Review Of Metallica — 5 years ago
Metallica’s self-titled album, hereafter referred to by its common name “The Black Album”, is a remarkable change from their previous release, … And Justice For All. The thin, crisp production on Justice has been replaced with a bright, polished assault that sounds much more like a live show. Newstead’s bass, which had been virtually inaudible in the past, anchors the bottom end of each track on The Black Album and greatly enhances the depth of the recording.
The band has not entirely abandoned the thrash metal genre that they helped to pioneer, but it is relegated to the back seat. Only “Through The Never” and “The Struggle Within” are really good examples of it, although “Enter Sandman” comes close and most of the rest of songs are heavily influenced by it. They have thrown the progressive elements that made their previous three albums so effective, limiting these songs to a few musical ideas and a few minutes each. In the place of these styles, most of the songs on The Black Album are based on a moderate-tempo heavy groove. At times this can bog down, such as “Sad But True” and parts of “Wherever I May Roam” and “My Friend Of Misery”, but it works quite well on “Enter Sandman”, “Holier Than Thou”, “Don’t Tread On Me”, “Of Wolf And Man”, and “The God Who Failed.” Metallica’s music has always been easy to move to, but Ulrich’s heavy backbeat, Hetfield’s syncopated riffing and sliding, and Newstead’s newly-discovered bass make many of these songs practically danceable.
The album employs a few gimmicks — the spoken “Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep” in “Enter Sandman”, the West Side Story quote at the beginning of “Don’t Tread On Me”, and the group “shape shift” chant in “Of Wolf And Man” for example. It is difficult to criticize this, however, because each one of them is remarkably effective.
The shocking parts of the album are “Nothing Else Matters” and “The Unforgiven”. The former is a breezy ballad, wholely unlike anything the band had released up to this point but well executed. The latter is the first example of what would be a sad slide into alternative rock. The song itself is not bad, but in retrospect it is a harbinger that this might be the last great album of new material ever released by the band.