It was released on August 12, 1991, exactly 20 years ago, “Metallica” – also know as “The Black Album”, the fifth studio album of the band and the first after the bursting success of “…And Justice for All” – meantime certified 8x platinum by the RIAA, and it was one of the most expected record at the time.
The album debuted at number one in ten countries, and spent four consecutive weeks at the top spot of the Billboard 200, making it Metallica’s first album to have involvement at the pole position. “Metallica” is the band’s best-selling album to date with more than 22 million copies worldwide and the album was certified 15x platinum (diamond) by the RIAA on November 13, 2009.
James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett and Jason Newsted, but not at least also by contributions from producer Bob Rock, delivered a different Metallica album, “Metallica” is a step away from their previous Thrash Metal sound and approach to a more cleaner, kind of classier sound, but pointing to a new direction.
Metallica spawned six singles. “Enter Sandman” was chosen and released as the lead single on July 29, 1991, reached number 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart and was certified “Platinum” by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The follow-up single, “Don’t Tread on Me”, was released promotionally, and peaked at number 21 on the Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks singles chart. “The Unforgiven” was a Top 40 hit, and peaked at the Top 10 in Austrailia.
Next year, “Nothing Else Matters” was released to a bigger success, reaching number six in the United Kingdom and Ireland. The fifth single off the album also released in 1992, “Wherever I May Roam”, peaked at number two on the Mainstream Rock Tracks but was a commercial mess at the Hot 100 chart, failing to reach the Top 80.
In 1993, “Sad but True”, however, wasn’t able to copycat the success of the album’s previous singles, and just charted for one week near the bottom of the Billboard Hot 100 at 98. It’s also to consider, while “Nothing Else Matters” was the “first full-time ballad”, “Sad but True” is a raging, dark, true Metal anthem.
Almost all singles were accompanied by music videos, with the Wayne Isham-directed “Enter Sandman” promotional film winning a MTV Video Music Award for Best Rock Video at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards.
The recording of Metallica was troubled, with the band frequently entering conflicts with Rock during production. The band decided to hire Bob Rock for mixing after being impressed with his work producing MÃ¶tley CrÃ¼e’s “Dr. Feelgood”. Initially, the band was not interested in having Rock producing the album as well, but changed their minds as Ulrich stated, “We felt that we still had our best record in us and Bob Rock could help us make it.”
Rock had the band make the album in different ways, where they would record songs collaboratively rather than let the band members do so in separate locations. Rock also had other musical and artistic suggestions, included recording tracks live and more harmonic vocals for Hetfield. Rock was expecting the production to be “easy”, nevertheless, he had trouble with the group, often bombasting with the band members over aspects of working on the album. In addition, they had difficulties trying to get the perfect sound they wanted to hear in a number of songs, so they exhorted to do numerous additional takes. The album was remixed three times, and cost US$1 million. The troubled production led to Ulrich, Hammett and Newsted entering divorces, something Hammett said influenced their playing as they were “trying to take those feeling of guilt and failure and channel them into the music, to get something positive out of it.” Rock altered the band’s working schedule and routine so much that they swore never to work with him again, but despite all the controversies between the band and Rock, he continued to work with the band through the 2003 album “St. Anger”.
01. “Enter Sandman”
02. “Sad but True”
03. “Holier Than Thou”
04. “The Unforgiven”
05. “Wherever I May Roam”
06. “Don’t Tread on Me”
07. “Through the Never”
08. “Nothing Else Matters”
09. “Of Wolf and Man”
10. “The God That Failed”
11. “My Friend of Misery”
12. “The Struggle Within”
Total length: 62 minutes 31 seconds
The first tour that supported the Metallica album, the “Wherever We May Roam Tour”, included a performance at the “Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert”, with the band performing a short set list and Hetfield performing with Queen and Tony Iommi and also there was an overlap of Metallica’s “Wherever We May Roam Tour” and Guns N’ Roses’ “Use Your Illusion Tour”.
On August 8, 1992, during a Montreal show in the co-headlining Guns N’ Roses/Metallica Stadium Tour, Hetfield suffered second and third degree burns to his arms, face, hands, and legs. The tour included pyrotechnics and Hetfield walked into a emourmous 12-foot (3.7 m) flame during a live performance of the introduction of “Fade to Black” and the gig was cut short as the result of the accident. Guitar technician John Marshall, who had previously filled in on rhythm guitar and was also playing in Metal Church, replaced Hetfield for the remainder of the tour as Hetfield was unable to play guitar, although he was able to sing.
Some songs, such as “Enter Sandman”, “Nothing Else Matters” and “Sad but True” would become permanent staples of the band’s concert setlist.
With “Metallica – The Black Album” a new Metallica and a new era of the band had started. This is history now.
And well, it’s also thirty years of Metallica… can you believe it? It seems like yesterday when I first listen to “Kill ‘Em All”.
Happy Birthday my friend!