Though seen on t-shirts in most mainstream stores, Metallica aren’t just some popular T-shirt brand — contrary to a few people’s beliefs I am sure. Considered one of the ‘Big Four’ in pioneering fast tempo and aggressive heavy metal (also including Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax), there is often much debate when ranking Metallica albums. Which of the ‘load’ albums is the better load? Master of Puppets or Ride the Lighting? Is St. Anger really that bad? Does anyone remember the Lou Reed collaboration? We are here to give you the answers.
11. St. Anger, 2003
Ten seconds into the album and a drum roll reveals the three stand out features which will define the next hour: poor production, weird snare tone, and a lack of cohesiveness. Did Lars Ulrich (drummer) ask the engineer for a sound that resembles some dude playing a trashcan drum kit on a street corner?
Single: ‘St. Anger’
Underrated Gem: ‘All Within My Hands’
10. Lulu, 2011
This is more of an honourable mention since it is actually a collaboration album between Metallica and Lou Reed. Lulu can be a bit ‘take it or leave it’ for some, especially considering Lou Reed’s distinctive vocals can be considered an acquired taste. Upon release, the album received a negative response from fans. Whatever you may think of Lou’s voice, Metallica are trying new things and it is quite enjoyable musically. As far as a Metallica album goes however, you can definitely find better elsewhere.
Single: ‘The View’
Underrated Gem: ‘Cheat On Me’
9. Garage Inc., 1998
Another honourable mention since this is a cover album. It’s admittedly a great look at what artists influenced Metallica and makes for a killer party album. The whole way through it has a revving ‘rock out’ vibe with an excellent selection of tracks but, at the end of the day, it’s just a cover album.
Single: ‘Die, Die My Darling’
Underrated Gem: ‘Sabbra Cadabra’
8. Reload, 1997
“Give me fuel, give me fire, give me that which I desire”. What I desire is an album with all killer and no filler, and unfortunately this album doesn’t quite deliver. It was originally meant to be a double album with its predecessor, 1996’s Load, and yet despite being split off, it still feels overlong. It’s still a focussed (at least in terms of consistent sound) and ‘in your face’ work, but the long track lengths can make it feel like a tedious listen by the end.
Underrated Gem: ‘Slither’
7. Load, 1996
It bursts out of the gate with a catchy and powerful start, but the album gradually starts lacking the aggression as it goes on. Nonetheless, Load has great vocals and, although it misses the thrash metal sounds the band are renowned for, features a much groovier feel, taking influence from blues and alt rock.
Single: ‘Until It Sleeps’
Underrated Gem: ‘2×4′
6. Death Magnetic, 2008
Metallica returned from the wilderness after five years with an album that revisits their heavy origins. It is considered an unpopular Metallica album by some fans, but most of the arguments against it revolve around the band sounding “old”. Look beyond the inevitable passing of time, and you’ve got a batch of songs that are well written and resemble early Metallica (you know, before St. Anger happened). Like a lot of their work, it is a little too long in length, but as far as modern Metallica goes, it is a solid effort.
Single: ‘Broken, Beat & Scarred’
Underrated Gem: ‘The Judas Kiss’
5. …And Justice For All, 1988
It’s ambitious and aggressive and features the early Metallica vibe that makes you want to throw your fist up in the air and rock out. The songwriting does get a little repetitive as some songs seem to lack refinement, and the biggest let down is the production being severely thin, but this would have to be one of James Hetfield’s (lead singer and rhythm guitarist) stronger vocal performances.
Underrated Gem: ‘The Shortest Straw’
4. Metallica, 1991
Here we enter Metallica’s incredibly consistent works. Every song is perfectly crafted. It’s rare to find a heavy metal album with tracks recognisable to the everyday listener, but this is the album that possesses the infamous ‘Enter Sandman’. It also features phenomenal production across the board, with no layer that could be reworked and improved, unlike the paint-can drums that are heard on later albums. It’s a classic album where the only real suffer is being overplayed; a financial blessing but an artistic curse. It’s probably worth mentioning for the uninitiated that this is the album commonly referred to as the “Black Album” due to its simple artwork.
Single: ‘Enter Sandman’
Underrated Gem: ‘The Struggle Within’
3. Ride The Lightning, 1984
Metallica evolved sonically from their first album, which was released only a year earlier, and built the ideal bridge between what made them popular in the metal underground and what would make them popular in the wider metal community. All aspects of this album, from instrumentation to song structure, complement each other. Ride The Lighting delivers the whole way through, and even the inclusion of power ballad ‘Fade To Black’ really enhances the album even further.
Single: ‘Creeping Death’
Underrated Gem: ‘The Call of Ktulu’
2. Kill ‘Em All, 1983
The debut studio album that brought them to the top of the underground instantly, and with good reason. It’s powerful and raw, and both those qualities can be heard in the production and music. It’ s a showcase of not only the Hetfield and Ulrich writing partnership, but also that of lead guitarist Dave Mustaine (despite being kicked out of the band before recording actually started). The album still sounds undeniably fresh and exciting today. Special mention goes out to the guitar chugs, Kirk Hammett’s lead guitar work (which began as an emulation of Mustaine’s style but quickly evolved into its own unique thing), and Cliff Burton’s bass playing.
Underrated Gem: ‘Phantom Lord’
1. Master of Puppets, 1986
Perfection. If someone in the room says Metallica, you can sure as hell bet everyone else who knows even a little about metal will start chanting “…master, master! Master of puppets pulling your strings…”. Every song is an expertly and intricately crafted metal classic. Great production, even greater musically. This album IS Metallica.
Single: ‘Master of Puppets’
Underrated Gem: ‘Disposable Heroes’
I am a bass-thundering and word-writing lover of music; especially of tunes with an old school rock and metal feel (I'll even throw in a bit of 70's disco while we are at it, can't forget about a good groove!). I spend most of my time either playing music, or writing about music. Find me on Instagram @jacintajacintajacintaView all posts by Jacinta Jaye