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Metallica Metallica [Aka: The Black Album] album cover
3.28 | 606 ratings | 35 reviews | 18% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1991

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Enter Sandman (5:31)
2. Sad but True (5:24)
3. Holier Than Thou (3:47)
4. The Unforgiven (6:26)
5. Wherever I May Roam (6:44)
6. Don't Tread on Me (4:00)
7. Through the Never (4:03)
8. Nothing Else Matters (6:28)
9. Of Wolf and Man (4:16)
10. The God That Failed (5:08)
11. My Friend of Misery (6:47)
12. The Struggle Within (3:54)

Total Time 62:40

Line-up / Musicians

- James Hetfield / lead vocals, rhythm guitar, co-producer
- Kirk Hammett / lead guitar
- Jason Newsted / bass
- Lars Ulrich / drums, percussion,co-producer

- Michael Kamen / orchestration (8)

Releases information

Artwork: Don Brautigam

CD Elektra ‎- 61113-2 (1991, US)

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METALLICA Metallica [Aka: The Black Album] ratings distribution

(606 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of rock music(18%)
Excellent addition to any rock music collection(32%)
Good, but non-essential (34%)
Collectors/fans only (10%)
Poor. Only for completionists (5%)

METALLICA Metallica [Aka: The Black Album] reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by clarke2001
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars

Am I really first to review the Black album? Oh well. Now, the title of the review:

The album that killed the 80's.

...not entirely correct. But I'll explain it later.

'Metallica' was my first encounter with metal ('proper' metal, not the glam one) at the age of 15. Apart from the personal value, this album holds a special place in history of rock 'n' roll - it launched METALLICA on radio and opened doors for plethora of different, uncompromisable, heavy artists in the 90's. It's a second album (NIRVANA's 'Nevermind' being the first) that marked the end of an era, era of cheesy synthpop, and brought (loud!) guitars back in business. Of course, there's a palette of bands ranging from IRON MAIDEN to DIRE STRAITS that preserved the sound of rock music in the 80's - but I think you can understand my point.

'Metallica' - first off, I don't know why the album is self-titled, as it is the band's first one - , commonly known as 'The Black Album' because of its black cover, with only a name whispered almost in identical shade, (black on black!) deserves a special place in history almost as THE BEATLES' colour-counterpart.

It's also a breaking point of the band's songwriting career; you might say they took a long slope down the hill, however, it's evident they became more pop-oriented (and radio friendly) after (and with this one).

Bear in mind, it's not a sell-out, and band slightly inclined towards more 'listenable' rock format, but the album did what it did - it changed the mindset of the audience. Plus, it's far from being pop, or even bad. It's energetic and it contains a variation of different ideas, varying from rock ballads to their trash roots; the traces of progressive metal are evident only slightly, and the tracks are considerably shorter (albeit not too short), tight, packed properly to be presented to the wide world.

Of weaker tracks, I would like to pin-point forgettable 'The God That Failed', under-developed 'Whenever I May Roam' and 'The Struggle Within'. Perhaps the 'Struggle' contains decent intro (yet another adaptation of Bernstein's 'America') under the bold, chugging riff, but it's laughable, and it's certainly not THE NICE. 'Roam' contains a decent melody (and a nice sitar intro) but it seems it goes without any significant changes until the fade-out.

'Nothing Else Matters' and 'Unforgiven' (which will experience two more reincarnations in the post-black period) are, needles to say, two easiest tunes from the album ,and both of theme were major hits, as well as a roadmark of the band's new musical approach. The songs so overplayed (and overperformed - do you know ANY amateur guitar that never tried to played that open strings intro??!?), I won't be saying anything more about them.

What is left (and that's more than half an hour of material) is good metal with thrashy overtones. The quick power chord changes, unexpected jumps in dynamics of 'Master Of Puppets' and 'Justice' are gone, what's left are mostly slow to mid-paced songs with tight riffing and catchy licks, all of that dense in execution. Two of them, well-known 'Enter Sandman' and 'Sad But True' both fit in this formula, 'Sad...' emphasizing it more, while 'Sandman' being really wicked in utilizing an innocent child's voice praying among the horror spleen - very BLACK SABBATH like in its 'evilness'. The rest of the rest is worth checking, while not being the sterling material, it's far from being weak. For a general audience, the album might be an acquired taste, for a metal fan is obligatory; any rock fan and/or prog fan should check it out and decide it for him/herself.

Review by CCVP
4 stars Going downhill after the mountaintop or DUDE, WHERE IS THE THRASH?

After their magnum opus, Metallica drops completely the thrash metal agenda and aims for other horizons such as album sales and experimentalism and The Black Album is the first step towards those horizons. Although Metallica's music is still (mostly) heavy and aggressive, the harder edge is gone (meaning that this ain't thrash), making the music a lot more accessible to the mainstream public. The bigger proof of that accessibility is that The Black Album is Metallica's best selling album and it was the best selling album when grunge was at the peak of popularity (The Black Album was released only a moth before Nirvana's Nevermind).

The instrumental work, because of the accessibility, is much, MUCH simpler than in ... And Justice for All and master of Puppets. The vocals here are more melodic and smooth than in any other Metallica album before The Black Album, something that goes very well with the instrumental part.

This album has one problem concerning the song distribution. The first half of the album has its best songs and past that part the album slowly becomes quite boring. However, it is not a hard task to sit through the album, i just think that it should be better balanced.

Grade and Final Thoughts

The Black Album can be easily described as a Metallica's B-side and their first step towards a more experimental (and crappy) experience that would be consolidate in the band's later albums Load, Reload and Saint Anger. However, in The Black Album there are still many good songs, like Enter Sandman, Holier Than Thou, The Unforgiven, Nothing Else Matters and My Friend of Misery. The last song of the album, The Struggle Within, will be pretty much a preview of the rubbish that Metallica would eventually put out, at least for the next three albums.

