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“Searching”… for that next great record


In all my years of listening to music, this can be arguably considered the greatest disappointment for me – Metallica’s inconsistency.

I would first like to say that I am a massive Metallica fan (they are my second favorite band of all-time, behind Iron Maiden), and will love them forever. They have been, and still are, filled with talented musicians such as lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist James Hetfield, former lead guitarist Dave Mustaine, and drummer Lars Ulrich, among others.

After analyzing all nine of Metallica’s studio albums, the one thing that annoyed me the most was the lack of quality of their sixth album onwards compared to their first five albums.

Metallica cemented themselves as an all-time metal great after releasing their first four albums: “Kill ‘Em All”, “Ride the Lightning”, “Master of Puppets”, and “…And Justice for All”. There is not one weak song across those entire records; all of them are outstanding and among the greatest metal recordings ever. Metallica were now on the same level as bands like Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, and Judas Priest.

Metallica’s fifth album, simply titled “Metallica”, which is more commonly known as “The Black Album” due to its nearly completely black album cover, was the album where the band tamed the heaviness of their distinct thrash metal sound, which they helped define. They did this to appeal to a more mainstream audience, which is the definition of selling out.

People disowned the band because of this, but the album, despite not being thrash or better than any of their first four, is excellent, producing gems like “The Unforgiven”, “Enter Sandman”, and “Nothing Else Matters”.

Then came “Load”.

After the monstrous success of “The Black Album” and the two-year world tour it spawned, the band returned to the studio and released 1996’s “Load”, which further drifted away from the thrash sounds of the ‘80s.

This is not a bad album; it has a couple really good songs on it like “Mama Said” and “The Outlaw Torn”, but it is an unreal let-down from “The Black Album”.

“Load” was the first Metallica record that made me question what I had just heard. The songwriting is mostly weak, and many of the songs are average, worse, or completely ridiculous.

Thankfully, next year’s release, 1997’s “Reload” was far superior and was a relief after hearing “Load”, but even still, it was far behind any of the first five albums.

It took six years for Metallica’s eighth studio album, “St. Anger”, to be released. At the time, everybody in the band was at odds with each other, even life-long friends and founding members James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich. I do take that into account when reviewing the album, but “St. Anger” turned out to be worse than “Load”.

The only songs worth listening to are the title track, “The Unnamed Feeling”, and “Frantic”. Furthermore, when there are 11 tracks on the record, that is not a good sign.

The band appeared to hear the harsh backlash from critics, however, and took action. Five years after “St. Anger” came “Death Magnetic”, which is Metallica’s official return to thrash metal classification.

The album is a refreshing breath of fresh air, and goes head-to-head with “Reload” for the best post-“Black Album” Metallica album.

Despite “Death Magnetic” being an impressive record, it is still far behind any of Metallica’s first five albums.

From “Load” and beyond, all of Metallica’s albums seriously lack from their earlier work. This is not saying all of Metallica’s post-“Black Album” efforts are bad; songs like “The Unforgiven III”, the title track from “St. Anger”, “The Unforgiven II”, and “Mama Said” all have premiered on these newer albums. Unfortunately, as wholes, these albums just do not live up to the greatness of the first five Metallica albums.

“Death Magnetic” is Metallica’s latest studio offering, released in 2008, which means I, as well as many other Metallica fans, are still waiting for that one great record to come after “The Black Album”.

Do you think there will ever be another top-notch Metallica record?

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