27 Years Ago, Metallica Unleashes "The Black Album"

August 12, 2018

Although technically it was titled Metallica, today (August 12, 2018) marks the 27th anniversary of the game-changing "Black Album" by Metallica.  

While they spend their first seven years trying to be heavier, faster and louder than anybody else, after the release of And Justice For All in 1988, the guys of Metallica decided to go in a different direction. With the release of "The Black Album", Metallica achieved what it had been spending many years railing against: mainstream success.  

Outside of their main thrash circles, Metallica was hardly embraced by other communities. While many hardcore thrash fans were quick to label "The Black Album" as Metallica's "selling out," others believed that many of its mid-tempo songs were possibly some of the most melodic metal songs they've ever heard. Many of the album's songs went from head-banging classics like "Enter Sandman" and "Don't Tread On Me," to some polarizing ballads like "The Unforgiven" and "Nothing Else Matters."  

By the end of their 1990 "Justice" tour, the members of Metallica grew tired of having to play fast and complex songs. Shorter songs would mean more radio play. Interestingly enough, Metallica's decision to change direction couldn't have been at a more important time. By the early '90s, it marked the end for the '80s hair metal bands and paved the way for the gritty and angst-ridden grunge era. Soon Metallica's new songs received airtime on the radio next to bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains and Pearl Jam. 

Although Metallica began their long run of mainstream success, the band members were worried how they would appear when using the same tactics many other popular acts were doing at the time, which was to be overblown across the entire world.

Metallica had already taken a big leap in the direction of their music, so it only made sense that they went with a producer that would put them through a completely different recording process as well. That's when they decided to work with Bob Rock (Doctor Feelgood by Motley Crue, Sonic Temple by The Cult).

Rock, who demanded nothing short of perfection from Metallica, was known for his bluntness. He told them that up to that point, they had not recorded an album that would meet his standards. That presented a big challenge the members of Metallica were not ready to take on at first. Arguments would break out and as much pushback the band gave him, Rock wouldn't budge. Soon, Rock's influence began to grow on them.

As Metallica slowly started to listen to Rock's advice, like Hetfield seeing a vocal coach, the more they saw themselves improve and grow. Rock also help steer Metallica's lyrics in another direction as well. Abandoning all things hellfire, demons, and the apocalypse, Rock had them write based off of their own internal struggles and vulnerabilities, with one of the end results being "Nothing Else Matters" based on a love letter Hetfield wrote to his girlfriend at the time.

Metallica had gone triple-platinum by Halloween 1991, and then was sextuple-platinum by the end of 1992. As of today, "The Black Album" has sold over 16 million records just in the US.