No matter what happens between today and the Apocalypse, two things will forever define Metallica in the minds of casual-to-decently committed fans: (1) The unimpeachable greatness of its first three albums (possibly four if you love And Justice For All and hate audible bass sounds); and (2) the time they decided it was a good idea to sue their fans in the late ’90s. Everything that’s written about Metallica is colored at least a little bit by one or both of these items. Metallica knows this, and yet the band hasn’t accepted that its history is already written. Now solidly in the third act of its career, Metallica has refused to join the “mediocre late-period album plus lucrative greatest hits tour” cycle that most bands of its stature inevitably succumb to. Instead, they’ve gleefully launched project after project distinguished by massive miscalculation and riveting, almost-certain awfulness. Twenty-first century Metallica can’t exactly be described as “great” or even “mentally competent,” but it’s definitely not boring or predictable.