Metallica (album)

Black image with a 1:1 aspect ratio and a grey outline of a snake (bottom right)
Studio album by
ReleasedAugust 12, 1991
RecordedOctober 6, 1990 – June 16, 1991
StudioOne on One (Los Angeles, CA)
GenreHeavy metal
Metallica chronology
The Good, the Bad & the Live
Live Shit: Binge & Purge
Metallica studio album chronology
...And Justice for All
Singles from Metallica
  1. "Enter Sandman"
    Released: July 29, 1991[1]
  2. "The Unforgiven"
    Released: October 28, 1991[2]
  3. "Nothing Else Matters"
    Released: April 20, 1992[3]
  4. "Wherever I May Roam"
    Released: October 19, 1992[4]
  5. "Sad but True"
    Released: February 8, 1993[5]

Metallica (commonly known as The Black Album) is the self-titled fifth studio album by American heavy metal band Metallica, released on August 12, 1991, through Elektra Records. It was recorded in an eight-month span at One on One Recording Studios in Los Angeles. The recording of the album was troubled, however, and, during production, the band frequently came into conflict with their new producer Bob Rock. The album marked a change in the band's sound from the thrash metal style of the previous four albums to a slower and heavier one rooted in heavy metal.

Metallica promoted Metallica with a series of tours. They also released five singles to promote the album; "Enter Sandman", "The Unforgiven", "Nothing Else Matters", "Wherever I May Roam", and "Sad but True", all of which have been considered to be among the band's best-known songs. The song "Don't Tread on Me" was also issued to rock radio shortly after the album's release but did not receive a commercial single release.

Metallica received widespread critical acclaim and became the band's best-selling album. It debuted at number one in ten countries and spent four consecutive weeks at the top of the Billboard 200, making it Metallica's first album to top the album charts. Metallica is one of the best-selling albums worldwide, and also one of the best-selling albums in the United States since Nielsen SoundScan tracking began. The album was certified 16× platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in 2012, and has sold over sixteen million copies in the United States, being the first album in the SoundScan era to do so.

Metallica played Metallica in its entirety during the 2012 European Black Album Tour. In 2003, the album was ranked number 255 on Rolling Stone's 500 greatest albums of all time. In December 2019, Metallica became the fourth release in American history to enter the 550 week milestone on the Billboard 200. It also became the second longest-charting traditional title in history, and the second to spend 550 weeks on the album charts.[6]

Background and recording

At the time of Metallica's recording, the band's songs were written mainly by frontman James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich, with Hetfield being the lyricist.[7] The duo frequently composed together at Ulrich's house in Berkeley, California. Several song ideas and concepts were conceived by other members of the band, lead guitarist Kirk Hammett and bassist Jason Newsted.[8] For instance, Newsted wrote the main riff of "My Friend of Misery", which was originally intended to be an instrumental, one of which had been included on every previous Metallica album.[9] The songs were written in two months in mid-1990; the ideas for some of them were originated during the Damaged Justice Tour.[10] Metallica was impressed with Bob Rock's production work on Mötley Crüe's Dr. Feelgood (1989) and decided to hire him to work on their album.[11][12] Initially, the band members were not interested in having Rock producing the album as well, but changed their minds. Ulrich said, "We felt that we still had our best record in us and Bob Rock could help us make it".[12]

Four demos for the album were recorded on August 13, 1990; "Enter Sandman", "The Unforgiven", "Nothing Else Matters" and "Wherever I May Roam." The lead single "Enter Sandman" was the first song to be written and the last to receive lyrics.[8] On October 4, 1990, a demo of "Sad but True" was recorded. In October 1990, Metallica began recording at One on One Recording Studios in Los Angeles, California, to record the album, and also at Little Mountain Sound Studios in Vancouver, British Columbia for about a week.[11] On June 2, 1991, a demo of "Holier Than Thou" was recorded. Hetfield stated about the recording: "What we really wanted was a live feel. In the past, Lars and I constructed the rhythm parts without Kirk and Jason. This time I wanted to try playing as a band unit in the studio. It lightens things up and you get more of a vibe."[13]

Because it was Rock's first time producing a Metallica album, he had the band make the album in different ways; he asked them to record songs collaboratively rather than individually in separate locations.[11] He also suggested recording tracks live and using harmonic vocals for Hetfield.[14] Rock was expecting the production to be "easy" but had trouble working with the band, leading to frequent, engaged arguments with the band members over aspects of the album.[11] Rock wanted Hetfield to write better lyrics and found his experience recording with Metallica disappointing.[11][15][16] Since the band was perfectionist,[9][15] Rock insisted they recorded as many takes as needed to get the sound they wanted.[7] The album was remixed three times and cost US$1 million.[17] The troubled production coincided with Ulrich, Hammett, and Newsted divorcing their wives; Hammett said this influenced their playing because they were "trying to take those feeling of guilt and failure and channel them into the music, to get something positive out of it".[18]

Rock altered Metallica's familiar recording routine and the recording experience was so stressful that Rock briefly swore never to work with the band again.[16] The tension between band and producer was documented in A Year and a Half in the Life of Metallica and Classic Albums: Metallica – Metallica, documentaries that explore the intense recording process that resulted in Metallica.[7][8] Despite the controversies between the band and Rock, he continued to work with Metallica through the 2003 album St. Anger.[16] After the production of St. Anger (2003), the fourth and final Metallica record Rock would produce, a petition signed by 1,500 fans was posted online in an attempt to encourage the band to prohibit Rock from producing Metallica albums, saying he had too much influence on the band's sound and musical direction.[19] Rock said the petition hurt his children's feelings;[19] he said, "sometimes, even with a great coach, a team keeps losing. You have to get new blood in there."[19]

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