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Old logo, as used in Master Of Puppets, circa 1986.
Years active 1981-present
Origin Los Angeles, California, USA
Genre(s) Thrash Metal, Heavy Metal
Label(s) Elektra Records
Members James Hetfield
Kirk Hammett
Robert Trujillo
Lars Ulrich

Metallica is an extremely successful American thrash metal band that has been active since the early 1980s.

After building a following through its role in the development of thrash metal in the 1980s, the band successfully broadened its audience in the early 1990s to include many new fans. Accordingly, the band stood as the most commercially visible example of the metal genre for most of that decade. In contrast, Metallica's vastly increased commercial success was accompanied by stylistic changes that fostered accusations of "selling out" by some long-time fans though picking up many new fans.

In 2003 Metallica released St. Anger, a collection of the most aggressive music they had written in a decade, to deeply divided critical reviews and comparatively mediocre sales figures.



Formation and early work

The classic lineup: KEA/RTL/MOP, circa 1985. From left to right: Cliff Burton (Bass Guitar), James Hetfield (Rhythm Guitar / Vocals), Lars Ulrich (Drums), Kirk Hammett (Lead Guitar).
The classic lineup: KEA/RTL/MOP, circa 1985. From left to right: Cliff Burton (Bass Guitar), James Hetfield (Rhythm Guitar / Vocals), Lars Ulrich (Drums), Kirk Hammett (Lead Guitar).

Metallica was formed in Los Angeles, California in 1981 by drummer and former tennis prodigy Lars Ulrich and guitarist and vocalist James Hetfield from Downey, California, who met after each had separately placed classified advertisements in the American publication The Recycler. Bassist Ron McGovney also from Downey, California was also an original member, and the band used a few transient guitar players, such as Brad Parker and Jeff Warner, in the course of settling on a four-person lineup. Metallica got its name when drummer Lars Ulrich was helping San Francisco-area metal promoter Ron Quintana pick out a name for a new magazine to promote metal and the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal bands. Quintana came up with a suggestion "Metallica," but Lars quickly suggested another and decided to use that name for the band he and James Hetfield had just started.

In early 1982, Metallica recorded "Hit the Lights" for the first Metal Massacre compilation. Guitarist Lloyd Grant was brought in to do the lead guitar solos on the track but was never a full member of the band. Desperate for a full-time lead guitarist, Ulrich posted an ad in the local newspapers. Dave Mustaine from Huntington Beach, California, a guitarist from the band Panic responded, and upon arrival started a sound check. Ulrich and Hetfield were so impressed with Mustaine's equipment that they asked him to join before hearing him play. A few months later the band recorded a full demo, No Life Till Leather, which quickly drew attention on the underground tape trading circuit. By this point bassist Cliff Burton from Castro Valley, California had also joined Metallica, lured from his band Trauma in exchange for the other members of Metallica relocating to the San Francisco area.

Upon arriving in El Cerrito, California (across the bay from San Francisco) the group quickly built a healthy local following in the Bay Area Thrash Scene via word-of-mouth and live performances. Metallica then travelled to New York in 1983 at the urging of local promoters Jon and Marsha Zazula, and after a few gigs the band signed with the Zazulas' brand new label, Megaforce Records. Megaforce released Metallica's first two albums. Shortly after arriving in New York, Mustaine was fired due to various disruptive, unproductive behaviours all related to alcoholism and other addictions. Kirk Hammett was drafted from Exodus to replace him. Mustaine would go on to create the thrash metal band Megadeth.

Metallica's first album, Kill 'Em All, set the template that they would follow throughout the 1980s, prominently featuring the heavy vocals and aggressive rhythm guitar of James Hetfield. A year later, the next album, Ride the Lightning, expanded and improved their form with longer songs that featured both instrumental pyrotechnics and lyrics which rose above some of the more puerile songs on Kill 'Em All. Perhaps the most significant feature of Ride the Lightning was the inclusion of "Fade to Black", a slower, more interior song that mused on the thoughts of someone contemplating suicide. Indeed "Fade to Black" is the first such song in a tradition that would come to include "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" and "One". The inclusion of these slower, introspective songs distinguished Metallica from most other thrash metal bands such as Anthrax, Slayer, and Megadeth.

