BackHistory: Part Two
On September 27th, 1986, that dream was given the most shattering of blows. Somewhere in Sweden on an overnight drive, the bands' tour bus skidded out of control and flipped, killing Cliff Burton. His influence on the musical growth of the band was enormous. Burton combined the DIY philosophies of jamming and experimenting with an acute knowledge of musical theory, and Hetfield in particular found a lot in his playing and personality. It was impossible to imagine Metallica without him. Yet Cliff would equally not have cared for people throwing in the towel because he wasn't around. And so it was that after a brief yet intense mourning period, Lars, James and Kirk decided to fight on. Jason Newsted was chosen from over 40 auditions to be the new bassist, the Michigan-born four-stringer leaving Arizona based Flotsam & Jetsam to take on the chance of a lifetime. The quartet immediately jumped into a tour, and then quickly recorded an EP of cover tunes titled Garage Days Re-Revisited (the band literally did the dirty work in Lars' garage, which they helped refit into a small studio space by hand themselves!).
With Jason fully established, the band went back to record their fourth full-length album, ...And Justice For All, released in August 1988. The explosion that had been threatening for some time finally happened. The album reached #6 on the US charts and received a Grammy nomination for Best Metal/Hard Rock album while the band was busy blowing headliners Van Halen off the stage during the Monsters Of Rock tour and subsequently embarking upon an enormous worldwide tour of their own.
...And Justice For All produced three singles ("Harvester of Sorrow", "Eye Of The Beholder" and "One", bringing the band unknown levels of success. They also chose this time to delve into new territory with their very first music video for "One" which was hardly the typical music video of the time. A dark, monochromatic, violent, and emotional piece, which pulled no punches, Metallica's continued to prove that they were anything but typical.
In 1991, Metallica released their self-titled album – better known by fans as The Black Album - and saw their popularity soar to stratospheric heights. With new producer Bob Rock, this album was a subtle departure from the previous album with shorter songs, a fuller sound and simpler arrangements. It went straight to number one all over the world, stayed there for several weeks, sold in excess of 15 million copies worldwide, spawned several legitimate singles, and earned various awards, including a Grammy, MTV, and American Music Awards. One of those aforementioned singles, "Enter Sandman", was to become Metallica's "Paranoid" or "Ace Of Spades" with regards to its enduring, talismanic popularity, and it remains to this day one of the most universal crowd favorites the band perform. The band also broke new ground by establishing a traditional 'ballad-style' song within their lexicon, "Nothing Else Matters" proving to be an enduring tug at heartstrings of millions.
The band toured for close to three years, playing solo during the arena tour in 'An Evening With Metallica', playing alongside Guns N' Roses on the duo's joint-headline stadium tour, and as headliner at many festivals. It meant that by the time the fall of 1993 rolled around, the four members were shattered both physically and mentally (fragments of the tour were famously shown in the "Wherever I May Roam" video). The band also released a landmark video (now DVD) A Year And A Half In The Life of Metallica, which documented the making of The Black Album and also captured some of the subsequent tour. They would also, in 1993, release Live Shit: Binge & Purge, a box-set shaped like a road-case containing live recordings from Mexico City & San Diego during The Black Album tour and Seattle from the 'Damaged Justice' tour. Aside from being the band's first official live album, it contained one of the great booklets of our times, a collection of tour faxes, riders and assorted documentation which made for both informative, and sometimes hilarious, reading.
Save for some summer shed action in 1994, there was little major activity as the band decided to try and allow their real lives to catch up with their rock lives. It was certainly a time when the band members needed to re-discover access to normal life after the insanity of such a long tour, and forage the next direction they wished to go artistically. Subsequently, it wasn't until 1996 that the next Metallica album, Load, surfaced. Recorded at The Plant in Sausalito California, it was the longest Metallica album to date with 14 songs, and signaled some significant changes for the band. Produced by Bob Rock, the material was loose, powerful and eclectic, the sound thick and punchy and the image one which screamed out change and freedom from enslavement to The Black Album era. So many songs came from the sessions that a second album titled Re-Load followed in 1997. The Load tour was spectacular, encompassing cutting-edge technology, stuntmen, two-stages and an epic two-plus hours of performance that was documented on the DVD Cunning Stunts. Whatever doubts people might have had were swiftly blown away, and whilst Load could never match the heights of The Black Album sales wise, it became a phenomenally successful album in its own right.
In 1998, they collected all the old B-sides, covers and the two previous Garage Days sessions and ran into The Plant to slam down 11 brand new covers. Electric, exciting and raw, they released the package of the old and new recordings as the double-disc Garage, Inc. It was great reminder that for all the success, Metallica's heart still lay not only in their music, but in the music of their roots. Metallica continued to stretch their boundaries in 1999, when with conductor/composer Michael Kamen, Metallica embarked upon collaboration with the San Francisco Symphony to bring new dimension to classic material. Any potential skepticism of the project was blown away by two nights in April at the Berkeley Community Theater which proved to be epic milestones in the group's history. Far from their material being compromised, the arrangements of songs such as "Master Of Puppets" gave symphonic instruments the chance to explode into the spaces and fill them with greater, heavier power than ever before. Having recorded and filmed the shows on the off-chance it might turn out alright those nights, Metallica released the S&M double-disc album and DVD in late '99, marking yet another significant chapter in a Hall Of Fame history.