Metallica is one band everybody loves to hate. Known among the fans for being a sell-out band and being caught up in the perpetual debate of Metallica vs. Megadeth, you either love Metallica or you hate them; there’s no middle ground. Regardless of that fact, Metallica was the band who brought metal music to mainstream media, and is the reason why many people listen to metal. Lars Ulrich may not be a good drummer in the eyes of his fans and his peers, but he’s the reason why Metallica exists, and no one can take that away from him. He may not be a good drummer, but he’s good enough to play for Metallica, and his “good enough” playing is one of the reasons they are the most successful band in the heavy metal history. Going slow in the 21st century, Metallica has only released two album since the past decade, and are making a big comeback this year on their guitarist Kirk Hammett’s birthday – 18th November – with a new album after eight years, ‘Hardwired…To Self-Destruct’. Since the single released has been overall accepted and has got people excited about the album, let’s look back at Metallica’s discography and rank their albums from Best to Worst till date
Note: This list has been curated after considering both public and personal opinion.
- ‘Master of Puppets’
It’s not just me; everyone will agree when I say ‘Master of Puppets’ is the best Metallica album. With masterpieces like “Disposable Heroes”, “Master of Puppets” and “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)”, it’s not only Metallica’s best album, but is also one of the best heavy/thrash metal album of all time – defining thrash metal and taking it to the next step that even Metallica has not been able to emulate in recent times. It was the last Metallica album with Cliff Burton before he passed away. ‘Master of Puppets’ still has its name known since its release in 1986, and is definitely a tough album to beat.
- ‘Ride the Lightning’
‘Master of Puppets’ was preceded by ‘Ride The Lightning’ in 1984. It is Metallica’s second album, and is still revered for its melodies in songs like “Fade To Black”, “Creeping Death” and “The Call Of Ktulu”. The bass intro riff of “For Whom The Bell Tolls” is one of the masterpieces by Cliff Burton, whose magic can only be felt while listening to the album.
- ‘Kill’em All’
The debut album, ‘Kill’em All’, is where it all started; nothing but raw, fast-paced thrash metal. This 1983 classic is known for tracks like “Seek & Destroy”, “The Four Horsemen”, “Motorbreath” and the bass instrumental “Pulling Teeth (Anesthesia)” by Cliff Burton. Many bassists, both amateur and professional, look up to Burton for the skills and art he showed in this latter track, with good reason.
- ‘…And Justice for All’
Next is ‘..And Justice For All’. The album is often criticised because Lars Ulrich made the bass inaudible in the album, but even with the inaudible bass, the album still managed to become one of the best albums in their discography. It is nothing short of a masterpiece; and with tracks like “One”, “Harvester Of Sorrow”, and “The Frayed Ends Of Sanity”, it became an instant favourite. The band’s music saw a change in this album, because of James Hetfield’s screaming voice in the previous three albums changing into a heavier, lower-tone singing voice in ‘..And Justice For All’.
- ‘Metallica’ (The Black Album)
The Black Album was a breakthrough for Metallica. They instantly came to the mainstream music industry with tracks like “Enter Sandman”, “Wherever I May Roam” and “Nothing Else Matters”. “Nothing Else Matters” is loved by both metalheads and non-metalheads because of its simplicity and direct-to-heart message. The album was called The Black Album because the lyrics were darker in comparison to previous albums. Songs like “My Friend Of Misery” talked about self-pity, and “The God That Failed” was written by Hetfield after his mother died of cancer after refusing all medical treatments that conflicted with her religion. The album, overall, provided a cynical view of the world to its audience.
- ‘Death Magnetic’ (and the ‘Beyond Magnetic’ EP)
If there’s any album worth listening to since 1991’s Black Album, it’s ‘Death Magnetic’. It revived Metallica after five years of losing touch with their roots. The first single, “The Day That Never Comes”, revived Metallica’s past with the same song structure as “Fade To Black”, “One” and “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)”. Even though the production of the album wasn’t at par, many fans still accepted it because of the returning 80s style in the music. Although the fans had to endure the sub-par music video of “All Nightmare Long”, by and by, it is a great album if you love the 80s Metallica and aren’t resistant to a little change. ‘Death Magnetic’ was followed by an EP, ‘Beyond Magnetic’, that consisted of four songs recorded during the ‘Death Magnetic’ sessions, but which the album didn’t have enough space for.
- ‘St. Anger’
Time to address the elephant in the room: ‘St. Anger’ is next on my list. This is an album that cut (not divided) the Metallica fanbase in two halves. One half loved the album, while the other half hated it so much that there were reports of fans burning the CDs. The experimentation with steel-sounding snare drums was probably the worst decision Metallica could ever make, and that ruined the album to its very core. But if you put aside the snare drums for a while and focus on the other aspects of the album, it is the darkest ever by Metallica. James Hetfield was having a tough time with his alcohol addiction, Jason Newsted quit the band before the recording sessions, and Metallica was on the verge of breaking up, but the band pulled through. The result of all that turmoil was ‘St. Anger’, which is their emotionally darkest album till date. Songs like “The Unnamed Feeling” talked about social anxiety and suicidal tendencies, “Some Kind Of Monster” talked about the demon inside all of us, and “Frantic” touched on Hetfield’s alcohol addiction. So yes, it isn’t a musically good album, but lyrically, it is one of the strongest.
- ‘Load’ and ‘Reload’
I initially wanted to keep these albums separate, but since they are companion albums to each other, I thought otherwise. ‘Reload’ was released as the follow-up album to ‘Load’ due to Metallica recording more songs than one album could contain, and then following it by recording few more songs and making a new album out of it. Up until 1991, Metallica was known for heavy and thrash metal, but ‘Load’ was a major detour in their music journey as the members cut all their hair, applied eyeliner and swung to the direction of hard rock fused with metal. Some might argue that both ‘Load’ and ‘Reload’ are better than ‘St. Anger’, but neither of them are anything much to go by. Because of the controversy surrounding the major change in the music, many underrated songs went unnoticed, such as “Low Man’s Lyric”, “Where The Wild Things Are”, “The House That Jack Built” and “Thorn Within”. To say ‘Load’ and ‘Reload’ are bad albums or good, for me, can still be argued, but I like both of them equally.