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The History of Metallica

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Formed in 1981 in Los Angeles, California, Metallica is known for being one of the founding fathers of thrash metal music. They gained attention thanks to their performing skills and soon after began attaining critical recognition for their albums and technical ability. Despite tragedy and line-up changes, the band found mainstream success in the early 1990's. Controversy and internal problems did not stop them from churning out number one albums thereafter. In this video, we take a look at the history of Metallica.

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Heavy metal band Metallica formed in Los Angeles, California in 1981. During the early 1980s, the group consisted of drummer Lars Ulrich, guitarist and vocalist James Hetfield, bassist Ron McGovney and guitarist Dave Mustaine. However, shortly after they made their first recordings and performances, the line-up changed: bassist Cliff Burton and guitarist Kirk Hammett replaced McGovney and Mustaine prior to the release of their full-length debut.


After hearing one of their demos, concert promoter Jon Zazula signed Metallica to his label Megaforce Records. The group’s first album Kill ‘Em All was released in 1983. The thrash metal record was not initially a commercial success, but its supporting tour helped the band garner a following in the underground metal scene.

Thrash Metal

Up next was 1984’s Ride the Lightning, and this was later considered one of the classic albums of thrash metal. Metallica continued to impress with their performances and they were soon signed to major label Elektra Records. They came out with Master of Puppets in 1986. The critically acclaimed record is often regarded as one of history’s most influential heavy metal albums.


Unfortunately, the subsequent tour was marred by tragedy when Burton was killed in a bus accident. A period of mourning and deliberation followed. The remaining Metallica members ultimately decided to carry on with the band.

New Bassist and New Album

Two years later, the album ...And Justice for All dropped with Jason Newstead on bass. Charting within the Billboard top ten, it featured longer and more structurally complex songs than their previous material. The effort also spawned their first music video for their first top 40 single “One.”

Mainstream Success

Metallica released their self-titled record in 1991. Also known as The Black Album, it topped several charts around the world and brought the group mainstream success and popularity. The best-selling disc yielded some of their most well-known singles: “The Unforgiven,” “Enter Sandman,” and “Nothing Else Matters.”

Heavy Metal Leaders

This was followed by several years of touring during which Metallica essentially became the leaders of the heavy metal genre. In 1996, they had their second number one album with Load. Many of their older fans were critical of the disc, which featured a change in musical direction that distanced them from their early thrash metal sound.

Another Number One

ReLoad appeared the next year. It was another number one record and produced the successful track “The Memory Remains.” Metallica spent the next few years performing shows. They also came out with a few releases, such as the covers/compilation album Garage Inc. and the live effort S&M.


In 2000, Metallica contributed to the movie soundtrack for “Mission: Impossible II.” Around the same time, the band filed a lawsuit against Napster. They alleged that the file-sharing network had infringed upon their copyrights by allowing people to download their music for free, and this eventually led to the service’s demise.

Some Kind of Monster

After Newstead’s departure in early 2001, Metallica began working on their next album with producer Bob Rock temporarily taking over on bass. The recording process was troubled and delayed by Hetfield’s stint in rehab. It was filmed and later released as the 2004 documentary “Some Kind of Monster.”

”St. Anger

The album St. Anger finally came out in 2003. Despite mixed reviews, it premiered in the first position of the Billboard 200 and topped various international charts. Although the effort had a less traditional heavy metal sound and lacked guitar solos, St. Anger won a Grammy for its title cut. After choosing Robert Trujillo to be their bassist, Metallica went on a lengthy tour.

Fifth Number One

The group dropped Death Magnetic in 2008. The positively reviewed album became their fifth consecutive number one debut. It also marked a return to their thrash metal beginnings with its technically complex guitar solos. After embarking on the World Magnetic tour, they released several EPs.

Lou Reed

In 2011, Metallica began a collaboration with Lou Reed and this resulted in the heavy metal and noise rock album Lulu.


With their technical musical proficiency, elaborate song structures, and loud and fast sound, Metallica has become one of the most influential heavy metal bands to come out of the 1980s.

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