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Streaming Review: Classic Albums: Metallica: The Black Album
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Classic Albums – Metallica: The Black AlbumClassic Albums – Metallica: The Black Album
Directed by Matthew Longfellow
Starring James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Jason Newsted, Bob Rock
Eagle Rock Entertainment
Originally Released: November 06, 2001

With the buzz surrounding Metallica‘s upcoming movie, Through The Never, I thought I’d take a glance back at the band during a major turning point in their career that would see them go from heroes of the Thrash Metal scene, to a worldwide phenomenon. The Black Album became Metallica’s springboard to international recognition, propelling into the mainstream, an accomplishment that still largely divides fans to this day.

Prior to 1991, Metallica’s reputation was legendary among metalheads following underground movements. During the Eighties, as far as MTV was concerned, Heavy Metal was all glam and hair; with bands such as Ratt and Poison taking a front seat in the mayhem mainstream. But elsewhere, metalheads knew there was far more to the rapidly growing genre, and that there was more variety in the scene that involved less hairspray and less lipstick.

In many ways, the thrash movement was the logical response to Glam Metal. During the 1980s, it seemed fairly unmarketable to the record labels, though there were those that recognized there was a hunger in fans for something that was less commercial. The Big 4: Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax – among many other competent and unforgettable acts – fulfilled this hunger, and paved the way for much of the developing harder edged movements that would follow, such as Death Metal and Black Metal.

At the end of the decade, the scene was changing, and before Kurt Cobain came along, some of the labels thought the next big money spinner would be the harder edged bands. A lot of effort went into making them marketable, but very little was accomplished. That was, until “One.”

From the …And Justice For All album, “One” was the first music video Metallica had filmed. The reaction was intense, from bands and fans around the world, and propelled the band into a wider range of awareness for metal fans that were just discovering them.

Metallica: The Black Album

The success of the single and the video paved the way for the next steps of the band, which in retrospect, was a wise move as it would prove to be a firm insulation from being swamped by the upcoming Grunge scene.

Bidding farewell to their long-term producer, Flemming Rasmussen, the band instead opted to work with Bob Rock in the studio, and he had just come off the biggest success production he had to that date, which was Mötley Crüe’s Dr. Feelgood. For fans, at the time, it seemed like a highly unlikely combination. In fact, many of the footage from this Classic Albums installment (and from the video A Year and Half in the Life of Metallica) indicate that the band was often at odds with Rock.

Despite this, a new working relationship was forged that would last over a decade. The resulting self-titled album, later to be dubbed The Black Album by fans, saw a new Metallica. The recordings were shorter, sharper, and more polished. For many, the release of the album would signify a major change in their perception of the band – and not always in a positive light.

For the long-time fans, where albums such as Ride The Lightning and Master Of Puppets defined Metallica for them, the new 1991 album was perceived as a "sell-out". But for the vast majority of rock and metal fans, especially the younger up and coming fans, it was their first exposure to the band – and their reaction to the sharp production of The Black Album would help fling Metallica into becoming one of the biggest bands in the world of all time.

The Classic Albums installment on Metallica zones in on this change in the band’s career, showcasing specific elements on the development of that album and where they were headed. For Metallica, it was a game changer, and it’s always worth taking a glance at this transitional period of the band.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5


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