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Straight forward heavy metal album

Yes, there is basically no prog characteristics right here with this album. However, I love this album because I truly love the opening track "Enter Sandman". This opening track starts wonderfully with acoustic guitar fills in great ambient followed by great blast of heavy metal music characterized by heavy riffs. I love the way Ulrich plays his drums especially when he beats the snare right after break in the song. It's really masterpiece drum stroke, I believe. The other track that I also like is "Nothing Else Matters" which has excellent lyrics. Basically I interpret the lyrics convey strong message that if we remember how life after death is gonna be, nothing else matters but preparing ourselves for the day when we pass away. It's a great song, I believe. The third favorite of mine is "The Unforgiven".

The rest of the tracks are basically to heavy for my ears. Take example of "Sad but True" is actually a nice track. But, unfortunately the riffs are too heavy that make my ears could not digest it well. In addition to it, the melody is not that strong as well.

Overall, it's a good album especially for those who like heavy metal. I also notice that sonic quality of the CD is excellent. Thanks to Bob Rock.

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Metallica's The Black Album is akin to The Beatles The White Album both in style and innovation.

Metallica absolutely excelled with this and shocked the metal heads who were not used to this quieter approach but when they thrash they do it at breakneck speed. Some of the riffs on this are so good they should be illegal.

When I think of this album I remember how it was raved about on the radio metal shows and how many times they played tracks from it. Indeed it was so good every track was an instant classic. Immediately the highlights spring to mind Enter Sandman, Sad but True, The Unforgiven, Wherever I May Roam, Through the Never, Nothing Else Matters, My Friend of Misery - all brilliant and instantly recognizable as soon as Metallica begin playing them in concert.

The album tracks became the most played live in concert from any album, and there are some amazing versions on the orchestrated 'S & M' worth a listen.

'Nothing Else Matters' was one of the most inspired tracks in the metal world. Hetfield singing 'from the heart' and beautifully too had metal heads burning their hands with lifted up lighters every time it was played live.

Essential listening even if you hate metal. Many prog elements throughout if you look hard enough. But forget all that it's just great music and some of the best instrumentals in the annals of rock history. Of course the album was the peak of their success and the only way was down and Metallica virtually crashed to earth on later releases; Load, Reload, and the abysmal St Anger - which put them under the earth's crust. Death Magnetic brings them up to standard again but nothing was as good as this album.

The Black Album stands the test of time and will be remembered and revered for decades as the shining moment of metal. Every band has a treasure album, a 'Topographic Oceans' if you like, and for Metallica - this is it. Adore it or hate it you cannot ignore it. It was more influential and more important than any metal album in the early 90s when metal was dying. Metallica resurrected and reinvented the metal corpse with The Black Album and everyone sat up and took notice again.

Review by ProgBagel
3 stars Metallica - 'The Black Album' 3 stars

This is.different.

Metallica began opting out of there fast-paced, lengthy tracks for a more tightly structured and simpler compositions. The change wasn't bad, and they did a decent job. They just threw way too many tracks on here for their own good. The first four tracks showed a promise in their change of sound, however, everything after that, with the exception of 'Nothing Else Matters' is something that could easily be forgotten unless the listener spins this album quite a number of time. No melodies to remember or great vocal lines. Everything essentially was cut short a bit.

Only recommended to Metallica fans and those looking for some accessible metal music.

Review by J-Man
3 stars 3.5 stars really.

This is one of those albums that is really tough to rate. I love it in a way, and I hate it in a way. I love it simply because the music's good, but it frustrated me because it marked the end of progressive and good Metallica until Death Magnetic. The problem this this album isn't the music. It's the fact that this is really a transitional album. It brought them from the best metal band in the world, to a mediocre one. Just that fact makes this album drop a few points. If you compare this to Ride The Lightning, there is just no comparison. This isn't in the same league as their previous albums.

The music is obviously different from Master of Puppets, or any of the four previous albums. This shows more of Metallica's rock side, and has more pop songwriting shown than the previous trash metal albums. There are no fast parts, or progressions to different sections, like in previous albums. With that said, the music is still all great. The skill of the band isn't showing as much, but the music is nonetheless really good... for the most part. The best songs are 'Sad But True', 'The Unforgiven', 'Nothing Else Matters', and 'Enter Sandman'. However there are also a few weak tracks.

For people looking for easily accessible metal music without any speed, thrash, or progressiveness, this is for you. For anyone looking for those traits, go to Master of Puppets.

Metal Album Without the Historical Disappointment: 4/5

Metal Album With the Historical Disappointment: 3.5/5

Final Score: 3.5/5

Review by horsewithteeth11
2 stars The honeymoon is over.

I have to admit, that this record still shocks me to this day, and not in a good way. Metallica, after 4 excellent albums that one could very well argue are progressive metal, go downhill fast with this release. Sympathetically titled by many fans as "The Black Album", this has always been an album that made me wonder how whether or not I liked it every time I listened to it.

