Metallica (album)

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Studio album by Metallica
ReleasedAugust 12, 1991 (1991-08-12)[1]
RecordedOctober 6, 1990 (1990-10-06)–June 16, 1991 (1991-06-16) at One on One Recording Studios
GenreHeavy metal
LabelElektra, Vertigo, Universal
ProducerBob Rock, James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich
Metallica chronology
...And Justice for All
Singles from Metallica
  1. "Enter Sandman"
    Released: July 29, 1991 (1991-07-29)[2]
  2. "The Unforgiven"
    Released: October 28, 1991 (1991-10-28)[3]
  3. "Nothing Else Matters"
    Released: April 20, 1992 (1992-04-20)[4]
  4. "Wherever I May Roam"
    Released: October 19, 1992 (1992-10-19)[5]
  5. "Sad but True"
    Released: February 8, 1993 (1993-02-08)[6]
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Studio album by Metallica
ReleasedAugust 12, 1991 (1991-08-12)[1]
RecordedOctober 6, 1990 (1990-10-06)–June 16, 1991 (1991-06-16) at One on One Recording Studios
GenreHeavy metal
LabelElektra, Vertigo, Universal
ProducerBob Rock, James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich
Metallica chronology
...And Justice for All
Singles from Metallica
  1. "Enter Sandman"
    Released: July 29, 1991 (1991-07-29)[2]
  2. "The Unforgiven"
    Released: October 28, 1991 (1991-10-28)[3]
  3. "Nothing Else Matters"
    Released: April 20, 1992 (1992-04-20)[4]
  4. "Wherever I May Roam"
    Released: October 19, 1992 (1992-10-19)[5]
  5. "Sad but True"
    Released: February 8, 1993 (1993-02-08)[6]

Metallica (also known as The Black Album) is the eponymously-titled fifth studio album by the American heavy metal band Metallica. It was released on August 12, 1991 through Elektra Records to critical acclaim. Metallica produced five hit singles that are considered today among the band's best-known songs: "Enter Sandman", "The Unforgiven", "Nothing Else Matters", "Wherever I May Roam", and "Sad But True". The band promoted the album with a series of tours. In 2003, the album was ranked number 255 on Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. The album marked a change in the band's sound to one less harsh than the thrash metal style of their previous four albums.

The recording of Metallica was troubled, with the band frequently entering conflicts with Bob Rock, the band's new producer, during production. 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 top album charts. Metallica is the group's best-selling album, selling 30 million copies worldwide.[7] It is the best-selling album of the SoundScan era.[8][9] The album was certified 15× platinum (diamond) by the RIAA on November 13, 2009.[10] On November 10, 2011, Lars Ulrich revealed (on Zane Lowe's BBC Radio 1 show) that Metallica will be playing the album, in its entirety, during the 2012 European Black Album Tour.[11]


Recording and production

Metallica's songwriting at that time was done mainly by singer-guitarist James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich, with Hetfield being the lyricist.[12] The duo frequently joined forces at Ulrich's house in Berkeley, California to compose. Several song ideas and concepts were conceived by other members of the band, lead guitarist Kirk Hammett and bassist Jason Newsted.[13] For instance, Newsted wrote the main riff of "My Friend of Misery", which was originally intended to be the instrumental that had occurred at every previous Metallica album.[14] The songs were written in two months in the summer of 1990, with the ideas for a few dating back to the Damaged Justice Tour.[15]

The band decided to hire Bob Rock for producing after they were impressed with his work producing Mötley Crüe's Dr. Feelgood.[16][17] 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."[17]

Demos of the album were recorded on September 13, 1990,[18] with its lead single "Enter Sandman" being the first song written – and the last to receive lyrics.[13] In October 1990, Metallica entered One on One Recording Studios in North Hollywood, Los Angeles, California to record the then-forthcoming album. The band also recorded the album at Little Mountain Sound Studios in Vancouver, British Columbia, but only for about one week.[16]

"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."

