It’s not that much of a secret that whatever Metallica does, it will always be in the shadow of their first five albums. The purists love the first four, and The Black Album is the best selling album of the last 25 years. While all five are perennial sellers, you don’t see anything post-Black Album on the catalog sales chart. That’s not to say that they’re not selling at all, but they take a backseat to their earlier output. St. Anger and Lulu (not technically a Metallica album) have taken a lot of heat, but you can’t totally discount the band’s output from the last 20 years. With that in mind, what’s your favorite post-Black Album Metallica album?
Bram: I’m going to go with Death Magnetic. I think history has shown that the band’s most recent album is trying too hard to recapture the energy of their glory days. After the universal letdown of St. Anger, the band wanted to try to bring fans back, and Rick Rubin suggested they listen to their earlier albums. And while it might have just been the band paying tribute to their past, they did it pretty well. It’s the most thrashy and progressive the band had been since …And Justice, and more importantly, there are some good songs. “Broken, Beat & Scared,” “All Nightmare Long”, “Cyanide” and even first single “The Day That Never Comes” are all catchy songs that will remind old school fans why they even liked the band in the first place.
Chris: While Death Magnetic has the most songs that I like of any post-Black Album Metallica output, I have to go with Load here, simply because it was the first Metallica album that I ever owned and the first one that I listened to in its entirety. A friend gave it to me as a Christmas present in 2003, during a period when Linkin Park and Staind were my go-to choices for music. At that time, when I had such a limited exposure to heavy music in general, Load was a game-changer for me. The groove of “Ain’t My Bitch” grabbed me immediately and sucked me into the album, while “The House Jack Built” gave me a whole new appreciation for music with an ominous, vaguely threatening tone. On the back half of the album, “Wasting My Hate” quickly became one of my favorite songs to listen to while driving, as it was one of the fastest songs I had heard up to that point. “Ronnie” also showed me that it was possible to have a song riddled with angst while also not being incredibly whiny, a lesson that I sorely needed at the time. The most important thing to come out of Load, though, was my decision about the next album that I would purchase: Master of Puppets. For all these reasons and more, Load is at least partially responsible for making me the crazed metalhead that I am today, and even though more than a few tracks on the album don’t hold up now, there are still things on there that can be appreciated by most metal fans.
Dan: Load, and here’s why. Load was not trying to be the Black Album and I appreciate it for that. Metallica could have come back with a complete reiteration of their best selling album but they didn’t, they actually pulled the energy down a bit… to the point where this could be a “hard rock” album and not a metal album. It’s bluesy and riffy, just about the opposite of anything they had ever done before. There is nothing worse than an aging metal band just rewriting their hit and, with Load, Metallica is saying, “We aren’t done experimenting.” Even the Nirvana sounding songs like “Until It Sleeps” are still distinctly Metallica. This is a slower, more philosophical, thoughtful album from a band that is maturing, the exorcising of a necessary daemon so that they can move forward.
Matt: I’m with Bram on this. It seems like Death Magnetic has been glossed over when looking at Metallica’s post-Black Album discography. I remembered loving it when it first came out, praising it as a return to form. When Hardwired…To Self-Destruct was announced, I went back to give Death Magnetic a listen to see how we’ll it’d aged in eight years. The consensus? I think it’s still miles ahead of it’s predecessors. Sure, maybe they tried a little too hard to emulate their thrashy80’s sound and some songs were a bit unnecessary (did we need “The Unforgiven III”?), but I don’t think any of that makes it bad. “All Nightmare Long” is one of my favorite songs from the band, and I can still remember the first time I heard “Cyanide” and thinking “Holy shit, it’s good.” I do also enjoy a few songs from Load and Reload on their own like “Hero of the Day” and “The Memory Remains”. I especially like their renditions on the S&M live album. But neither album is particularly strong as a whole, whereas Death Magnetic gave fans a reason not to give up on the band just yet.
Zach: At first I was going to talk about Death Magnetic, which as Bram points out has some really good songs and is by far their thrashiest album since …And Justice For All. Then I thought about defending St. Anger as an album with some really solid ideas but poor production (and as the documentary Some Kind Of Monster showed, it was the album they needed to make at the time). And then I was even considering making the argument that if you took out the lackluster moments from Load and Reload and combined the standout songs onto one disc, you’d have a pretty awesome hard rock album…
But then I remembered 1998’s Garage Inc. Yes, I realize that this isn’t an “actual” album, but merely a compilation of covers either newly recorded or previously released as b-sides. However, one could argue it was the heaviest Metallica sounded in years, and they did record some damn awesome covers. I’ll also admit (at the expense of showing how young I am, or at least how naïve I was as a youngster) that Garage Inc. was my first proper introduction to bands like Discharge and Diamond Head. It also exposed me to some deeper cuts from like Black Sabbath and Blue Oyster Cult. So the fact that Metallica exposed a few of their biggest influences to a much wider audience makes Garage Inc. arguably their coolest release post Black Album. The fact that it also sounds awesome is an added bonus. If you don’t agree with that last point, then you need to re-listen to their Mercyful Fate medley ASAP.
Brett: I’m going to go with Garage, Inc.; with a few glaring exceptions (“Whiskey in the Jar”, or more accurately, “Whiskey in the Jar-OH!”) I think it’s a fun collection of covers that made good use of the group’s evolution into hard rock. When done right, a covers album gives listeners an intimate look into the inspirations and foundations of a band, and the eclectic collection of choices on the album did just that; just listen to their version of Diamond Head’s “Am I Evil” and try not to notice what made them ‘tallica in the first place. The album was a bit bloated, overlong, and at times downright cheesy but I’ll always have a soft spot for those Misfits and Bob Seger renditions.
Nick: Does S&M count? If so, then definitely S&M.
Zenae: Hands down I have to go with Death Magnetic. There is no question in my mind, yet Hardwired….To Self-Destruct could be another possibility. It was the album that brought back the Thrash sound and resurrected the guitar solos that was completely killed off in 2003’s St. Anger. I remember hearing that album 500 too many times, as I questioned if Metallica still had it or not. I always categorized them as my favorite band which would have never changed but, at one point I wanted them to stop recording and calling it quits while maintaining a phenomenal legacy. However, Death Magnetic happened and for months straight I believe that was the only album I would listen to. There was “All Nightmare Long” that sucked me in with the mix of creepy delight to endless aggression, the single “The Day That Never Comes,” well, that first introduction blew me away along with “That Was Just Your Life.” For me, I might be the only one who thinks this but it was also the continuation to their instrumentals with “Suicide Redemption.” It set off a new beginning for them as their initial sound mixed with a changed, older and new Metallica where they weren’t trying too hard to sound like everyone else.