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MUSIC REVIEW

Metallica launches aural assault

Red Sox mania couldn't stop Metallica from selling out the FleetCenter on Sunday. Nor did anyone have time to obsess about the Sox once Metallica cranked up a staggering arsenal of tricks, from deafening, bomb-like explosions to multiple pyrotechnic jets.

After nearly imploding a couple of years ago -- a crisis well-documented in the film ''Metallica: Some Kind of Monster" -- Metallica played as if it had something to prove. Singer James Hetfield and company, who performed on a theater-in-the-round stage that made the band seem as if it was in your living room, purged their anger, reconnecting with the soul that has driven this all-out speed-metal band for more than two decades.

The tattooed Hetfield barked and shouted his way through a slew of old-school Metallica favorites (the band played only one song from its last album, ''St. Anger," the title track), while tireless drummer Lars Ulrich, fluid guitar god Kirk Hammett, and new bassist Rob Trujillo forged a chemistry that virtually grabbed the crowd by the neck.

The San Francisco band played for 2 hours, doing so many encores that some fans grew exhausted and exited. ''If they left, they don't know Metallica very well. We go on forever!" said Hetfield before ripping into another encore, ''Jump in the Fire," from the band's jarring debut album, 1983's ''Kill 'Em All."

However, the most memorable adrenaline rush came shortly before that when Metallica played the antiwar song ''One," based on Dalton Trumbo's novel ''Johnny Got His Gun," about an injured soldier in a coma. Dialogue from the movie ''Full Metal Jacket" blasted through the FleetCenter, and then came a series of stage explosions and sustained flames that dwarfed any of the pyro used in five other songs. The smoke lingered over the stage and wafted into the hallways. I've never seen anything like it at the FleetCenter.

Then again, that's Metallica. The band has been on an over-the-top odyssey for years, and its uncompromising nature explains its appeal.

Hetfield set the tone right away on Sunday, whipping through ''Blackened," ''Fuel," and ''The Memory Remains" as he moved atop several platforms and down ramps to each corner, where microphones awaited his primal wails. The energy continued with ''Wherever I May Roam" and the lockstep grooves of ''Leper Messiah" (with Ulrich jumping up and down like a mad-eyed cheerleader) before the band switched to a surprisingly soft, flamenco-guitar intro to ''The Unforgiven," a song it has started playing again after dropping for years. And the familiar Metallica headbanger crunch coursed through ''Master of Puppets" and ''Sad But True," for which singer Sully Erna of Godsmack came out for harmonies (though he was undermiked).

In an extended solo segment, Hammett mixed screaming, wah-wah pedal-enhanced notes with a Hendrix moment of playing the guitar over his head. And Trujillo had a monster-riff solo spot that showed how much he is now being embraced by the faithful. Overall, it was a relentless aural assault.

Hetfield made a single Red Sox comment later in the set (noting that the Sox were ahead), but Godsmack, being a Boston band, exulted in the Sox' success and also in the Patriots' victory. ''Boston is on fire!" said Erna, whose group unleashed its own pyrotechnics during a strong, gut-busting set that featured Erna's steamroller voice and a striking version of ''Voodoo" that led to a drum duel between Erna and Shannon Larkin. Godsmack is too good to be a warm-up act, but gaining exposure before rabid Metallica fans can't hurt its long-term prospects.

Metallica
With Godsmack
At: the FleetCenter, Sunday (repeated last night)

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