photo & text by nacrowe
for me METALLICA's METALLICA (ELEKTRA, 1991) record, more commonly referred to as THE BLACK ALBUM, has always been an interesting topic. this is because on the face of it, the record is an incredibly SUCCESSFUL pop record. and i do not mean that disparagingly. in terms of PRODUCTION, song CONSTRUCTION and SONIC VERSATILITY it is quite a devastatingly POWERFUL record. when i was first introduced to METALLICA during the LOAD-period in the mid-1990s this was the record that caught my attention. it is in fact a great entry-level introduction to METAL end stop.
what makes the record interesting for fans of the genre is the context from which it came out. the previous three records, ...AND JUSTICE FOR ALL (review linked HERE), MASTER OF PUPPETS (review linked HERE) and RIDE THE LIGHTNING (review linked HERE) are a VERITABLE MURDERER'S ROW of classic THRASH METAL records, probably the GREATEST streak of records anyone from the genre has ever produced. now that i am thinking about what i just said, i'm still sticking to it. yeah, i'd put those three up against anything SLAYER or even BLACK SABBATH put out back-to-back-to-back. those three records are what their REPUTATION is built upon. its not that THE BLACK ALBUM is a bad record, its just that it is a victim to the band's discography, something the band has suffered from ever since in all honesty.
i think what makes THE BLACK ALBUM so CONTROVERSIAL to some and interesting to me, is how INEVITABLE it was. eventually there was going to be a record that widened the appeal of the genre to a MASS AUDIENCE, if not METALLICA then someone else. at some point someone was going to create a record that softened the harder edges, constricted errant noodling, shortened the song lengths and focused more on TRADITIONAL song-craft to manufacture a product more PALATABLE to radio and global audiences. case in point are traditionally constructed tracks like the singles "WHEREVER I MAY ROAM," "THE UNFORGIVEN," "SAD BUT TRUE," and of course "ENTER SANDMAN." in essence its a victim to its own success. i am of the opinion that this was the record they wanted to make at the time and ultimately it is a great pop record.
but as a listener aware of how far they transcended their peers beforehand in terms of TECHNICAL PROWESS, FEARLESS COMPOSITIONS unafraid of lengthy detours, POLITICAL LYRICS and just sheer BRUTALITY; it is in retrospect a letdown. i respect them for following their instincts, i just wish that such had led them down a different path. one that melted my face off like the first time i heard "DAMAGE INC" or "FIGHT FIRE WITH FIRE" or even "DYER'S EVE."
and im still waiting.