Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Metallica - S/T (1991)

It seemed like every legendary metal band fell flat on their asses as soon as the 90's began, with one after another churning out mediocre records and losing popularity. Well, somehow Metallica only became more popular, at least amongst the more mainstream crowd, and most of that is thanks to their self titled fifth studio album (or as it is more commonly called, "The Black Album"). It saw a complete shift in the band's sound, from the progressive thrash that they have refined over the last three records, to a more direct, catchier, and slower heavy metal sound, a change that made this cheap rip off of Spinal Tap's "Smell The Glove" one of the most successful metal records of all time.

One reason to why "The Black Album" became so successful was that it had no less than five major hits in "Enter Sandman", "The Unforgiven", "Nothing Else Matters", "Wherever I May Roam", and "Sad But True", all of them becoming some of the band's most famous songs. Talking about them in an extensive way is pretty useless, so let me just put out my quick thoughts about them. "Wherever I May Roam" is hands down my favourite track of the entire record, with "Enter Sandman" right behind it. I can deal with the dark nature of "The Unforgiven", but for a band that has not written any ballads before, adding two is at least one too many. Also, "Sad But True", a sluggish boredom of a song, is one of the most overrated songs by Metallica ever.

Once you look past those spotlight stealers, you will realize that "The Black Album" does have some meat on its bones. Sure, it is not something you would want to brag to your thrash buddies, but there is certainly some serviceable metal in there. The heaviest of the bunch is "Holier Than Thou", one of few opportunities Hetfield and Hammett can go wild with their riffing, and also spark a fire under Lars' drums. A fun song that gets the blood pumping, for sure. I also like "Of Wolf And Man", it showed just how good this newer side of Metallica could be with a catchy beat, bone hard riffs, and a nice attitude. I do love the build up in the chorus as well, and I often replace the "shape shift" with "oh shit", it just sounds so much better.

The rest of the "forgotten" group are a mixed bag of sweet and sour. "Through The Never" is a fun little quick tune, and "My Friend of Misery" has some good moments too, but then we have "Don't Tread On Me", "The God That Failed", and "The Struggle Within", none of which really connected with me, being pretty forgettable. It is a trio of songs that I could live without, giving this album some mediocre moments that it does not need at all with its run time of just over an hour.

And that is probably my main problem with this record, there are simply too many songs in here. Metallica should have definitely dropped some songs to make "The Black Album" tighter, killing off the dead weight. So instead of going with several long songs that together made the run time too long, they went with a bigger quantity that also padded the run time a little too much. So in a strange way, that problem from "...And Justice For All" stuck around for "The Black Album", just in a different shape.

Now, it is easy to see why this album is so successful. The surprising amount of hits did give it a ton of buzz for a long time, and there are a bunch of nice songs to discover beyond them. Still, I feel like there is a little too much useless padding in this record, dragging it out a little more than it should.  Do I consider this as an all time classic? Absolutely not, but it is still an enjoyable record with some fantastic highs, but also some annoying lows. It is a reboot of the band that gave them millions of fans, but did not necessarily make them better, enough to get through the 90's.

Songs worthy of recognition: Wherever I May Roam, Enter Sandman, Holier Than Thou, The Unforgiven, Of Wolf And Man

Rating: 7,5/10 Gods That Failed

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More reviews of Metallica
Kill 'em All
Ride The Lightning
Master of Puppets
...And Justice For All
Hardwired... To Self-Destruct

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