One of the biggest albums in music history turns 26 today. This polarizing album needs little introduction–with it, Metallica crossed over to the mainstream, alienating elitists while making millions of new fans in the process. However, the album undeniably features a ton of great songs. Let’s break it down.
Sandman is arguably the most famous metal song of all time. Honestly, is there anyone who hasn’t heard it before? It can be heard at sporting events (Yankee legend Mariano Rivera used it as walk up music for years), on the radio, the Internet, your dad’s car, your mom’s old record collection. It truly is everywhere!
Sad But True
The first Metallica song written in D-standard tuning, this is a crushingly heavy track. The riff is brutal, the lyrics are sharp, and the solo is fantastic. A case can be made for this as the best song on the iconic album!
Holier Than Thou
James Hetfield got a lot of crap for saying “crap” in this song because that’s not metal! Where’s the real cussing? Indeed, this was a sign of the commercial decisions to follow, however, it can’t ruin a fast, fun song.
A fan-favourite track, Metallica took some risks here that paid off in a big way. Instead of a soft verse and loud chorus, they flipped the script. Here, the verses are loud and heavy, while the choruses are soft. It’s some nice variety and a change in the tried-and-true formula we’ve seen on other Metallica ballads.
Wherever I May Roam
The last of the five singles starts with a sitar. Yep, a sitar. However, the track quickly turns into what we expect: heavy, booming, low-string chugging. One great part of ‘Roam’ is the solo, which sees Kirk Hammett diving into some very exotic scales. Overall, his guitar work on the album is better than ever.
Don’t Tread On Me
The ‘Black’ album is packed with sing (or shout) along choruses, and ‘Don’t Tread On Me’ is no exception. Personally, I really like this track and feel like it gets lost among the more well-known cuts on the album. The main riff is great, as are the lyrics.
Through The Never
This song spawned a movie, so there’s that! And is it just me, or does the main riff sound like half of the spider riff in ‘Master Of Puppets’?
Nothing Else Matters
Ah yes, the song that really pissed people off. See, unlike ‘The Unforgiven’ which still featured plenty of heavy, ‘Nothing Else Matters’ is all acoustic until the very end where James Hetfield (?!) plays a simple, but satisfying solo. Songs like this helped Metallica reach a new audience.
Of Wolf And Man
This song is about being a werewolf. Solid.
The God That Failed
This track is one I really like. The message is sent is deep, and relates back to James Hetfield’s childhood where he subjected to different treatment because of the religion his parents practiced. He struggled with the separation, and here he pens a letter to the God that essentially failed him. Deep stuff.
My Friend Of Misery
Is that… bass? ‘My Friend’ starts with a great bass line that plays well into the moody, somber feel of the song. Again, here we get some more dep lyrics from Metallica centered around cyniscm, and the way it weighs on people and also those around them. There are some truly great songs on the ‘Black’ album lost among the controversey.
The Struggle Within
Unforetunately, things end on a low note. ‘Struggle’ feels like a song cut from one of their earlier albums and doesn’t fit in. It doesn’t help that it’s not a great one either. Personally, I would have ended the album with ‘Misery’!