METALLICA — Metallica (review)

METALLICA — Metallica album cover Album · 1991 · Heavy Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
"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.
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