Re-enter Sandman: 'The Black Album' by Metallica revisited
How the classic LP stands up 22 years on
Photographer: Sara Bowrey16 November 2011
When Metallica’s self-titled release - more commonly known as ‘The Black Album’ due to its entirely
black cover aside from a silver coiled snake and gothic band motif - was first unleashed it managed to encapsulate a wider
audience than ever thought possible for a thrash outfit.
If the inclusion of acoustic and instrumental ballads like ‘Fade To Black’ and ‘Orion’ on previous LPs weren’t strong enough to infuriate the Metallica diehards, ‘The Black Album’ saw a commercial, accessible and unheard sound emerge from the four piece’s arsenal. It was a change in direction that sent many running to the hills in favour of Iron Maiden and Slayer, but ultimately the band lost few, and gained many, with an hour-long epic that sold 40 million copies worldwide.
Opening with the now infamous riff of ‘Enter Sandman’, the album forces the listener into an epic cavern of guitars and drums and gritty (compared with today) Hetfield vocals. It’s riff that may have caught many a listener with a rabbit-in-headlights gaze back in 1991, murmuring: “What is this?”
Indeed, the first notes of ‘Enter Sandman’ are often cited as the very first doorway many entered into the world of metal. ‘Sad But True’ has one of the greatest, heaviest hooks of all time, a rock club special, cooking up wave after wave of head-banging across the world since release over 20 years ago.
Song by song, the album is almost flawless. The mainstream step was certainly scaled with classic ballad ‘Nothing Else Matters’, an encapsulating, wondrous and heart-wrenching six-minute epic, which has never failed to support a broken heart in the metal community. Thrash and majesty weren’t two terms that would have sat so comfortably before it came out.
‘The Unforgiven’ would spawn two sequels in later albums, showcasing the versatility of their sound and creative marksmanship of the song. With trumpets, an acoustic guitar that seems to sing from the speakers and a guitar solo which many have held as one of the greatest in rock history, there is a beauty between the excesses of sound and restraint in pace.
The album isn’t completely without it’s thrash though, and often overlooked number ‘Through The Never’ sees a blisteringly fast riff structure a song which may not follow the conventional ideals of thrash, but certainly attempts a new spin on it which was needed at the time.
Metallica will play ‘The Black Album’ in full at Download Festival 2012 with Black Sabbath also confirmed to headline the Donington event when it returns from 8-10 June.
Download Festival 2012 tickets will go on sale on Friday 18 November at 9am.
Links to buy Download Festival tickets will be on VF when they're available.