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3.46 | 184 ratings | 15 reviews
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Album · 1991

Filed under Heavy Metal


1. Enter Sandman (5:31)
2. Sad but True (5:24)
3. Holier Than Thou (3:47)
4. The Unforgiven (6:27)
5. Wherever I May Roam (6:44)
6. Don't Tread on Me (4:00)
7. Through the Never (4:04)
8. Nothing Else Matters (6:28)
9. Of Wolf and Man (4:16)
10. The God That Failed (5:08)
11. My Friend of Misery (6:49)
12. The Struggle Within (3:53)

Total Time: 62:37


- James Hetfield / lead vocals, rhythm guitars, acoustic guitar (tracks 4, 5 and 8), sitar (track 5), lead guitar (tracks 8 and 11)
- Lars Ulrich / drums
- Kirk Hammett / lead guitars
- Jason Newsted / bass, backing vocals

About this release

Release date: August 12, 1991
Record label: Elektra/Vertigo
Producers: Bob Rock with Hetfield & Ulrich

Thanks to metalbaswee, Pekka, CCVP, negoba, rushfan4, UMUR, diamondblack, Unitron for the updates


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Vim Fuego
In which the Big Four became The Fucking Enormous One and The Big Three.

In hindsight, 1991 was a watershed year in rock and metal, but it was hard to see at the time, as such events often are. The previously dominant forces in those genres changed in a momentous few months, the results of which are still felt today. The style-over-substance excesses of 80s glam metal which had so dominated MTV and rock radio were dramatically replaced by an anti-style. At the same time, the underground erupted overground, and the alternative became the mainstream.

And really, it was the period of August and September 1991 where three releases ushered in this change. World politics and society had recently been through a huge shift with the almost overnight downfall of communism in 1989. Music doesn’t exactly dictate how millions of people are forced to live, or whether people can be oppressed, persecuted, imprisoned, or murdered for their beliefs or race, but there was a similar scale of shift in the musical microcosm. Glam metal, which had so dominated the late 1980s had burned out and was beginning to eat it’s young. Thrash metal, so long underground, was needing new outlets because the building popularity was hardly being contained underground. And in Seattle, the rising slacker generation was starting to stir.

These three releases were a hit, a miss, and a where-the-fuck-did-that-come-from broadside. The hit was Metallica’s self-titled fifth album, released on August 12. The miss was Guns N’ Roses “Use Your Illusions” albums, the twin album follow-up to their phenomenally successful debut, released on September 17. The broadside was Nirvana’s second album “Nevermind”, which exceeded original sales targets by a scale of 100, released on September 24.

In the time it took to write these four paragraphs, including fact checking, rewording, interruptions for a phone call from my mother in law, and from Jehovah’s Witnesses who left fearing for my soul after me saying we were atheists, the entire 62 minute album has played through.

And I don’t want to listen to it again.

It is my practice to listen to whatever I am reviewing while I write, no matter how many times it plays through. If it is a short EP, this can mean several repeats. But you know what? This is the most damning indictment on this album. I simply cannot face listening to it again. So this is now a much shorter and changed review from what I intended.

So… If you’re even a casual metal fan, you already know what this sounds like. It’s heavy and loud, which is good. However, it plods along, barely getting past a mid-tempo stomp. Metallica used to play really fast before this album, so slower is bad. This left a lot of Metallica’s fans really confused. “Heavy = good, slow = bad, what the fuck am I supposed to think?”

While these bewildered millions (and Metallica was selling millions, even before this album) tried to decide whether to love it or hate it, tens of millions more who would never have even given Metallica a second thought, decided they loved it. There’s shit to say about radio friendly singles, an overplayed but visually stunning video for “Enter Sandman”, Bob Rock being a cunt, Jason’s bass finally appearing, subtlety, ballads, wolves, nightmares, minimalist artwork, but it’s all been said before.

