Twenty-four years ago, on Aug. 12, 1991, Metallica released Metallica, also known as The Black Album. It became the band’s best-selling album, was ranked No. 255 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, and features songs like “Enter Sandman,” “Nothing Else Matters,” and “Sad But True.” It won the Grammy for Best Metal Performance and spent 282 weeks on the Billboard 200.
The Black Album also marks a clear turning point for the band. Long-time fans who came up with the band see it as the moment Metallica divorced themselves from their metal roots. Many others attribute The Black Album as the one that introduced them to the band. Regardless of what side you find yourself on, I don’t think anyone can really argue with the fact that “Enter Sandman” is a heck of a good rock song, metal or not.
All these years later, Metallica is still at it, albeit slightly less ferociously than they were 24 years ago. The band is currently in their fourth decade. Fourth! And just think, it all started because drummer Lars Ulrich was just looking for someone to jam with.
A band that has been around as long as Metallica has a well-known history; a timeline that even the most casual fan is familiar with. So let’s dig a little deeper, shall we? Here are 10 things about Metallica that might not be as well-known as their fight with Napster.
An Almost Missed Connection
Lars Ulrich was looking for someone to jam with way back in 1981 and did what anyone in his position would have done back then: post something in the local music magazine. Hetfield, the band’s eventual singer/guitarist, would answer the call Ulrich posted in Recycler. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in Ulrich’s position, but I have, and let me tell you, those first jam sessions with random musicians are rocky at best. This seemed to have been the case for Ulrich and Hetfield, as they didn’t jam again until the next year, which only happened because Ulrich was trying to get a track on the Metal Blade compilation Metal Massacre.
A Different Kind Of Racket
Before he teamed up with Hetfield and even before coming to the states, Ulrich was a tennis prodigy back in Denmark. So if you think cutting their hair wasn’t very metal, just think, it doesn’t get any less metal than being a Danish tennis prodigy. As the story goes, Ulrich’s father took Lars to see Deep Purple in 1973, and Ulrich was so captivated by the performance that he changed course and decided to get into music instead.
This Should Cover All That Lost Napster Money
One more note about Ulrich – he’s an avid art collector, which, it should be noted, also isn’t that metal of a move. But it’s a smart one financially. In 2008 he sold a Jean-Michel Basquiat painting, “Boxer” for $13.5 million.
You Had One Job, France
Ride the Lightning features a fairly iconic album cover, but the artwork had a slightly different look in France. The French pressing of Metallica’s second album was misprinted, with green replacing the blue the album was supposed to have, giving it a distinctly different look.
There are allegedly only 400 copies of the misprinted album in existence. I bet Ulrich has one.
The Mark Of The Beast
Ride the Lightning ends with “The Call of Ktulu,” an instrumental almost 9 minutes long. The song’s title refers to “Cthulhu,” a monster who appears in the works of H.P. Lovecraft. Why the change in spelling, you ask? Because according to Lovecraft’s work, referring to “Cthulhu” brings the monster closer. So Metallica, looking to spare themselves the wrath of an entirely not real monster, decided to change the name to avoid any sort of mythical wrath.
A Strange Twist Of Fate
Two years after Ride the Lightning was released, and only a few months after follow-up Master of Puppets dropped, bassist Cliff Burton died in an accident involving the band’s tour bus while they were touring in Sweden. While Burton’s death is fairly common knowledge, what’s less known is that guitarist Kirk Hammett could have been the one to die instead of Burton. The band, which didn’t like the bunks on the tour bus, would play games to decide who got to pick their sleeping space.
Before getting on the bus on Sept. 27, 1986, Burton won the right to choose a bunk and selected the one Hammett frequently used. When the bus eventually swerved off the road, Burton was thrown from its window, with the bus landing on top of him. Some might chalk this up to tragic luck. Not Joe Hasselvander, former member of the doom-metal band Pentagram. Hasselvander believes Burton died because he owned a set of tarot cards that dated all the way back to the Salem Witch Trials. The cards were also covered in human blood. So… yeah.
A Permanent Sabbatical
After Burton’s death, bass duties were taken up by Jason Newsted who, as an aside, looked pretty badass with his long brown hair that fell over the shaved sides of his head. Newsted was in the band until 2001, when he quit. Why would you leave a job that seemed like a dream for any metal enthusiast? Newsted had grown increasingly unhappy playing in Metallica, and, amidst a tense band meeting, proposed taking a year off so he could work on his side project, Echobrain. The band rejected his idea, and he Newsted left permanently. No hard feelings, though. Newsted joined the band onstage when Metallica was inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame in 2009. Echobrain made three albums, but none since 2004.
Where Pauly Shore And Metallica Meet
Newsted’s replacement was former Suicidal Tendencies and Infectious Grooves bassist Robert Trujillo. For most people, getting the chance to join a band like Metallica would represent a real career milestone (not to mention an immediately lucrative one; Trujillo was reportedly paid a million bucks up front as a signing bonus of sorts). But come on. Trujillo, along with the other dudes in Infectious Grooves, appeared in Encino Man. After you’ve reached that kind of mountaintop, everything else is just gravy.
Heavy Metal Hot Rod
As for James Hetfield, in his spare time he likes to fix up cars, which is a slightly more metal hobby than playing tennis and collecting art. Hetfield has a car called The Beast. It can survive both earthquakes and nuclear blasts. Surviving earthquakes is something I can understand, especially living in San Francisco. The nuclear blasts, though? That seems a little bit excessive, James.
Give Me Fuel, Give Me Fire
Hetfield would have been better off if his car kept him safe from pyrotechnics, which is really just a way of segueing into the story of how he walked into a 12-foot flame while playing in Montreal in 1992. Hetfield suffered second- and third-degree burns on the left side of his body, prompting Newsted to say that he looked like Toxic Avenger with the way his skin was bubbling. Guns ‘N Roses, who was on tour with the band at the time, followed Metallica, but because of the melee, their stage set up wasn’t up to snuff, prompting Axl Rose to bail on the set early, causing riots to break out. Good job, Axl.