Metallica is an American heavy metal band formed in Los Angeles, California. The band was formed in 1981 when vocalist/guitarist James Hetfield responded to an advertisement posted by drummer Lars Ulrich in a local newspaper. Metallica's current line-up comprises founding members Hetfield and Ulrich, longtime lead guitarist Kirk Hammett and bassist Robert Trujillo. Guitarist Dave Mustaine and bassists Ron McGovney, Cliff Burton and Jason Newsted are former members of the band.
The band's fast tempos, instrumentals, and aggressive musicianship placed them as one of the founding "big four" bands of thrash metal, alongside Anthrax, Megadeth, and Slayer. Metallica earned a growing fan base in the underground music community and won critical acclaim with its first four albums; their third album Master of Puppets (1986) was described as one of the most influential and heaviest of thrash metal albums. The band expanded its musical direction and achieved substantial commercial success with its eponymous fifth album Metallica (1991), which resulted in an album that appealed to a more mainstream audience. The album was also their first to debut at number one on the Billboard 200, a success that they also achieved on their following five studio albums. In 2000, Metallica joined with other artists who filed a lawsuit against Napster for sharing the band's copyright-protected material without consent from the band. A settlement was reached and Napster became a pay-to-use service. The release of St. Anger (2003) alienated fans with the exclusion of guitar solos and the "steel-sounding" snare drum, and a film titled Some Kind of Monster documented the recording of St. Anger and the tensions within the band during that time. The band returned to its original musical style with the release of Death Magnetic (2008), and in 2009, Metallica was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. After touring for most of the next eight years, the band followed up with Hardwired... to Self-Destruct (2016), which demonstrated examples from some of the different musical styles that the band has dabbled in throughout its career.
Metallica has released ten studio albums, four live albums, five extended plays (EP´s), 26 music videos, and 37 singles. The band has won eight Grammy Awards and six of its albums have consecutively debuted at number one on the Billboard 200. The band's eponymous 1991 album has sold over 16 million copies in the United States, making it the best-selling album of the SoundScan era. Metallica ranks as one of the most commercially successful bands of all time, having sold over 110 million records worldwide. Metallica has been listed as one of the greatest artists of all time by many magazines, including Rolling Stone, which ranked them 61st on its list of The 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. As of December 2012, Metallica is the third-best-selling music artist since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking sales in 1991, selling a total of 54.26 million albums in the U.S. Metallica collaborated over a long period with producer Bob Rock, who produced four of the band's studio albums between 1990 and 2003 and served as a temporary bassist during the production of St. Anger. In 2012, Metallica formed the independent record label Blackened Recordings and took full ownership of its albums and videos. The band is currently promoting Hardwired... to Self-Destruct, which was released on November 18, 2016.
Formation and early years (1981–1982)
Metallica was formed in Los Angeles, California, in late 1981 when Danish-born drummer Lars Ulrich placed an advertisement in a Los Angeles newspaper The Recycler, which read, "Drummer looking for other metal musicians to jam with Tygers of Pan Tang, Diamond Head and Iron Maiden." Guitarists James Hetfield and Hugh Tanner of Leather Charm answered the advertisement. Although he had not formed a band, Ulrich asked Metal Blade Records founder Brian Slagel if he could record a song for the label's upcoming compilation album Metal Massacre. Slagel accepted and Ulrich recruited Hetfield to sing and play rhythm guitar. The band was officially formed in October 1981, five months after Ulrich and Hetfield first met.
Ulrich talked to his friend Ron Quintana, who was brainstorming names for a fanzine. Quintana had proposed the names MetalMania and Metallica. Ulrich named his band Metallica. A second advertisement was placed in The Recycler for a position as lead guitarist. Dave Mustaine answered; Ulrich and Hetfield recruited him after seeing his expensive guitar equipment. In early 1982, Metallica recorded its first original song "Hit the Lights" for the Metal Massacre I compilation. Hetfield played bass on the song and Lloyd Grant was credited with a guitar solo. Metal Massacre I was released on June 14, 1982; early pressings listed the band incorrectly as "Mettallica".Although angered by the error, Metallica created enough "buzz" with the song and the band played its first live performance on March 14, 1982 at Radio City in Anaheim, California, with newly recruited bassist Ron McGovney. The band's first taste of live success came early; they were chosen to open for British heavy metal band Saxon at one gig of their 1982 US tour. This was Metallica's second gig. Metallica recorded its first demo, Power Metal, a name inspired by Quintana's early business cards in early 1982.
