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Metallica Essay, Research Paper

Like Led Zeppelin before it, Metallica combined relentless touring and an uncompromising musical approach with a carefully cultivated air of mystery to achieve enormous commercial success. That it has become one of rock’s most popular groups is made all the more amazing by the fact that not one of its peer bands which were also playing a sped-up, harder-edged take on heavy metal has succeeded, or survived, for that matter. And even those who don’t care for Metallica’s music recognize that few bands have treated their fans as well once they reached the top.

When Metallica started out, they were a bunch of teenagers who wanted to make some loud noise. Indeed they succeeded with their first album in 1983 Kill em all . This album featured several now famous songs, such as Jump In The Fire, Seek & Destroy, and Metal Militia. The majority of the songs were created by the usual suspects (James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich) but some songs were partly made by the late bassist Cliff Burton, and former Metallica member Dave Mustaine (Dave was kicked out of the band for alcohol abuse, and later went on to form Megadeth). This album is not the band’s greatest album, in artistic terms, mainly because the songs were made during Metallica’s climb to fame, while they were still touring the clubs in California. An obvious example is Whiplash, which describes the fans head-banging and the mosh-pits. However, “Kill ‘Em All”, wasn’t entirely void of meaning. The song No Remorse, described the indiscriminate killing in war, which most likely was the base of what would soon be a recurring theme in Metallica songs, such as For Whom the Bell Tolls, and Disposable Heroes. Also, since The Four Horsemen was created in part by Dave Mustaine, he took the song with him on his exit from the band and after creating Megadeth, adapted the song to its Megadeth form: The Mechanix.


Bang your head against the stage

Like you never did before

Make it ring, Make it bleed

Make it really sore—–Whiplash

Following up on their first album was Ride the Lightning . This album, their second, which arrived a year later, allowed for a little more artistic freedom than “Kill ‘Em All” which had to be fast and furious to please the club crowds. Songs grew to have more of a meaning on this album with Fight Fire With Fire, as an example, which described a nuclear war and the following nuclear apocalypse. The song for which the album was named, Ride the Lightning, questioned man’s power to take another’s life away and the possible hypocrisy of capital punishment. However, the two most popular songs of the album have been For Whom the Bell Tolls and Fade to Black. For Whom the Bell Tolls, named after the famous Ernest Hemingway novel, told the story of a soldier wondering about the true purpose of the war, and whether it was justified. He receives his final enlightenment as a bullet takes his life. Fade to Black, was written, on the obvious level, about a man who sees little left in his life worth experiencing and writes his suicide letter. Critics complained about this song, saying it promoted suicide, but many fans said that it actually helped them deal with the problems. On a less literal level, it was also written after all the band’s equipment was stolen. Most of it was replaced after a little work, but one lost item was a nearly irreplaceable amplifier, which created a special sound the band needed for the songs. Whether or not one of the band members contemplated suicide because of this is unknown to me, however. Creeping Death told the story of the book of Exodus and Moses delivering his people from the pharaoh. The final song, The Call of Ktulu, is an instrumental inspired by the fictional god Cthulu, created by horror writer H.P. Lovecraft. Cliff Burton and Kirk Hammett expressed interest in his writing and exposed the other half of the band to it.

Master of Puppets their third album, was not only a musical tour de force; it also brought Metallica increased visibility. A 1986 tour with Ozzy Osbourne was its last as an opening act, but tragedy struck that September, when one of their tour buses flipped over on an icy road in Sweden, killing bass player Cliff Burton. Though devastated, Metallica held auditions in San Francisco less than a month after Burton’s death. Five bassists competed to fill the suddenly vacant spot. One, Jason Newsted, knew Metallica’s complete repertoire, and when asked by the band which song he’d like to play, he responded, “Any one you like.” Newsted played his first show with Metallica in November 1986. As a tribute to Burton, Metallica compiled a home video of its late bandmate’s years with the band titled Cliff ‘Em All, culled primarily from fans’ bootleg videotapes.

And Justice for All (1988), Metallica’s fourth record, continued to push its hard-edged, uncompromising sound with grand arrangements. Despite the lack of airplay, the album quickly vaulted into the Billboard Top 10, and the band was one of the top attractions on that summer’s mammoth Monsters of Rock tour. Justice garnered a Grammy nomination for Best Heavy Metal Performance, but Metallica lost out to veteran British folk-rockers Jethro Tull. Rather than sulk in defeat, the band had stickers placed on the album reading “Grammy Award LOSERS.” Metallica would go on to win a Grammy in 1990 for its first-ever video, “One,” and good-naturedly thanked Jethro Tull for not releasing anything the previous year. The band had a sense of humor to be sure, but it also wanted to maintain a dark, mysterious side, which helps explain some of the cryptic imagery and the predominance of the color black on its album covers, especially the next one.

The changes of style definitely became visible in their self-titled 1990 album Metallica . This mega-hit has been confused by a few Metallica newbies as the first album, because it’s self-titled. The top seller, also called the Black Album because of it’s cover, debuted in 1990, and stayed on the top 100 charts for an unprecedented amount of time. The first track starts it off with a bang. Enter Sandman, has become probably the most popular Metallica song, being played all over. This one was also chosen to be one of Metallica’s videos, with a small kid praying and being watched over by an old man, the “sandman” and later running through a snake-filled room, and later still being pursued by a giant black 18-wheeler. The Unforgiven, is about a boy who conformed to the rules of society, but upon becoming an old man, regrets these choices and holds grudge against the society, which suppressed him. Another hit off this chart-topper was Wherever I May Roam, which has Hetfield telling his story of a road-roaming vagabond whose soul continues roaming after death. Nothing Else Matters isn’t the most obvious of songs, meaning-wise, but should be mentioned because it was probably their first full song that stayed quiet throughout, which had conflicted with the usual style of the band and also featured a string-orchestra. The God that Failed, was a very personal song for singer James Hetfield. His mother, a follower of the Christian Science religion, had developed malignant cancer, but would not take the proper treatments because of her religion. She relied upon God to heal her, and after a short time, the cancer overtook her. James finally got a chance to express his pain through this song.

“I see faith in your eyes.

Never you hear the discouraging lies.

I hear faith in your cries.

Broken is the promise, betrayal.

The healing hand held back by the deepened nail.

Follow the God that failed.”—–The God that Failed

One of the many traits that made Metallica the four horsemen of metal was their dedication to their fans. According to lead guitarist Kirk Hammett, he was once a fan to a music group that remains nameless and when he went backstage they shunned him very quickly. So they know how it feels to be a dedicated fan. On one of their tours, Metallica had made a diamond shaped stage in the middle of stadium. Their was a snake pit in the middle of the stage where fan club members who won in certain competition where placed. There is room for about 120 people inside this area, Drummer Lars Ulrich explained. we have competition winners in there and we also send out roadies to the cheaper seats to find fans who are going totally wild and being rowdy they are on the lookout for those fans in old Metallica T-shirts and they are escorted to the pit right below us. That way they get spat and sweated on by James! probably the best performance ever made by Metallica was in Moscow 1989 where they performed for 600,000 people. The crowd was wild, they got 2500 cops to calm thing s down. Live music has always been what they wanted, that s how they started and that s how it s going to end.

After all that they have through. Starting from no money, equipment being stolen firing members who weren t that good, being called sellouts and Cliff s death. They are still on the road making new friends. Making better music with each CD. Redefining Thrash metal with every new song. Although given Metallica s colorful musical history, there are bound to be a few surprises along the way.

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