Return to Metallica (person)
Birth. School. Metallica. Death.
There are only a few bands existing today that have not only the courage to make such a claim (and print it on the back of a T-shirt) but also have the credibility and fanbase to back it up. Indeed, Metallica are one of the most influencial, groundbreaking and popular heavy metal acts in the world. For a band to not only have a career that spans more than 20 years, but also have just as much relevance in 2004 then they did in 1992, is testament to the band's inability to simply curl up and die. Through all the obstacles they have faced, be it Drugs, Divorce or Death, Metallica have pulled through and lived to fight another day, always doing things the way they want. You could call it selfishness if you want, it's doubtful the band will even care. Their terms, their rules. If you don't like it, take a number.
"Pretty early on we felt we had something special on our hands; whether it was great or shit, it meant something."
-- Lars Ulrich
Currently (2003), the band consists of:
The Four Horsemen
"When we start to rock, we never want to stop again!"
In August, 1980, Denmark-born Lars Ulrich moved with his family to Huntington Beach, just south of Los Angeles, where Ulrich was expected to pursue his life-long amibiton in tennis. However, also being an avid music lover, his obsession with heavy metal (especially the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal) took over, and he decided to form a band. He placed an advert in the local newspaper The Recycler, where he asked for "a heavy metal guitarist, much heavier than LA scene". One of those who responded was the quiet James Hetfield, already a member of a band called Leather Charm. However, when James, James' then bandmate Hugh Tanner, and Lars first played a rehearsal together, things did not go well. James recalls that Lars' drum kit kept falling over, and various parts would break apart when they were hit. Lars himself had only been playing drums on and off for three years, and as such, James was not impressed.
However, soon afterwards, Lars befriended Brian Segel, a local promoter, who was putting together a heavy metal compilation album called "Metal Massacre". Lars badgered Brian for a slot on the record, and he agreed as long as he gave him a track. So Lars called Hetfield and proposed the idea of forming a band again. Hetfield jumped at the idea once he learned they would be recording a song. James once again brought in Leather Charm's bassist Hugh Tanner, and Lars got ahold of Lloyd Grant, another applicant to Lars' newspaper advert. Together, they recorded an old Leather Charm song called "Hit The Lights" (a crib from Diamond Head's "Shoot The Lights"), which was placed last on the track listing for the album. Lars chose the name "Metallica" from an idea he had for a fanzine, although it is suggested it was taken from a rock reference book called "Encyclopedia Metallica".
Soon after the album's release, Lloyd Grant was already tired of the band and decided to quit. In his place came Dave Mustaine, a local Judas Priest nut and heavy drinker (who later fronted the band Megadeth). On march 14, 1982, Metallica played their very first gig at Anaheim's Radio City, followed by a support slot with Saxon (whom Lars was a large fan of) at the famous Whisky A Go-Go. At first, Hetfield was uncomfortable with playing the guitar and singing at the same time, so other guitarists were brought in to play James' parts for him. One of them, Brad Parker (stage name Damian C. Phillips), was fired right after his first gig with them, after he ran onto the stage way before the rest of the band, and in a moment of pure Spinal Tap absurdity, started blasting solos to the crowd on his own. Unable to find a suitable replacement, James opted to do guitar work as well as sing.
Their second demo tape came soon afterwards, dubbed "No Life Till Leather", which included many of the band's more popular songs, later recorded for their first LP release. While their reputation as a powerful and exciting live act continued to increase, then bassist Ron McGovney and Mustaine were falling out with each other. The band elected to throw McGovney out of the band, who was deemed as the cataylst for the feud. The band now needed a replacement. Out of the many people they tried out with, none of them stood out more than Cliff Burton. Cliff was playing with a band called Trauma from San Francisco, and one of James' friends recommended they go seem them in action. James recalls "hearing this wild guitar solo", and soon realised that it was bassist Cliff Burton performing the solo. The band gave him the offer on the spot. However, Cliff refused to move to LA, so the band instead moved up to San Francisco.
Thanks to the cultural phenomenon of tape swapping, Metallica's second demo wound up into the hands of Johnny Zazula (or Johnny Z) and his wife Marsha Zazula, record store owners and gig promoters in New Jersey. Once they heard the demo, they were so impressed they decided to fly the band out from the west coast, and let them stay at his apartment. Thanks to Johnny's belief in the band and rapidly decreasing bank balance, the band were able to start recording their first full album. However, relationships with lead guitarist Dave Mustaine were not going well and he was fired from the band. Mustaine had an hour to pack between being told the news and having to board a Greyhound bus heading for the west coast.