—James Hetfield.[19]

Since it was his first stint at producing a Metallica album, 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.[16] Other suggestions included recording tracks live and more harmonic vocals for Hetfield.[20] Rock was expecting the production to be "easy" but had trouble with the group which often led to engaged arguments with the band members over aspects of working on the album[16] and wanting Hetfield to write better lyrics,[21] as well as finding his experience recording with Metallica disappointing.[16][22] Since the band was perfectionist,[14][21] Rock insisted on as many takes as needed to get the sound they wanted.[12] The album was remixed three times, and cost US$1 million.[23] 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."[24]

Rock altered the band's working schedule and routine so much that they swore never to work with him again.[22] The animosity and tension between Metallica and Rock was documented in the documentaries A Year and a Half in the Life of Metallica and Classic Albums: Metallica – Metallica. Both explore and document the intense recording process that resulted in Metallica.[12][13] Years following the production, a petition signed by 1,500 fans was posted online,[25] and was an attempt to encourage the band to prohibit Rock from producing Metallica albums, claiming he had too much influence on the band's sound and musical direction. Rock indicated that the petition hurt his kids' feelings,[25] saying, "sometimes, even with a great coach, a team keeps losing. You have to get new blood in there."[25] Despite the controversies between the band and Rock, he continued to work with the band through the 2003 album St. Anger.[22]


Tempos were often slowed down in exchange for slower BPMs, while they expand its music and expressive range, said Robert Palmer of Rolling Stone.[26] The album was a change in direction from the thrash metal style of Metallica's previous four studio albums and saw the band moving towards a more commercial heavy metal sound.[12][22] Many fans consider the album to be a transition from the often ostentatious compositions of their previous releases, to the slower, divested style of the group's later albums, where "old" and "new" Metallica are distinguished from one another.[26] Instruments unusual for a heavy metal band, such as the cellos in "The Unforgiven" and the orchestra in "Nothing Else Matters" were added at Rock's insistence.[15] Rock also decided to raise the volume of the bass guitar, which had been nearly inaudible in the predecessor ...And Justice for All,[20] with Newsted adding that he tried with his bass to "create a real rhythm section rather than a one-dimensional sound".[19] Ulrich said that in his drumming he tried to avoid the "progressive Peartian paradiddles which became boring to play live" and employ a basic sound similar to The Rolling Stones' Charlie Watts and AC/DC's Phil Rudd.[20]

The simpler approach was partially because the band felt that the songs on ...And Justice for All were too long and complex. Hetfield said that radio airplay was not their intention, but because they felt "we had pretty much done the longer song format to death," and considered a good change doing songs with just two riffs and "only taking two minutes to get the point across".[19] Ulrich added that the band was feeling a musical insecurity — "We felt inadequate as musicians and as songwriters, That made us go too far, around Master of Puppets and Justice, in the direction of trying to prove ourselves. 'We'll do all this weird-ass shit sideways to prove that we are capable musicians and songwriters.'" - and Hetfield added he wanted to avoid getting stale: "Sitting there and worrying about whether people are going to like the album, therefore we have to write a certain kind of song — you just end up writing for someone else. Everyone's different. If everyone was the same, it would be boring as shit."[15]

The lyrics of Metallica (written by James Hetfield) were more personal and introspective in nature than previous Metallica albums, often compared by Rock to Bob Dylan, Bob Marley and John Lennon.[22] "Enter Sandman" is about "nightmares and all that come with them", according to Chris True of Allmusic.[27] "The God That Failed" dealt with Hetfield's mother's death from cancer and her Christian Science beliefs which kept her from seeking medical treatment. "Nothing Else Matters" was a love song Hetfield wrote about missing his girlfriend while on tour.[26] Hetfield said the themes were more introspective because he wanted "lyrics that the band could stand behind - but we are four completely different individuals. So the only way to go was in."[24]


Lars Ulrich said the band had much discussion on the album title, considering the titles "Five" or naming after one of the songs, but eventually opted for a self-titled work because they "wanted to keep it simple."[19] The album cover features the band's logo, angled against the upper left corner, and a coiled snake (derived from the Gadsden flag) on the bottom right corner, both in a dark shade of gray in order to be made out against the black background, giving Metallica the nickname "The Black Album" (these aspects are also seen in the back cover of the album).[12] The motto of the Gadsden flag, "Don't Tread on Me", is also the title of a song on the album. A folded, page-less booklet contains the faces of all Metallica band members exposed at a black background, as well as the lyrics and liner notes printed againist a grey background. The cover is reminiscent of Spinal Tap's album Smell the Glove, something the band jokingly acknowledged themselves in their A Year and a Half in the Life of Metallica documentary. Members of Spinal Tap appeared on the film and asked them about it.[12]



