Metallica are a heavy metal band formed in Los Angeles in 1981 after frontman James Hetfield responded to a newspaper advert placed by drummer Lars Ulrich. Before the band had even formed, Ulrich asked Metal Blade Records founder Brian Slagel if he could record a song for the compilation, ‘Metal Massacre’. Hetfield was eventually recruited to sing and play rhythm guitar.
The duo placed another advert in the same paper and got a response from guitarist Dave Mustaine, who they asked to join after seeing his expensive equipment. Bassist Cliff Burton joined in late 1982 after Ulrich and Hetfield saw him play with Trauma at Whisky A Go Go, replacing then-bassist Ron McGovney. The band got their name from Ulrich’s friend Ron Quintana, who had been brainstorming names for his fanzine.
Metallica left Metal Blade when they were unable to cover recording costs, eventually signing to Megaforce Records instead. The group travelled to Rochester, New York to record their debut album, originally called ‘Metal Up Your Ass’. It was produced by Paul Curcio and later renamed ‘Kill ‘Em All’. Mustaine was sacked from the band just before recording started due to his violent behaviour and drug and alcohol abuse. Kirk Hammett was asked to replace him and accepted. It was released on July 25 1983. A year later, the group released its follow-up, ‘Ride The Lightning’, which was recorded in Copenhagen and produced by the band and Flemming Rasmussen.
The band’s breakthrough came with their third album ‘Master Of Puppets’. It followed them signing to Elektra Records and Q-Prime management company and was again recorded in Copenhagen. It was released on March 3 1986 and reached Number 29 on the Billboard 200 and Number 41 in the UK Official Albums Chart – the band’s highest at that point of their career.
While on tour in Europe in 1986, Metallica were involved in a bus crash. One night, the band drew cards to determine who would sleep in which bunk. Burton chose to sleep in Hammett’s bunk. Later, the bus driver lost control of the vehicle and it overturned several times. Ulrich, Hammett and Hetfield escaped uninjured but Burton was pinned under the bus and killed.
The remaining members decided Burton would want them to carry on and, after seeking Burton’s family’s approval, began auditioning for a new bassist. Jason Newsted was eventually chosen as the new member. His first recording with the band was 1987’s covers EP, ‘Garage Days Re-Visited’.
The band’s first studio album following Burton’s death was ‘…And Justice For All’. It was released on August 25 1988 and was recorded in LA, again with Flemming Rasmussen. It was the group’s first LP to enter the Top Ten on the charts in the US and the UK. The record also earned them their first Grammy Award nomination in 1989 for Best Rock/Metal Performance Vocal or Instrument.
Their next record, ‘Metallica’ (also known as ‘The Black Album’), did even better, debuting at Number One in ten countries. The making of the record wasn’t as positive though, being remixed three times, costing $1 million and contributing to breakdown of three members’ marriage. It was released August 12 1991 and sold 650,000 copies in the US during its first week of release. It has since been certified 16 times platinum in America, making it the 25th bestselling album in the country.
Metallica toured the self-titled album for three years, including a headline slot at Woodstock festival in 1994 after which they returned to the studio to work on their sixth album. ‘Load’ was released on June 4 1996 and topped the Billbaord 200 for four weeks. It was the most successful debut album in the US across the entire year.
In 2000, the band sued the peer-to-peer file-sharing service Napster, after finding their demo ‘I Disappear’ on the network. Metallica had Napster’s service monitored for a weekend and 335,435 users who had downloaded Metallica’s music banned.
In January 17 2001, Newsted left Metallica for “private and personal reasons”. Shortly after, Hetfield entered rehab for “alcohol and other addictions”, delaying work on the band’s next record. The band returned the studio in April 2002. Producer Bob Rock played bass on the sessions and at live shows during the recording period. Once the album was finished in 2003, auditions for a new bassist began. Former Suicidal Tendencies member Robert Trujillo was chosen as the band’s latest addition.
‘St Anger’, Metallica’s eighth album, was released on June 5 2003 and was their last record to be released through Elektra. It was originally intended for release on June 10 but was pushed forward due to fears about its distribution on file-sharing networks. It was also the last Metallica record to feature Bob Rock’s production. The album saw the band heading in a new direction and featured no guitar solos, something it was heavily criticized for.
For the band’s next record, ‘Death Magnetic’, Rick Rubin was hired for production duties. The record was scheduled for release on September 12 2008 but was brought forward to September 10 after a French record store put it on shelves early, resulting in it being available illegally online. The record sold 490,000 copies in its first week of release in the US, and peaked at Number One in the albums charts in 24 different countries. It won Best Recording Package at the Grammys in 2009.
In 2009, Metallica were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. Former bassist Jason Newsted rejoined the band to perform at the ceremony while Cliff Burton’s father accepted the award on his behalf.
Two years later, the band collaborated with Lou Reed on the album ‘Lulu’. It was the final project Reed would work on before his death in 2013. The album was based on two played written by German playwright Frank Wedekind and features Reed’s spoken word over Metallica’s instrumentals.
In 2013, Metallica were featured in a 3D concert film called Metallica: Through The Never. The movie followed a fictional roadie on series of adventures, interspersed with live footage of the band. A year later, the band embarked on the Metallica By Request tour, where they let fans request the setlist. The tour included a headline performance on Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage, which was seen as controversial by some.