It is August of 1991 and 3 years after “…And Justice for All” and continuous broadcasts from music channels and magazines about the recording process of Metallica’s new album, their 5th album, with a simple black cover and simply titled “Metallica” or “Black Album” as the band themselves and the whole world immediately called it, reaches the shelves of record stores and consequently the houses of the band’s fans. An album, which at the time of its release, remained for 4 consecutive weeks at #1 on the Billboard 200 and became 16 (!!!) times platinum! Many were disappointed, because it wasn’t the raging thrash metal they were waiting for as a sequel to “…And Justice for All,” but even more loved it because with this album, Metallica showed what they can really do as musicians. Of course, none of this would have been even possible, if it wasn’t for Bob Rock in the producer’s position. Rock was “discovered” by his production in “Dr. Feelgood” by Mötley Crüe (1989) (Bon Jovi’s “New Jersey” was released in the same year, again produced by Bob Rock) and this particular producer was not someone that any band could tell him what to do and how to do it. To put it bluntly, he bossed them around big time. Even Lars bowed his head at what Rock was saying. Yes, you read that right, Lars, the most stubborn and assertive man in music, bowed his head.
In 1991, Metallica appeared for the 4th time in Monsters of Rock and the first leg of the tour closed with their grand appearance at Moscow’s Tushino Airport. About 500,000 spectators attended the show, according to official numbers, but unofficially, the number reached 1,600,000. Regarding this event, James once said that they had no idea what they were going to do that day. They just put them on a helicopter, dropped them off at the airport and simply told them to “get out there and play”. However, the first tour, which was directly for the promotion of the new album, started simply named “Wherever I May Roam tour”, part of which was the appearance at Wembley stadium, in a concert in the memory of Queen’s Freddie Mercury, where James appeared with the members of Queen plus Tony Iommi on guitar. Shortly afterwards, Guns n Roses joined the tour and in August 8, 1992, James was nearly burned alive when some fireworks exploded on him, during a concert in Canada. After that, panic prevailed with fans rioting and breaking everything in their path and of course with many arrests. When James finally managed to continue touring, he only handled vocals for a while, with the guitar position being covered by John Marshall of Metal Church (also a guitar tech for Metallica), who had taken James’ place again in 1986, when James broke his arm while skateboarding. The tour was later renamed “Nowhere Else to Roam tour”, from which the ultimate “Live Shit: Binge & Purge” was released and finally, in its last part, it became “Shit Hits the Sheds tour” and ended sometime in 1994-1995. As you can see, we are talking about an album, where the band, at the age of 28, they started a tour that finally lasted 4-5 years. We are talking about an album that Metallica became “men” in a way. I still sometimes wonder if from 1991 until today, they themselves have realized what they wrote and what they released.
Sounding heavy as fuck, with God knows how many guitar layers in every song or how many vocal layers in each song, it was a sack of concrete blocks on the heads of the unaware metalheads at the time and let’s not fool ourselves, even today, at the moment this text was written, it is the heaviest metal album ever released. Slow songs that drag you into the pit, fast songs that will tear your neck apart, we can listen to the bass pretty clear (it was about time, wasn’t it?), the drums and especially the kicks and the snare are punches in the face in every beat, Kirk classically in his typical scales and James’ right hand, is a seminar on how to play the rhythm guitar. 12 songs and 62 minutes of pure metal. As a first single, rumors say that they wanted to release “Holier than Thou”, but Lars insisted that “Enter Sandman” should be released first and he was not wrong at all, as this took them a few steps higher. It is also worth mentioning, that we have the appearance of a “normal” ballad. I am referring to “Nothing Else Matters” obviously, the introduction of which was written by James while talking on the phone with his girlfriend at the time and he was playing with one hand on an acoustic guitar. At first, he wanted this song for himself but when the others listened to it, they convinced him to record it. Lars’s comment is said to have been “my friend this is a tough one” and once again he was not wrong. A song about life on the road and how much this way of life can ruin you. What more is there to say? We are talking about writing history here. In addition, the track “My Friend of Misery”, whose introduction is a composition by Jason Newsted, was to be an instrumental song, something that from “Kill em All” to “…And And Justice for All”, was like a tradition, but eventually it was decided to become a song with lyrics. As for the cover artwork, in addition to being a satirical reference to Spinal Tap, the coiled snake and the phrase “Don’t Tread on Me” that became a song, it is a reference to the Gadsden’s flag. This flag is named after General Christopher Gadsden (1724-1805), who designed it in 1775, during the American Revolution.
This album is literally a love or hate situation, which is accompanied by various not-so-nice situations in the band, from alcohol issues, to issues with Bob Rock and the band, since at first they didn’t want Rock that much. An example is that when he forced them to tune down their guitars, they stopped talking to him and when they heard it and they liked it, they agreed to sit down with him for lunch. There is no middle ground. There is no such thing as “it’s okay”. No. Either you love it or you put it aside and move on with your life. We are talking about an album that turned a few million children in metal music, including me. That afternoon in 1994, when I sat down to watch the videotape I had recorded the night before with MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball… I couldn’t even imagine that after that day, my life would change forever. The video starts and there is a live song. The sounds of “Ecstasy of Gold” are coming out of the speakers and immediately afterwards a guy (James) starts playing a melody with his guitar (the introduction of “Enter Sandman”). I remember like it was yesterday, me being stunned on the TV screen and not be able to utter a single word. At that point, I thought, “I’ll do that one day too.” The rest of the band comes in and the camera turns to the drummer. That was it. I decided that I wanted to be a drummer and of course that I wanted to start listening to metal music. 26 years later, I continue with the same spirit and happiness, every time I hear something new. It’s not a few times that I’ve caught myself almost cryinglistening to this particular album. They say that smell can wake up memories, as it is the strongest feeling. Let me add that sounds are just as powerful. I am listening to the album while I am writing this text and I am feeling 14 again. It’s as if not a single day has passed since I first listened to it.
I will end this, by saying a huge THANK YOU to those 4 guys, who came into my life, even by chance, that 1994’s afternoon. Thank you on behalf of all metalheads, who learned what metal means, through your music. Those of you who are reading this text and you are young in the genre and still searching, do yourself a favor and listen to this this album until the CD or tape or whatever it is not payable anymore. Then come find me and tell me how you felt. I already know what you will tell me. I just want you to confirm it.