Metallica
Metallica


2.0
poor

Review

by jk2two USER (15 Reviews)
January 27th, 2010 | 71 replies


Release Date: 1991 | Tracklist

Review Summary: "Shape Shift" - indeed they did... to nonsense contrived for mass appeal.

Just to prepare you, yes indeed I grew up on Metallica's early stuff. Master of Puppets was my introduction to thrash metal, and after three years of eagerly awaiting their follow up to the riff crazy ...And Justice for All, I bought the black album the day it came out. It was the summer before 10th grade for me, and everything was all about thrash metal, and Metallica were the kings. Foaming at the mouth I threw the CD in and took it for a spin... I was heartbroken.

Now, there are several reviews on this site defending and attacking this album. As an attempt to avoid repetition, I want to review this album in a more global sense. It is not only my theory that the black album ultimately destroyed thrash metal, but it eventually led to the death of a big chunk of the underground metal world, made moshing commonplace on MTV, and could conceivably be held responsible for the loads of trend bands that followed - and that includes the whole "Nu Metal" movement.

To fully understand the black album's context, one must go back to the breakout album, Master of Puppets the giant success of that album and tour, combined with the craziness of Cliff Burton's death, sent Metallica into the studio with a fist full of dollars and rockstar attitudes. Enter ...And Justice for All, the album that produced Metallica's first single and video: "One." After that, the MTV generation was made aware of this underground sensation, and Elektra caught a taste of potential marketability.

With that came the black album - a decisive "dumbing down" of Metallica's sound for mass appeal. From the opening chords of "Enter Sandman" one can easily tell the band has opted for a new direction: simple 6-8 note hooks, verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus song structure, and convenient 3-4 minute running time for each song (perfect for singles huh?). The lyrics are another blatant change as Metallica is far from saying anything even remotely controversial here. Though they have never been a particularly edgy band, "Don't Tread on Me," "Wherever I May Roam," and "Through the Never" are just plain stupid. Ultimately the black album presents a band who had nothing of any substance to say - either musically or lyrically.

None of this was unintentional and those who argue that the band did not sellout on this album are completely blind, or fooling themselves. Metallica caught wind of what true success could be, and with a quick middle finger to their core audience they jumped ship and joined the rock elites. If that does not define sellout, I'm not sure I know what does.

There are rare glimmers of hope through the album, but the only song that comes close to their earlier brilliance is album closer "The Struggle Within." The other high point would be the bittersweet "Nothing Else Matters" which would later be ruined by a profoundly lame video. For the most part however, the album is uninspired and constantly searching for any semblance of a point which would be quickly dashed by Hetfield's overly stylized and obnoxious performance on vocals (though individual performance becomes rather irrelevant when the writing is this bad).

Some have argued (on this site) that you cannot compare the black album to their early work, but what else would they have us compare it to? Metallica had established themselves as the kings of thrash metal, and as soon as they found an opportunity to open the gates and let all the trend followers in, they did. For those of use who held the genre sacred, this was inexcusable. In high school, I saw Metallica, Pantera, Megadeth, and Anthrax stickers on the back of cars of people that had NO BUSINESS listening to that music - people who had made fun of it and criticized it a mere 6 months earlier were now jumping on the bandwagon because MTV told them to.

Thrash metal stood for something and appealed to a certain crowd, once it was marketed to a mass audience, that appeal was lost. Soon, all of the other bands followed suit - dumbing down there music, singing about politics instead of evil things, and going on arena tours. Because of Metallica's success with this album, every label that had thrash metal bands tried desperately to create the next Metallica. The result is every band began to sound the same, and none of it was coming from the heart - it was preconceived market music.

Because of Metallica's lead, thrash metal withered and died for years. The upside was the undergrounds response with more extreme forms of metal (Black Metal, Death Metal). The downside was the virtual death of all the major thrash metal players. Because your average pop music fan could easily go from "Sad But True" to Boys to Men, the major labels started shopping heavy music to the masses in safe and contrived forms - enter Korn, Limp Bizkit, and the like with their ultra simplistic 2-3 chord thrash metal riffs and lousy white-boy rapping.

So is the black album truly to blame for all of this nonsense? In a way, it could not have happened without it. Metallica's dream for the next big thing led them to betray the very foundation the band was built on. After the success of the video for "One," Metallica swore they would reserve videos for very "special songs." Surprisingly, the black album has 5 such songs on it, each with increasingly stupid and pointless videos.

Now, one of the most successful rock bands of all time, Metallica's betrayal of the scene that created them is a distant memory. They would go on to betray even this album with further experimentations towards mass market appeal and "arena rock," only to eventually end up at Death Magnetic, a feeble apology to their roots that has come too little too late. The black album will forever be the biggest disappointment in my life as a metal fan and it all but ruined my ability to enjoy their first four albums.



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user ratings (5112)
Chart.
3.7
great
other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
jk2two
January 27th 2010


105 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

10th review for me. Wanted to do something special, and different.

JulesWin
January 27th 2010


993 Comments


FINALLY!
Its about time someone reviewed this album, it was long overdue

how is this different btw?

