Paper Example on Some Kind of Monster: Metallica's Evolution in the 90s

Paper Type:  Research paper
Pages:  6
Wordcount:  1416 Words
Date:  2022-09-28


Metallica is one of the rare world-famous bands that have played together staying on the charts for more than 35 years. Their secret lies within their integrity, consistency, and refusal to go after the fame at the cost of quality and style, but also their daring to experiment. And though, like with any band, conflicts inside their team emerge and are eventually resolved, the band members stand true to themselves. When looked at from a distance, Metallica's musical career is a clear and logical path which shows how its music developed and conquered the world. Three distinct periods stand out: the formative 80s, the classic 90s, and the experimental early 2000s. The 90s can be seen as a golden, mature period in Metallica's style when the band managed to strike a balance between their classic sound and bold experimenting, which brought this metal giant world-wide popularity.

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The 90s became a period of big changes for Metallica. In 1991, with new producer Bob Rock, Metallica simplified and rationalized its music for a more commercial approach to appeal to a wider audience. Robert Palmer of Rolling Stone wrote that the band abandoned its aggressive, fast tempo to expand its music and express its tessitura. Comparing The Black Album to what the band did previously, Palmer writes, ". . . And Justice for All seemed a model of hard-rock clarity and punch when it was released in 1988. Played back-to-back with Metallica, Justice sounds almost thin; the new record's sonic textures and audio depth of field are a revelation". One of the key differences noticed by Palmer is that Metallica's music became less homogeneous. "In stylistic terms", the reviewer says, "Metallica is about diversity" (Palmer). In addition, Hetfield's lyrics became more introspective, and emotional. The lyrics of the famous ballad "Nothing Else Matters" could not have been fitted into any earlier album. The change in direction turned out to be commercially successful, as Metallica was the band's first album to reach its first position on the Billboard 200 Chart.

Partially Metallica's success in the 90s was due to their musical receptivity and readiness to incorporate important influences into their style. Metallica noticed changes in the rock scene created by the grunge movement of the early 1990s. From 1989 to 1995 Seattle went "from a small but vibrant music scene to a rock mecca," writes Michael Azzerad from the Rolling Stone, "Seattle became Grunge City". Azzerad quotes notable Seattle figures describing what grunge music was in its very essence: "Endino calls grunge 'Seventies-influenced, slowed-down punk music,'while Kim Thayil says it's 'sloppy, smeary, staggering, drunken music.' Poneman calls it 'a backwoods yeti stomp'". Metallica took in the anger, intensity and the ragged sound of the Seattle grunge, and creatively 'digested' them. So, in Load (1996), the group focused on non-metal influences. Lorraine Ali describes Load as "a record that purportedly drove an alternarock stake through the heart of the band's metal career". Analyzing Load's musical innovation and experimental nature, Rolling Stone journalist David Fricke calls the album "Metallica's very long ... goodbye to the moldy stricture and dead-end Puritanism of no-frills thrash" and "a seething beast of meaty, focused guitar dynamics, taut art-pop drama, unexpected vocal-harmony kicks and intensely personal lyric aggression". Moving away from lyric themes dealing with drugs and monsters, Metallica's new lyrical approach focused on anger, loss and retribution. ReLoad (1997) is the second part of Load. All songs for both albums (with the exception of the song "The Unforgiven II") were written the end of 1994 until the first half of 1995. However, despite this, ReLoad turned out to be more experimental and diverse. Lorraine Ali points out two key deviations from the Metallica signature style. First, "the biggest change is an increased emphasis on rhythm," Ali writes, adding that some of the album's tracks "possess the dance-floor lure". The second-biggest deviation from the Metallica formula named by Ali is "the band's continued exploration of country & western," especially on tracks like "The Unforgiven II" and "Low Man's Lyric". Both albums have gone a long way from the Master of Puppets, which can be seen as an effective means to keep Metallica's music alive, and intriguing.

It is easy to see that with time, Metallica's music is getting more and more experimental. One of the reasons for the band's embarking on their search for the new sound were the changes within the band. On January 17, 2001, Newsted left the band due to, as he said, his poor health. However, later it became known that Newsted's desire to release a record of his Echobrain project and go on tour with it, and the stubborn resistance of Hetfield were the main reasons for the bassist to leave the band. Metallica acknowledged that they treated Newsted unfairly seeing him as a replacement for Cliff Burton, a newcomer, rather than an equal songwriting partner. Yet, Newsted stayed very positive in his interviews about his days with the band, saying "I'll always fly the flag of Metallica". Another change in the pace of Metallica's musical development was caused by Hatfield's having to undergo a rehabilitation course due to alcoholism and other bad habits in July 2001. As Metallica's official website says, "Hetfield arrived at a crossroads in his life, which meant he needed to step away and rehabilitate on several levels." When Hetfield returned, Metallica started composing and recording material for its new album. Bob Rock played the bass parts until Metallica chose Robert Trujillo as the constant replacement of Newsted in early 2003. All these changes and tensions could not but influence Metallica's music and were reflected in their album, St. Anger.

In June 2003, St. Anger, the eighth studio album of Metallica, was released, which ranked first in the charts. The recording of the album was a long and unusual process. In their book Metallica: This Monster Lives: The Inside Story of Some Kind of Monster Joe Berlinger and Greg Milner tell the story behind the album, saying that it carried the burden of a lot of firsts: "It was the first time Metallica was trying to make an album as an equal collective after twenty years of singer-guitarist James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich bringing nearly finished songs to the studio and telling the others what to play. It was the first time that anyone but James was allowed to contribute lyrics.... It was, in fact, the first time Metallica showed up at the studio with nothing - no lyrics, titles, or riffs, only the ideas each one had in his head". No wonder, St. Anger was marked by big changes in the sound of the band. Guitar solos were excluded from the album, leaving a raw and unprocessed sound. The lyrics of the album relate to Hetfield's rehabilitation, including references to the devil, anti-drug topics, claustrophobia, doom, and religious hypocrisy. Being intentionally "raw" and unpolished, St. Anger was severely criticized by the fans. Despite all this, the song "St. Anger" won the 2004 Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance.


Metallica's musical evolution is a long and winding road. Their way from Kill 'em All (1983) to St. Anger (2003) shows Metallica to be real professionals open to experiment, daring and improvisation, a living and vibrant band that defies the boredom and stability of being a music icon. Though their album Metallica (The Black Album) (1991) can be considered an ultimate golden mead equally enjoyed by the critics and the public, "mature but still kickass rock & roll", Metallica never stopped in their creative development to rest on the laurels and get covered with dust. Probably, this is the band's major key to success.


Ali, Lorraine. "ReLoad." Rolling Stone. November 20, 1997. Accessed November 16, 2018.

Azzerad, Michael. "Grunge City: The Seattle Scene." Rolling Stone. April 16, 1992. Accessed November 16, 2018.

Berlinger, Joe, and Greg Milner. Metallica: This Monster Lives: The inside Story of Some Kind of Monster. Robson Books, 2005. Accessed November 16, 2018.

Fricke, David. "Load." Rolling Stone. December 4, 1996. Accessed November 16, 2018.

Masciotra, David. Metallica's Metallica. Bloomsbury Publishing USA, 2015. Accessed November 16, 2018.

"Metallica. History." Accessed November 16, 2018.

Palmer, Robert. "Metallica." Rolling Stone. January 21, 1997. Accessed November 16, 2018.

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