Back on the west coast, San Francisco's heavy metal scene was thriving. Once such band doing well for itself was Exodus, with guitarist Kirk Hammett on lead. One of Metallica's roadies mentioned the guitarist, and after flying him out over night to New York, he was accepted as Metallica's new lead guitarist. Soon afterwards, Metallica's first album "Kill 'Em All" was released on Megaforce Records, owned by Johnny Z. The album contained some of the fastest and heaviest songs ever created at the time (which was soon dubbed as 'Thrash Metal"), and the album received great reviews all around. So begins a heavy metal revolution.
"Smashing through the boundaries, lunacy has found me, cannot stop the battery!"
Thanks to Metallica's mixture of crushing heavy metal with punk's energetic pace, an entire music movement had been formed in the San Francisco Bay Area, dubbed then as The Bay Area Crunch. What ensued was countless imitators of Metallica's trademark fast and heavy sound saturating the music scene. Suddenly, Metallica were grouped along with all of this unfocused heavy metal, under the term Thrash Metal. Metallica needed to get out of a hole that they helped dig, and Ride The Lightning was their answer. Released in the summer of 1984 on Music For Nations, the record was an altogether more mature and progressive piece of work (the main theme throughout being causes of death). Metallica received large kudos for these new songs, especially the 8 minute epic "The Call of Ktulu" (sic), a purely instrumental thrash metal song, and "Fade To Black", the thrash movement's first ballad. Seeds of this sort of new direction were planted in their first album (most evident in Cliff Burton's 4-minute bass guitar solo "(Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth", but no one expected the band to grow this quickly, within the space of a year.
By the end of the year, Metallica had gained a gold disc for their first album, as well as a platinum disc for Ride The Lightning. This was achieved on word of mouth alone, with no promo videos or radio singles of any kind whatsoever. Thanks to this huge rise in popularity, the band's studio budget had been increased dramatically when it was time to record their third release. The band spent their time making sure the album was as good as it could be, spending months and months in the recording process. One track was debuted at a headlining appearance for a German Metal Festival in September of 1985. The track was called Disposable Heroes. a protest song against the horrors of war. By December, the album was finished, and the entire metal world's jaws dropped on it's release in early 1986. Master Of Puppets was deemed an instant classic by many critics on release. Brutally heavy and unforgivingly fast, yet also the most progressive and orchestrated album they had done thus far, the album is now many fan's favourite, and their first step towards super stardom.
Such was the band's success, that they managed to get a support slot with none other than Heavy Metal legend Ozzy Osbourne, on a huge six-month arena tour around the US, during which their popularity grew and grew exponentially. By the time the year was through, Master Of Puppets had sold more than 500,000 copies in the US alone, and it wasn't doing too bad overseas in Europe. Again, no promo videos or radio singles were released by the band; their popularity was gained via voice of mouth alone. The band had always had the attitude to do what they want, when they want, and how they want. Even after James sprained his wrist during Ozzy's tour in a skateboarding accident, they simply grabbed Guitar tech John Marshall to fill in for the remainder of the tour, with James on vocals, despite warnings from doctors. By September 1986, they were on their own headlining tour in Europe, headlining theatres and large venues such as the prestigious Hammersmith Odeon.
As the band's popuarlity grew and grew, so did their egos. The band were known for their excessive rockstar lifestyle, and were known for their wild drinking. Indeed, many areas of the public and media jokingly dubbed them "Alcoholica". The band even posed for a photo shoot with a large inflatable Smirnoff bottle, with their new appointed name in huge letters behind them on a wall. The band, rightfully so, felt utterly invincible.
To Live Is To Die
"Hold my breath as I wish for death. Oh please, God, wake me.."
In the early morning of Saturday, September 27, 1986, Metallica were travelling nearby a Swedish town called Ljungby, on their tour bus. So far, the 'Master of Puppets Tour" in Europe has been a success. On a stretch of road early in the morning, the bus swerved off the road and crashed into a ditch. The bus driver claimed to have hit some black ice. Most of the people on the bus had survived with just cuts and bruises, but Lars had broken his foot. Once out of the crashed bus (now on it's side), Kirk says he "remembered everyone screaming... except for Cliff."
