METALLICA‘s self-titled fifth album, known as “the black album,” came out 20 years ago this past Friday (August 12) and Gibson.com celebrated by compiling a number of quotes from the band members and others into a brief oral history of the project. According to The Pulse Of Radio, 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 in 1991 about the record’s musical shift, “We felt inadequate as musicians and as songwriters (early in our career). That made us go too far, around ‘Master Of Puppets’ and on ‘…And Justice For All’, in the direction of trying to prove ourselves. We’ll do all this weird-ass shit sideways to prove that we are capable musicians and songwriters.”
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 album was the first of four collaborations with 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.”
“The black album” in 2009 surpassed SHANIA TWAIN‘s 1997 record, “Come On Over”, as the best-selling CD of the SoundScan era. To date, the black album has sold 15,689,000 copies.
Although METALLICA had scored their first radio and video airplay with their previous effort, 1988’s “…And Justice For All”, the black album was the band’s biggest commercial breakthrough, producing five singles and making them into one of the most popular rock bands in the world.