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).[28][29] 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.[29] "The Unforgiven" was a Top 40 hit, and peaked at the Top 10 in Australia.[30] In 1992, "Nothing Else Matters" was released to a bigger success, reaching number six in the United Kingdom and Ireland.[31][32] 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.[29] In 1993, "Sad but True", however, was not 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.[29] 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.[33]


Metallica went on the Monsters of Rock festival tour a fourth time. The last concert of the tour, held on September 28, 1991 at Tushino Airfield in Moscow, was described as "the first free outdoor Western rock concert in Soviet history" and had a crowd estimated between 150,000 and 500,000 people,[34][35] with some unofficial estimates as high as 1,600,000.[36]

The first tour directly intended to support the 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. One of the first gigs of the tour had the floor of the stage collapsed, however. The stage was repaired afterwards.[37] The January 13 and 14, 1992 shows in San Diego were later released in the box set Live Shit: Binge & Purge,[38] while the tour and the album were later documented in A Year and a Half in the Life of Metallica.[39]

Metallica's Wherever We May Roam Tour also overlapped with 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 the pyrotechnics being installed to the stage. As a result, Hetfield accidentally walked into an enormous 12-foot (3.7 m) flame from shot from a pyrotechnic during a live performance of the introduction of "Fade to Black".[38] The gig was cut short shortly after this accident, so that Guns N' Roses began their concert, to malicious reactions from fans. Newsted recalls that Hetfield's skin was "bubbling like on The Toxic Avenger".[40] Although Hetfield was able to sing, he was unable to play guitar for the remainder of the tour. Guitar technician John Marshall (who had previously filled in on rhythm guitar and was then playing in Metal Church) filled in on guitar for the recovering Hetfield.[40]

The shows in Mexico City across February and March 1993 during the Nowhere Else to Roam tour were recorded, filmed and later also released as part of the band's first box set,[38][41] which was released in November 1993 and titled Live Shit: Binge & Purge. The collection contained three live CDs, three home videos, and a book filled with riders and letters.[42] Pressings of the box set since November 2002 includes two DVDs, the first one being filmed at San Diego on the Wherever We May Roam Tour, and the latter at Seattle on the Damaged Justice Tour.[43] Binge & Purge was packaged as a cardboard box resembling that of a typical tour equipment transport box. The box set also featured a recreated copy of an access pass to the "Snakepit" part of the tour stage, as well as a cardboard drawing/airbrush stencil for the "Scary Guy" logo.[37] The Mexico City shows were also the first time the band met future member Robert Trujillo, who was in Suicidal Tendencies at the time.[44]

The final tour supporting the album, Shit Hits the Sheds, included a performance at Woodstock '94 that followed Nine Inch Nails and came before Aerosmith on August 13 in front of a crowd of 350,000.[45][46]

Some songs, such as "Enter Sandman", "Nothing Else Matters" and "Sad but True" would become permanent staples of the band's concert setlists during these and subsequent tours. Other songs though, such as "Holier Than Thou", "The God That Failed", "Through the Never", and "The Unforgiven" by 1995, were no longer a part of any performances and would not be played again until more recent years when Metallica, with Robert Trujillo on bass, began performing a more extensive back catalog of songs, after he joined the band upon completion of the St. Anger album.[47]

After touring duties for the album were finished, Metallica filed a lawsuit against Elektra Records, which attempted to force the record label to terminate their contract, while the band would gain ownership of their master recordings. The band based its claim on a section of the California Labor Code that allows employees to be released from a personal services contract after seven years. Metallica sold 40 million copies worldwide upon the filing of the suit. They were signed to the label for over a decade, but were still operating under the terms of their original 1984 contract, which provided a relatively low 14% royalty rate.[48] The band also claimed that they were taking the action, since they were ambivalent about Robert Morgado's refusal to give them another record deal, along with Bob Krasnow (who retired from his job at the label shortly afterwards). Elektra responded by counter-suing the group, but in December 1994, then-Warner Music Group United States chairman Doug Morris had offered the group a lucrative new deal in exchange for dropping the suit[49] (which was reported to be even more generous than the earlier Krasnow deal). In January 1995, both parties settled out of court with a non-disclosure agreement.[50]

