, a figure that ranks them fourth behind Garth Brooks (68 million), The Beatles (57 million) and Mariah Carey (51 million-plus).

As bankable as the band is in stores, Metallica always performs well at the box office, too. A stop Monday night at the Bradley Center will draw a large, spirited crowd.

"We become very popular (at the radio station) when Metallica tickets are mentioned," Hastings said. "In terms of the pure concert experience, I don't think anyone has ever left a Metallica show feeling that they didn't get their money's worth."

In addition to the hardcore heavy metal fans who have worshipped them since the late 1980s, Metallica has cultivated a younger following with radio standards like "Enter Sandman," "King Nothing," "Sad But True" and "The Unforgiven," persistent touring and an appearance in the Guitar Hero video game.

Though it debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts, the band's 2003 album "St. Anger" didn't resonate with fans like earlier works.

" A lot of fans and radio people felt it wasn't up to par," Hastings said. "Of course, it still sold really well but some people called it a disappointment. Of course, what is deemed less successful by Metallica's standards is really a level of success that most other bands only dream of."

The band's latest album, "Death Magnetic," which was produced by Rick Rubin, has a more "retro" feel and was an instant hit with fans.

"People think they went back to their roots a bit," Hastings said. "Everybody really loves it."

And the fans really love Metallica, which is why you'll see plenty of them milling around 4th and State Streets on Monday.

"They have always been huge in Milwaukee," Hastings said. "In the '80s, even before they broke nationally on rock radio, they had traction in Milwaukee.

Metallica fans are incredibly loyal and the band doesn't take any of that for granted," Hastings said. "We're doing a contest where a listener gets to meet Lars Ulrich, the drummer, for an interview backstage before the show. They're doing this in every city, and the interview is taped for the radio and the video is put on the Web site. Now, he could easily walk in there, shake the guy's hand and say 'Hey, thanks for coming' and then leave. But, he's been talking to the people for a long time. I heard that one interview lasted an hour and a half.

"I think that says a lot."


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