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Black Gold - Classic Rock Magazine, September 2021

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Black Gold
Publication: Classic Rock Magazine
Date: September 2021

Metallica - The making of a monster: the Black Album, 30 years on.

By 1991, Metallica were a big fish in a relatively small pond. Then that summer they released the album Metallica. A multimillion-selling, game-changing monster, it sold far wider than to just the metal masses, and within months the band were catapulted into the super-league. Thirty years on, this is its story.

JAMES DEAN BRADFIELD: "I have really good memories of it. I was listening to Appetite For Destruction alongside It Takes A Nation Of Millions by Public Enemy. I didn’t see the tension between them. But when the Black Album came out, it was that thing where there hadn’t been a riff song out for a while. There’d been Sweet Child O’ Mine – which is one of the ultimate riff songs, but is kind of a ballad – and Welcome To The Jungle, but that just starts with the riff. But when Enter Sandman came out I thought, ‘Fuck me, the riff never stops.’ It’s always present in the song.

That really turned me on: ‘Does that mean the riff is back?’ “Sad But True was the one that really turned me on to Metallica. I fucking love that song. There were some songs on the album that sounded a bit too American, like the gun lobby could co-opt them, like Don’t Tread On Me. I remember Richey [Edwards] going: ‘We’re sailing a bit close to the wind here. I’m not sure about this’ – two leftist boys singing along to Don’t Tread On Me!

“I’m fine with a metal band just being a metal band, but sometimes within a genre you get bands that transcend. And the Black Album is where Metallica transcend. There’s a bit of pathos in Sad But True. It’s a tragi-comic hero and there’s something else there; some kind of heaviness that’s not just about being wilfully macho, there’s something deeper going on. It might be something to do with James Hetfield’s background with Christian Scientists, but you know there’s something deeper there, you know there’s a tension between the rock ‘n’ roll world he’s in and the way he was brought up. You know that he was probably around a lot of people that, for want of a better world, were very politically correct, and that sometimes he might have felt out of step with it because of his upbringing. And let’s face it, tension always makes for good stuff, doesn’t it? Nobody would think James Hetfield doubted himself, by looking at him, but obviously he did doubt himself. We can see that now, can’t we? So you can sense it all in the background.

“And that’s what was great about the Black Album. It was a straight, hard-edged album. It was an album that was designed and built to sell millions. But there’s still something in there that’s really interesting, lyrically. There’s stuff there that I’m still not quite comfortable with at times, but it’s still interesting. There is a tension about being attracted to the dark side of life but also knowing that it’s dangerous to get too close to it. There’s something about that where James Hetfield knows he’s still fighting for his own soul.”

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