Release and reception

Critical response

Professional ratings
Review scores
Allmusic4.5/5 stars[51]
Entertainment WeeklyB+[52]
Q5/5 stars[53]
Rolling Stone5/5 stars[26]

Metallica received critical acclaim upon its release. One of the first reviews of the album came from Entertainment Weekly, and was published in its August 16, 1991 issue. Giving it a B+ rating, the magazine declared it "[Bob] Rock's preeminent speed-metal cyclone", while suggesting that "Metallica may have invented a new genre: progressive thrash."[52] Melody Maker delivered similar reactions to the album, noting the differences between Metallica and ...And Justice for All (1988): "In a committed move away from their thrash roots, Metallica was slower, less complicated, and probably twice as heavy as anything they'd done before."[54] Allmusic was also positive, and found it to be impressive.[51]

After the album was released, critics continued to praise the album. Melody Maker put Metallica to number 16 in a December 1991 list of the top 30 albums of 1991.[54] On January 21, 1997, Rolling Stone delivered a perfect 5-star review of the album, and included it in a list of "Essential Recordings of the 90's".[26] (That 5-star score was later reduced to only four stars in The Rolling Stone Album Guide.[55]) In 2003, the album was ranked number 252 on their list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time (another Metallica album, 1986's Master of Puppets, had a higher ranking). Spin magazine ranked Metallica number 52 in a 1999 list of the "90 Greatest Albums of the '90s" and stated, "this record's diamond-tipped tuneage stripped the band's melancholy guitar excess down to melodic, radio-ready bullets and ballads."[56] It was included in Q magazine's August 2000 list of the "Best Metal Albums of All Time", and made comments that the album "transformed them from cult metal heroes into global superstars....bringing a little refinement to their undoubted power."[53] In 1992, Metallica won the Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance.[57]

Commercial performance

"You think one day some fucker's gonna tell you, 'You have a number one record in America,' and the whole world will ejaculate. I stood there in my hotel room, and there was this fax that said, 'You're number one.' And it was, like, 'Well, okay.' It's just really difficult to get excited about it. We've never been really career-conscious. We never tried to be number one. But now we're number one and it's, like, okay."

—Lars Ulrich on the album's role as Metallica's first number one album.[15]

Metallica was the band's first album to debut at number one in the United States.[58] It had the ninth most weeks spent on the Billboard 200, with a total of 282, and last appeared on the charts in the issue dated January 18, 1997, after soaring up to 106 on the week before, then dropped out afterwards.[59]

Metallica has sold 30 million copies worldwide,[7] in terms of physical formats. In 2009, it surpassed Shania Twain's Come on Over (1997) as the best-selling album of the SoundScan era.[8][60] The songs "Enter Sandman", "Nothing Else Matters", "Sad but True", "Wherever I May Roam" and "The Unforgiven" were among the 49 songs included on the 2009 rhythm video game Guitar Hero: Metallica.[61]

Metallica sold over 650,000 copies upon its opening week of release domestically, overshadowing all albums released in that week. It was certified "Platinum" by the RIAA after a couple weeks.[62] Metallica received a diamond certificate in 1997.[8] The album was responsible for bringing Metallica to the attention of the mainstream and has been certified 15× platinum in the United States by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA),[63] which makes it the 25th best-selling album in the country.[64] To date, the album had sold 15,814,000 copies in the United States.[9][65][dubious ]

Metallica debuted at number one in the United Kingdom.[66] The only chart where it failed to reach the Top 20 is the Irish Albums Chart, having peaked at number 27.[67] After its release, the album was certified Platinum in the UK by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI).[68]

