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Greatest Hits: Metallica: The First Four Albums – “To Live is to Die”

Despite all the talent that has haunted these halls over the past decade—writers, staffers, and editors alike, and there have been a lot of us—I will always and forever associate Invisible Oranges with Cosmo Lee. He was the first and the best of us—the humble nerd who set so many of us down the crooked path. Which is not to downplay the rest of the gang: everyone who served time at IO, whether as contributor or reader, is in some way responsible for the site’s success and sense of community, and countless great minds have wandered through over the years (who here remembers Helm and the longest comments ever?). But the heart of the thing was always Cosmo: he laid the bait and snared us all with his daily ruminations on life, music theory, physical fitness, self-reflection, and metal, in no particular order.

I first stumbled across IO in 2009, probably similar to the way you did: some google search gone horribly right, or a cross-link from another blog paying its respects (I still remember this one from Metalsucks after six years, referencing Cosmo’s classic Defend the Indefensible series). I remember reading a review of something (which something, I couldn’t tell you) and quickly recognizing the quality of the prose, the ruthless efficiency and economy of words, and the clarity of insight buried within every terse line. Cosmo could do something I’m still incapable of: he used very few words but always left us laughing, enthusiastic for new tunes, pondering thoughts we’d never thought. And he made it look easy.

In good conscience, I can’t pick a true ‘favorite’ IO post. Having edited a few hundred of these things, I’m unfairly partial to everything that came through during my 2012 tenure; yet tons of the best stuff came long after I bailed for gentler climes, and obviously there was already years of stellar content before I even found the site. So instead here’s one that sits at the crossroads: one of Cosmo’s last posts, published in late 2011 after he’d set aside the mantle, as my good friend (and eternal Stereogum editor) Mike Nelson and the new crew (now the old crew) were finding their sea legs and making the transition to Invisible Oranges v2. Cosmo’s “Metallica: The First Four Albums” series is arguably the best heavy metal-themed writing to ever surface from this or any other blog. This particular post, the second to last entry, focusing on the glorious mess that is “To Live Is to Die,” showcased Cosmo’s ability to dissect a song with the cleanest of cuts. It’s a perfect example of why I love this site so fucking much, then as now.

Let’s all raise a glass to the next ten years.

—Aaron Lariviere

Read: ‘Metallica: The First Four Albums – “To Live is to Die”’

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