Metallica can no longer be referred to as progressive, but only in terms of thrash metal. I will admit that this is one of the better thrash metal albums, but for some reason I think only part of it has ever fit my tastes. It has a few good songs on here such as the classic Sandman, Sad but True, The Unforgiven, and The God That Failed, but not even the best songs have any trace of prog in them anymore. I think that last time I listened to this album was a few months ago (with an intent of reviewing it then), and I would have a hard time convincing myself to give it another spin anytime soon. Even as much as I used to like Metallica, I have come to like this album less and less as time goes by. I'd give it 3 stars for a few good songs, but the songs that aren't good I find fairly weak, so this gets knocked down to a 2. Save your money unless you like Metallica's first 4 studio efforts and want to see what the last flicker of light before a long, dark tunnel is like.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Metallica" (or "The Black Album" if you will) is the 5th full-length studio album by US heavy metal/ thrash metal act Metallica. The album was released in August 1991 by Elektra Records. The band had been hugely influential and also quite commercially successful during the eighties releasing four seminal thrash metal albums in "Kill īEm All (1983)", "Ride the Lightning (1984)", "Master of Puppets (1986)" and "... And Justice for All (1988)". All four are generally considered landmark releases in the genre. The increasingly technical playing and complex structure of the songs on especially "... And Justice for All (1988)" eventually led to the band getting tired of playing thrash metal though. They probably felt they had accomplished everything there was to accomplish in that genre and they felt the need to tone things down a bit and focus more on melody, simpler song structures and less technical playing. "The Black Album" went on to become hugely successful in terms of record sales and is one of the most important factors in the increasing acceptance of hard rock and heavy metal on mainstream radio.

So what we get on "The Black Album" are some memorable heavy metal songs that should appeal to most people in terms of heavy riffs, sing-along choruses, melodic guitar solos and varied songwriting. Six singles were released to support the album in "Enter Sandman", "Donīt Tread on Me", "The Unforgiven", "Nothing Else Matters", "Wherever I May Roam" and "Sad But True". "Donīt Tread on Me" was the least successful but the other five were hugely successful and those five songs remain classics in Metallicaīs repetoire to this day. Unfortunately many of the other songs on the album come off as sub par to those five tracks. Examples could be songs like "Don't Tread on Me", "Of Wolf and Man" and "The Struggle Within". Pretty mediocre material if you ask me. None of the tracks on the album are bad though and most are enjoyable even though they are not remarkable. The thrash metal riffing style which was a big part of Metallicaīs sound on the earlier releases by the band are almost completely gone from their sound on this album and there are obvious references to classic hard rock instead. "The Black Album" is still a heavy metal album first and a hard rock/ heavy rock album second though. If you are ever in doubt take a listen to the crushingly heavy main riff in "Sad But True".

The production by Bob Rock is grand and metallic sounding and suits the music well.

My personal experience with this album is rather mixed. Upon the release of "The Black Album" I was already a big fan of Metallica having been hooked in an early age by "... And Justice for All". I actually attended a concert with Metallica on Gentofte Stadium (A stadium situated in a suburb to Copenhagen, Denmark) two days before the release of the album. Iīve seen Metallica a couple of times since then (two times on the tour following the release of "The Black Album"), but that concert still stands as the best concert Iīve seen with them. Maybe because they only played "Enter Sandman" and "Of Wolf and Man" from the then, yet unreleased "Black Album". Iīve seen many people accusing Metallica of selling out but IMO the band really wanted to change their style out of artistic reasons and not because they thought they could make more money. Iīm sure they didnīt exactly suffer finacially after selling as many albums as they did in the eighties. If you like their new direction is a whole other matter though and I must admit that Iīm one of those that stopped listening to Metallica after this album was released. I remember listening to the album with great enthusiasm for the first couple of years after it was released but the air simply went out of the ballon somewhere along the way and I much prefer the first four albums to this one. Still itīs for the most part a high quality metal album and even though I think there are way too many filler tracks on the album to warrant a 62:40 minutes long playing time, Iīd say a 3.5 - 4 star rating is warranted. Had there been more great songs like the five hits on the album I would have given a full 4. Despite my issues with the album "The Black Album" is a "classic" metal album. One of those albums you have to have heard before you leave this earth.

Review by Conor Fynes
2 stars 'The Black Album' - Metallica (3/10)

I like to think of the 'Black Album' as the album that killed Metallica, or at least killed their sense of musical integrity. Moving from an uncompromised metal spirit to being more or less a puppet of the almighty dollar does not go over well with me.

Now, I've never been a real fan of Metallica but I can admit that their first four albums are very noteworthy, each for different reasons. The band's debut 'Kill 'Em All' was essentially the first thrash metal album, and while it was condemned by 'metalheads' at the time (who were generally used to metal along the lines of Black Sabbath) it was destined to become the album that would define a genre. The next album 'Ride The Lightning' took the raw thrashy energy and transformed it into something even more epic. The two to follow that; 'Master Of Puppets' and '...And Justice For All' are both masterpieces that incorperated progressive elements into a metallic soundscape; something that was rarely heard of in that time. Metallica really seemed to be knocking heads with their uncompromised energy and power...

...Then the 'Black Album' came along and gave dawn to a period in the band's music that can't be considered anything short of pitiful.

It's the 'Black Album' where everything changed; where everything seemed to come crashing down for the band. There was a great musical switch with this album. Exchanging energy and creativity for accessibility and commercial nature, the band really toned down their fire and resorted to making what I can only call 'radio rock with an edge.'

The album has a few songs I really like that really do deserve praise. The song 'The Unforgiven' is among my favourites of the band, and the ballad 'Nothing Else Matters' has some great vocal and acoustic work. But most of this is basically an example of a Metallica that has been declawed by the market.

The 'Black Album' can be appreciated by your average rock listener, but for me, this album took away everything I previously appreciated about the band. I liked the band for their energy and speed. There's none of that here. Why would I give this much of a rating?

It's definately not the band's worst, and there are good songs on here. But apart from a few saving graces, there's alot of filler material that's character of a band that has sold it's soul to the record label.

Review by poslednijat_colobar
3 stars The beginning of the end

When some great musicians made their magnum opus, they've always change the direction in wrong way. Or probably wrong is not the most appropriate word here. To be more precise I would say, then the musicians take non-musical way, but the commercial. The reason could be a relief from the great works of art they did or willingness of enrichment. Somehow or other, they sold their souls to... money!!! When they did it, it's impossible to make great music any more. That's the case with Genesis, that's the case with Metallica, too. After magnificent ,,,And Justice for All it is time for losing form, at the expense of earning money.

