Tag Archives: The Black Album

Rocks In The Attic #638: Metallica – ‘Metallica’ (1991)

RITA#638The top-selling album of the past 25 years, or so the hype sticker says, this takes me back. When I was fourteen, this sounding like nothing else: heavy, thunderous, massive. Plenty of the bands I was into at the time were loud and heavy, but Metallica’s Black Album (as this record became to be known) just sounded huge.

Now, of course, it seems quite tame. Strip away the bombast and what you’re left with is a well recorded, well engineered and well produced heavy rock album. After four records of long-form songs that straddled the fence between thrash-metal and prog-metal, the band took a chance by employing Bob Rock in the producer’s chair.

Rock had engineered Bob Jovi’s Slippery When Wet (1986) and Aerosmith’s Permanent Vacation (1987), before winning acclaim for producing Mötley Crue’s Dr. Feelgood (1989). The big difference he brought to Metallica was in commercialising their sound, slowing them down in tempo, and shortening their songs. The Metallica of old would pack as many ideas as possible into one song, lasting anywhere between four and nine minutes, before running out of ideas. The Black Album’s songs are boiled down in their arrangements, to the extent that they become radio-friendly, almost…dare I say it…structured like pop songs.

As much as I loved it as a teenager, the record has definitely lost a lot of its appeal in the intervening years. Radio has done to this record as a metal album what it has done for Led Zeppelin II as a rock album: overplayed it to death. There’s no intrigue left. Hetfield, Hammett, Newsted and Ulrich used to be enigmatic (to a degree), but watching the band sit around with their analyst in Some Kind Of Monster (2004) showed that they’re very much real people, plagued by the kinds of insecurities and anxieties that stifle us all.

Hit: Enter Sandman

Hidden Gem: My Friend Of Misery

Rocks In The Attic #52: Metallica – ‘…And Justice For All’ (1988)

I first heard this when my good friend Russ put it onto a tape for me. I think I still have that somewhere actually. After hearing Metallica / The Black Album, Russ taped this for me and it put me off the band so much that it stopped me checking out their earlier stuff (especially their second and third albums which I eventually found to be fantastic).

This is a loooooong album, with some reaaaally long songs. One is clearly the centrepiece, and is probably one of the best rock singles of the late 1980s. Kirk Hammett’s guitar work, especially on the intro is superb, and shows off the melodic edge he would have picked up from taking guitar lessons from Joe Satriani in the mid-1980s.

I think the one thing that holds this album back is a very tinny, weak drum sound on certain songs. Take the opening song Blackened. When that ethereal intro gathers momentum and the drums come in, it should kick ass. Instead, it feels jokey and amateurish. The bass is also dialled down significantly on the album – something that angered newbie Jason Newsted, with reason, upon its release.

Hit: One

Hidden Gem: To Live Is To Die