Rolling Stone

Going Deeper




After grunge transforme­d hard rock, Metallica trimmed their manes, painted their fingernail­s, and even kissed one another in photos. But their confusion mostly came through in the music. Thrash was out. In its place, Metallica attempted brooding alt-rock (“Until It Sleeps”), uplifting pop rock (“Hero of the Day”), and slowchurni­ng doom (“The Outlaw Torn”) — all fine, but a pale reflection of past glory.

S&M and S&M2

1999, 2020

At the suggestion of composer Michael Kamen, who had orchestrat­ed “Nothing Else Matters,” the band teamed with the San Francisco Symphony to add cinematic strings and elephantin­e horns to some of their more orchestral­ly inclined tracks. The best of these is “No Leaf Clover” with its eerie “freight train coming your way” refrain, specifical­ly written for S&M.

St. Anger


An attempt at minimalism with maximum force, St. Anger is Metallica’s rawest record — pure Hetfieldia­n ire, a total dearth of guitar solos, and Lars Ulrich cudgeling a hubcap like it owed him money. And while that cocktail could have made for Metallica’s metal redemption after the Load

LPs, the fact that the band was disintegra­ting behind the scenes sent them into disarray. The result is a lot of therapy-speak (“My lifestyle determines my deathstyle”) and even more noisy confusion.

Death Magnetic


Spurred on by the “go back to your roots” mantra of producer Rick Rubin, the band unloaded the pretenses and sounded like Metallica again on Death Magnetic. They brought back the stacked riffs of Justice on “Broken, Beat & Scarred” and “My Apocalypse,” and the swagger of the Black Album on “All Nightmare Long” and “The Judas Kiss.” Even “The Unforgiven III” felt like a worthy sequel. Plus, Hammett was playing solos again.



Metallica’s contributi­ons to this collaborat­ion with Lou Reed are chaotic, crushing, and at many times, beautiful. It’s arty and experiment­al (and, yes, Reed got Hetfield to growl, “I am the table,” on “The View”). But at its core, it was a Reed solo record and an experience in experiment­alism for Metallica.

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