The term "thrash metal" was coined by Kerrang!'s journalist Malcolm Dome in reference to Anthrax's song "Metal Thrashing Mad" in Kerrang!'s issue 62, published on February 23, 1984. Prior to this, James Hetfield referred to Metallica's sound as "power metal". In late 1982, Ulrich and Hetfield attended a show at the West Hollywood nightclub Whisky a Go Go, which featured bassist Cliff Burton in a band named Trauma. The two were "blown away" by Burton's use of a wah-wah pedal and asked him to join Metallica. Hetfield and Mustaine wanted McGovney to leave because they thought he "didn't contribute anything, he just followed". Although Burton initially declined the offer, by the end of the year he had accepted on the condition the band move to El Cerrito in the San Francisco Bay Area. Metallica's first live performance with Burton was at the nightclub The Stone in March 1983, and the first recording to feature Burton was the Megaforce demo (1983).
Metallica was ready to record their debut album, but when Metal Blade was unable to cover the cost, the band began looking for other options. Concert promoter Johny "Z" Zazula, who had heard the demo No Life 'til Leather (1982), offered to broker a record deal between Metallica and New York City-based record labels. After those record labels showed no interest, Zazula borrowed enough money to cover the recording budget and signed Metallica to his own label, Megaforce Records.
Kill 'Em All and Ride the Lightning (1983–1985)
In May 1983, Metallica traveled to Rochester, New York to record its debut album, Metal Up Your Ass, which was produced by Paul Curcio. The other members decided to eject Mustaine from the band because of his drug and alcohol abuse, and violent behavior just before the recording sessions on April 11, 1983. Exodus guitarist Kirk Hammett replaced Mustaine the same afternoon.
Mustaine, who went on to found Megadeth, has expressed his dislike for Hammett in interviews, saying Hammett "stole" his job. Mustaine was "pissed off" because he believes Hammett became popular by playing guitar leads that Mustaine himself had written. In a 1985 interview with Metal Forces, Mustaine said, "it's real funny how Kirk Hammett ripped off every lead break I'd played on that No Life 'til Leather tape and got voted No. 1 guitarist in your magazine". On Megadeth's debut album Killing Is My Business... and Business Is Good! (1985), Mustaine included the song "Mechanix", which Metallica reworked and retitled "The Four Horsemen" on Kill 'Em All. Mustaine said he did this to "straighten Metallica up" because Metallica referred to Mustaine as a drunk and said he could not play guitar. Metallica's first live performance with Hammett was on April 16, 1983, at a nightclub in Dover, New Jersey called The Showplace; the support act was Anthrax's original line-up, which included Dan Lilker and Neil Turbin. This was the first time the two bands performed live together.
Because of conflicts with its record label and the distributors' refusal to release an album titled Metal Up Your Ass, the album was renamed Kill 'Em All. It was released on Megaforce Records in the U.S. and on Music for Nations in Europe, and peaked at number 155 on the Billboard 200 in 1986. Although the album was not initially a financial success, it earned Metallica a growing fan base in the underground metal scene. To support the release, Metallica embarked on the Kill 'Em All for One tour with Raven. In February 1984, Metallica supported Venom on the Seven Dates of Hell tour, during which the bands performed in front of 7,000 people at the Aardschok Festival in Zwolle, Netherlands.
Metallica recorded its second studio album, Ride the Lightning, at Sweet Silence Studios in Copenhagen, Denmark. It was released in August 1984 and reached number 100 on the Billboard 200. A French printing press mistakenly printed green covers for the album, which are now considered collectors' items. Mustaine received writing credit for "Ride the Lightning" and "The Call of Ktulu".