It doesn’t matter that pre-black album fans like me think this is dull, and would have preferred “…And Justice For All Part II”. It still pointed where metal was going. Just look at the rest of the Big 4. Megadeth followed suit, by slowing down and getting heavier. Anthrax slowed a little, and incorporated more melody into their music. Slayer took their sweet time before releasing anything else, but probably changed the least of the four, and have kept their reputation most intact because of it. A lot of next tier bands changed too. Exodus’ “Force of Habit” was a bit directionless. Kreator incorporated industrial elements to their music. Overkill released arguably their weakest album in “I Hear Black”, while other bands like Death Angel, Dark Angel, Forbidden, Sacred Reich, and Testament fell on hard times or split up.

On the positive side, Sepultura discovered their groove with “Chaos AD”, and Pantera and Machine Head emerged as genuine contenders for a scene which was no longer subterranean.

And the GnR/Nirvana points I was labouring earlier? Guns N’ Roses got too big for their own good. No one had the guts to tell them that releasing two albums padded with covers and sub-par shit was a bad idea, when they should have released one fucking good one. As a result, their career took a bit of a nose dive, and the rest of the glam scene collapsed around them. Don’t feel sorry for them though. The Gunners still made millions (both albums have sold over 18 million copies). It was the other dumb bastards who found their poodle perms and gender bending androgyny no longer counted for anything.

Nirvana was a garage band which had managed to wangle a decent record deal and recording budget, and with more attitude and good intention than actual talent or skill, recorded an album which unexpectedly grabbed the music buying public’s attention. It was simple music which appealed to the simple millions (about 30 simple millions, according to some estimates). Grunge replaced glam, and rock clubs started to stink of body odour instead of hairspray.

Since I’ve mentioned the supposed sales figures for the other two, “Metallica” by Metallica has reportedly sold 31 million copies. I have owned two of those. The first was a cassette bought the day it was released. I didn’t like it. I listened to it over and over, analysed it, looked at different interpretations and alternate meanings of the lyrics, played it quiet and loud, fiddled with the graphic equalizer, tried it on a number of different pieces of audio equipment. I still didn’t like it. So I bought it on CD a number of years later.

It was still dull. Fuck, I’m dumb…
Any claim that this is 'the best heavy metal record of all time' might seem a bit far-fetched, but any accusations that Metallica 'sold out' on this mainstream pop album are truly mistaken. A bunch of whiny, underground thrash metal fans can't get over the fact that their heroes 'went mainstream' (trying to actually earn any money is a big heavy metal no-no), but realistically, with the rising grunge scene placing heavy metal in the early 90's on its deathbed, 'Metallica', commonly referred to as 'The Black Album' made sure the genre went down swinging.

Regardless of people's opinions about the direction the band was taking here, I don't think there is any denying that what we have on offer are great heavy metal songs. So they aren’t as complex and progressive as previous albums, and the lyrics don't seem as dark, deep or super-serious as on 'Master of Puppets' or 'Ride the Lightning'. But what Metallica's self-titled record has in abundance that previous releases were missing is "anthems". Straight-to-the-point, bang-your-head kick-ass metal anthems. All souped-up with Bob Rock's beefy production, these songs introduced fans to a whole new Metallica.

A few filler tracks got thrown into this record, but then, when you look at the songs they're being mixed amongst, it's pretty easy not to really notice, or care. ‘Enter Sandman’, ‘Sad But True’, ‘Nothing Else Matters’, ‘The Unforgiven’ and 'Wherever I May Roam' all justify why this album sold millions upon millions of copies.

It's the album that split the fans, which for me, means it distinguishes the true music fans from the whiny elitists, but either way, this is a great record that capped off Metallica's rise to the top and firmly placed them on the throne of heavy metal.

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siLLy puPPy
Goodbye thrash METALLICA! Hello commercial behemoth $$$

I have to admit that I do like this album to a certain degree. It is very well and slickly produced. The bass now plays with the drum instead of the guitar giving a more traditional metal feel. The angst is still there and it still rocks. Many songs are catchy and still have a familiar Metallica sound. Not a bad crossover album when all is said and done. The thrashiness still exerts itself in weaker doses.

However, after 3 stellar thrash releases this is an admitted let-down for the older fans. It was a clear rush to cash in on the momentum that they had accrued throughout the 80s and a calculated turn towards a more grungy radio-friendly sound that they felt would possibly not alienate old fans while attracting new ones. I have to say that they did that to a certain degree. I, myself, being a fan of their thrash albums still bought this and listened to it. Not against sound changes but this was the beginning of the great decline with this band.

