Popdose Flashback ’91: Metallica, “Metallica”

Written by Music, Popdose Flashback '91

Dave Steed takes a look back at the album that changed the face of metal forever, on its 20th anniversary.

When I did my first Bottom Feeders series here on Popdose that focused on tracks that made it no higher than #41 on the Hot 100 charts, people always asked me why I didn’t do the top 40 as well. And I always gave the same answer – “I have nothing new to say about “Pour Some Sugar On Me.” Metallica’s Black Album is in a similar boat for me except at least here I have an entire album to ponder over. What do you say about an album like this? Everyone in the world knows that the Black Album completely changed what people thought of metal as. You can like the disc, hate the disc or anything in between, but if you try to tell me that it wasn’t a game changer, then I have to question your frayed ends of sanity.

When I was working on my metal series counting down the 300 best metal records of all time, I put the Black Album at #94 and said this:

I am not in the camp that say they sold out. I am not in the camp that only Metallica music before this album was any good. Bands change, bands need to live and make money and this made Metallica the biggest band in the world. Every song on the disc is fucking great. Every song on the disc will always be fucking great. Can I listen to “Enter Sandman” or “The Unforgiven” anymore without rolling my eyes? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that the album was so great it put the metal world on its ass.

This paragraph is still true and will probably always remain true to me. Some days I love the album, some days I have a hard time listening to it. But my hard time is due to the fact that I’ve heard “Enter Sandman” 10,000 times at this point. It’s still one of the best metal songs of all time but that doesn’t mean I need to listen to it every day. Some days I wonder if it’s even a metal album at all. Might it just be a really killer hard rock record? I mean “Nothing Else Matters” and “The Unforgiven” certainly can help point me in that direction. So can Lars’s pedestrian drumming. I can’t say I’ve ever really been a big fan of him but I think the Black Album is the point where much of his creativity ceased to exist. That said, it worked extremely well with the songs presented, so that really isn’t his fault.

On the other hand “Holier Than Thou” is truly a metal song with a blistering thrash riff reminiscent of older material (minus the polish). Same thing with the riffage in “Through the Never” or “Of Wolf and Man.” My favorite tune off the disc is the one that I think toes the line between metal and rock the best without being overplayed, in “My Friend Of Misery,” the only track on the disc that Jason Newsted got a writing credit for.

“Holier Than Thou”
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/SGGlENF7dto" width="600" height="25" wmode="transparent" /]

What I really need to enjoy the disc the most is time away from it. This isn’t an album like the Color Me Badd or Marky Mark records I looked back on in July. Those I pull off the shelf once every decade to listen to. The Black Album gets a few spins a month. But when it gets old, I put it at the bottom of the pile and forget about it for 4 or 5 months so when I come back to it, it’s killer again. And it doesn’t matter whether today I think it’s a rock record and tomorrow it’s a metal album – in every way, shape and form, it’s heavy. as. fuck. It’s a masterpiece of course, but it’s arguably anywhere from the 3rd to 5th best Metallica album. It is however, the moment that put Bob Rock permanently on the map for as long as he wants to be there. It’s his crowning achievement over anyone else’s.

“My Friend of Misery”
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/_98Gyg1er-k" width="600" height="25" wmode="transparent" /]