And yet the homonymous album by Metallica is not a bad album. It doesn't contain any thrash parts. There aren't weak songs, but also there aren't special, except perhaps Nothing Else Matters. It's full of mainstream and unbalanced rock songs. Direction is lost, the style, too. Obviously, the last remained trick, that save the album musically is momentum. Despite that, commercially Metallica is the most successful album by the band and one of the most successful in the history of rock music. The last one is not important for me, so 3 stars!

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is one of those albums that you either already own or can't be bothered with. Well I'll try to take up some of your precious time with another review anyway.

Many fans criticized Metallica's knee fall to please the masses, the Black Album was said to be too commercial, not thrashy enough, slick, sell-out. Those and many other outbursts of betrayed fan rage could be heard all over the place. Well, they didn't diminish the popularity nor the relevance of this album. With its smooth and rocking approach it brought metal to a wider public and helped making it into one of the most popular and most creative scenes of the 90's. And indeed it is an excellent starting point for discovering all things metal, it has power, aggression, shredding, epic drama and some of the most catchy tunes on any metal album. I had had some short flirts with metal in the years before, but this album started my life-long love for the genre.

But that doesn't mean everything is glorious, there's sure filler as well. Up until Don't Thread on Me, there is no dip in the song material, with Sad But True and Wherever I May Roam being the obvious highlights. From then on the quality goes a bit up and down. Some of the songs are hardly necessary and had better been passed on to B-sides. Especially Don't Thread on Me, Of Wolf and Man and The Struggle Within drag the album down. One of the main reasons is Ulrich's uncreative drumming again. If he would have provided more dynamic rhythms he could have given some of the more unremarkable songs a boost. The production by Bob Rock is overwhelming, but he failed in his producer's responsibility to be critical for some of the material here.

As far as I'm concerned, this album wasn't a disappointment but a revelation. Good and relevant enough for 4 small stars. With a bit more scrutiny and a stronger album closer, this one would sit right next to their masterpieces.

Review by JLocke
4 stars Off to Never Never land . . .

I have three all-time favorite Metallica albums. I find them the most enjoyable listen out of everything they have released so far. This is one of them.

It's odd feeling like I have to defend this incredible work, but often times I find myself giving all the reasons why people should respect it more than they do. Especially in Prog circles, there seems to be a negative view of The Black Album. Maybe because Metallica's Prog Metal days were over, and more accessible music was beginning to take shape, here. Maybe because no song on the album is over seven minutes in length. Maybe because the playing isn't as technical, or the themes as broad and epic as hey once were.

For whatever reason, though, I think it's a shame that so many people consider this one of the lower point in the band's career. If anything, this album breathed new life into Metallica, gearing them up for a new era of music-making and a bunch of new fans of this newer, more modern version. Sure, most of the music that came after this release wouldn't reach the same caliber until seventeen years later (woah!), but for a lot of people, this is their favorite era from the band. Not everybody enjoys the overly- technical, speed Metal that the band had been cooking up before, and the band members themselves were even getting bored of it. So they took a risk and decided to change their style. While most of their attempts at this admittedly failed (in my opinion), this album is the band in transition, and therefore there are still some really amazing musical moments on it that recalls the band's earlier glory days. At the same time, we get a newer, heavier, slower-paced side to the band thrown into the mix, and both of those elements combined made one hell of a record, as far as I am concerned.

Who can deny that the main riff to ''Enter Sandman'' or the drum intro to ''Sad But True'' aren't iconic moments in music? Who can deny that ballads like ''The Unforgiven'' or ''Nothing Else Matters'' move the soul and pull back the veil, giving insight into a much deeper, softer side of the band? Sure, this stuff may not be everybody's cup of tea, but the playing is still top-notch, and the songwriting is just as strong as ever, despite being aimed in a more commercial direction. Gone are the long, epic Prog Metal pieces that once graced the ears of Metallica listeners everywhere. In place of them were shorter, more concise pieces of straightforward, pounding Metal that still had enough Progressive influences to keep things interesting.

I realize things didn't work out the way many fans at the time wanted them to, but I honestly think THIS was the last great Metallica album before the release of Death Magnetic, and not And Justice For All like a lot of people claim. We could hear the beginnings of the simpler Metallica on this record, but there was still enough progressive and complex music present here to make it a nice chapter closer, and one of my personal favorites from the band.

So do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Metallica if you don't already own one. Despite some lower points (which are extremely rare, mind you), this is an iconic album that should not be missed by any serious metal fan. Even if you're more drawn to Prog Metal, there is enough complexity in here to fit that bill, as well.

Happy listening.

Review by Negoba
2 stars Monumental Piece of Rock History - Away from Prog

In 1991, the face of rock'n'roll changed forever. Nirvana's NEVERMIND is always mentioned as the huge album that transformed music, but there was another wildly popular record that was responsible for the change as well. That would be Metallica's BLACK ALBUM. Like many other teenagers at the time, this album dominated my life for at least a semester in a way no other album did before or since. I joined my first real band at that time, and we played every single note on this album and many of them hundreds of times. We saw one of the early warm up shows and the fireworks were so loud that the band was banned from the venue for life. I caught a drum stick and was offered up to $100 for it at the time. (I still have it).

During my high school years, most popular music was fairly easy to categorize. Fans were usually divided into Metal / Rock and New Wave / Punk camps. While Metallica had already welcomed some Punk elements in creating thrash, the music was so intense that no one was going to break rank. In 1991, this split was destroyed as the New Wavers turned on the distortion (Nirvana) and the heaviest headbangers made a marked compromise to the center with the fairly straightforward rocker METALLICA (BLACK ALBUM). As in any election, the correctly timed move worked perfectly. Kids previously scared off by the intensity and raw hate of the band's previous work could now claim the pseudo-coolness of wearing a Metallica t-shirt. Suspicious metalheads held rank as their personal heroes took over the world. And Lars finally got the girls he wanted, along with more cash than any human could possibly spend.

