• Metallica - Metallica (1991) - Chugging groove metal meets mallcore pioneer work - 40% (24/09/14)

    Metallica - Metallica (1991)

    Metallica’s black album lacks so much originality that it isn’t even worth a proper name. The band kept only the worst parts of the great predecessor “…And Justice for All”, namely a very clinical production and the groove metal influences. Instead of adding diversified progressive elements, the band headed for a more commercial direction and focused on writing short tracks with simple choruses that are repeated to death. It’s a sad thing to say but the most interesting songs on here are the longer and calmer tracks reminding of Metallica’s last release or more commercial hard rock inspired by bands from Led Zeppelin to Guns ‘N Roses. These tracks don’t fit with the harsher, shorter and more repetitive tunes. Namely, the best songs on the record are the epic and melancholic ballad “The Unforgiven”, the laid back, melodic and minimalist ballad “Nothing Else Matters” and finally the dynamical “Wherever I May Roam” that recalls the last album and surprises with a few oriental folk sounds as guiding line. Album closer “The Struggle Within” is a little bit more dynamical and faster as it tries to go back to the thrash metal roots of the band but it really suffers from its chugging riffs and lifeless production. “Enter Sandman” is the only song of the new groove metal style that works for me because it has some atmosphere building up some tension in the song writing and the whole thing is crowned by the strongest chorus of this album. This kind of song has been played to death on radio and television but it’s still a good average album opener. Everything else is completely forgettable for me.

    The rest is basically modern groove metal with chugging mid-tempo riffs, clinical drumming and an exchangeable bass guitar sound that barely sounds better than on the predecessor where this instrument was almost inaudible. In addition to this, James Hetfield’s vocal performance starts to sound truly ridiculous on this album. Most songs include highly exaggerated pronunciation and unnecessary exclamations and fill words such as “ah!”, “oho” and especially “yeah”. This may sound energizing on one or two tracks but it gets really annoying throughout the twelve songs including many fillers on here. The worst examples for this vocal style are the atmospheric opener “Enter Sandman” and the energizing “Wherever I May Roam”. These tracks are among the better ones on the album and a more serious vocal performance would even have rated them up. Weaker tracks like the extremely annoying “Through the Never” that almost feels as if James Hetfield was hectically and randomly shouting chopped up scraps of conversation while playing unnecessarily aggressive and yet chugging and repetitive riffs at the same time are really among the worst material Metallica has ever recorded. This song is often cited as more traditional thrash metal song but it’s rather an example of fast paced groove metal that is maybe even more annoying than mid-tempo mallcore. 

    There are so many bad songs on here but the worst musical example for what is Metallica’s least original release and in my opinion also worst album apart of the abominable project “Lulu” with the late Lou Reed must be “Sad but True” where the title already says everything I think about this track. Basically, this song is based around exchangeable groove metal riffs and an unharmonious chorus. The verses sound like rap metal of the worst kind and I’m not surprised that Snoop Dogg, the rapper with the least enthusiastic vocal performance I’ve ever known, has once covered this track. I don’t have any problems with a passionate fusion of rap and metal as Anthrax and Public Enemy have proven that this combination can in fact work very well. While “I’m the Man” is a vivid example with a fierce attitude, “Sad but True” is its complete antithesis and comes around with lifeless guitar sounds and a boring vocal performance. I really hate using the term mallcore but this song is somehow the prototype for the worst executions of this genre. It’s somehow a song that has pioneered a genre but in this case, it’s nothing to be proud of.

    In the end, this record has three good tracks and two average songs that don’t really fit to the other material which consists of abominable groove metal with lifeless instrumental sections, ridiculous vocal performances and a horrible production that annoys me much more than the uncompromising sound of “St. Anger”. Just listen to the artificial sound and slowed down drum play in the opening of the annoying “Of Wolf And Men” to get to know what I mean. I absolutely don't get why some people still claim that this album has a great production. Even pop albums of that time sound more dynamical than this. After all, clever marketing, shorter and catchier song structures and a more commercial approach influenced by actual trends of its time have still made what is Metallica’ worst regular studio record its most successful release. As a big metal fan, I’m really not proud of the fact that this is probably the most famous genre release of all times. There really is no need to purchase this record at all as the best tracks on here are still performed live and can be found with a much better sound on many different concert releases. Don’t believe the hype around this release and avoid it at all costs.

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