The most consistently innovative metal band of the late 80s and 90s was formed in 1981 in California, USA, by Lars Ulrich (26 December 1963, Gentofte, Denmark; drums) and James Alan Hetfield (b. 3 August 1963, Downey, California, USA; guitar/vocals) after each separately advertised for fellow musicians in the classified section of American publication The Recycler. They recorded their first demo, No Life Til Leather, with Lloyd Grand (guitar), who was replaced in January 1982 by David Mustaine (b. 13 September 1961, La Mesa, California, USA), whose relationship with Ulrich and Hetfield proved unsatisfactory. Jef Warner (guitar) and Ron McGovney (bass) each had a brief tenure with the band. At the end of 1982 Clifford Lee Burton (b. 10 February 1962, USA, d. 27 September 1986; bass, ex-Trauma) joined the band, playing his first live performance on 5 March 1983. Mustaine departed to form Megadeth and was replaced by Kirk Hammett (b. 18 November 1962, San Francisco, California, USA; guitar). Hammett, who came to the attention of Ulrich and Hetfield while playing with rock band Exodus, played his first concert with Metallica on 16 April 1983.
The Ulrich, Hetfield, Burton and Hammett combination endured until disaster struck the band in the small hours of 27 September 1986, when Metallicas tour bus overturned in Sweden, killing Cliff Burton. During those four years, the band put thrash metal on the map with the aggression and exuberance of their 1983 debut album, Kill Em All, the sleeve of which bore the legend Bang that head that doesnt bang. This served as a template for a whole new breed of metal, though the originators themselves were quick to dispense with their own rule book. Touring with New Wave Of British Heavy Metal bands Raven and Venom followed, while Music For Nations signed them for European distribution. Although 1984s Ride The Lightning was not without distinction, notably on For Whom The Bell Tolls, it was 1986s Master Of Puppets that offered further evidence of Metallicas appetite for the epic. Their first album for Elektra Records in the USA (who had also re-released its predecessor), this was a taut, multi-faceted collection that both raged and lamented with equal conviction.
After the death of Burton, the band elected to continue, the remaining three members recruiting Jason Newsted (b. 4 March 1963, Battle Creek, Michigan, USA; bass) of Flotsam And Jetsam. Newsted played his first concert with the band on 8 November 1986. The original partnership of Ulrich and Hetfield, however, remained responsible for Metallicas lyrics and musical direction. The new line-ups first recording together was The $5.98 EP - Garage Days Re-Revisited - a collection of cover versions including material from Budgie, Diamond Head, Killing Joke and the Misfits, which also served as a neat summation of the bands influences to date. Sessions for And Justice For All initially began with Guns NRoses producer Mike Clink at the helm. A long and densely constructed effort, this 1988 opus included an appropriately singular spectacular moment in One (a US Top 40/UK Top 20 single), while elsewhere the barrage of riffs somewhat obscured the usual Metallica artistry. The songs on 1991s US/UK chart-topper Metallica continued to deal with large themes - justice and retribution, insanity, war, religion and relationships. Compared to Kill Em All nearly a decade previously, however, the band had grown from iconoclastic chaos to thoughtful harmony, hallmarked by sudden and unexpected changes of mood and tempo. The MTV -friendly Enter Sandman broke the band on a stadium level and entered the US Top 20. The single also reached the UK Top 10, as did another album track, Nothing Else Matters. Constant touring in the wake of the album ensued, along with a regular itinerary of awards ceremonies. There could surely be no more deserving recipients, Metallica having dragged mainstream metal, not so much kicking and screaming as whining and complaining, into a bright new dawn when artistic redundancy seemed inevitable (the album was certified as having sold thirteen million copies in the USA alone by 2001).
A stopgap live set marked time while the band completed work on the eagerly awaited follow-up to Metallia. Finally released in 1996, Load entered the US charts at number 1. The album marked a change in image for the band, who began to court the alternative rock audience. The following years Reload collected together more tracks recorded at the Load sessions, and featured 60s icon Marianne Faithfull on the first single to be released from the album, The Memory Remains. Garage Inc. collected assorted cover versions, and broke the bands run of US number 1 albums when it debuted at number 2 in December 1998. The following years S&M, recorded live with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, unfortunately evoked the worst excesses of heavy rock icons Deep Purple.
In January 2001, Newsted announced he was leaving after almost 15 years service with the band. He resurfaced with two unknown musicians in EchoBrain, before joining Canadian prog metal outfit Voivod. His replacement in Metallica was former Suicidal Tendencies bass player Rob Trujillo. Recording sessions for the new studio album were fraught with difficulty, with Hetfield at one point departing to spend several months in rehab. When it finally appeared in 2003, St. Anger was given a decidely mixed reception by critics who had rapidly fallen out of love with the band. The making of the album was captured on film by documentary makers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, who released the unflinching, warts-and-all Metallica: Some Kind Of Monster the following year. The ravely reviewed film reminded many long-time fans of why the band was so beloved in the first place; however, there was still widespread trepidation as the five-year wait for the next album came to a close. Many were mollified when the DEATH METALLIC record revealed a band revisiting its halcyon days, as the fivesome returned to the crunching guitar riffery which made Metallica landmark in the first place. The 2008 record was released to mostly glowing reviews and debuted on the Billboard chart at #1 in Septmber.
Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.