How did they do it? By doing things that would have made their 1984 selves vomit in disgust. Bringing in pop-rock producer Bob Rock, writing hooks, rehashing their own work with the edges smoothed over. (I was astounded when I heard "The Unforgiven" the first time - such an obvious simplification of the already straightforward "Fade to Black," but without the ending crush.) James took singing lessons (I remember the exact place I was sitting the first time I heard "Nothing Else Matters" in total bewilderment.) Kirk discovered that he could still solo while signing groupies' autographs as long as his foot was attached to the wah pedal. (It would become a permanent part of his anatomy.) MTV bought in and the golden age of metal ended. (Dave Mustaine, always a step behind, would create the amazing RUST IN PEACE at the same time, but quickly follow his ex-bandmates into cash and idiocy with COUNTDOWN TO EXTINCTION.)

Was it all terrible? Not at all. It's hard to imagine that the band could go any further into nihilism and cold, calculated riffing after ...and JUSTICE FOR ALL without flaming out completely. Bob Rock actually turned up Jason Newstead's bass to audible. Many of the core riffs on the BLACK ALBUM had a swing and soul only seen in Metallica's covers before. At least half of the songs were still quite heavy. ("Sad but True" being one of their heaviest ever. "My Friend of Misery" combined an "Orion" style bass figure with yummy swells, harmony guitars for a metal guitar feast.) The video to "Unforgiven" was pretty cool. If the songs hadn't been there, the album wouldn't have been the enormous success it was.

While I have some issue with Metallica being part of Prog Archives, there is no doubt that this album is completely unrelated to prog. The entire concept of the album is simplification, moving toward the common man, pulling in a blues-based rock element, and giving the audience what they want instead of following the muse. As a band at the top of their game, Metallica was able to pull off the feat flawlessly. By grabbing the metal banner for themselves, they drove the stake through the heart of glam metal. By placing themselves at the new center of rock and roll, music in general became much heavier. The distorted guitar became part of almost every band moving forward. At the time, it felt like a triumph for metal. At some level, it was.

But it was also a fist in the face of many of musical values that prog fans hold dear, and it took awhile for those ideals to get back to their feet. The almost 10 year hiatus of the guitar solo, the rise of three chord pop-punk, and a general disdain for virtuosity and complexity can also be traced to this time period and this album. The BLACK ALBUM has to be considered one of the greatest enemies of prog in history. Averaging "Good Rock Album" with "Not Prog at All" I give 2/5 stars. (Though I think I may go home and crank up my amp and play the parts to "Misery" now.)

Review by jampa17
3 stars Less music, more money. Point taken.

Well, after three wonderful prog metal albums in a row, Metallica have to choose what new to bring in the mix for the next decade. Remember that Nirvana was already a hit and everything that sounds too elaborated was banned from the media, so these guys choose to go in that direction and bring out a straight metal album, and they sell millions of albums. Now, who can blame them if they wanted to assure the University studies of their grandchildren? I won't, and you...?

Well, after this intriguing question I will describe the music of this album. If you have to say something positive about Metallica is that they know how to make you headbang even if you don't want to. Their music became short and without any complex arrangement. All that we have of the old Metallica is the great riffing that Hetfield developed as the total master of that and some brief solos here and there. The rest is pure metal and even soft metal. I don't find it bad but sure it is not my thing and the music do not entertain me as the 80's productions but at the end, this is pure metal so, just start the headbanging and you won't remember why do you hate Metallica.

To be honest, there are some songs that do deserve a chance to listen to, like Enter Sandman, Sad But True and Wherever I May Roam. More ballads (the inevitable radio hit "Nothing Else Matters" and "The Unforgiven" does ring any bell?) and some boring songs more. This is why I don't like Metallica, some songs sound so much like fillers, but as I said above, some songs really worth the listening.

Now, in the positive aspect of this album, the vocals are better with this kind of music, more plain to fit Hetfield range. The production is a lot better and the sound improved a lot (they used the same studio than Dream Theater in the Awake album and it do has a great sound developing).

So, it's not a disaster, but as a prog fan you won't find too much interesting about this. I advise to any prog fan to go and check their 80's productions and check more stuff like Queensryche or Fates Warning if they want to hear prog-metal, but this album can be a random good album to hear without analyzing too much. Great to hear with friends and share some beers, but not to appreciate as most of the prog productions. 3 stars, just because of Enter Sandam and Wherever I May Roam.

Review by JJLehto
2 stars The best selling album of the last 2 decades, this may be one of the most controversial as well. Not from it's reviews or sales, but this is the album where Metallica "sold out". I used to be on the boat, but then started to waffle on it. After much thought all I can say is, Metallica did indeed sell out. Was it for the money? Was it honest experimentation? I think so, we may never know for sure but I think they were dedicated to mixing it up and trying new things. However, sell out is sell out.

There is nothing progressive about this album at all. However, while this was also the case with Kill em All there that was a great listen for metal fans. This is not. This album is flat out boring. There are SOME cool riffs, though most just sound generic. There are cool parts, some variation but it is not enough to hold my attention. Enter Sandman and the Struggle Within (which is fairly thrashy) are the only songs that I can actually listen all the way to the end without issue. Every other song is difficult to make it through, and some I can't at all.

It's a shame because they are some captivating moments. I find the lyrics and story behind The God that Failed pretty intriguing and honestly captivating, but I simply feel my head sagging and eyes closing during it. Through the Never starts well, and is pretty captivating though it gets a bit old. Nothing Else Matters is a ballad but without the heavy. It is nice sounding but again boring overall,though I do like the ending. That is really the case with this whole album.