The themes are still dark and the videos are cool and as far as a commercial release goes I do think they pulled this off fairly well. Good but not great. Can't say I love it. Can't say it hate it (that is saved for the next album!)
The Black Album gets a lot of flack from Metallica fans, but personally I think it's an OK-ish album. It's not brilliant by any means; were the same tunes recorded by some band nobody had heard of for their debut album I suspect it'd have fallen into obscurity. But the fact is that it was recorded by Metallica - and what's more, given the best production job of any Metallica album to date.

Sure, the production doesn't reveal anything particularly special about the songs collected here, which are about as middle-of-the-road as metal can possibly get. But I'd very slightly prefer that to what you get on Justice For All - which is genuinely interesting, novel, and well-composed songs utterly ruined by shoddy production. It's like the difference between popcorn and gourmet food; screw up the fancy dinner and it'll taste horrible, whilst almost nobody can fail to make adequately eatable popcorn. And like average popcorn, the Black Album can be easily consumed without thinking too hard and will leave you feeling vaguely unsatisfied.
"Metallica" (or "The Black Album" if you will) is the 5th full-length studio album by US heavy metal/ thrash metal act Metallica. The album was released in August 1991 by Elektra Records. The band had been hugely influential and also quite commercially successful during the eighties releasing four seminal thrash metal albums in "Kill ´Em All (1983)", "Ride the Lightning (1984)", "Master of Puppets (1986)" and "... And Justice for All (1988)". All four are generally considered landmark releases in the genre. The increasingly technical playing and complex structure of the songs on especially "... And Justice for All (1988)" eventually led to the band getting tired of playing thrash metal though. They probably felt they had accomplished everything there was to accomplish in that genre and they felt the need to tone things down a bit and focus more on melody, simpler song structures and less technical playing. "The Black Album" went on to become hugely successful in terms of record sales and is one of the most important factors in the increasing acceptance of hard rock and heavy metal on mainstream radio.

So what we get on "The Black Album" are some memorable heavy metal songs that should appeal to most people in terms of heavy riffs, sing-along choruses, melodic guitar solos and varied songwriting. Six singles were released to support the album in "Enter Sandman", "Don´t Tread on Me", "The Unforgiven", "Nothing Else Matters", "Wherever I May Roam" and "Sad But True". "Don´t Tread on Me" was the least successful but the other five were hugely successful and those five songs remain classics in Metallica´s repetoire to this day. Unfortunately many of the other songs on the album come off as sub par to those five tracks. Examples could be songs like "Don't Tread on Me", "Of Wolf and Man" and "The Struggle Within". Pretty mediocre material if you ask me. None of the tracks on the album are bad though and most are enjoyable even though they are not remarkable. The thrash metal riffing style which was a big part of Metallica´s sound on the earlier releases by the band are almost completely gone from their sound on this album and there are obvious references to classic hard rock instead. "The Black Album" is still a heavy metal album first and a hard rock/ heavy rock album second though. If you are ever in doubt take a listen to the crushingly heavy main riff in "Sad But True".

The production by Bob Rock is grand and metallic sounding and suits the music well.

My personal experience with this album is rather mixed. Upon the release of "The Black Album" I was already a big fan of Metallica having been hooked in an early age by "... And Justice for All". I actually attended a concert with Metallica on Gentofte Stadium (A stadium situated in a suburb to Copenhagen, Denmark) two days before the release of the album. I´ve seen Metallica a couple of times since then (two times on the tour following the release of "The Black Album"), but that concert still stands as the best concert I´ve seen with them. Maybe because they only played "Enter Sandman" and "Of Wolf and Man" from the then, yet unreleased "Black Album". I´ve seen many people accusing Metallica of selling out but IMO the band really wanted to change their style out of artistic reasons and not because they thought they could make more money. I´m sure they didn´t exactly suffer finacially after selling as many albums as they did in the eighties. If you like their new direction is a whole other matter though and I must admit that I´m one of those that stopped listening to Metallica after this album was released. I remember listening to the album with great enthusiasm for the first couple of years after it was released but the air simply went out of the ballon somewhere along the way and I much prefer the first four albums to this one. Still it´s for the most part a high quality metal album and even though I think there are way too many filler tracks on the album to warrant a 62:40 minutes long playing time, I´d say a 3.5 - 4 star rating is warranted. Had there been more great songs like the five hits on the album I would have given a full 4. Despite my issues with the album "The Black Album" is a "classic" metal album. One of those albums you have to have heard before you leave this earth.
This is one of those albums that you either already own or can't be bothered with. Well I'll try to take up some of your precious time with another review anyway.

