METALLICA, Monday, Jan. 28, 7:30 p.m., $131+, PNC Arena, Raleigh;

It’s easy, even tempting, to ignore Metallica these days. The once-great band that brought metal to the masses is decades past its fall into the realms of punchlines and punching bags. The band that once carved the template for thrash metal is now more often caught chasing trends.

That’s why the recent announcement that Metallica collaborated with Stone Brewing Company’s Arrogant Consortium to release a co-branded beer, “Enter Night Pilsner,” should feel a bit anticlimactic to fans of either craft beer or heavy metal.

Indeed, plenty of heavy bands have forged recent  partnerships with independent brewers to craft adventurous, even extreme flavors: Indiana’s 3 Floyds brewed two beers with Virginia-based grindcore iconoclasts Pig Destroyer; metalcore act Zao partnered with Louisville’s Against the Grain Brewery for a smoked stout; Mastodon—arguably the heirs apparent to Metallica’s progressive-yet-pop heavy metal crown—have done several collaborative beers, including a partnership with Mikkeller on a 12% ABV imperial stout called “Sultan’s Curse.”

Metallica, when its time came, partnered with Stone, one of craft beer’s largest and most established ventures. And they made a pilsner—a much lighter, blander style than the aggressive and boozy tastes that have pushed craft beer into the mainstream. Could it be anything more than a limp cash grab from a past-its-prime rock band?

In fact, like Metallica itself, “Enter Night” is not to be dismissed.

Billed appropriately, if somewhat clumsily as “A Hoppy Pilsner Played Through a Distortion Pedal,” “Enter Night” is a crisp and surprisingly bold pils. It pours a predictable straw-yellow, transparent pint, but the piney hop bitterness on the nose, and especially in the aftertaste, subverts any expectations of blandness. A crisp carbonation makes for a sharp and lively complement to the beer’s bitterness. It doesn’t have to be overtly extreme to be bold.

After drinking it, the partnership between Metallica and Stone feels even more poignant. Both entities have forged long, successful careers by pursuing quality and ultimately finding a reliable foundation to support creative diversions. There have been missteps, sure, but at this moment, Metallica is one of few—if not the only—extant rock bands that can reliably fill arenas, play regularly on both modern and classic rock radio, and continue to influence (positively and negatively) the generations of headbangers that follow them. For some perspective, consider that in 2009, Metallica’s 1991 self-titled album surpassed Shania Twain’s Come On Over as the best-selling album of the SoundScan era.

Though for those of us who came of age in the era of Lars Ulrich’s anti-Napster crusades and poorly received albums like Load (1996), Re-Load (1997) and, worst of all, St. Anger (2003), Metallica seemed to be the quintessence of bloat. Who were these millionaire rock stars getting mad that nobody wanted to pay real money for their long-winded grumbling and post-grunge pandering?

As my own tastes careened into the world of blitzkrieg punk-rock, the notion of listening to these middle-aged sellouts and their indulgent nine-minute songs couldn’t have been any less appealing. Friends would rebut, praising the band’s musicianship, their icon status, and even appealed to their popularity as if that would sway me. I knew all I needed to know from the constant rotation “Enter Sandman” and “Nothing Else Matters” still scored, a decade after their release, on the radio. All I wanted was three chords and the truth, played as fast as I could imagine. Ian MacKaye and Henry Rollins had more to say to me than James Hetfield ever could.

Or so I assumed.

It wasn’t until years later, after skimming past countless magazine articles claiming 1986’s Master of Puppets as a heavy metal landmark—even above Slayer’s Reign In Blood!—and people whose taste I generally admired assuring me that, yes, the first four Metallica albums really are pretty great, that I finally gave the band a real chance. Renting a car for a two-week trip, I found myself stuck with a CD player and nothing to listen to. And so a five-dollar copy of Master of Puppets became my primary sonic outlet for a fortnight. That’s when I discovered that, for a time, anyway, Metallica managed to craft dynamic, compelling narratives that both sounded badass and offered some real insight.

The band’s musicianship was, as promised, excellent, but its members managed to wrangle their impulses into songs that were still catchy. And as much as the band’s output smacked of tough-guy bullshit, its younger days betrayed a deeply relatable sense of uncertainty, insecurity, and vulnerability, even behind a facade of righteous anger. Hearing James Hetfield moan, “Welcome to where time stands still/ No one leaves and no one will/ Moon is full, never seems to change/ Just labeled mentally deranged,” on “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” sounded newly revelatory.

From there, I went backward, to 1984’s Ride the Lightning (my favorite) and 1983’s comparatively ragged but clearly inspired Kill ’Em All, before I worked my way to the transitional 1988 LP, …And Justice For All, and 1991’s major breakthrough, the self-titled “Black Album.” Metallica’s run through the nineties still doesn’t do much for me, but I can at least respect that they were trying to figure out how to be the new, exponentially more famous Metallica in the midst of a turbulent music industry. Unlike another band who gained underground acclaim in the late eighties before bursting, somewhat uncomfortably, into the mainstream as the decade turned, Metallica survived tragedies and soldiered on as we were granted access to the group’s creative plateaus and interpersonal struggles. Hell, they even made a documentary about it.

Still, recognizing Metallica’s former glories doesn’t say anything about why, or even whether, it matters now, some thirty-odd years past its prime. Even recognizing the indelible mark the band has left on what would become modern rock and contemporary metal (both mainstream and underground strains), or the fact that there haven’t been any new rock bands to reach Metallica’s pinnacles of success since, demonstrates only that the band used to be relevant.

To its credit, Metallica seems finally to have arrived at the same conclusion many fans and critics have: It’s at its best when it embraces the thrash-metal mold it helped shape, and indulges prog-rock instincts with dynamic song structures and blazing melodic guitar leads. The band’s latest two albums, 2008’s Death Magnetic and 2016’s Hardwired…To Self-Destruct, offer something of a return to form for the veteran rock outfit. Glimpses of Metallica’s former glories are present. And even if the band can’t recapture Lightning, it can bring veteran finesse to substitute for youthful abandon.

Like that of the band’s peers and former tourmates in Corrosion of Conformity, Metallica’s latter-day output has mined its entire past to forge a new, more refined path forward. Besides, the band still has the old classics to bring out on stage every night.

It’s fitting, then, to note that in the world of craft beer, a persistent trend among brewers has been perfecting traditional lagers and other, mellower styles. While crowds might clamor for the latest triple dry-hopped and adjunct-laden booze-bomb, beer connoisseurs have started to recognize that the ostensibly simpler styles demand better craftsmanship. There’s nothing to hide behind. At the end of the day, maybe nothing else matters.