Elektra Records A&R director Michael Alago, and co-founder of Q-Prime Management Cliff Burnstein, attended a Metallica concert in September 1984. They were impressed with the performance, signed Metallica to Elektra, and made the band as a client of Q-Prime Management. Metallica's growing success was such that the band's British label Music for Nations released Creeping Death as a limited edition single, which sold 40,000 copies as an import in the U.S. Two of the three songs on the record—cover versions of Diamond Head's "Am I Evil?" and Blitzkrieg's "Blitzkrieg"—appeared on the 1989 Elektra reissue of Kill 'Em All. Metallica embarked on its first major European tour with Tank to an average crowd of 1,300. Returning to the U.S., it embarked upon a tour co-headlining with W.A.S.P. and supported by Armored Saint. Metallica played its largest show at the Monsters of Rock festival at Donington Park, England, on August 17, 1985, with Bon Jovi and Ratt, playing to 70,000 people. At a show in Oakland, California, at the Day on the Green festival, the band played to a crowd of 60,000.
Master of Puppets and Burton's death (1986–1987)
Metallica's third studio album, Master of Puppets, was recorded at Sweet Silence Studios and was released in March 1986. The album reached number 29 on the Billboard 200 and spent 72 weeks on the chart. It was the band's first album to be certified gold on November 4, 1986, and was certified six times platinum in 2003. Steve Huey of AllMusic considered the album "the band's greatest achievement". Following the release of the album, Metallica supported Ozzy Osbourne on a U.S. tour. Hetfield broke his wrist while skateboarding; he continued with the tour, performing vocals, with guitar technician John Marshall playing rhythm guitar.
On September 27, 1986, during the European leg of Metallica's Damage, Inc. Tour, members drew cards to determine which bunks on the tour bus they would sleep in. Burton won and chose to sleep in Hammett's bunk. At around sunrise near Dörarp, Sweden, the bus driver lost control and skidded, which caused the bus to overturn several times. Ulrich, Hammett, and Hetfield sustained no serious injuries; however, bassist Burton was pinned under the bus and died. Hetfield said:
I saw the bus lying right on him. I saw his legs sticking out. I freaked. The bus driver, I recall, was trying to yank the blanket out from under him to use for other people. I just went, 'Don't fucking do that!' I already wanted to kill the bus driver. I don't know if he was drunk or if he hit some ice. All I knew was, he was driving and Cliff wasn't alive anymore.
Burton's death left Metallica's future in doubt. The three remaining members decided Burton would want them to carry on, and with the Burton family's blessings the band sought a replacement. Roughly 40 people, including Hammett's childhood friend, Les Claypool of Primus, Troy Gregory of Prong, and Jason Newsted, formerly of Flotsam and Jetsam, auditioned for the band. Newsted learned Metallica's entire set list; after the audition Metallica invited him to Tommy's Joynt in San Francisco. Hetfield, Ulrich, and Hammett decided on Newsted as Burton's replacement; Newsted's first live performance with Metallica was at the Country Club in Reseda, California. The members initiated Newsted by tricking him into eating a ball of wasabi.
After Newsted joined Metallica, the band left its El Cerrito practice space—a suburban house formerly rented by sound engineer Mark Whitaker dubbed "the Metalli-mansion"—and relocated to the adjacent cities of Berkeley and Albany before eventually settling in the Marin County city of San Rafael, north of San Francisco.
Metallica finished its tour in the early months of 1987. In March 1987, Hetfield again broke his wrist while skateboarding, forcing the band to cancel an appearance on Saturday Night Live. In August 1987, an all-covers extended play (EP) titled The $5.98 E.P.: Garage Days Re-Revisited was released. The EP was recorded in an effort to use the band's newly constructed recording studio, test Newsted's talents, and to relieve grief and stress following the death of Burton. A video titled Cliff 'Em All commemorating Burton's three years in Metallica was released in 1987; the video included bass solos, home videos, and pictures.
