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Metallica‘s self-titled fifth album, known as “the black album,” came out 25 years ago today (Friday, August 12th). The record made Metallica into superstars after being cult metal heroes for the first eight years of their career, even as it found the band slowing down and abandoning its thrash metal beginnings for a more mainstream, yet still heavy, style.

Drummer Lars Ulrich told Rolling Stone a while back about the record’s musical shift, “We felt inadequate as musicians and as songwriters (early in our career). That made us go too far, aroundMaster Of Puppets and on …And Justice For All, in the direction of trying to prove ourselves. We’ll do all this weird-ass s*** sideways to prove that we are capable musicians and songwriters.”

  • The album was the first of four collaborations with Victoria BC producer Bob Rock, with whom the band clashed throughout the recording of the disc. Rock recalled to Music Radar, “The first three months were difficult. They were all very suspicious of me. It wasn’t a fun, easy record to make. I told the guys when we were done that I’d never work with them again. They felt the same way about me.”
  • Ulrich said about Rock in NME, “We’d never really had anybody push us before . . . We’ve always thought of ourselves as ‘Big Bad Metallica,’ but Bob taught us a new word none of us had ever heard before: soulful.”
  • Ulrich added about the eight months it took to make the album, “(Recording) should have gone quicker, in theory, than trying to get everything note-perfect like we have before. But as usual with Metallica, all those theories and normalities go straight out the window. It took us twice as long to make a record that is twice as loose.”
  • Frontman James Hetfield said, “It was (once) a challenge for us to jam every riff in the universe into one song and make it work. Now we’re pretty much doing the opposite. Which is even more of a challenge.”
  • The black album debuted at Number One on the Billboard album chart and eventually sold more than 15 million copies in the U.S. and 22 million worldwide. It is currently the biggest selling album of the SoundScan era of sales tracking.

– D. & J.

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