Metallica topped the charts in Australia,[69] Switzerland,[70] the Netherlands,[71] Sweden,[72] Norway,[73] Canada,[74] Germany,[75] and New Zealand.[76] It also reached numbers three, five, and four at Oricon,[77] Austria,[78] and Finland respectively.[79] In the 21st century, the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) certified the album 11× platinum.[80] It was given a Diamond certificate from the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA).[81] The album was certified five times platinum in Argentina and Finland.[82][83]

Track listing

All lyrics written by James Hetfield

1."Enter Sandman"  James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett5:31
2."Sad But True"  Hetfield, Ulrich5:24
3."Holier Than Thou"  Hetfield, Ulrich3:47
4."The Unforgiven"  Hetfield, Ulrich, Hammett6:27
5."Wherever I May Roam"  Hetfield, Ulrich6:44
6."Don't Tread on Me"  Hetfield, Ulrich4:00
7."Through the Never"  Hetfield, Ulrich, Hammett4:04
8."Nothing Else Matters"  Hetfield, Ulrich6:28
9."Of Wolf and Man"  Hetfield, Ulrich, Hammett4:16
10."The God That Failed"  Hetfield, Ulrich5:08
11."My Friend of Misery"  Hetfield, Ulrich, Jason Newsted6:49
12."The Struggle Within"  Hetfield, Ulrich3:53
Total length:




Additional performers


Chart positions


1991Billboard 200[58]1
UK Albums Chart[66]
ARIA Albums Chart[69]
Germany Album Charts[86]
Hit Parade[70]
Dutch Charts[71]
Swedish Charts[72]
Norwegian Charts[73]
Canadian Albums Chart[74]
New Zealand Albums Charts[76]
Oricon Albums Chart[77]3
Austrian Charts[78]5
Finnish Charts[79]4
Irish Charts[67]27

End of decade charts

Chart (1990–1999)Position
U.S. Billboard 200[87]8


1991"Enter Sandman"Billboard Hot 10016[29]
Mainstream Rock Tracks10[29]
Modern Rock Tracks28[29]
UK Top 405[88]
"Don't Tread on Me"Mainstream Rock Tracks21[29]
"The Unforgiven"UK Top 4015[89]
1992Billboard Hot 10035[29]
Mainstream Rock Tracks10[29]
"Nothing Else Matters"Billboard Hot 10034[29]
Mainstream Rock Tracks11[29]
UK Top 406[31]
"Wherever I May Roam"Billboard Hot 10082[29]
UK Top 4025[90]
Mainstream Rock Tracks25[29]
"Sad but True"Billboard Hot 10098[29]
Mainstream Rock Tracks15[29]
1993UK Top 4020[91]


Argentina (CAPIF)[92]5× Platinum300,000x
Australia (ARIA)[93]8× Platinum560,000^
Austria (IFPI Austria)[94]2× Platinum100,000x
Canada (Music Canada)[95]Diamond1,000,000^
France (SNEP)[96]Platinum438,200[97]
Finland (Musiikkituottajat)[98]2× Platinum112,856[98]
Germany (BVMI)[99]Platinum500,000^
Italy (FIMI)[100]Gold115,000[100]
Netherlands (NVPI)[102]2× Platinum200,000^
New Zealand (RIANZ)[103]10× Platinum150,000^
Norway (IFPI Norway)[104]2× Platinum100,000*
Poland (ZPAV)[105]Gold50,000*
Sweden (GLF)[106]Platinum100,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[107]2× Platinum100,000x
United Kingdom (BPI)[108]Platinum300,000^
United States (RIAA)[10]15× Platinum15,735,000[9]

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
xunspecified figures based on certification alone

See also


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Preceded by
Unforgettable... with Love by Natalie Cole
Billboard 200 number-one album
August 31 – September 27, 1991
Succeeded by
Ropin' the Wind by Garth Brooks
Preceded by
Essential Pavarotti II by Luciano Pavarotti
UK number one album
August 24, 1991 – August 30, 1991
Succeeded by
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat by London Stage Cast
Preceded by
Unforgettable... with Love by Natalie Cole
Australian ARIA Albums Chart number-one album
August 25 – August 31, 1991
Succeeded by
On Every Street by Dire Straits