"I saw the bus lying right on him, I saw his legs sticking out, I freaked. The bus driver, I recall, was trying to yank the blanket out from under him to use for other people. I just went 'don't fucking do that!' I already wanted to kill the guy. I didn't know if he was drunk or he hit some ice, all I knew was that he was driving and Cliff wasn't alive anymore."
As the bus fell into the ditch by the road, Cliff was thrown through a window in the side of the bus, just as it was rolling over. The bus crushed the upper part of his body. Later on, as the rescue team were lifting the bus, the bus slipped and fell right back on top of him. If there was any hope that he could be saved, that was long gone. Cliff Burton was pronounced dead on arrival. The band were not only heartbroken, but a new sense of vulnerability crept over them. Kirk recalls that he lent Cliff his bunk for the night, and claims he has never gotten over how it could have been him underneath the bus.
Cliff's memorial service took place on October 7 in his hometown Castro Valley. At the ceremony, the band insisted that they play the instrumental Orion, a song that Cliff was heavily involved in during the writing. His family and friends then took his ashes to one of his favourite places, Maxwell Ranch.
While this was a sad moment in Metallica's history, one thing was for certain: they weren't going to give up. It wasn't a question of whether they could keep going, it was rather when they could start going again. First job was to find a replacement bassist in time for a Japanese tour the band promised not to cancel. For just over a week, the band auditioned with countless bass players, none of them right for the part. One person, however, stood out. Jason Newstead, frontman for the band Flotsam and Jetsam, was given the job soon after they auditioned him. After a quick secret gig and hours and hours of practise, Jason went to Japan to honour the tour dates Metallica had made. As well as this, Metallica recorded "Garage Days Revisited", a small cover album recorded in Lars' garage, to break Jason into the group.
Soon after this, Metallica returned to the studio to record their fourth album. This would be Jason's writing and recording debut with the band, and soon the album became one of the most heavily awaited heavy metal albums in 1988. The album was called "...And Justice For All", named after the famous movie starring Al Pacino. This time, the band focused on the corruption of the American Dream, the horrors of war and family feuding. Unsurprisingly, the album was much darker than previous efforts, probably thanks in part to Cliff's death. One song is said to be a tribute to Cliff, The Shortest Straw, as it's rumoured Cliff drew the short straw for which bunk to sleep in on the tour bus. However, this is more likely the instrumental To Live Is To Die, which was made up of a number of things Cliff wrote before he died.
The band did not seem to be accommodating their new bassist well. With their latest album, the only real criticism that people levelled at it was that the production mde it sound like it was recorded in a tin can. Consequently, Jason suffered, as his bass is effectively inaudible. If it wasn't for this error, the album would have been a classic, but instead it suffers because of it.
In a move that fans didn't seem to agree with, Metallica finally decided to make a video and promo single, namely for the song One. It was seen as the best song on the album, and Metallica felt that if there was to be a video, it could make the song a lot better, giving more insight into the context of the song. The song itself was based on an anti-war novel called "Johnny got His Gun", written by Dalton Trumbo in 1939. It told the story of a man who lost all his limbs and face in a mine explosion, and is kept alive in a hospital. He is determined to die, but the hospital staff continue to keep him alive. For the promo video, the band elected to take bits from the movie adaption of this novel, intercut between shots of the band playing the song in an empty warehouse. The video got heavy rotation on MTV, and quite naturally, was something the mainstream had never seen before. "...And Justice For All" went multi-platinum, and Metallica won a Grammy Award for best metal performance (after being cheated out of it the previous year).
Within the space of two years, Metallica not only managed to recover from the death of their best friend, but also released an album that was considered the pinnacle of progressive metal, managing to appeal to people who wouldn't ordinarily listen to heavy metal. With a new bassist, new found fans, and a shitload of money, Metallica went into the studio to record their fifth album.
Don't Tread On Me
"But I'll take my time anywhere, free to speak my mind anywhere, and I'll redefine anywhere."