Metallica's formation was seen by some fans as a direct reaction to the prevalent rock and roll music of the early 1980s. Inspired by bands such as Motörhead, Diamond Head (Indeed, Metallica compared themselves and their sound to a combination of the "epicness" of Diamond Head with the sound of Motörhead in the sleeve notes of 1998's Garage, inc. humorously citing that two heads were better than one.) and Saxon, the so-called New Wave of British Heavy Metal, as well as hardcore punk like the Misfits and Discharge, Metallica was single-minded in their desire to break the grip of soft metal on heavy metal fans.

Popular Success

Metallica, Damage Inc tour
Metallica, Damage Inc tour

After signing a major label deal with Elektra Records in 1984, Metallica went on to produce another album, Master of Puppets, released on February 21, 1986 and regarded by many of their fans as their best work. However, on September 27, 1986, during a European leg of shows, bassist Cliff Burton was killed in a tour bus accident in Ljungby, Sweden. Three weeks after Burton's funeral, Jason Newsted, formerly of Flotsam and Jetsam joined the band on October 28, 1986. With Newsted, the band finished the Damage, Inc. tour in the early months of 1987 before recording The $5.98 EP: Garage Days Re-Revisited in July that year. This Ep continued Metallica's fascination with covering songs by relatively obscure (to American audiences) British metal and hardcore bands.

In 1988 they recorded ...And Justice for All, an album full of some of the band's most structurally complex music. This was the first studio album to be released following the death of Cliff Burton, the band's iconoclastic bassist and touchstone, responsible for much of the band's early sound and music arrangement. This would be the first time Metallica would work without their longtime producer, Flemming Rasmussen. Jason Newsted filled in the role of bass player, although this cannot be told from just listening to the album, as the other three band members admitted to turning the bass sounds down to an almost indetectable level. (It is often speculated that this was done intentionally by the original members of the band as a reaction to the death of Cliff Burton, and also as a way to haze Jason Newsted. Others state that this was because Newsted wasn't present in the mixing sessions, and as such wasn't able to input his thoughts.) The band chooses not to play some of the songs from this album live due to their length and complexity. ...And Justice for All was a milestone in the history of metal, noting its intense focus on topics related to personal control and independence. Importantly, many writers also celebrated this album (and, by extension, Metallica itself) for the way it appeared to divorce hard rock from the blues in ways bands such as Mötley Crüe or Poison resisted. Also, the production of this album was heavily criticised as Lars Ulrich's drums clicked more than thudded and the guitars had a thin sound to them. James Hetfield excelled himself, however, with some of the best riffery heard in metal music. Kirk Hammett's solos were innovative and Lars' drumming incredibly complex. Metallica's first music video appeared, for the morbid but accessible World War I-themed "One". Featuring clips from the film Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo, it was popular on MTV and gained the band considerable additional exposure. Importantly, Metallica never lost interest in always providing fans with a sensational live act. They retained their original humility and sense of humour and occasionally gave the fans a 'band-switch' treat. That is, the song 'Am I Evil' would be played with James on drums, Kirk on bass, Jason on guitar, and Lars doing the singing.

In 1991, the self-titled album, Metallica (popularly known as The Black Album) broadened the band's horizon again. The record was co-produced with Bob Rock, whose resume included work on albums by such pop-metal acts as Bon Jovi and Mötley Crüe, to create a more commercially viable product. The album featured a black cover that evoked humorous comparisons to Spinal Tap. The album featured the hit "Enter Sandman", which exemplified the radically pared-down style of songwriting across the album; it became Metallica's most well-known song and has been used by wrestlers and baseball players as their theme music. Another hit was "Nothing Else Matters", a more plaintive, acoustic ballad that outraged some of their more hardcore fans. The album was a massive crossover hit, bringing Metallica firmly into the mainstream, and it was with this album that the band first encountered significant accusations of having "sold out."