Many fans criticized Metallica’s knee fall to please the masses, the Black Album was said to be too commercial, not thrash enough, slick, sell-out. Those and many other outbursts of betrayed fan rage could be heard all over the place.

Well, they didn’t diminish the popularity nor the relevance of this album. With its smooth and rocking approach it brought metal to a wider public and helped making it into one of the most popular and most creative scenes of the 90's. And indeed it is an excellent starting point for discovering all things metal, it has power, aggression, shredding, epic drama and some of the most catchy tunes on any metal album. I had had some short flirts with metal in the years before, but this album started my life-long love for the genre.

But that doesn't mean everything is glorious, there's sure filler as well. Up until Don’t Thread on Me, there is no dip in the song material, with Sad But True and Wherever I May Roam being the obvious highlights. From then on the quality goes a bit up and down. Some of the songs are hardly necessary and had better been passed on to B-sides. Especially Don’t Thread on Me, Of Wolf and Man and The Struggle Within drag the album down. One of the main reasons is Ulrich's uncreative drumming again. If he would have provided more dynamic rhythms he could have given some of the more unremarkable songs a boost. The production by Bob Rock is overwhelming, but he failed in his producer’s responsibility to be critical for some of the material here.

As far as I'm concerned, this album wasn't a disappointment but a revelation. Good and relevant enough for 4 small stars. With a bit more scrutiny and a stronger album closer, this one would sit right next to their masterpieces.
The beginning of the end

When some great musicians made their magnum opus, they've always change the direction in wrong way. Or probably wrong is not the most appropriate word here. To be more precise I would say, then the musicians take non-musical way, but the commercial. The reason could be a relief from the great works of art they did or willingness of enrichment. Somehow or other, they sold their souls to... money!!! When they did it, it's impossible to make great music any more. The perfect example of that is Metallica. After magnificent ,,,And Justice for All it is time for losing form, at the expense of earning money.

And yet the homonymous album by Metallica is not a bad album. It doesn't contain any thrash parts. There aren't weak songs, but also there aren't special, except perhaps Nothing Else Matters. It's full of mainstream and unbalanced rock songs. Direction is lost, the style, too. Obviously, the last remained trick, that save the album musically is momentum. Despite that, commercially Metallica is the most successful album by the band and one of the most successful in the history of rock music. The last one is not important for me, so 3 stars!
The Angry Scotsman
The best selling album of the last 2 decades, this may be one of the most controversial as well. Not from it's reviews or sales, but this is the album where Metallica "sold out". I used to be on the boat, but then started to waffle on it. After much thought all I can say is, Metallica did indeed sell out. Was it for the money? Was it honest experimentation? I think so, we may never know for sure but I think they were dedicated to mixing it up and trying new things.

However, this album is flat out boring. There are SOME cool riffs, though most just sound generic. There are cool parts, some variation but it is not enough to hold my attention. Enter Sandman, The Unforgiven and My Friend of Misery are the only songs that I can actually listen all the way to the end without issue. Every other song is difficult to make it through, and some I can't at all.

It's a shame because they are some captivating moments. I find the lyrics and story behind The God that Failed pretty intriguing and honestly captivating, but I simply feel my head sagging and eyes closing during it. Through the Never starts well, and is pretty captivating though it gets a bit old. Nothing Else Matters is a pure ballad, no heavy. It is nice sounding but again boring overall, though I do like the ending. That is really the case with this whole album.

So, all technicality and musical talent was thrown away for even greater mass appeal. The band can do as they please, and I am a fan of experimenting, but this album is just not very good. Bland, generic, boring. Some good moments no doubt, but just too dull overall. I will say, this album has "The Unforgiven" which is one of my all time favorite Metallica songs. An amazing and powerful song that is sadly the only real high point of this album.