So, there is nothing really good about this album for a progger, but there is nothing really good for a metal head either. In fact, while all technicality and musical talent was thrown away for even greater mass appeal, the album is mellow. Too mellow for a metal head like myself. While my prog side kind of likes that, it is just too boring and generic to hold any interest. No prog at all, no metal, just generic bleh.

Metallica: 1981-1991 RIP

Two Stars

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Luckily I wasn't old enough in 1991 to be following Metallica's development into such a state of decay... what's that? A commercially successful decay? It's a decay nonetheless as far as I'm concerned!

The band-titled black album or simply the Black Album was where Metallica made it in the music industry. Unfortunately the result of this exposure to the mainstream audience was that the band stripped off all their Thrash Metal pretenses and went into total Heavy Metal mode here. The results weren't that bad if judging purely from the singles released from this album and you'll only realize it if you decide to dig deeper by purchasing the full length album.

Enter Sandman kicks things off nicely even though it's not nearly as exciting as the three previous album-openers. Sad But True is where you basically can count me at as a Metallica fan. Supposedly not a bad song per se, but it's as shallow as Metal music can ever get. There's nothing here beside the four members grabbing my money and dancing around the bonfire with it! At least that's the image I can't seem to shake out of my mind whenever I hear songs like Don't Tread On Me, Wolf And Man or The God That Failed.

There are a few bright spots like the two big ballads and a slightly adventurous Wherever I May Roam, even though we all know that Zeppelin did it better more that 15 years prior to this album. Most importantly, this album lacks the riffs, the hooks and the raw energy, in other words everything that made Metallica great in the first place! The Black Album is just a well-produced average rock album with a lack of direction or purpose outside of the singles that it incorporates for its label to promote.

Even though I personally consider this a ludicrously bad album, there's no denying that most of the fans still seemed to enjoy this release. If they really want it then they can definitely keep it since I just stopped caring all together.

***** star songs: Enter Sandman (5:34)

**** star songs: The Unforgiven (6:27) Wherever I May Roam (6:46) Nothing Else Matters (6:29)

*** star songs: Sad But True (5:23) Holier Than Thou (3:48) Don't Tread On Me (4:01) Through The Never (4:03) Of Wolf And Man (4:17) The God That Failed (5:05) My Friend Of Misery (6:50) The Struggle Within (3:54)

Review by zravkapt
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
1 stars The Whack Album I like to call this. I think I'm one of the few who prefer to say 'The Beatles'...'Metallica', instead of the more popular 'The White Album'...'The Black Album'. I was a huge Metallica fan-boy before this album came out. They were my favourite band when I was 13. This album came out approximately the same time I started high school. My first exposure to this album was when I heard "Enter Sandman" premiered on a radio show. It was the newest song, not yet released, from "the heaviest band on Earth". In 1983 Metallica were one of the heaviest bands on Earth. By 1990 they were nowhere near one of the heaviest bands on Earth. Judging by the music on this album, they not only shed any 'progginess' they had about them, but also went out of their way to not be one of the heaviest bands on Earth.

I forced myself to like this when it came out. After awhile even I was surprised to keep seeing this album in the #1 spot for seemingly ever. What does it mean when kids who used to pick on me because I liked Metallica were now all of a sudden that band's biggest fans? It should come as no surprise that I never ended up buying Load when it came out. If you want anything that looks, smells, tastes or any way remotely resembles 'prog', you are not going to find it here. What Metallica did between 1984-1988 was proggier than a lot of what passes for Prog- Metal today. It seems they wanted to be Bon Jovi for some reason; they used both their producer(Bob Rock) and video director(Wayne Isham). They have even said the reason they wanted to work with Bob was because of his work with Motley Crue(!)

"Don't Tread On Me" is nationalistic garbage. Basically this song is saying: "We kicked Iraq's butt, oh yeah! Anybody else wanna piece of this?" A long way from ...And Justice For All. The only thing metal about "Nothing Else Matters" is the guitar solo. The only interesting things about this album is the talk-box in "Holier Than Thou" and the sitar in "Wherever I May Roam". Of no interest to a progger, of barely any interest to a metalhead. I don't plan on ever reviewing any of their later albums; if I did I would have to give them less than one star. The Whack Album=1 star.

Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars While people jumped on the METALLICA bandwagon in the tens of thousands when this came out, long time fans were jumping off. This was like a slap in the face. "Sell outs !" was the cry from the faithful. Bob Rock was brought in as the producer and if there's one thing Bob knows it's "production". METALLICA had heard what he did for MOTLEY CRUE on their 1989 release "Dr.Feelgood" and sought the same. Sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for.This is slick,heavy and catchy, it brought them into the mainstream and it made METALLICA a fortune at the expense of their faithful fans. Or at least a lot of them. For the most part I like this album although i'm tired of many of these tracks.

"Enter Sandman" is riff city and heavy.The video on MTV didn't hurt either with it's popularity. "Sad But True" is fairly doomy sounding. Maybe sludge is the word. "Holier Then Thou" is uptempo and rocks out pretty good. It's okay. "The Unforgiven" has held up well over the years. Maybe the best song on here. "Wherever I May Roam" is exotic sounding to start then the guitar starts to grind it out as it speeds up. Nice. I like this one a lot. "Don't Tread On Me" is heavy to start as the vocals join in. Not a fan of this one.