Thanks to Metallica's now handsomely huge following, the pressure was on the band to deliver something that not only bettered "...And Justice For All", but one that also made just as much of an impact on the music scene. Thanks to these new found responsibilities, tensions mounted higher than ever on the recording of their 5th album. Lars and James especially, who both started the band, argued more than everyone else. Thanks to the long recording process, these arguments were so heated that 3 out of the 4 members were divorced by the time the album was finished.
Wherever the band member's heads were during the recording, they definitely knew what they were trying to do. A lot of controversy exploded around the fact that Bob Rock (famous for producing the radio-friendly Bon Jovi) was producing the album. Fans were afraid that Metallica were heading for a sound too radio-friendly themselves. And this did indeed happen. The songs on the new record (now officially self-titled) were surprisingly accessible for a thrash metal band (most notably due to the fantastic production work by Bob Rock, who made "...And Justice For All" sound like a demo tape). Hell, a lot of these songs didn't sounds like thrash metal at all.
Of course, Metallica's spirit has always been to do what they want, when they want, and how they want, and not let anyone else interfere. Their 5th album (nick-named 'The Black Album" thanks to it's all black cover) was what Metallica wanted to do at the time. The band was sick of thrash metal; they had effectively done everything they could do by the time "...And Justice For All" came out. They wanted to experiment a bit,. and they really came up with a winner. "The Black Album"'s first single, "Enter Sandman", is undoubtedly the most popular and well known heavy metal song in the world, and with good reason; it helped Metallica sell over 10 million copies of their record within the next two years, staying in the billboard charts for almost three years. Metallica were officially the biggest band in the world at this point.
For this reason, the band decided they would do a tour with Guns N Roses, who were effectively just as big as Metallica. Very soon, however, Metallica regretted setting out on a world tour with Axl Rose. The band were already sick of Axl's arrogance and "holier than thou" attitude. Axl would occasionally stop mid-set during his band's performance, and just leave. or he would get into a tantrum because some fan brought a camera into the show. The two bands completely ignored each other for most of the tour, not being able to stand each other. The same thing was also happening within the Metallica ranks as well; Lars had developed a taste for cocaine, something that alienated the rest the band, while Jason and Kirk tended to hang out together on their own, smoking pot all day. James did not fit into any of this, and thus spent his time in country and western bars, where "people didn't bother you". Things were not going so well for the band.
This feeling climaxed during a set in France, when James lost his footing during (ironically) Fade to Black , and stepped into a 10 foot jet of pyro. The entire left side of James' body was burnt to a crisp, and his skin was rising up off of his fingers and arm. A humorous event to come of this, happened when the band was waiting for an ambulance. Someone bumped into James' arm, and it was so painful that James managed to punch him in in the testicles. After James was rushed to hospital, the band came out and promised that they would return and fulfill their commitment to their dates. The band were now hoping that Guns N Roses would save the day. Of course, this didn't happen. Instead of playing the full two hours, Axl dragged his not-so-merry men off-stage after about 45 minutes. The fans were not happy, and rioted all through the night.
A few weeks after James got out of hospital, the band came back to Europe to finish their tour. James could not play guitar, seeing he could hardly move his arm or hand, so he sung vocals while long-time roadie John Marshall filled James' shoes once again. The band finally managed to complete their tour, after almost two and a half years, and released Live Shit: Binge and Purge, a huge collection of live shows caught on 3 video tapes and 2 CDs. Thanks to this constant touring, the band needed a break, and so they all took a year or two off away from each other, and away from Metallica.
The Memory Remains
"Rebel, mind your last name, wild blood in my veins, they bring strings around my neck, the mark that still remains."
It had been a full five years since Metallica had released a full length album, and by the time their sixth was underway, the pressure applied could not have been more unstable. Metallica had learnt their lesson during the recording process of "The Black Album", so this time around the decided to let all ideas loose on each other. Beforehand, it was usually Lars and James who approved what would appear on a record, but this time all band members were allowed to let their influences run wild. What emerged was a more laid back, groove-orientated Metallica, one that focused more on enjoyable rock songs rather than heavy riffs and drumming. This, however, was not the sole reason their millions of fans were starting to feel a bit alienated.
