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Metallica: 20th Anniversary Of The ‘Black Album’
Obi-Dan   |  

Metallica
Metallica – The Black Album
U.S.: CD | MP3
UK: CD | MP3
Recorded October 1990 – June 1991
Released August 13, 1991

At the end of the 1980s, an epic battle was about to take place. Grunge was wafting its sweaty cardigan in the direction of the drainpipe-trousered metallers hoping to lay claim to their throne. One band was not about to concede the new decade to any pretenders and set about writing not only one of the defining albums of the decade, but one of the greatest metal albums of all time. The almighty Black Album arrived, and nobody was going to remove Metallica’s crown.

Officially titled Metallica, it became known as the Black Album thanks to the cover art. It’s black. Released August 13, 1991, it demonstrated a marked change for Metallica. The band’s thrash-heavy, white-hot relentless riffs were replaced by a slower, heavier sound that was less like a machine-gun attack and more like a steady series of hammer blows. On previous albums like …And Justice or All and Master Of Puppets, Metallica showcased their songwriting abilities through epic, challenging musical pieces. This time, however, they went in the opposite direction and kept everything much more simple. The riffs were shorter and catchier and in “Nothing Else Matters” they even have a love song that is actually my favourite track on the album. The galloping riffs of “Through The Never,” “The Struggle Within,” and “Holier Than Thou” prove that Metallica is still the same band. Much of this praise — or blame — was laid at the feet of producer-of-the-moment Bob Rock.

This is the album which did (and still does) divide opinion between not only Metallica fans, but metal fans in general. The black cover artwork could be construed by some as the death of the old Metallica and the beginning of the new. For others it was the beginning of the end, for this was the sound of “Alcoholica” putting an end to their beer-gulping can-crushing ways and becoming a more mature and talented band.

Frontman James Hetfield has never sounded so good. His angry howl still in full flow on “Of Wolf And Man,” but this time he gets to sing ‘properly’ on “The Unforgiven” and “Nothing Else Matters.” I adore listening to Kirk Hammett’s guitar solos on this album. He reminds me of a wrecking ball, charging in with a smoking solo and playing with utter joy.

Whereas before (and especially since) it sometimes sounds as though Lars Ulrich is pounding on his drums trying to keep up with the furious pick strumming of Hetfield, on the Black Album, Ulrich is totally in control and dictates the pace and power throughout. It’s somewhat of a shame that bassist Jason Newsted doesn’t more space on the album, but his performance is still faultless.

The Black Album opened the doors for a much wider audience and introduced people who were not so inclined before to start listening to heavier music, thanks in part to the album’s big hit “Enter Sandman.” Metallica did not sell-out, they stripped down their sound and whether by luck or design it became more accessible to a more mainstream audience and has since gone on to become one of the highest-selling metal albums of all time.

Despite the protests by those early Metallica purists, who cried loudly that this was the final pop nail in Metallica’s metal coffin as they feathered their mullets and cradled a copy of 1983’s Kill ‘Em All, the Black Album is still spectacularly heavy. To me, it is closer to something by Black Sabbath than early ‘Tallica, but it still has an edge that was unparalleled in 1991.

Track Listing:

1 – Enter Sandman
2 – Sad But True
3 – Holier Than Thou
4 – The Unforgiven
5 – Wherever I May Roam
6 – Don’t Tread On Me
7 – Through The Never
8 – Nothing Else Matters
9 – Of Wolf And Man
10 – The God That Failed
11 – My Friend Of Misery
12 – The Struggle Within


  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Bartley/100001491917065 Mike Bartley

    I am one of those Metallica purists. To this day I do consider them sell outs. When I was a kid, Metallica was my favorite band ever. They represented all the angst and aggression I had inside of me and were a great way to relieve it by playing their music. I remember very clearly seeing an interview with James Hetfield where he says “We dont need to make videos for our fans. Weve never been about that. Our fans can paint the portrait of what the music means for themselves.” He also explains why they dont need radio airplay because (and it still rings true) theyre doing well enough without it and radio sucks anyway. When I was younger, all the “cool kids” and “popular kids” gave me so much shit for listening to them, saying it was “kill your mom” music. I had to put up with a lot as a fan of theirs. Then they turn around and start making music for all those people that talked shit about them and other bands. Its like I was part of a group who helped bring this band up and made them something significant, then when they released the Crap Album, it was like they didnt care about us anymore. “Oh hey, you guys that loved our old heavy shit and helped give us a career, were doing away with all of that.” South Park did a great job of making fun of Metallica on the episode about downloading torrents. Imagine if you helped a business open and did a lot of hard work for them to make it a decent business. Then right when you think things are going awesomely, they hire in a new guy that hasnt been there to take the general manager position and start doing everything for him and not you. Fuck that. Metallica are GIANT sellouts, always will be, and those who cant see that are fooling themselves. I wanted to go to Big 4 when it played in Indio CA, but was fully ready to leave when Metallica hit the stage. Fuck them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Bartley/100001491917065 Mike Bartley

    I am one of those Metallica purists. To this day I do consider them sell outs. When I was a kid, Metallica was my favorite band ever. They represented all the angst and aggression I had inside of me and were a great way to relieve it by playing their music. I remember very clearly seeing an interview with James Hetfield where he says “We dont need to make videos for our fans. Weve never been about that. Our fans can paint the portrait of what the music means for themselves.” He also explains why they dont need radio airplay because (and it still rings true) theyre doing well enough without it and radio sucks anyway. When I was younger, all the “cool kids” and “popular kids” gave me so much shit for listening to them, saying it was “kill your mom” music. I had to put up with a lot as a fan of theirs. Then they turn around and start making music for all those people that talked shit about them and other bands. Its like I was part of a group who helped bring this band up and made them something significant, then when they released the Crap Album, it was like they didnt care about us anymore. “Oh hey, you guys that loved our old heavy shit and helped give us a career, were doing away with all of that.” South Park did a great job of making fun of Metallica on the episode about downloading torrents. Imagine if you helped a business open and did a lot of hard work for them to make it a decent business. Then right when you think things are going awesomely, they hire in a new guy that hasnt been there to take the general manager position and start doing everything for him and not you. Fuck that. Metallica are GIANT sellouts, always will be, and those who cant see that are fooling themselves. I wanted to go to Big 4 when it played in Indio CA, but was fully ready to leave when Metallica hit the stage. Fuck them.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_AWBAPVC2I6XEO6GXD6PICTL2HE Clash

    Purist? Since Metallica originally featured Dave Mustaine were they sellouts then too? At some point they made a decision to remove Mustaine for the good of the band just as at some point they decided to make some real money. They’re music did change…but they brought scores of new fans some of who came to appreciate the older stuff and rock to the new stuff. They made good music at the beginning. They made even better music with Newsted. 

    The facts are inescapable. Music is a business and the outside influences and 
    shapes the inside. Add those two ingredients and at some point you get change you can’t believe in. My turning point, although I’m still a big fan, was the day Newsted departed. Up until that point their music spoke to me…and still does.

    Parting thought…As I recall writing a portion of the lyrics to Sanitarium on my highschool drafting board…The Black album was 20 years ago? Damn! I’m getting old.

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