Metallica needed a fresh start. …And Justice For All was their biggest album to date. The only problem with it was that the songs were so complex that it was difficult for the group to play such songs live, given their length and structure. Metallica knew this after some time and went back to the drawing board for the next album.
To start again, they enlisted famous rock producer Bob Rock. He was successful in creating some of the most widely known rock music of the 1980s. They abandoned their thrash metal style in favour of a more stripped down and slower approach with this album. Known famously as “the Black album”, this album broke Metallica into the mainstream.
Unlike many of their later efforts after this album, this sure is a great listen. It just sounds heavy and metal and totally awesome. Let’s dive in and observe this awesome album, track by track.
The lead-off song is Enter Sandman. This is probably Metallica’s most catchy song of all time. The intro riff leads on into a built-up structure into a party Metal piece, although sounds a little cheesy itself. Still, it’s one of their best songs. Essential listening for someone who does not know Metallica.
The next song, Sad But True has an awesome drop tuned riff and covers one’s fears in life. It’s a great song and wasn’t even one of the more played Metallica songs. This was extensively sampled by Kid Rock for his own American Badass song.
Holier Than Thou is a semi-thrash song about the hypocrisy of religion. “Holier than thou, you are, no, NOT!” It’s a weaker song on the album, yet sounds fast and interesting enough to catch one’s attention.
The Unforgiven is Metallica’s first real ballad. With some heartfelt lyrics about how difficult it is through struggle, it has some nice fingerpicked acoustic guitar throughout. It spawned a huge amount of sequel tracks based on the original, some better than others.
Wherever I May Roam is next, with a sitar intro before bursting into an awesome metal song about the supernatural beings. Perhaps Metallica was thinking along the lines of the Master Of Puppets album with this idea, but it’s still totally sick.
The next song is the weakest on the album. Don’t Tread On Me features stop-start guitar riffs and drums but although it is not out of place, it is definitely a weak track. Trivia fans may note that the song title is linked to the album artwork.
After that Through The Never follows and although it could have also been done better, it has a great midsection riff that gets stuck into your head. The calm before the storm like impact of the good quality song after.
Nothing Else Matters is the famous love song that singer James Hetfield wrote about missing his girlfriend on tour. It’s a brilliant piece and sounds like he really was singing from a deeply loving place. “Never opened myself this way. Life is ours, we live it our way. All these words I don’t just say. And nothing else matters.” A true gem of a song, pop and fantastic.
The trashy Of Wolf And Man comes next about a being who can shapeshift. It’s okay, despite the fact it hasn’t aged well. Interesting subject matter though.
Christians beware, The God That Failed refers to the Christian Science beliefs than James Hetfield’s mother held which prevented her from life-saving surgery when she had cancer. It is an intense and understandable listen in this respect.
My Friend Of Misery is a rather depressing piece about said emotion. It should have been shortened, but the emotion of the whole thing is right there to feel for the listener.
The Struggle Within ends the album nicely. It’s a pseudo Thrash Metal piece that talks about internal struggle, of course. It’s a nice break in length from the previous overlong song, and by now you sense that this album is a classic.
This album is not just a classic album. It is the best introduction to heavy metal that you can get. With a large variety of awesome songs and a clear, crisp heavy metal sound, you can sense why this album is so good. Too bad Metallica never matched this afterwards as money and fame got in the way of the music. Still, this is fantastic to hear any day.