"Through The Never" is uptempo as vocals join in before a minute. An intense rhythm here but i'm not sold. "Nothing Else Matters" is another hit in the form of a ballad. Again like "The Unforgiven" I get drawn in with the emotion. "Of Wolf And Man" is another catchy and intense track. "The God That Failed" has some amazing bass to start as it slowly starts to play out. Heavy stuff. "My Friend Of Misery" is the longest track at almost 7 minutes. A calm before 3 1/2 minutes as we get some rare atmosphere. I like when it starts to build too. "The Struggle Within" opens with marching styled drums as the guitars join in. Fast paced vocals and sound follow. A good album no doubt and Bob did what he was paid to do.

Review by tarkus1980
4 stars You can call it "selling out" if you want; I call it "artistic progression." The Ride the Lightning formula hadn't yet come close to failing, yes, but only the most hardened metalhead (in my opinion) would deny that ... Justice showed that the band's mastery of the formula was waning. It was high time for an adjustment to the band's approach; not a radical change, but rather an effective redirection of the band's (still in prime condition) raw tools. Let's face it, it is hardly the case that the band's strengths were only conducive to quality prog thrash; this was a band with masterful guitar interplay and a knack for writing solid riffs and solid vocal melodies, and these are ideal ingredients for the kind of hard pop metal that the band pursued on this album.

Now granted, pop metal is a really easy genre to do badly (then again, thrash is an easy genre to do badly too). The mid-to-late 80's is replete, after all, with bands trainwrecking with the pop metal genre, from Deep Purple to a legion of hair metal bands that made Metallica's brand of metal seem just that much more impressive during the same era. But with Metallica, the band avoids the crucial trap that basically all of those bands fell into; not making the music hard enough to actively drive away pop fans and not making the music poppy enough to actively drive away metal fans. To the contrary, the band sticks to its fundamental guns through most of the album, making the music found here about a hundred times heavier and more legitimately intense than most 1991 bands could, yet the hooks are more explicitly defined than the band had made them previously, which helps explain the huge popularity of this album.

Of the first eight songs, five of them were pretty big hits, and all of the first eight range between good and great. A couple of them, "Unforgiven" and "Nothing Else Matters," are actually full- fledged ballads, but it's not as if the band had completely avoided that track in its previous work ("Fade to Black" and "One" had elements of dark balladry to them, after all). The band never picks up and takes them into the slashing overdrive that would happen on the older albums, but Hammett gets in some nice (albeit slightly generic, which is actually a problem throughout much of the album) solos where the situation merits, the melodies are fine, and James' singing is at least decent (though he's arguably trying a little too hard to sound mildly sensitive on them, which sows the seeds of the bitter fruits that would be reaped half a decade later).

As for the other songs in this group, all of them, with the mild exception of the slightly weaker "Holier Than Thou," absolutely rip; they're not fast (though the excellent "Through the Never" gives a brief flash of the band's thrash selves), but they're intense, and the riffs and hooks are very very strong. "Enter Sandman" is the best known classic, and it has every right to be, but "Sad but True" is a stomping (and catchy!) riot, and "Wherever My Roam" is an effective uptempo riff-fest that makes the darkest use of an Indian guitar sound in majorly popular rock music since (probably) "Paint it Black" 25 years previous. Throw in a slightly goofy (but better for it) rocker in "Don't Tread on Me," and the end result is an extremely well-produced (come on all you naysayers, the guitars sound great on this album, and there's a reasonable bass presence again) collection of hard-rock and pop that no metalhead (unless they define metal solely as thrash) should be ashamed to have.

Oh, wait, this album doesn't end after eight tracks and forty minutes of solid rock music. The last four tracks are, in my opinion, the weakest stretch by far that the band had come up with to this point, meaning that this album ends up with a full twenty minutes of relative filler. "Of Wolf and Man" is probably my favorite of these, but that's only because it would improve a good amount in a live setting; it seems awfully awkward to me here. And the last three, gah; "My Friend of Misery" is actually the longest track on here, and the fact that it doesn't interest me much (except for a cool main bassline that I enjoy hearing outside the context of the song) can't help but lead the way in a sag of the rating from where it would otherwise be. The other two aren't even worth a namecheck, for what it's worth.

Still, this (alarmingly) weak ending isn't enough to completely undermine the quality of the great start. It's not a "hard rock milestone" like some reviews at the time raved about it, but it's still a fine inclusion to the band's catalogue. Too bad things didn't improve from here.

Review by Warthur
2 stars The Black Album gets a lot of flack from Metallica fans, but personally I think it's an OK-ish album. It's not brilliant by any means; were the same tunes recorded by some band nobody had heard of for their debut album I suspect it'd have fallen into obscurity. But the fact is that it was recorded by Metallica - and what's more, given the best production job of any Metallica album to date.

Sure, the production doesn't reveal anything particularly special about the songs collected here, which are about as middle-of-the-road as metal can possibly get. But I'd very slightly prefer that to what you get on Justice For All - which is genuinely interesting, novel, and well- composed songs utterly ruined by shoddy production. It's like the difference between popcorn and gourmet food; screw up the fancy dinner and it'll taste horrible, whilst almost nobody can fail to make adequately eatable popcorn. And like average popcorn, the Black Album can be easily consumed without thinking too hard and will leave you feeling vaguely unsatisfied.

Review by siLLy puPPy
3 stars I have to admit that I do like this album to a certain degree. It is very well and slickly produced. The bass now plays with the drum instead of the guitar giving a more traditional metal feel. The angst is still there and it still rocks. Many songs are catchy and still have a familiar Metallica sound. Not a bad crossover album when all is said and done. The thrashiness still exerts itself in weaker doses.

However, after 3 stellar thrash releases this is an admitted let-down for the older fans. It was a clear rush to cash in on the momentum that they had accrued throughout the 80s and a calculated turn towards a more grungy radio-friendly sound that they felt would possibly not alienate old fans while attracting new ones. I have to say that they did that to a certain degree. I, myself, being a fan of their thrash albums still bought this and listened to it. Not against sound changes but this was the beginning of the great decline with this band.