Metallica: 1981-1991 RIP

Two and a Half Stars
Conor Fynes
'The Black Album' - Metallica (4/10)

I like to think of the 'Black Album' as the album that killed Metallica, or at least killed their sense of musical integrity. Moving from an uncompromised metal spirit to being more or less a puppet of the almighty dollar does not go over well with me.

Now, I've never been a real fan of Metallica but I can admit that their first four albums are very noteworthy, each for different reasons. The band's debut 'Kill 'Em All' was essentially the first thrash metal album, and while it was condemned by 'metalheads' at the time (who were generally used to metal along the lines of Black Sabbath) it was destined to become the album that would define a genre. The next album 'Ride The Lightning' took the raw thrashy energy and transformed it into something even more epic. The two to follow that; 'Master Of Puppets' and '...And Justice For All' are both masterpieces that incorperated progressive elements into a metallic soundscape; something that was rarely heard of in that time. Metallica really seemed to be knocking heads with their uncompromised energy and power...

...Then the 'Black Album' came along and gave dawn to a period in the band's music that can't be considered anything short of pitiful.

It's the 'Black Album' where everything changed; where everything seemed to come crashing down for the band. There was a great musical switch with this album. Exchanging energy and creativity for accessibility and commercial nature, the band really toned down their fire and resorted to making what I can only call 'radio rock with an edge.'

The album has a few songs I really like that really do deserve praise. The song 'The Unforgiven' is among my favourites of the band, and the ballad 'Nothing Else Matters' has some great vocal and acoustic work. But most of this is basically an example of a Metallica that has been declawed by the market.

The 'Black Album' can be appreciated by your average rock listener, but for me, this album took away everything I previously appreciated about the band. I liked the band for their energy and speed. There's none of that here. Why would I give this much of a rating?

It's definately not the band's worst, and there are good songs on here. But apart from a few saving graces, there's alot of filler material that's character of a band that has sold it's soul to the record label.
Metallica's The Black Album is akin to The Beatles The White Album both in style and innovation. Metallica absolutely excelled with this and shocked the metal heads who were not used to this quieter approach but when they thrash they do it at breakneck speed. Some of the riffs on this are so good they should be illegal.

When I think of this album I remember how it was raved about on the radio metal shows and how many times they played tracks from it. Indeed it was so good every track was an instant classic. Immediately the highlights spring to mind Enter Sandman, Sad but True, The Unforgiven, Wherever I May Roam, Through the Never, Nothing Else Matters, My Friend of Misery - all brilliant and instantly recognizable as soon as Metallica begin playing them in concert.

The album tracks became the most played live in concert from any album, and there are some amazing versions on the orchestrated 'S & M' worth a listen.

'Nothing Else Matters' was one of the most inspired tracks in the metal world. Hetfield singing 'from the heart' and beautifully too had metal heads burning their hands with lifted up lighters every time it was played live.

Essential listening even if you hate metal. Many prog elements throughout if you look hard enough. But forget all that it's just great music and some of the best instrumentals in the annals of rock history. Of course the album was the peak of their success and the only way was down and Metallica virtually crashed to earth on later releases; Load, Reload, and the abysmal St Anger - which put them under the earth's crust. Death Magnetic brings them up to standard again but nothing was as good as this album.

The Black Album stands the test of time and will be remembered and revered for decades as the shining moment of metal. Every band has a treasure album, a 'Topographic Oceans' if you like, and for Metallica - this is it. Adore it or hate it you cannot ignore it. It was more influential and more important than any metal album in the early 90s when metal was dying. Metallica resurrected and reinvented the metal corpse with The Black Album and everyone sat up and took notice again.

Members reviews

Less music, more money. Point taken.

Well, after three wonderful prog metal albums in a row, Metallica have to choose what new to bring in the mix for the next decade. Remember that Nirvana was already a hit and everything that sounds too elaborated was banned from the media, so these guys choose to go in that direction and bring out a straight metal album, and they sell millions of albums. Now, who can blame them if they wanted to assure the University studies of their grandchildren? I won't, and you...?