During theit time off, Metallica had cut their hair, which was one thing the fans suprisingly did not tolerate. Gone were the long haired, greasy metal nuts, and in were latino pimp suits, Cuban cigars and clean cut heads. Once again, that old familiar phrase popped up (as it did with every major Metallica release). To further add to the controversy, some songs on the new album (named "Load" and released in 1996) were a lot more radio-friendly than previous efforts. Hints of this sort of transistion was evident on their last release, in songs like "Nothing Else Matters" and "My Friend Of Misery", but no one expected them to record a country and western song (namely the slow moving ballad "Mama Said"). Instantly, a lot of fans proclaimed the new album and look to be utter shit, and the complete opposite of what the band stood for. Of course, this was just the band doing what they wanted at the time.
While the album got good reviews from critics, some commented that this was the first Metallica album with noticeable filler material. Indeed, it was a long album (clocking in at almost 90 minutes long), and some people just couldn't listen to a whole album for that long in one sitting. It was a good thing that the band decided to split what was once planned to be a double album, into two halves. The first half was "Load", and the second was released as "Reload" the next year in 1997. Again, people saw this as an attempt to make more money, and once again, the band didn't care what people thought. What was evident, however, was that this wasn't as good as anything they had ever released. A lot of the songs lost focus half way through, and some should have just been discarded completely. It was if Metallica got all of the rejected songs from when they were recording, and stuck them onto one album disguised as an actual LP. Lars later comments that some of the songs weren't up to scratch because they were not meant to be released originally. However, once they decided to split them up, they also decided to make them longer, so they used songs they had originally rejected. Whatever the reason however, both albums suffered because of it.
Despite all of this, Metallica's following seemed to just keep growing and growing. The band were now comfortable with doing interviews, making videos and doing promotional gigs. This, of course, further lowered their reputation to their hardcore fanbase. But at the same time, their fanbase grew and grew, now that they were appealing to people who didn't like heavy metal at all, even the pop-friendly anthems on "The Black Album". Both "Load" albums reached multi-platinum status within a few months, and even though they did not make the same sort of groundbreaking impact as "The Black Album", they were still incredibly popular. The world was now waiting for a new album, which they unfortunately would not get for another seven years.
"When you're riding sixteen hours and there's nothing much to do, And you don't feel much like riding, you just wish the trip was through."
The pressure was on for Metallica to deliver a new album, one that many hoped would deviate away from the Load/Reload style they grew to hate. A lot of people wanted something that gave Metallica that unpredictable edge they were famous for, not radio-friendly rock songs. This did not happen, however. Instead, the band decided to do a second covers album (the previous being "Garage Days Revisited" in 1987). They packed two discs worth of covers from many of their influences, and named it "Garage, Inc.". A lot of fans were not happy that Metallica were seemingly avoiding to create a new album, despite the surprisingly large amount of applaud for this new one. If anything, it seemed Metallica could not fail when doing covers.
As if to aggravate fans even more, Metallica decided to do a project with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra (contrary to popular belief, it was the late conductor Michael Kamen who approached Metallica with the idea, not the other way around). What resulted from this collaboration was "S&M", seen as one of the most successful musical collaborations of the last few decades. Even those who had dismissed the idea as just pig-headedness on the band's part were agreeing.
Of course, if there were any hardcore Metallica fans left standing, they must have surely been blown away by Metallica's decision to go after file-sharing application Napster in April of 2000. Thanks to its large userbase, music fans shared mp3 files over the internet with each other, and it became incredibly popular. Of course, the RIAA was not happy with this, and so a collaboration of record companies and musicians went against Napster, threatening it with a lawsuit of monolithic proportions. At the forefront of all this was Lars Ulrich. Being the supposed media face of Metallica for all the long years of their career, he took it upon himself to represent the band in the legal struggle. This was a huge shock to Metallica fans, as they always perceived the band as always doing things for the fans. Now, Lars was threatening to sue anyone who shared Metallica mp3s over Napster. While Napster had eventually lost the battle and were forced to install filters so copyrighted material didn't get shared, the effect that the public backlash had on Lars was devastating. He describes how he literally couldn't turn a computer on for months, thanks to not only the internet anti-Lars frenzy, but also due to the overwhelming popularity of the campchaos.com short films "Napster Bad!". Lars later explains that his reasons stemmed from the fact that he was too power-hungry, and ever since the band's beginning, they always liked to have control over everything. When a rough version of "I Disappear" appeared online, the band were furious, and didn't like that their music was freely being shared without their permission (despite their position on tape sharing in the 1980s, which Lars claims isn't really the same thing).