Charges of selling out would follow Metallica throughout the 1990s, to which the band often joked that they did indeed sell out — each and every date of the tour. Indeed the tour following the Black Album was especially successful and eventful. Many dates were held with no opening act, instead showing an introductory film of band members horsing around backstage. The most well-known event was an incident in Montréal with pyrotechnics while doing a series of joint shows with Guns N' Roses in 1992. Hetfield suffered severe second and third degree burns to his left arm during the opening of "Fade to Black" and was unable to play guitar for a portion of the tour; former Metallica roadie and Metal Church guitarist John Marshall filled in while Hetfield continued to sing. The making of the Metallica album and the following tour was partially recorded in the documentary A Year and a half in the life of Metallica.

The "alternative" era

After almost three years of touring to support the Black Album, Metallica took a respite until late 1995. On December 13 they were recorded during their rehearsal for Lemmy's 50th birthday party, the track "Hero of the Day" and four Motörhead covers later released as a limited edition CD. The resulting albums, Load (1996) and ReLoad (1997), represented a significant musical change for Metallica. The band's breakneck metal tempos and layered guitar compositions had largely been replaced by bluesy rock songs, full of bent notes, warm guitar tones, slide guitar, as well as shuffle rhythms. Hetfield's vocals took a larger role than ever before, and several songs (such as "Mama Said" and "Low Man's Lyric") showed the his willingness to experiment with dramatic stylistic ranges, such as the use of a steel guitar, a type of guitar typically associated with Country music, in "Mama Said" and the Hurdy-Gurdy, which has a sound reminiscent of Uilleann Pipes or Bagpipes and a vioin sounding guitar in "Low Man's Lyric". The intricacy and intelligence of Metallica's songwriting had not been watered down, but it had been presented in a radically different - or perhaps simply radically more varied - stylistic package. Hetfield noted later in the documentary film Some Kind of Monster that many songs on these two albums were initially thought by the band to be of only average quality, and polished and re-worked repeatedly until judged to be releasable. In 1996, all of the band members finally obtained long overdue haircuts, a fact that seemed to overshadow their music in press coverage.

Many of the changes on Load and ReLoad had been anticipated by earlier experiments (especially on the Black Album), but listeners generally regard the two albums as the band's turning point. Sales were lower than sales of any of the previous three studio albums. Previously rabid fans began to sarcastically refer to the band as "Poptallica" or "Alternica" in light of the band's appearent conformity to more mainstream styles of pop or alternative rock music. Indeed, perhaps because of these musical changes, many songs from Load and ReLoad received extensive radio play, including "Fuel", "Until It Sleeps", "The Unforgiven II", "Hero of the Day", "The Memory Remains", and "King Nothing".

Metallica circa 1999
Metallica circa 1999

In 1998 Metallica returned briefly to its role as a cover band and compiled a double CD called Garage Inc.. The first CD contained newly recorded tracks, ranging from obvious Metallica influences such as The Misfits, Thin Lizzy and Black Sabbath to more unexpected choices like Nick Cave and Bob Seger (the band's cover of Seger's "Turn the Page" garnered extensive radio airplay). The second CD gathered together previously released covers, including the complete Garage Days Re-Revisited EP, which had at that point become a scarce collectors' item, as well as a collection of B-sides going as far back as 1984.

On March 7, 1999 Metallica were inducted into San Francisco Walk of Fame. The mayor of San Francisco, Willie Brown proclaimed the day "Official Metallica Day" in San Francisco. A month later, on April 21-22, 1999, Metallica recorded two performances with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, then conducted by Michael Kamen. Kamen, who had previously worked with the band on "Nothing Else Matters" from the Black Album, had approached the band shortly after that collaboration with the idea of pairing Metallica's music with a symphony orchestra. Kamen and his staff composed additional orchestral material for a number of Metallica songs and the concerts featured a collection of songs dating as far back as Ride the Lightning. Metallica also wrote (and Kamen scored) two brand new songs for the event, "No Leaf Clover" and "− Human." The recording and concert footage was released later that year as the album S&M in November 1999 on CD, VHS, and DVD.