...And Justice for All and Metallica (1988–1993)
Metallica's first studio album since Burton's death, ...And Justice for All, was released in 1988. The album was a commercial success, reaching number six on the Billboard 200, and was the band's first album to enter the top 10. The album was certified platinum nine weeks after its release. Newsted's bass on the album was purposely attenuated as part of the continuous "hazing" he received, and his musical ideas were ignored—though he received writing credit for the track "Blackened". There were complaints about the production; Steve Huey of AllMusic said Ulrich's drums were clicking more than thudding, and the guitars "buzz thinly". To promote the album, Metallica embarked on a tour called Damaged Justice.
In 1989, Metallica received its first Grammy Award nomination for ...And Justice for All in the new Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance Vocal or Instrument category. Metallica was the favorite to win but the award was given to Jethro Tull for the album Crest of a Knave. The award was controversial with fans and the press; Metallica was standing off-stage waiting to receive the award after performing the song "One". Jethro Tull had been advised by its manager not to attend the ceremony because he was expecting Metallica to win. The award was named in Entertainment Weekly's "Grammy's 10 Biggest Upsets".
Following the release of ...And Justice for All, Metallica released its debut music video for the song "One", which the band performed in an abandoned warehouse. The footage was remixed with the film Johnny Got His Gun. Rather than organize an ongoing licensing deal, Metallica purchased the rights to the film. The remixed video was submitted to MTV with an alternative, performance-only version that was held back in case MTV banned the remixed version. MTV accepted the remixed version; the video was viewers' first exposure to Metallica. In 1999 it was voted number 38 in 1999 in MTV's "Top 100 Videos of All Time" countdown; it was featured in the network's 25th Anniversary edition of ADD Video, which showcased the most popular videos on MTV in the last 25 years.
In October 1990, Metallica entered One on One Recording's studio in North Hollywood to record its next album. Bob Rock, who had worked with Aerosmith, The Cult, Bon Jovi, and Mötley Crüe, was hired as the producer. Metallica—also known as The Black Album—was remixed three times, cost US$1 million, and ended three marriages. Although the release was delayed until 1991, Metallica debuted at number one in ten countries, selling 650,000 units in the U.S. during its first week. The album brought Metallica mainstream attention; it has been certified 16 times platinum in the U.S., which makes it the 25th-best-selling album in the country. The making of Metallica and the following tour was documented in A Year and a Half in the Life of Metallica. The tour in support of the album, called the Wherever We May Roam Tour, lasted 14 months and included dates in the U.S., Japan, and the UK. In April 1992, Metallica appeared at The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert and performed a three-song set. Hetfield later performed "Stone Cold Crazy" with the remaining members of Queen and Tony Iommi.
On August 8, 1992, during the co-headlining Guns N' Roses/Metallica Stadium Tour, Hetfield suffered second and third degree burns to his arms, face, hands, and legs. There had been some confusion with the new pyrotechnics setup, which resulted in Hetfield walking into a 12-foot (3.7 m) flame during "Fade to Black". Newsted said Hetfield's skin was "bubbling like on The Toxic Avenger". Metallica returned to the stage 17 days later with guitar technician and Metal Church member John Marshall replacing Hetfield on guitar for the remainder of the tour, although Hetfield was able to sing. Later in 1993, Metallica went on the Nowhere Else to Roam Tour, playing five shows in Mexico City. Live Shit: Binge & Purge, the band's first box set, was released in November 1993. The collection contained three live CDs, three home videos, and a book filled with riders and letters.
Kill 'Em All (1983)
Ride the Lightning (1984)
Master of Puppets (1986)
...And Justice for All (1988)
St. Anger (2003)
Death Magnetic (2008)
James Hetfield – lead vocals, rhythm guitar (1981–present)
Lars Ulrich – drums, percussion (1981–present)
Kirk Hammett – lead guitar, backing vocals (1983–present)
Robert Trujillo – bass, backing vocals (2003–present)