While all of this is happening, things were not going well within the Metallica ranks. Jason Newstead was starting to feel out of place from the rest of the band, a feeling he says was due to the band continually treating him as "the new guy", ever since he joined in 1986. It was as if the band had not gotten over Cliff Burton's death, and were taking it out on Jason. He was also not happy with the way Metallica were now doing things. They used to write as a collective unit, but now they were just spending time apart, bringing in ideas of their own. In 2001, Jason left the band, and Metallica were again left without a bassist. Metallica decided to go ahead and start a new album without him, with long time producer Bob Rock claiming bass duties until a replacement is found. However, before things could start, James Hetfield had checked himself into rehab. James found himself drinking vodka for breakfast, and simply could not handle it anymore. Two of the band members were now out of action, and it seemed as if things were going to end on a low note for the band.
Some Kind Of Monster
"I won't go away, with a bullet in my back, right here I'll stay, with a bullet in my back"
In the middle of 2002, James finally came out of rehab, apparently a changed man. He had managed to quit drinking, something he claimed was clouding his perception of things and affecting his writing. Thanks to the recent traumatic events, the band became a very close unit, who could easily share their feelings with each other, something that just didn't happen before. The band then decided to enter the studio once again, and give a new album another go. This time, instead of bringing ideas into the studio like they used to, they came in with nothing, and simply wrote everything in the studio. The band notes that this was ironically what Jason wanted the band to do before he quit. They described the writing process as one of the most creative portions of their lives, coming up with things that varied from Nine Inch Nails-esque industrial to the old sounds of "The Black Album".
What emerged from the recording process was "St. Anger" (released in June 2003), an album that seemed to return to a style very similar to that of "Ride The Lightning". Instead of instrumental epics, country and western ballads and stadium anthems, the album was fast, heavy and under produced - a sound that seemed to hail back the to the 1980s. While the album was arguably the heaviest thing the band had done since "Ride The Lightning", lots of fans were not impressed. The fans who were drawn into the band thanks to "The Black Album" and "Load" hated the return to mindless heavy metal, while the hardcore fans hated its distinct modern metal influences (especially the lack of Kirk Hammett's signature guitar solos). Many people simply labelled the album as "nu-metal", a term describing the popular radio-friendly metal acts that had taken over the radio waves. Of course, once again, the band didn't care. A lot of critics applauded the band to have the guts to do something like this, giving it good ratings and reviews.
Shortly after the album was finished, the band recruited Robert Trujillo as the new bassist. Robert had already played with the likes of Suicidal Tendancies, Jerry Cantrell and the almighty Ozzy Osbourne, and managed to fit right in. The band were featured on the MTV: Icon show, where many modern rock bands paid tribute to the band by playing covers of their songs (including Korn, Limp Bizkit and *gulp* Avril Lavigne). After years of struggling to even write a new song, Metallica suddenly became the biggest band in the world once again. In 2004, a documentary entitled Some Kind Of Monster (Named after a track from the St. Anger album) was released to much fanfare. Directed by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, it documents the period of time between James Newstead leaving the band and the eventual release of St. Anger.
"A year and a half ago I didn't even know if there was a Metallica, so now that the machine is kicking back into life, it's definitely an exciting time."
-- Lars Ulrich, 2003
Kill 'Em All
Record Label: Megaforce Records / Music For Nations
Never begins it, never, but once engaged, never surrenders, showing the fangs of rage"
By the time the 1990s had appeared, Metallica were one of the biggest heavy metal acts on the planet, thanks to their 4th studio effort "..And Justice For All". With a new found legion of fans and a shitload of money, Metallica entered the studio with legendary producer Bob Rock, whose resume consisted primarily of Bon Jovi. While many fans were slightly taken by surprise with this decision, the real meat of the project blew everyone away.
Metallicas self-titled effort (nicknamed "The Black Album", thanks to it's Spinal Tap-influenced all black cover), and 5th studio album, was released in August of 1991, entering the charts at number 1. Not only was this Metallicas first chart topper, but also a first for the genre entirely. No other heavy metal band had managed to infect the mainstream as much as Metallica did in 1991. People who were not ordinarily into this sort of music, were suddenly drawn into it, thanks to the radio-friendly stadium anthems that peppered the album from start to finish. Lots of "hardcore" fans were against the album, claiming that the band were only trying to make more money. As if the band cared what people thought anyway. One interesting effect stemming from the album's success, is the remix work done by Dj Halfred, who mixed up this album with Jay-Z's own "The Black Album", naming it "Black on Black", as well as a second one called "The Double Black Album" by DJ Cheap Cologne.