Napster controversy

In 2000, Metallica discovered that a demo of their song "I Disappear" had been floating across the Napster file-sharing network. They soon discovered that, in addition to the demo, their entire catalogue was also freely available. The band immediately set out to sue Napster and, in the process, asked that 300,000 Napster users found to be trading Metallica songs be banned from the network. They also sued Yale University, University of Southern California, and Indiana University for not blocking Napster from their campuses. In 2001, Metallica and Napster agreed to an out-of-court settlement which led to many Napster user accounts being locked out. The band did not take action to sue any individuals for copyright infringement.

Nevertheless, the controversy created a public relations nightmare. Throughout the controversy, many websites hosted Flash cartoons parodying Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield as selfish and stupid rock stars, completely out of touch with their fans. The most popular of these was Napster Bad!, by Camp Chaos, which spawned an entire series. What followed was a huge fan backlash that thinned out the fanbase.

Newsted leaves

Before they went into the studio to record their next album in 2001, Jason Newsted left the band, ostensibly due to "the physical damage I have done to myself over the years while playing the music that I love." However, subsequent interviews with Newsted and the remaining members revealed that Newsted's desire to release and tour with his Echobrain side-project — and Hetfield's intense resistance to such an idea — was the primary cause of Newsted's departure.

This began a low-point in recent Metallica history, as Hetfield soon entered rehab due to "alcoholism and other addictions" in July 2001. For nearly a year the entity known as "Metallica" ceased to function in any meaningful way, and Ulrich and Hammett for the first time seriously considered the possibility that Metallica might be finished. Upon Hetfield's return, though, the band slowly and cautiously continued as an incomplete 3-piece throughout the writing and recording of their next album. Longtime producer Bob Rock handled bass duties for the sessions. Metallica eventually found a new member in early 2003, bassist Rob Trujillo (ex-Suicidal Tendencies), who was then playing with Ozzy Osbourne's band and touring with Zakk Wylde in Black Label Society (He appears in Black Label Society's DVD Boozed, Broozed, and Broken Boned). In an interesting turn of events, Jason Newsted, who had joined Canadian heavy metal band Voivod, filled Rob's shoes playing bass for Ozzy during the Ozzfest 2003 tour (which Voivod also supported).

Metallica circa 2004
Metallica circa 2004

In June 2003, Metallica released their eighth full-length studio album, St. Anger. The album debuted at number one on the album charts, heralded as the band's most aggressive album in over a decade. Metallica seemed to have recorded an intentionally raw and unpolished album as a response to critics' complaints that they had lost their edge. Harsh criticism from fans followed, however, for the record's underproduced sound (notably the sound of Ulrich's snare drum and Hetfield's "flexible" sense of pitch), overwrought songs, and total lack of guitar solos. Despite the criticism, Metallica won a Grammy in 2004 for St. Anger, the band's seventh such award. The documentary Some Kind of Monster followed the album and offered an inside view into the daily affairs of Metallica like never before. While the film focused on the growing tensions within the band, it fulfilled its actual purpose in that it forced an album to be made.

Having toured extensively for two years in support of St. Anger on the Madly In Anger With The World Tour (in which every performance was professionally recorded and sold on, Metallica took a break from performing and are expected to begin recording their next studio album late in 2005.

On September 20th, 2005, Metallica returned to the studio to record their voice parts for their appearance in an upcoming episode of The Simpsons. The episode will air in May 2006.

On November 13th and 15th, Metallica will open for the Rolling Stones for 2 nights in San Francisco at SBC Park during the Rolling Stones "A Bigger Bang" 2005 World Tour.


Early lineups

Early lineup 1 (No Life 'Til Leather demo)

Early lineup 2 (various tracks and contributions in Kill 'Em All and Ride the Lightning)

The work of this lineup is scattered throughout Metallica's early works and is very controversial. The sole difference between this lineup and Metallica's first major lineup is Dave Mustaine as lead guitarist and occasional lead vocalist. Mustaine wrote many of the lead guitar parts in several songs on Kill 'Em All, as well as some of the riffs on Ride the Lightning (such as "The Call of Ktulu"). Mustaine claims to have also written parts of "Leper Messiah" (Master of Puppets) and "Dyers Eve" (...And Justice for All). None of those claims has ever been acknowledged by the other members of Metallica.

