METALLICA's KIRK HAMMETT On 'Black' Album: 'We Wanted To Come Up With A 'Back In Black', An LP Stacked With Singles'

November 9, 2020

In the latest issue of U.K.'s Uncut magazine, METALLICA's Lars Ulrich and Kirk Hammett discus the making of the band's multi-platinum self-titled 1991 album, also known as "The Black Album".

Although METALLICA had scored their first radio and video airplay with their previous effort, 1988's "...And Justice For All", the black album was the band's biggest commercial breakthrough, producing five singles and making them into one of the most popular rock bands in the world.

"When we were done with '…And Justice For All' and the subsequent two-year tour, there was no place to go on that path," Ulrich told Mojo. "We'd hit the wall. The last song on that album is a song called 'Dyers Eve' and it's six or seven minutes of the most crazy progressive off-the-wall stuff METALLICA is capable of doing. After playing all those songs on the road for a couple of years, we said, 'There's got to be a reset here.'"

Added Hammett: "It wasn't easy to make, as we wanted a certain sound on that album. We wanted everything to be the best it possibly could be, sound-wise, song-wise and performance-wise, and so we went in and — I'll probably be the first person to mention this — we wanted to come up with a 'Back In Black', an LP stacked with singles. That was the concept, songs which sound like singles but aren't. "

Continued Lars: "We sat down and thought about the MISFITS, AC/DC and THE [ROLLING] STONES. We thought about the art of simplifying and writing shorter songs. It's harder to write a short song than a long song and harder to be succinct. The new challenge was to write shorter songs. A little more bounce, to make the music more physical than cerebral.

The album was the first of four collaborations with producer Bob Rock, with whom the band clashed throughout the recording of the disc.

"Rock had recently worked with THE CULT, MÖTLEY CRÜE and BON JOVI and had a different approach to sonics," Lars recalled. "We were interested in having our records be a little bigger and more impactful. That was the next significant thing. We've never been in the studio with someone who was challenging us in the way he was. The good news was Bob was very encouraging of us expanding our processes. The bad news was we were not very open to having anyone tell us what to do.

"When we walked out of the studio a year later with the 'Black Album' in our pockets, I don't think any of us thought we'd see each other again," Ulrich admitted. "But we ended up spending the next 10-12 years making records together. It was a love affair, but it got off to a rocky start. But thankfully he pushed and challenged us. He didn't accept our refusal to be experimental and to cast the net wider."

You can read about the making of eight more METALLICA albums in the December 2020 issue of Uncut, out now, with Bruce Springsteen on the cover.

In 2014, "Metallica" became the first album to sell 16 million copies since Nielsen SoundScan started tracking sales in 1991.

"Metallica" in 2009 surpassed SHANIA TWAIN's 1997 record, "Come On Over", as the best-selling CD of the SoundScan era.

METALLICA performed the black album in its entirety at a number of European festivals in 2012.

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