“Metallica want to make a living through slick, accessible pop songs? I expect them to remain an underground thrash band for little-to-no profit! So unfair!”
The Black Album (technically titled Metallica, but nobody calls it that) is Metallica's fifth studio album and is both their last metal album or their first pop album, released on August 12, 1991. Though better than the Load of Blood and Spunk albums and far better than St. Trash Can Snare, the album disappointed many hardliner fans who wanted an album comprised of ten "Dyer's Eves". With mega-hits like "Enter Sandman" and "The Unforgiven", Metallica reached their goal of mainstream success, which they only wanted just for their ultimate goal of tormenting Dave Mustaine.
It was the early 1990s, and Metallica's old friend Dave Mustaine was slowly becoming just as big as them. The band, being the pranksters they were, decided they could easily make a best-selling album just to piss him off. Knowing that they needed to change their style in order to reach mega-popularity, they embarked on a series of steps to reach their goal.
First, they went to look for a bassist, to replace their friend Cliff Burton who tragically passed away in 1986. They remembered that they already had one, Jason Newsted. James Hetfield asked “Hey man, where the hell have you been?". Jason, the bassist, replied “uh, you guys were totally abusing me and not letting me play. And when you did, you turned the bass real low, to make it seem I wasn’t even there”. "Oh yeah!" James remembered.
Secondly, they looked for a producer. They found the number of the most hardcore metal producer in the business, who was easily able to make the greatest metal album of all time. Unfortunately, he was with Alice in Chains at the time recording "Dirt". So Metallica instead hired the infamous Bob Rock, mainly due to Lars Ulrich's artistic admiration of Motley Crue. Bob Rock was excited to work with Metallica, but he needed to lay some ground rules:
|“|| Bob Rock: Okay guys. There are some things you’re gonna have to do. One, you have to slow down. No more songs like “Battery”. They make people shit their pants, and no one likes to buy albums with soiled pantaloons. Second, you have to make shorter songs. If the song is too long, radio stations are not going to play them”.
Lars: But “Stairway to Heaven” was long!
Bob Rock: But Led Zeppelin was actually good. Third, you should work on some catchy hooks. Not Madonna catchy, but pop rock catchy. And no Lars, the intro to “Frayed Ends of Sanity” is not what I mean.”
Lars: Awww maaann!
Bob Rock: Also you might want to add a symphony or two. Just to rub it in the faces of those losers who wanted a thrash metal album.
Jason Newsted: Haha. That would be funny.
Everyone: SHUT UP!
Jason Newsted: Sorry.
Bob Rock: So if you take all these recommendations, you guys will be on your way to mega popularity and making Dave totes jealous!
Kirk Hammet: This will sure get him back for fucking my girlfriend.
The only song explicitly about Mustaine was "Enter Sandman" (Dave Mustaine was secretly an Arab). The rest of the songs cover an array of subjects from Werewolves to God to Newsted’s virginity. However, many of them can be additionally interpreted as jabs at Mustaine, yet somehow also can be attributed to Mustaine, whom Megadeth fans believe wrote every song in the Metallica catalogue.
- "Enter Sandman"
The first single was also the one song explicitly about Mustaine, as it described the nightmares he would get after hearing of Metallica's success. It was specifically designed for mainstream success, but what made it especially torturous was that it incorporated the "good night prayer", which was originally incorporated into one of Dave’s much crappier Megadeth songs. Because of Enter Sandman’s ubiquitous play on the radio, Dave would be constantly reminded of his failure to reach success with a good idea, as what happened with the riffs he wrote for the “Four Horsemen”, some of the “Ride the Lightning” album, and every single other Metallica song prior to this album.
- "Sad But True"
This song was originally a fast thrash masterpiece, but Bob Rock slowed it down just to mess with its audience. "Sad But True" is an exploration of a person’s dual nature: good v.s. evil. The song can also be interpreted as an eerie prediction of dumb Megadeth fans who call Metallica sell-outs but ignore the "Risk" album. If you listen closely you can actually hear Ulrich shitting his pants behind the drum kit, although this is hard to distinguish from Hetfield's odd vocals.
- "Holier Than Thou"
This song was originally going to be titled “Good for nothing, pencil-necked, Ass-hole Diva”, as the song actually is about rock star rival Axl Rose. Bob Rock, however, pointed out that the title made it way too obvious it was about Rose.
