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Top, from left to right :

James Hetfield, Jason Newsted

Bottom, from left to right :

Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett

 

 

 

The early years - The creative era - The tragedy - The fame - The bad era - The 2000's

 


 

The early years :

 

On October 28th, 1981, drummer Lars Ulrich (born in Gentofte, Denmark on December 26th, 1963) makes an offer to singer/guitarist James Hetfield (born in Los Angeles, California on August 3rd, 1963) to record a song to be released on the new label Metal Blade Records. James also plays bass on it. The new band would eventually be completed by bassist Ron McGoveny, a friend of James living in the same apartment, and guitarist Dave Mustaine (born in La Mesa, California on September 13th, 1961). The name of Metallica comes from a friend of the San Francisco bay, Ron Quintana, and the band starts to play live in Los Angeles opening for bands like Saxon.

 

A first demo entitled "No Life Til Leather" is selling well in the underground circuit, most of all in San Francisco and New York City. The band presents 2 concerts in San Francisco and the audience is more friendly and honest than the Los Angeles crowd. The guys meet the band Trauma and its bassist Cliff Burton (born in Castro Valley, California on February 10th, 1962) who would replace McGoveny with Metallica and convince them to move to San Francisco.

 

A copy of their demo goes to Jon Zazula in NYC and he recruits them to come to play on the east coast and record an album. The band moves to New York City in a stolen U-Haul truck. Dave Mustaine, who is Metallica's guitarist, is so full of problems for the band they decide to fire him. Mustaine would create later his own band, Megadeth, with whom he would have a lot of success. To replace him, someone tells the band to hire Kirk Hammett (born in San Francisco, California on November 18th, 1962) who is Exodus' guitarist at the time. On April 1st, 1983, he joins Metallica and completes the most creative lineup of the band's career.

 

The creative era :

 

Late in 1983, Metallica releases its first full-length album entitled Kill 'Em All. The album and the following tour give the band a good reputation with songs like "Seek & Destroy", "Whiplash", "The Four Horsemen" and "Motorbreath". The following year, the band flies to Copenhagen, Denmark to work with the producer Flemming Rassmussen on its 2nd record Ride The Lightning. The band's maturity on songs like "Fade To Black", "For Whom The Bell Tolls", "Creeping Death" and "The Call Of Ktulu" brings the attention of management company QPrime and the major label Elektra that releases the album and rereleases their first one with 2 bonus songs, the covers of "Am I Evil?" and "Blitzkrieg".

 

The four guys get back to the same studio in 1985 to record Master Of Puppets which is mixed in Los Angeles by Michael Wagner and issued in early 1986. The band goes on tour with the legendary Ozzy Osbourne and gets many new fans. The album reaches the top 30 on Billboard chart with classic songs like "Battery", "The Thing That Should Not Be", "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" and most of all the title song. This third record by Metallica is considered by many like the best the band did and one of the bests in metal history. It will be a great influence for many bands for years to come.

 

The tragedy :

 

On September 27th, 1986, the dream turns to nightmare when in Sweden late at night, the driver of the tour bus loses control of the bus and it turns upside down killing Cliff Burton. His influence on the band's music was huge and they lose a big part of the band. It's impossible to think about Metallica without Cliff Burton...

 

Lars, James and Kirk finally decide to resume the band's career and they audition 40 bassists for the replacement of Burton. They hire Jason Newsted (born in Battle Creek, Michigan on March 4th, 1963), a member of Flotsam & Jetsam. The band quickly records an EP of cover songs in Lars' garage. It's simply entitled Garage Days Re-Revisited and it contains covers of punk and metal bands like the Misfits, Holocaust and Killing Joke. The EP is issued in 1987.

 

They get back into the studio in 1988 to record their 4th album, ...And Justice For All, which is released in August. It's a concept album that brings metal one more time to another level of creativity. The first ballad of the band and also the first video, "One", which will repulse fans of the first years, will have a huge success on MTV and will support the album to the 6th position on the Billboard chart. The band will be nominated for a Grammy for "best metal/hard rock band" and will blow headliners Van Halen on the "Monsters of Rock" tour. After that, Metallica leaves by itself for a huge world tour.

 

The fame :

 

In 1991, Metallica comes back with its self-titled album, better known as the black album. That new record, produced by hard rock specialist Bob Rock, offers shorter songs, more pop with good melodies which is a lot different from what they did in the past. The album reaches #1 throughout the world the week of its release and stays on top for many weeks to come. 15 million copies will be sold on the planet, most of all because of mega-hits like "Enter Sandman", "Sad But True", "The Unforgiven" and "Nothing Else Matters".

 

The band goes on tour for 3 long years with a solo tour in arenas entitled "An Evening With Metallica", a stadium tour with Guns N' Roses and the main event at many festivals. A live box set of 3 discs is released in 1993 (Live Shit: Binge & Purge).

 

The bad era :

 

Almost 5 years later, we can see a new studio album by Metallica in the record stores. Load is recorded at The Plant in Sausalito, California and is released in 1996. It's their longest album ever with 14 songs and we can hear many changes of style and experiment, even if the producer is still Bob Rock. Load is not well received by the critics and is often considered like the weakest Metallica album of their entire career. It's the ballad "Until It Sleeps" that carries all the CD.

 

Because of the great number of songs recorded during the Load sessions, they release another album in 1997, Reload, which doesn't have more success than the previous one. We can hear on Reload "hits" like "The Memory Remains" and the not very good "The Unforgiven II" which is a bad ending of "The Unforgiven", a big hit from the black album.

 

The following tour is huge with modern technology, stuntmen, 2 stages and a concert of more than 2 hours that will shut the mouth of the people who didn't like them since the black album.

 

In 1998, they take all the b-sides and covers recorded in the past, with the recordings of Garage Days..., and they go in the studio to record 11 new covers. All that stuff is offered on a double CD set entitled Garage Inc. This album proves to the world that Metallica is definitely the best garage band in the world.

 

In 1999, with the collaboration of director and composer Michael Kamen and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, the band records a double live album simply entitled S&M containing the greatest hits of Metallica in a symphonic version. The project is not so great, but it gives the opportunity to rediscover the band's classics. A double DVD of the concert is also issued at the same time.

 

With the growing market of peer to peer services to download music like Napster, the band goes on a war with companies promoting free MP3 downloading bringing many problems to the music industry for the last couple of years.

 

The 2000's :

 

In the summer of 2000, even if the band doesn't have a new album to promote, the guys decide to go on tour in stadiums. The "Summer Sanitarium Tour" is very popular and they take the decision to go back in the studio to record new songs.

 

In 2001, after many rumors, Jason Newsted announces his departure from Metallica. The band doesn't want a new bassist for the moment and asks the producer Bob Rock to play bass on the next album of the band. On his side, James has to go in desintox because of his drinking problem, what will postpone once again the recording of the next album.

 

In the fall of 2002, the band decides to hire a new bassist and after 40 auditions, it's the ex-bassist of Suicidal Tendencies and Ozzy Osbourne, Robert Trujillo (born in Santa Monica, California on October 23rd, 1964), who is hired.

 

St. Anger is released in 2003 and receives quickly a huge success, most of all because of the title-song and "Frantic". This album presents a more garage sound and brings us back to the metal they offered 15 years ago. The imperfection of the Bob Rock producing is impressive, because most of the time he over-produces his albums.

 

In the summer of 2003, the band goes back on tour for the "Summer Sanitarium Tour 2003", another very successful tour...

 

Richard Dion

 

 

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