92 captures 18 Jul 2006 - 01 Jul 2018
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In 1982, a Los Angeles-based independent label called Metal Blade opened shop with Metal Massacre, a compilation album that featured songs by fairly heavy bands like Malice, Cirith Ungol, Steeler and others that have long since faded into obscurity. There was also a song from Ratt (about whom the less is said, the better) and that closing track, which cut the rest of the album to ribbons: "Hit the Lights," the first officially released song from a then-unknown San Francisco outfit called Metallica. Heavy metal — and rock music — would never be the same.
Metallica injected a much-needed dose of adrenaline and ferocity into the genre, and for the first four albums of their career, they were the meanest, tightest and most creative metal band on the planet. Combining the speed and sneer of Motörhead with the fist-clenched riffage of then-new British bands like Iron Maiden and Diamond Head, Metallica virtually invented thrash and, unlike many of their peers, emphasized melody and nuance as much as speed and volume.
Frontman James Hetfield spouted tales of violence and fantasy, but he also preached freedom and self-reliance. And although his voice was gruff and aggressive, he sometimes dropped his guard and exhibited a hint of vulnerability. His vocal skills were surpassed only by his fierce, precise rhythm guitar work, which provided the sonic backbone for the fiery leads of guitarist Kirk Hammett, the acrobatic thunder of drummer Lars Ulrich and the versatile bass playing of the late Cliff Burton (and later Jason Newsted and Robert Trujillo).
Yet the band's punkish, renegade attitude counted for as much as the music. For a long time, the approach paid off, especially after they decided to slow down, streamline their arrangements and simplify their melodies for their blockbuster self-titled LP (a.k.a. "The Black Album") in 1991.
But for many, that single-mindedness has been Metallica's greatest flaw. When they strayed from their signature sound and incorporated boogie-blues, country-rock and alt-rock into their music on 1996's Load and its companion album, 1997's Reload, — and, more shockingly, cut their hair — Metallica was harshly criticized by the metal community. And when they tried to single-handedly take on illegal downloading by suing Napster in 2000, they were widely perceived as greedy. Then, when Metallica experimented with studio improvisation and lo-fi recording techniques on St. Anger — not to mention airing their therapy sessions in the film "Some Kind of Monster" — they were dismissed as being arty and out of touch.
Even so, Metallica have continued to sell out arenas and remain a devastating force in concert. Regardless of how you feel about the last decade of the band's career, their early innovations were groundbreaking, affecting nearly every metal band that followed.
Kill 'Em All (1983), Ride the Lightning (1984), Master of Puppets (1986), Metallica ("The Black Album") (1991).
"The name says it. They really brought the speed thing to the forefront when they came out, and they've been doing it for 25-plus years. They're the real deal, man. Master of Puppets was the greatest record they ever made. It was when they were at the top of their game, and wrote the best songs they ever wrote. I love it, start to finish — every song. Everybody knew they were the big dog on the block, and they never had to watch out for anybody. We [Pantera] were the only band that ever really got close to achieving what they did. They were a band to measure your accomplishments by." — Vinnie Paul, Pantera/ Damageplan
"They've always been an inspiration to Korn. I love that they've done things their own way and they've persevered over the years and they're still relevant to this day. They still sell out arenas everywhere they go. I'm just a huge fan. They refused to make the same kind of album twice, and I really respect them for that. I think they're one of the greatest bands ever." — Jonathan Davis, Korn
"I love everything they've ever done. 'The Black Album' is one of my favorite albums of all time. To be able to write riffs like that, with such driving beats ... sometimes simplifying things is way more impactful. But my favorite album is [1988's] ... And Justice For All." — Zacky Vengeance, Avenged Sevenfold
Jimmy from L.A. puts Metallica at #2, and blames the panel's "selective memory" for their #3 ranking. Where do they fall on your top 10? You tell us!
NEXT:Shadows Falls' Brian Fair says, 'The first time I heard [this band], I was like, 'This is what it's all about.' ' ... Photo: Elektra
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