- "The Unforgiven"
This song is an auto-biographic piece on Lars' childhood. However, the lyric, “you label me/I label you/and I dub thee unforgiven”, was uttered by Lars to Mustaine after Mustaine called him a "freakazoid" upon discovering his Danish porn (euro stuff is crazy!!).
- "Wherever I May Roam"
This song is about all the girls Metallica gets no matter where they go. There was of course, the exception of Jason Newsted, who didn’t get laid until 2005. The song mocks both Newsted and Mustaine, who, after forming Megadeth, got pussy very infrequently. This was the least offensive song for Mustaine, since he supplements his sex life with men.
- "Don’t Tread on Me"
Originally intended to become the official song for the fiscally conservative Tea Party movement, Hetfield was very disappointed when he discovered the movement did not yet exist. So, Metallica decided to make it about Mustaine how he should never attempt to fuck Hammet’s girlfriend again.
- "Through the Never"
An existential look at humanity’s place in the universe. Though it may seem that our most profound questions may go unanswered, we have “an obligation to survive” and we must continue on, through the never. The song created substantial existential angst for Lars, to the extent that he complained after the song's recording “Can we go back to making fun of Dave again?”. The rest of the band agreed.
- "Nothing Else Matters"
This ballad was written as an artistic symphony among the likes of many great classical musicians, complete with Hetfield playing a harp instead of a guitar and Kirk Hammet playing a string orchestra instead of his guitar. Unfortunately, the fans couldn't Handel this classical piece, and immediately rushed to their computers to accuse the band of becoming sellouts. Sadly for them, they had to wait several years for the internet to be invented before they could.
- "Of Wolf and Man"
This is about a dude who turns into a werewolf. The topic for this song was picked out of a hat, since Metallica was running out of ideas at this point. Hammet said to a frustrated Hetfield, “Well at least it’s a better topic than 'Breadfan'. That song is REALLY retarded!”. Hetfield nodded his head in agreement and said "Yeah bread sucks man!"
- "The God That Failed"
In this song, James continues the lyrical tradition of mocking his own parents. This time, he mocks the God that his own mother dedicated her life to. James lyrically attacks God for failing to cure the cancer that he claims his dad gave to his mom. During an interview with Kerrang magazine, God responded to the criticism saying: “I don’t give a damn about what Metallica says about me. Slayer is 1000x the band Metallica ever could be. Now if Slayer bashed me, I would be devastated".
- "My Friend of Misery"
This song is actually the same exact song as “Holier than Thou”. The repetition occurred because the song originally was going to be an instrumental. Approaching the deadline, however, Newsted proclaimed his approval of the song: “This is like the best instrumental we ever did!”. Never wanting Newsted to be happy, Lars and James, scrabbled for lyrics, not realizing that they had already used the idea of bashing Axl Rose. Thus, no one was happy with the outcome, except for Bob Rock who wouldn’t know good music if it kissed him on the ass.
- "The Struggle Within"
The album ends with a song about a man who fails to take advantage of his opportunities and stays at home doing nothing instead. James, here, is actually describing himself as a teenager: a kid who didn't want to do anything but be a rock star. "Well, it turned out okay for me" said Hetfield speaking about the song. "But lets face it. Not everyone is as awesome as me. Especially people named Dave Mustaine".
Upon release, The Black Album met enormous commercial success. It hit number one in over two million countries, with the only exception being Denmark. The album went on to become the best selling album of all time, between 1991 and 2011.
On the back of its success, Metallica went on an epic three-year tour around the world, selling out stadiums even in the third world countries like Russia. Metallica became so big, "His Holiness" Axl Rose invited Metallica to co-headline with Guns n' Roses, who were on the Use Your Illusion Tour at the time. At the insistence of Bob Rock, Metallica reluctantly agreed, but after only a month, Axl became so unbearable that James lit himself on fire so he could stop touring. Axl Rose was furious that he was being outdone, so he decided to start a huge riot by continuing to play (oh horror!) instead of Metallica. Rose happily returned backstage knowing he'd caused more destruction than James. After James recovered, the tour went on for a couple of more years, going on so long that by the end Metallica lost most of their hair.
Despite all this success, the real success came from the torture of Dave Mustaine. The Black Album was in fact so successful in torturing Mustaine, the H.W. Bush administration decided to use it in Guantanamo. Mustaine tried selling out on multiple occasions (even crapping out a disco album!), but after two decades, he finally realized he will never reach the success of Metallica, and has found peace through Jesus, torturing puppies and clubbing seals.