Saturday, 5 March 2011

CD Review: Metallica, by Metallica (1991)

The album that marked heavy metal's peak commercial success and the end of a decade of excess, Metallica is a landmark achievement. The band that used to be the most dangerous in the world dropped their speed by half, eradicated their aggression, slashed the song lengths, and emerged with a radio-friendly, mainstream success that raced to the top of the charts. Metallica made heavy metal, briefly, the most popular form of music.

The album itself is reasonably consistent but generally unremarkable. With a focus on relatively simple structures, easily accessible melodies, and radio-friendly durations, this is not exactly metal lite but certainly metal with all the rough edges sanded off. It's all the more astounding coming from the same four guys who created ...And Justice For All three years earlier.

Enter Sandman is justifiably the most famous track from the album, a terrific combination of power and control riding on a memorable riff. The Unforgiven is Metallica traveling so slow that they start to go in reverse, but it works as a soulful enough ballad with a suitably sad melody. Wherever I May Roam is the other notable track, back to mid-tempo, inoffensive metal, but packing good energy and solid purpose.

Metallica goes on for too long, and certainly the second half suffers from too many tracks lining up waiting for the chance to secure some airplay. Nothing Else Matters and My Friend Misery liven up the late proceedings, but not before it is clear that Metallica have indeed traveled very far from their roots, to a territory that is filled with the promise of riches but where popular memories are short and fads come and go within months.

And so just as quickly, it all came to an end. Grunge was in, soon to be followed by anything that could be labelled alternative, and metal's excess was out. Metallica remained big but were forever caught in limbo between their original and commercial lives, never able to capture the spirit of the former or recreate the success of the latter. Metallica stands as a milestone in the history of metal, simultaneously signalling a high point and the end of an era.


James Hetfield - Guitars, Vocals
Lars Ulrich - Drums
Kirk Hammett - Lead Guitar
Jason Newsted - Bass

Songlist (ratings out of 10):

1. Enter Sandman - 10
2. Sad But True - 8
3. Holier Than Thou - 8
4. The Unforgiven - 9
5. Wherever I May Roam - 9
6. Don't Tread On Me - 7
7. Through The Never - 7
8. Northing Else Matters - 8
9. Of Wolf And Man - 7
10. The God That Failed - 7
11. My Friend Misery - 8
12. The Struggle Within - 7

Average: 7.92

Produced by Bob Rock with James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich.
Recorded by Randy Staub

All Ace Black Blog Heavy Metal CD Reviews are here.

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