Well, after this intriguing question I will describe the music of this album. If you have to say something positive about Metallica is that they know how to make you headbang even if you don't want to. Their music became short and without any complex arrangements. All that we have of the old Metallica is the great riffing that Hetfield developed as the total master of that and some brief solos here and there. The rest is pure metal and even soft metal. I don't find it bad but sure it is not my thing and the music do not entertain me as the 80's productions but at the end, this is pure metal so, just start the headbanging and you won't remember why do you hate Metallica.

To be honest, there are some songs that do deserve a chance to listen to, like Enter Sandman, Sad But True and Wherever I May Roam. More ballads (the inevitable radio hit "Nothing Else Matters" and "The Unforgiven" does ring any bell?) and some boring songs more. This is why I don't like Metallica, some songs sounds so much like fillers, but as I said above, some songs really worth the listening.

Now, in the positive aspect of this album, the vocals are better with this kind of music, more plain to fit Hetfield range. The production is a lot better and the sound improved a lot (they used the same studio than Dream Theater in the Awake album and it do has a great sound developing).

This is metal and this album has no pretentious goals. They rock, people like it, they win millions... what else you want...? a good headbanging album. I think it worth 3.75 stars... just enjoy the the good songs and skip the fillers.
Am I really first to review the Black album? Oh well. Now, the title of the review:

The album that killed the 80's.

...not entirely correct. But I'll explain it later.

'Metallica' was my first encounter with metal ('proper' metal, not the glam one) at the age of 15. Apart from the personal value, this album holds a special place in history of rock 'n' roll - it launched METALLICA on radio and opened doors for plethora of different, uncompromisable, heavy artists in the 90's. It's a second album (NIRVANA's 'Nevermind' being the first) that marked the end of an era, era of cheesy synthpop, and brought (loud!) guitars back in business. Of course, there's a palette of bands ranging from IRON MAIDEN to DIRE STRAITS that preserved the sound of rock music in the 80's - but I think you can understand my point.

'Metallica' - first off, I don't know why the album is self-titled, as it is the band's first one - , commonly known as 'The Black Album' because of its black cover, with only a name whispered almost in identical shade, (black on black!) deserves a special place in history almost as THE BEATLES' colour-counterpart.

It's also a breaking point of the band's songwriting career; you might say they took a long slope down the hill, however, it's evident they became more pop-oriented (and radio friendly) after (and with this one).

Bear in mind, it's not a sell-out, and band slightly inclined towards more 'listenable' rock format, but the album did what it did - it changed the mindset of the audience. Plus, it's far from being pop, or even bad. It's energetic and it contains a variation of different ideas, varying from rock ballads to their trash roots; the traces of progressive metal are evident only slightly, and the tracks are considerably shorter (albeit not too short), tight, packed properly to be presented to the wide world.

Of weaker tracks, I would like to pin-point forgettable 'The God That Failed', under-developed 'Whenever I May Roam' and 'The Struggle Within'. Perhaps the 'Struggle' contains decent intro (yet another adaptation of Bernstein's 'America') under the bold, chugging riff, but it's laughable, and it's certainly not THE NICE. 'Roam' contains a decent melody (and a nice sitar intro) but it seems it goes without any significant changes until the fade-out.

'Nothing Else Matters' and 'Unforgiven' (which will experience two more reincarnations in the post-black period) are, needles to say, two easiest tunes from the album ,and both of theme were major hits, as well as a roadmark of the band's new musical approach. The songs so overplayed (and overperformed - do you know ANY amateur guitar that never tried to played that open strings intro??!?), I won't be saying anything more about them.

What is left (and that's more than half an hour of material) is good metal with thrashy overtones. The quick power chord changes, unexpected jumps in dynamics of 'Master Of Puppets' and 'Justice' are gone, what's left are mostly slow to mid-paced songs with tight riffing and catchy licks, all of that dense in execution. Two of them, well-known 'Enter Sandman' and 'Sad But True' both fit in this formula, 'Sad...' emphasizing it more, while 'Sandman' being really wicked in utilizing an innocent child's voice praying among the horror spleen - very BLACK SABBATH like in its 'evilness'. The rest of the rest is worth checking, while not being the sterling material, it's far from being weak. For a general audience, the album might be an acquired taste, for a metal fan is obligatory; any rock fan should check it out and decide it for him/herself.

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