Asiatic667
January 27th 2010


4648 Comments


singing about politics instead of evil things

Lol, what's the difference?

Seriously, though, Review was an enjoyable read - mainly because it was by someone who was actually a kid when this album was huge.
I'll Pos.
How old are you by the way, I'm too lazy to figure it out

Dryden
January 27th 2010


13276 Comments


album sucks so much. nice review

ninjuice
January 27th 2010


6760 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

It's an extremely well written review, but the review part has been said by every single former fan saying they "sold out" here and the rest should be something else like an essay imo.

Willie
Moderator
January 27th 2010


16149 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

It is not only my theory that the black album ultimately destroyed thrash metal, but it eventually led to the death of a big chunk of the underground metal world, made moshing commonplace on MTV, and could conceivably be held responsible for the loads of trend bands that followed - and that includes the whole "Nu Metal" movement.


All forms of metal were already on their way out in 1991, and it was mostly due to the genre's own bullshit. If anything, this album showed the masses a credible alternative to the declining cock rock, and over-the-top imagery of bands such as Slayer. It kept metal on people's mind and probably helped it weather the alt. rock storm better than it otherwise would have. Last, this album could never be blamed for nu metal. Bands such as Faith no More and the whole funk/metal movement had more to do with it than any Metallica album.

After that, the MTV generation was made aware of this underground sensation, and Elektra caught a taste of potential marketability.
Elektra signed them before Master of Puppets and literally had nothing to do with the band's musical shift.

Entire paragraphs such as the 2nd, 5th, 7th and 8th kill any credibility this review may have otherwise had... if it wasn't already ruined by statements such as: "The other high point would be the bittersweet 'Nothing Else Matters' which would later be ruined by a profoundly lame video. "

Digging: Mors Principium Est - Dawn Of The 5th Era

Asiatic667
January 27th 2010


4648 Comments


oh, now I see....

Asiatic667
January 27th 2010


4648 Comments


Shut up you idiot

WatchItExplode
January 27th 2010


3314 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

schools out!

jk2two
January 27th 2010


105 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

All forms of metal were already on their way out in 1991, and it was mostly due to the genre's own bullshit. If anything, this album showed the masses a credible alternative to the declining cock rock, and over-the-top imagery of bands such as Slayer. It kept metal on people's mind and probably helped it weather the alt. rock storm better than it otherwise would have. Last, this album could never be blamed for nu metal. Bands such as Faith no More and the whole funk/metal movement had more to do with it than any Metallica album.

I disagree. If anything this album mellowed metal out so as to be more appealing to an alt. rock audience. Metal didn't survive the alt. rock storm at all - it was morphed to fit in better with the rising trends. Why it eventually grew envogue again is a whole different argument.

and yes I know Metallica was already on a major during Master of Puppets, but they were not a flagship band for the label until after the noise about Justice.

I'm glad you disagree with me though, I love arguing about this album because it offended me so deeply and personally when I was a young and impressionable 15 year-old. With that in mind, I am in no way objective about it - I realize that.

Willie
Moderator
January 27th 2010


16149 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

The problem is that this album can't be held responsible for mellowing metal. The bands could have kept right on doing the thrash that they love, but they all opted not to - of their own accord. From first-tier bands such as Anthrax and Megadeth all the way down to third-tier bands such as Flotsam & Jetsam and Sacred Reich, they all tried for that simpler more mainstream approach. The bands that didn't go that route were forced underground, but that was their own choice too. What this album is responsible for, like it or not, is keeping some form of "metal" in the public eye during the alt. rock era.

MindTrain
January 27th 2010


1093 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Thrash died with glam a long time ago. Who gives a shit anymore?

Titan50
January 27th 2010


4588 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I like this album

Douchebag
January 27th 2010


3624 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I Love this album.

Dreamsoffew
January 27th 2010


1002 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

"Soon, all of the other bands followed suit - dumbing down there music, singing about politics instead of evil things, and going on arena tours."

Last time I checked ...And Justice For All was a political album.

Willie
Moderator
January 27th 2010


16149 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

... and when did arena tours bad?

*The bands are good until they get enough cash to eat food and get a pad, then they've sold out and their musics cliche because talents exclusive to bands without pay*

jk2two
January 27th 2010


105 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Not true - Justice was widely successful, probably a bit of a compromise, but not a sellout because it stays true to the band's roots and the band's core audience.

The Black album, on the other hand, is a complete re-tooling of the band's sound to gain more listeners, core audience be damned, and THAT is a sellout.

Slayer hasn't sold out since the day the started playing - that doesn't mean all of their albums are good, but they are true to themselves and not corporate whores...

Phantom
January 27th 2010


8930 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

was listening to this for the first time in ages yesterday; still good.

jagride
January 27th 2010


2379 Comments


Boring album

Dreamsoffew
January 27th 2010


1002 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

You say in your review that because of Metallica's "lead" that all the other bands followed, and that Thrash Metal withered and died as a result. And then you say that Slayer never sold out, I don't follow that. One could argue that Slayer alienated their entire fanbase when they recorded an album of Punk cover songs, not to mention the nu metal tendencies they leaned towards on God Hates Us All. And yes, And Justice For All is a political record.



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