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Album Talk : Metallica’s Metallica aka The Black Album



One of the most eventful year in rock music history is 1991. The year witnessed some great albums being released. Nirvana’s Nevermind, Pearl Jam’s Ten, Red Hot Chilli Pepper’s Blood Sugar Sex Magik, REM’s Out of Time, Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger and Metallica’s self-titled classic aka The Black Album.

One of the baddest heavy metal band to walk the planet, Metallica’s self-titled album sold 600,000 in its first week, hitting No.1 in 10 countries and topped the Billboard 200 for four weeks. To date, it has sold an estimated 31 million physical copies worldwide and is certified 16-times platinum in the US.

James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett and Jason Newsted gave the fans what can be described as a fantasy album, including an anthem Nothing Else Matters. The album turned Metallica from ‘the best metal band in the world’ into ‘the biggest band of all time’

It was Friday and as usual I had to call up fellow cowboy, music Wikipedia and senior journalist Narendra Kusnur for our Album Talk. As he was feeling unwell (even cowboys fall sick) after saying a quick Howdy to the doctor, he was on the call to keep his word like a true cowboy would.

Note: Language maybe altered to suit the platform’s requirements.

First 2 minutes : the usual pleasantries. Then down to business.

Me – They took a lot of time to come up with the title name, didn’t they?

Kusnur – They were thinking of a title for long, one of the option was Metallica Five. Second option was to name it after one of the songs. The confusion was which song.

Me – They opted for a black cover with the serpent from the Gadsden flag as most of the albums covers at the time were full of cartoon characters, steel, blood and guts. They wanted to keep it simple and black was their favourite colour.

Kusnur – They used the serpent because of their previous album, And Justice For All, which had anti- establishment songs, made many feel they were anti American. So the song ‘Don’t Tread On Me’ is like a clarification for it.


Kusnur – The Beatles had done the ‘White Album’. They wouldn’t have done it to counter The Beatles but the theory was the same. To have just one colour with their name and somehow the album is known by that colour. The Beatles album is called ‘The Beatles’ but it came to be known as the ‘White Album’, same case with Metallica.

Me – It has shorter songs than ‘And Justice For All’.

Kusnur – Ya, the sound changed and the songs are shorter. The earlier albums were more thrash metal. This was more heavy metal of the 80’s. Totally there are 12 songs but the album length is 62 minutes which is longer than their earlier albums. Each song has its own story.

Me – And is different from the other

Kusnur – Its like U2’s Joshua Tree where every song is like the greatest hit from the album.

Me – The opening song, Enter Sandman, was about ‘crib death’ originally. Children dying in their cribs because of the Sandman. Bob Rock who was producing the album didn’t like the concept.

Kusnur – They had a lot of differences as Bob had his own ideas and Hetfield his own. Ulrich was caught between the two and he also wanted to give his inputs.

Me – Bob and Ulrich asked Hetfield to change the lyrics as they felt it was too gore.

Kusnur – The most interesting thing about the song is that they created the tune and everything first. It was the last song to be written in terms of lyrics.

Me – Hammett has gone on record to say that he was inspired by an ‘Ice T album’ for the opening riff. Who would have thought that!

Kusnur – Even Unforgiven is said to be inspired by our fellow cowboy Clint Eastwood’s movie ‘For a few dollars more’

Me – that’s why I relate to the song!

(Laughter as usual)

Me – ‘Sad but true’, according to me, is about one’s inner evil taking over. Does that make sense?

Kusnur – Ya. It’s a wonderful song but somehow got lesser recognition than ‘Enter Sandman, ‘Nothing Else Matters’ and ‘Wherever I May Roam’.

Me – ‘Wherever I may roam’ was about being on the road with the band and missing your house and folks.

Kusnur – and ‘Nothing else matters’…

Me – …was a surprise. Hetfield never wanted the song on the album, it was never meant to be played for others. Hammett even said that it’s a f***ing love song.

Kusnur – True. It was Bob’s idea to have an orchestra on the song so they brought in Michael Kamen to arrange.

Me – It is one of the few songs without Hammett, he didn’t play in the studio recording. It was lapped up by the crowd when they played a free listening party at Madison Square Garden. During the making of the album, except Hetfield, the rest 3 were going through a divorce. Maybe that’s why the album is so intense. Hammett has gone mad on this one!

Kusnur – His solos are something else. Even Newsted, though he does not get as much credit, held the album together in his own way.

Me – ‘Through The Never’ is more of Hetfield’s autobiographical one, about endless search for knowledge. ‘Of Wolf And Man’ is similar to ‘Sad but true’ and ‘Unforgiven’

Kusnur – ‘Unforgiven’ also had sequeals

Me – It is about limiting a child’s growth and almost condemning him to live according to what he is told.

Kusnur – I will have to revisit the song, I know it is about a child’s mind but what u said, I haven’t paid attention to. Hetfield made the ‘The God That Failed’ for his mother who died of cancer. She had refused medical help thinking god will save her.

(next 2 minutes are edited)

Me – As you go down the track list the songs get simpler. ‘My Friend Of Misery’ is about self-loathing and pessimism. ‘Holier Than Thou’ is about people with super egos who just gossip and try to put others down.

Kusnur – I can name many of them


Kusnur’s pick : Nothing ‘Really’ Matters

Mine : Sad but true


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