Thrash music is about as subtle as a punch in the mouth — or a dozen punches in two seconds. During the 1980s, however, a pair of now-legendary bands, Husker Du and Metallica, transformed thrash into a thing of beauty without sacrificing any of its blunt force or blitzkrieg speed. The not-so secret ingredient in the success of both bands were guitarists capable of shredding heavy metal melodies into chromatic confetti-shrapnel with quicksilver aplomb.
Whipcrack drumbeats and piledriver bass lines aided and abetted this cathartic carnage, of course, and much later it would become de rigueur for thrashers to feature a singer who could sound like he was rolfing up a lung. But the axes were the axis upon which Husker Du and Metallica leveraged a fan base beyond the standard-issue head-bangers, jolting both nihilistic punks and comfortably numb followers of classic rock with this tangier new juice.
It so happens that all three of these guitar gods, Metallica’s Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield and former Husker Du frontman Bob Mould, will be spraying sparks on stages across the street from each other tonight; Metallica at the Target Center and Mould with his latest band at First Avenue.
There is a reason Metallica sold out the cavernous arena in mere hours months ago, while tickets still remain for Mould’s gig at the decidedly more intimate club. Metallica has always operated like the Third Battalion, marshalling stacks of amps, copious pyrotechnics and other accoutrements of a band aiming for, and dependent upon, high-volume sales. They notoriously waged war against file sharing services who they perceived were denying them copywrited profits. By contrast, both Husker Du and later Mould-led ensembles operated like commandoes, their songs a series a quick, surgical strikes and their tours guided by a DIY mentality and lean overheads.
Without question, Hammett’s Metallica is more profitable and more influential than Husker Du, or any of Mould’s subsequent outfits. If you want to be among the masses hearing an unremitting diet of powerhouse thrash, the Target Center is your locality. But if you like your guitar gods up close and personal, lyrically as well as physically, then Mould’s searing confessionals and stylistic variation at First Ave is the ticket. Incidentally, his latest, “Life and Times,” features some of his best guitar churns since his days with Sugar.
Here are Metallica last year performing one of their iconic 80s tunes, “Master of Puppets,” with a good contrast between Hetfield’s staccato crunch and Hammett’s more arching solos. And here is Hammett rocking on despite being covered in silly putty spray for his birthday.
Metallica at Target Center, Tuesday, Oct. 13, 7 p.m., tickets $51.50-$71.50. Sold Out.
Bob Mould Band at First Avenue, Tuesday, Oct. 13, doors open 7 p.m., tickets $20.