Worst Albums Of All Time: Metallica (The Black Album)

The Bleeeugh AlbumNow, I’m certainly prepared to admit that Metallica did some pretty good work in the eighties before this record was released. Or at the very least I’ve been assured of this fact by many many guitar enthusiasts and rock fans over the years, quite often by the kind of people that refuse to listen to an album if it doesn’t have a tapping solo and a section in 15/8 timing or whatever, but often by normal, sane adults as well. I’ll admit there’s some good music on the early stuff, especially Cliff Burton’s bass playing, and the speed metal of most of Kill ‘Em All is pretty decent as well. So I’m aware of the early stuff – much like Aids or Cholera, I’m not thrilled that it’s there but I’m prepared to acknowledge its existence.

The aforementioned albums are cult classics, and since I’m not a member of that particular cult, they’re not really my cup of Kool-Aid. The Black Album, or self-titled as it is also known, I feel qualified to review given its huge impact on the rock world at large, and its (still) near-constant presence on mainstream radio and music television. I watch television and I (used to) listen to the radio, therefore I am part of this album’s audience, intended or otherwise.

But seriously though, what is the deal with Metallica? Were those guys all given testosterone injections at birth? I’ve seen more articulate and well groomed cavemen with smaller brows than these guys in the pages of science books, and do they have to lower their guitars to accommodate those longer than usual arms? All perfectly valid questions, but let us concentrate on the music for now. The album opens with “Enter Sandman”, a song you’ve either voluntarily listened to many times, or, like me, been forced to listen to every time an extreme sport, beer ad, or sexual assault news piece comes on TV. The main chorus riff is actually pretty decent, so it’s a bit of a shame that it’s drowned under piles of studio compression and preceded by the kind of dated acoustic intro that we listened to all through the hair metal years of the mid to late 80s (a genre that at the time, Metallica, to their credit, avoided).

The plodding overproduced saga continues through song titles as hilariously pretentious – given their knuckle-dragging content – as “Holier Than Thou”, “The Unforgiven” (that’s the one with the acoustic intro that lasts for three hours or so that you may have heard on the radio), “Of Wolf and Man”, “The God That Failed”, “The Struggle Within” and so on. “Holier Than Thou” actually sports a pretty decent guitar riff before James Hetfield’s “Holier than thooooooooaaaaahh” vocal kicks in and we’re met by the kind of harmonic drenched guitar solo that bores me to tears every time.

I guess my biggest problem with Metallica is the seriousness with which they take themselves. The earnestness with which they sing toss like “And the road becomes my bride/ I have stripped of all but pride/ So in her I do confide” (from “Wherever I May Roam”, or “Wherever I May Roooam-ahhh” as Hetfield styles it on the record), just can’t help but make me cringe. Also Metallica are the band that shut down Napster, remember, which makes them an enemy of music fans everywhere. If it was up to them, you’d still be shelling out $35 for their increasingly crappy CDs and near endless tour compilations/ B sides / Hetfield Sings the Songs of Sinatra/ Metallica backed by the Patagonian Senior Oboe Players Association or whatever.

The average song length here is about five minutes (the shortest song being “Holier Than Thou” at 3:48) and there’s about seven guitar solos in every song, so it’s easy to get bored. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it a thousand times: great rock music is about composition, rhythm and vibe, not about guitar solos and technical ability. Liking rock for the guitar playing is like eating a cake for its icing. And the icing here smells like bogan.

So that’s the first entry in our Worst Albums Of All Time Chart out of the way. Which would put it at number one, but I’m sure we’ll find much, much worse out there (actual chart coming soon once we have a few more entries). Want to nominate an album for entry? Let us know below, via Facebook or via Twitter. Check out the original post for more info.

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16 Responses to Worst Albums Of All Time: Metallica (The Black Album)

  1. Shame says:

    “easy to get bored”
    i pity you

  2. Wow. says:

    Wow. This is a terrible review. So biased.
    Now let’s see you make a band as successful as Metallica.

    • Flange Effect says:

      Why does the reviewer need to form a band as successful as Metallica to make their point valid? That’s entirely irrelevant.

      • Mike says:

        Thank you, Flange Effect. The first intelligent comment on the page so far.

        I also love how they call me out for being biased. It’s a site dedicated to my opinions on music, not a Reuters news outlet, people.

      • Kyle says:

        Because Satan commands it. He also commands for the blood of the first born. And kittens. Lots of kittens.

  3. w0g says:

    I happen to be a member of the cult you mention. Metallica’s albums up to this point are indeed classic slices of thrash. As for this album I agree, it is definitely one of the worst albums ever cut. 1991’s premonition of Nickleback.

  4. Stuartq says:

    wtf it’s a triple platina album and is one of the best in the metallica streak

  5. Rene says:

    This is an idiot opinion metallica did freaking great songs in this album

  6. DestroyerOfWorlds says:

    At first this article really annoyed me and pissed me off (I’ve been a lifelong Metallica fan), but after thinking for a few minutes, I realized that The Black Album really was one of Metallica’s least exciting albums. Yes, there are some good songs, but they aren’t good in the sense that they’re thrash-y and exciting and something you can mosh to. The Black Album isn’t bad in my opinion, it just isn’t amazing.

  7. Sensible man. Ulrich always one of those people who’s emotionally intelligent / smart / eloquent and with his heart in the right place, but does not always choose to use those gifts, and so can come across as cantakerous / combative / annoying.

    But he sticks to his guns and often does this sort of stuff well enough.

  8. Jason says:

    I think there are way worse albums out there. If you go to hastings and look at the 99 cent bin, you can find thousands of shitty albums. I guess since Metallica and RHCP are well known, they have people with no musical talent or ability shitting on these albums. Both Metallica and RHCP are some of the most talented, gifted musicians ever. Learn how to play guitar and pull your head out of your ass. They will go down in history as some of the best musicians ever, and you on the other hand, have a shitball of a website. You stole fizzy lifting drink so I bit you a Good day sir!

  9. Dan says:

    I am actually surprised that the comments on this post aren’t the most idiotic ones we’ve received.

  10. Kyle says:

    Well it’s not a rock album first of all. It’s in fact metal. Secondly, it does get boring at times, and I love Metallica. But it’s the same thing as movie critiques. It’s a matter of opinion. The thing I don’t understand is what point is being served by bashing this album and the band members themselves? This isn’t a review, it’s like a kid who didn’t get a red bike like everyone else so now he has to convince himself that red bikes suck so he can be okay with his. It’s whining. It’s okay to not like it but they’re people too. For fucks sake, at least call it a bash, don’t trot around like the fucking king of Siam like you’re a musical savant. And the reviewer being in a successful band is relevant. He or she has never sold 14 million copies of one album therefore they can’t say it sucks or this or that was bad. Obviously sandman had a good bit to do with it but sell 14 million albums and then you can pretend like you know what’s what.

  11. Professor Oak says:

    The comments on this review are gold. Pretty good review. I thought it was funny. Couldn’t disagree more, but who cares.

    Lars Ulrich cares

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