The albums starts with the first single taken from the record, Enter Sandman, which is quite possibly the best opening track to any heavy metal album ever. Starting with a quiet, menacing acoustic guitar, the drums soon help it to turn into one of the most evil riffs ever conceived. While not as fast as one might expect from a thrash metal band, no one could deny it's infectious quality. This song helped Metallica launch into the stratosphere, and with it's grooving riffs and boogy-man lyrics, the world was under Metallica's spell. What follows is one of the album's heavier songs, Sad But True. This also happens to be the second slowest offering on the album, showcasing that songs did not need to be fast to be heavy. with a similar infectious groove to the previous track, this also managed to be a hit on the live circuit.
Holier Than Thou is pure thrash from beginning to end, hardly ever slowing down it's pace. Despite it's obvious thrash features, it had a suprisingly pop-friendly sensibility, partly thanks to Bob Rock's stunning production work. This is one of the best songs Metallica have ever done, and one of many highlights on this album. The chorus alone, with James screaming "holier than thou!" in your ears, is enough to warrant its attention. Surprisingly, the next track is one of the more melancholy on the album. The Unforgiven is one of Metallica's most well known tracks, and is a sorrowful tale of alienation and oppresion. it contrasts greatly with the last track, making it's placement on the album questionable. Despite this, it's an amazing display of ability, toying with your emotions right to the end.
Wherever I May Roam follows, with a slow middle eastern-influenced start that picks up into a suprisingly fast rush to the finish line. A song about troubles being on tour, the song is coupled with a blistering solo courtesy of Kirk Hammett, with James endlessly repeating "Wherever I may Roam", fading out at the end. The next track, Dont Tread On Me, has an almost humorous tongue-in-cheek beat and riff to it, almost Spinal Tap-esque (slightly ironic, considering the nickname placed on this album...). This is probably the weakest song on the album, with no real lasting value. Nevertheless, hearing James shout "Dont Tread On Me" in an overly cheesy fashion should not be missed.
Through The Never picks up the thrash metal reigns once again. While not as fast as Holier Than Thou, it still manages to stand up on it's own, with a puslating riff that manages to stand tall all the way through the song. Thanks to it's short length, the track manages to avoid burning itself out before the end. Once again, the next track could not create a bigger contrast between itself and the last track. Nothing Else Matters is the quietest song on the album, and the complete opposite of what you'd expect from a Metallica song. This song sounds nothing like heavy metal at all, with the inclusion of a string symphony in the background and riding on James' voice alone. it's a suprisingly emotional piece, and very memorable.
Things soon pick up again, with the headbangingly infectious Of Wolf And Man. With a similar pop feel to previous hard hitters on the album, this one toys with the idea of werewolves, essentially the album's second obligatory song that's based on a mythical creature (the first being Enter Sandman). A worthy effort, but not the best on the album. The God That Failed starts with a very groove-influenced pace to it. The track unfortunately doesn't manage to stand up to many of the others, thanks in part to it's long track length and slow pace. It effectively burns itself out near the end, sounding too similar to other songs on the album.
My Friend Of Misery starts out very promisingly, with Jason Newstead's bass abilities shown off to their fullest. But the song almost turns into a junior version of the last track, which dampens it's pace quite significantly. Also, at this point on the album Lars Ulrich's drum work is starting to get repetitive, and thus annoying. The last track, The Struggle Within, manages to redeem the last few failed minutes on the album. Lars' drumwork suddenly gets more experimental, and with a driving riff that keeps up all the way, the song is a worthy end to the album.
With The Black Album, Metallica had managed to become not only the biggest heavy metal band in the world, but the biggest band on the world period. Critics applauded the album to it's fullest, and thanks to huge stadium tours with the likes of Guns N' Roses and other popular acts, Metallica had effectively taken over the world. The album had eventully sold more than 10 million copies, also a first for the heavy metal scene. many saw this album as Metallica's best effort, and while some tracks haven't aged as well as others, it still stands head and shoulders above many popular releases today.
Special Thanks To:
RIP Cliff Burton