Metallica (a.k.a. The Black Album)
The Californian quartet’s eponymously titled fifth studio album took the band to legendary status – building on the foundations laid throughout the previous decade. Shedding their aggressive thrash elements, Metallica produced an album that has sold over 22 million copies worldwide.
It had been five years since the passing of the band’s influential bass player, Cliff Burton, and it was the first opportunity for new bass player, Jason Newsted, to contribute musically. The pressure was on after the success of …And Justice For All. It was always going to be tough for the band and big decisions had to be made. Namely, controversial producer Bob Rock – famous for his work with Black Sabbath, Motley Crue and Bon Jovi, to name but a few – was drafted in to revitalise the thrash metal pioneers. The result: a critically acclaimed masterpiece that still remains relevant today.
Musically, Bob Rock encouraged frontman James Hetfield to be more personal with the lyrics and the rest of the song writing. He also attained a groovier sound with an emphasis on playing to the beat of the drummer. Yet the album still retains its heaviness. It was these musical ingredients that really contributed to that winning formula.
Six hit singles were released from the album and it is not an exaggeration to say that there could have been more. It is comprised of a variety of tracks: ‘Nothing Else Matters’ has that radio friendly edge; the groovier sound is noticeable in songs such as ‘Sad But True’. It even pleases fans of the ‘old school’, like me, with ‘Holier Than Thou’. It is a well rounded effort and it most certainly deserves the recognition as a classic.
I should also add that SoundScan, Billboard’s official source for record sales, has recently announced the album as the top selling album of the past two decades (out of any album!). It is then fitting that they shall be celebrating its success at Download Festival this summer. See you there.