Metallica is one of the few heavy metal 'thrash' bands that have been able to successfully break into the mainstream music scene, while also remaining firmly footed in the metal camp. The group assembled as a band in 1981 when Danish drummer Lars Ulrich put out a newspaper ad for a guitarist. > Read more
Californian James Hetfield responded, bringing along his roommate Ron McGovney on bass. Dave Mustaine took over on lead guitar, and a fellow metal head from San Francisco, Ron Quintana, who just happened to be in the process of brainstorming different names for a fan magazine, suggested the name Metallica.
Metallica: The History
In 1984, the band Anthrax released their single 'Metal Thrashing Mad' and the 'thrash metal' title stuck. It aptly applied to Anthrax, as well as Metallica (which also used the terms 'power metal' and 'funk metal'), Slayer, and Metallica spinoff Megadeth. These became known as the 'big four' of thrash metal.
Mustaine was soon replaced by Kirk Hammett (due to a serious drug and alcohol problem, as well as some overly-aggressive behavior). Mustaine went on to form another popular thrash metal band, Megadeth. Following some turmoil and tension in the band, McGovney also left the band, and was replaced by Cliff Burton.
Tragically, Burton was killed in 1986 in a bus accident while the band was touring Sweden to promote their third album, Master of Puppets. The accident remains somewhat of a mystery; the bus driver claiming he hit a patch of black ice. Hetfield maintains he walked the road carefully searching for black ice and found none, which is confirmed by both the police and a photographer on site, who later stated in an interview that the road was dry and temperatures hovered around 36-degrees, well above freezing. The bus driver's claims that he rested prior to the trip and was fresh and alert at the wheel were also confirmed by another driver who was driving the bus carrying the band's equipment. No charges were filed.
Robert Trujillo now plays bass with Metallica. Trujillo's heritage is in crossover thrash and funk metal, and formerly worked with Suicidal Tendencies, Infectious Grooves, Black Label Society, Ozzy Osbourne, and Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains.
Metallica's pedigree rivals many of the classic rock artists that were around decades before Metallica was formed. They lay claim to 10 studio albums, 4 live albums, 5 EPs, 37 singles, and 39 music videos; for which they've earned 8 Grammy Awards, 6 number one hits on the Billboard 200 chart, 115 million record sales all over the globe, the #61 spot on Rolling Stone's list of 'The 100 Greatest Artists of All Time,' and a 2009 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Metallica: The Napster Controversy
But the band's fan base remains hotly divided. Some maintain that Metallica is one of the best in the business when it comes to taking care of their fans, listing evidence such as the free concert they provided to Atlanta fans after a performance there at which Hetfield wasn't able to play due to injury. These fans also brag about the album entitled the $5.98 E.P.: Garage Days Revisited, so named specifically to prevent record stores from overcharging for the album.
However, other metal fans just can't let go of the band's lawsuit that essentially shut down the free music downloading industry, popular website Napster in particular. Though numerous other musicians (including Dr. Dre, Alanis Morissette, Garth Brooks, and others) seem to have been forgiven for their participation in legal action that led to the shut down Napster and other free download services, the mark still stains the image of Metallica.
According to a long time fan in Birmingham, AL, Alan Pinion, "Every time I see an article online about Metallica, I know what to expect in the comments section. Someone will bring up Napster and how they are still mad at Metallica for not letting them download music for free ... Metallica are the only musicians that people seem to remember being against Napster ... This is really unfair ... They always put on a great show, and have done things above and beyond the call of duty for their fans ... that I cannot imaging other acts doing."
Indeed, while the Napster lawsuit and resulting controversy is listed prominently within the opening paragraphs of Metallica's Wikipedia page, no mention of these events are even noted in the Wiki pages for Dr. Dre, Garth Brooks, or Alanis Morissette.
Metallica: The Music
While Metallica definitely falls squarely in the metal camp with their insanely fast tempos and aggressive lyrics and vocals, they've also been able to bridge that elusive gap into mainstream music; capturing more airtime on "rock and roll" stations than your average thrash metal band. They balance their metal screeching with impressive instrumentals and lyrics that go far beyond the typical teen rebellion and angst.
Most of the other metal bands born in the 1980's relied on gimmicks like big hair, makeup, and other tricks from the "glam rock" book of style. Metallica strutted on stage dressed, as Pinion puts it, "wearing jeans and T-shirts. They dressed like their male fans in the audience."
Fellow metal ringleader Jonathan Davis of Korn once remarked, "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. I think they're one of the greatest bands ever."
Metallica: Today & Beyond
What's next for Metallica? They continue to play their annual 'Metallica Night' at the San Francisco Giants' stadium, where they perform the national anthem. They released their tenth studio album, Hardwired ... to Self-Destruct, last year, and are currently touring the world with Avenged Sevenfold, Volbeat and Gojira. Going strong, it isn't likely you've seen the last of Metallica just yet -- not by a long shot. > Less