The themes are still dark and the videos are cool and as far as a commercial release goes I do think they pulled this off fairly well. Good but not great. Can't say I love it. Can't say it hate it (that is saved for the next album!)

Review by Chicapah
4 stars After "And Justice for All" went zooming all the way up the charts to the #6 spot in the late 80s, establishing Metallica as a lot more than a raucous quartet of California thrashers in the process, I sense that the band members felt that they'd gone about as far as they could go with their uniquely furious and edgy motif. They, like many other bands that've put out several full-length CDs and a handful of EPs, stood at a crossroads. They could continue to churn out what had garnered them not only a huge throng of loyal followers across the globe but also the respect of the entire music industry for carving out a niche for themselves. The risk involved in staying on the safe course is the very real possibility of becoming stale and predictable. Their other option was to go where their muse and their recently-hired producer, the aptly named Bob Rock, took them. Bob had made a name for himself by helping to make hit albums for Aerosmith, Bon Jovi and The Cure. Metallica's collective hope was that he'd not only push them to their creative limits but that he'd more faithfully capture the music they heard rumbling in their heads along with the power they generated on the live stage. Easier said than done, though. Especially when it turned out that Mr. Rock's skull was just as hard as theirs. There was a massive amount of head-butting going on during the three years, the three mixes and the million bucks in studio time it took to make this record but I have to say that it was worth it. I'm a big fan of albums that sound incredible and this one does. I was never into speed metal per se but did consider Metallica to be the best of the lot. Yet when I heard these tunes on the radio I realized that the band had evolved and become more than a one trick pony act. They were ready for the major leagues.

They start with what has become my favorite song of theirs, "Enter Sandman." My first reaction was "Wonder of wonders! I finally hear a bass guitar!" Why they never noticed or tried to do something about the lack of deep thunder in their recordings before is a mystery to me but I'm glad they figured it out. This tune has one of those immortal killer riffs that grabs you by the billiards and then worms its way into your psyche. With this track I felt like I was at last hearing how truly talented these guys were. It may not be as prog-related as some of their earlier material but when something rocks this hard who gives a steaming turd? This gets me off and I crank it up every time it comes on. "Sad But True" follows and, frankly it's born from the same metal mindset that I found on their previous records but what makes the difference is, fidelity-wise, it's as if they went from shooting in fuzzy black & white to glorious Technicolor and it sounds amazing. Kirk Hammett's and James Hetfield's guitar work is less showy and more passionate than before, which I consider a plus. "Holier Than Thou" is next and there's no dearth of ferocity on this baby. It screams. I noticed that James' vocal is clearer and more understandable this time around yet he doesn't sacrifice an iota of his aggressive mien. It's stunning what a little depth of field can do for a good song and "The Unforgiven" is a fine example. The attention they gave to the dynamics involved is noticeable and the overall arrangement works like a charm. It was quite refreshing to hear Hetfield sing and not bellow and growl constantly. He was obviously maturing into a vocalist of note. The ever-mystical electric sitar sets up a distinctive aura for "Wherever I May Roam" before the tune's energized riff takes over and they proceed to kick the studio walls down. Kirk's guitar solo is fiery and the rhythm section of Lars Ulrich and Jason Newsted is as solid as Georgia's Stone Mountain.

The heavy shuffle beat they employ to drive "Don't Tread on Me" provides a welcome change of pace at this juncture. They definitely weren't restricting themselves to stick to a "normal" progression on this number and I find the song's structure interesting. "Through the Never" follows and any of their devotees who were missing their speed demon side were undoubtedly happy with this barnburner. It's a very tightly performed adrenaline-fed rocker held together by Lars' remarkably restrained drumming. The group unveiled their sensitive persona on "Nothing Else Matters," a poignant composition featuring a light orchestral score that adds a proggy touch. I admire them for letting the song go where it needed to go. It took some guts to do something in a quieter vein but it paid off handsomely. It's one of their best efforts. They then kick the door apart on the beginning of "Of Wolf and Man" just to assure their fans that they haven't turned into Journey but it's also the most humdrum number on the album. Hammett does shred his guitar ride properly, though, saving it from being overly pedestrian. "The God that Failed" is next and again, it was so refreshing to hear a palpable and high quality bass tone on a Metallica record. This striking song is a decent specimen of prog metal in that it doesn't turn into a formulaic bore. "My Friend of Misery" is another highlight. Its intriguing intro leads to some strong, punchy rock & roll that emphasizes James' impressive vocal range and Kirk's surprisingly tasteful, versatile guitar techniques. They close with "The Struggle Within." Lars' marching snare pattern sets the listener up for a balls-to-the-wall attack that's guaranteed to pacify the metal purists who want their ears pinned back. They go out with a bang.

Released on August 12, 1991 this album debuted at #1. While there was some disappointment and more than a few discouraging words uttered from a small segment of the Metallica fanatics who cried "sell out!" this record brought millions of people who had previously shunned all things metal (including me) into their camp. When a group "goes commercial" they put out something specifically designed to be annoyingly catchy and profitable like the mindless fluff you hear from Madonna. Metallica didn't do that. What they did was to not only get better at their craft but bring in a producer that could teach them how to project their aural art in such a way that they could no longer be dismissed as wannabe rock stars. This awesome "Black Album" elevated them into a permanent place in music history. While it's no masterpiece of prog rock, it's the best record they've ever made by far and it's certainly well worth having. 4.3 stars.

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Report this review (#227233) | Posted by Time Signature | Friday, July 17, 2009 | Review Permanlink

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Report this review (#211404) | Posted by Quilombo1988 | Wednesday, April 15, 2009 | Review Permanlink

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Report this review (#190346) | Posted by nahnite | Monday, November 24, 2008 | Review Permanlink

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