Recording lineups

1983-1986 (Kill 'Em All, Ride the Lightning, Master of Puppets)

1986-2001 (...And Justice for All, Metallica, Load, ReLoad, Garage Inc., S&M)

2001-2003 (Making St. Anger)

2003-present (St. Anger)

Other lineups

First recording lineup (1981 version of Hit the Lights for Metal Massacre compliation)

  • Lars Ulrich (Drums)
  • James Hetfield (Vocals; Rhythm and Bass Guitars)
  • Lloyd Grant (Lead guitar)

Second guitarist for one gig in 1982 when James only sang:

  • "Damien Philips" (Jeff Warner)

Temporary guitarist (in 1986 when James broke his arm. Also during James' recovery from the pyrotechnics incident in 1992)

  • John Marshall (Kirk Hammett's guitar technician, who also played for Metal Church)

Temporary drummers (when Lars Ulrich was unable to perform at 2004's Download Festival)


Main albums

Year Title Label Other information
1983 Kill 'Em All (Album Sales: 3 million) Megaforce The rights were sold to Elektra who now releases the title
1984 Ride the Lightning (Album Sales: 5 million) Megaforce The rights were sold to Elektra who now releases the title
1986 Master of Puppets (Album Sales: 6 million) Elektra
1987 Garage Days Re-Revisited (Album Sales: 1 million) (EP) Elektra
1988 ...And Justice for All (Album Sales: 8 million) Elektra
1991 Metallica (Album Sales: 14 million) Elektra Usually called "The Black Album"
1993 Live Shit: Binge & Purge Elektra Live box set (with videos of 2 shows)
1996 Load (Album Sales: 5 million) Elektra
1997 ReLoad (Album Sales: 3 million) Elektra
1998 Garage Inc. ( Album Sales: 5 million) Elektra A collection of covers, including all tracks from Garage Days Re-revisited
1999 S&M (Album Sales: 5 million) Elektra A collaboration with the San Francisco Symphony (Symphony & Metallica)
2003 St. Anger (Album Sales: 3 million) Elektra
2004 Some Kind of Monster (EP) Elektra

(All album sales are based on U.S. totals. Worldwide, Metallica has sold around 100 million albums.)

Outside of the USA and Canada, Metallica's recorded works are released by Vertigo/Universal.

The band also contributed one track, "I Disappear", to the Mission: Impossible II soundtrack (MCA).

The band contributed the track "We Did It Again" (ft. rapper Ja Rule) to the Biker Boyz soundtrack

The band contributed the track "53rd and 3rd" (A Ramones cover) to "We're A Happy Family: A Tribute to the Ramones"

DVD & Video



Metallica has won seven Grammy Awards:

Kerrang! Awards:

  • 2003: Best Band On The Planet
  • 2004: Best Band On The Planet

Other Info


  • Ennio Morricone is the composer of the song "The Ecstasy of Gold" which Metallica uses on its intro tape to open their live shows. The song is from the Clint Eastwood movie, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. It is performed in its own right on S&M - Symphony & Metallica.

Name Usage

  • Victoria's Secret was sued in 1999 for selling a lip liner bearing the name Metallica
  • Guerlain was sued in 2000, in a similar case, for selling a perfume line named 'Metallica' [1]
  • Metallica Resources is a Canadian Based mining company

See also

External links

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:


James Hetfield - Kirk Hammett - Robert Trujillo - Lars Ulrich
Cliff Burton - Dave Mustaine - Ron McGovney - Jason Newsted
Kill 'Em All - Ride the Lightning - Master of Puppets - Garage Days Re-Revisited - ...And Justice for All - Metallica - Live Shit: Binge & Purge - Load - ReLoad - Garage Inc. - S&M - St. Anger
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