Monday, July 29, 2013

Explore Albums: Metallica's Black Album Walkthrough

I recently wrote an article about the foundation of Metallica's 5th studio album, Metallica aka The Black Album, released in 1991. I discussed Lars Ulrich's and James Hetfield's desire to write songs 'different' from the ones on the previous two albums, and also how the producer Bob Rock put to the final touches on the tracks.

Explore Album: Metallica's Black Album Walkthrough

In this article, I'll walk you though the songs. I believe it's fitting just to do a separate article for this instead of cramming all in one. One to thing note is that Wikipedia also has a great article on Metallica's Black Album. I'm not even going to look at that; I want to write this from my perspective, so as to how a rock n' roll fan feel about this. Hopefully you'll find few interesting things here.

I'm going to be breaking the album down and discuss a summary of each song, while mentioning how each relates to the overall musical aspects of the entire album, and compare and contrast it to Metallica's previous material. In other words, if you are confused as to what I'm trying to say here, to simply put, I'm going to be compare each song on the album against each other, and also against Metallica's other songs released prior to the production of the Black Album. :-)

Enter Sandman

This is the debut single of the album, and it talks about kids' nightmares. Unlike the debut single of band's previous albums, "Blackened" and "Master of Puppets," this song is much shorter and has less distorted guitar riff that, in fact, starts lightly and progressively gets heavier. In fact, the riff is an extension of what's known as blues' scale, although this doesn't sound bluesy whatsoever, but it's still a quite contrast to the riffs of "Blackened" and "Master of Puppets." Why does Black Album's debut single has a riff that dramatically departs from the band's previous material, you might ask. Well, that the influence of Bob Rock, the producer of Metallica fifth studio album. He decided to "unleashed" the musical talent of Metallica, meaning putting their songs on rock, classic rock radio, and also on MTV. To fulfill this, the band has to step out of their thrash metal roots and adopt a much more radio-friendly, radio-oriented song structures. In fact, Bob Rock exactly knew how accomplish this, and he was successful.

"Enter Sandman" also refrain from talking typical heavy metal subject like death, angles, alcohols and demons. 

Nothing Else Matters

It's arguable that this is Metallica's only love song, as James Hetifield wrote the lyrics while he was on the phone with his girlfriend at the time. Releasing a pure love song by Metallica would have exploded the head's thrash metal fans, so there's no mention of romantic love in the lyrics. This song, too, was put on the album on the insistence of Bob Rock, when Hetfield was quite opposed to it. Metallica had never released such a lighthearted song in their four previous studio albums. As a matter of fact, even the slow moving temp songs like "Fade to Black"(1984) and "One"(1989) deal with lyrical themes related to death.

Producer Bob Rock definitely felt the song's potential to crossover to popular music charts. He was right on that, as the song was well received on both pop and rock radios alike.

The Unforgiven

Many interpret this song to be a personal reflection James Hetfield's childhood, which was indoctrinated by his highly christian parents. Though "The Unforgiven" is much more distorted than, say, "Nothing Else Matters, its melodic structure of the chorus is similar to thereof. As for the lyrical themes, I quite don't know what it's exactly about, but it explicitly doesn't talk about the mature subject like death or alcohols.

Wherever I May Roam

This is a tribute to Metallica's endless touring on the road. Similar to other songs off of the Black Album, this too has a much slower tempo and speed. The riff is very similar to that of "Enter Sandman,"  starting quietly and slowly with small sub-riffs, and gradually building up to the main riff.

Sad But True

"Sad But True" is somewhat of a fixture on Metallica's liveset list. Prior to the start of the song, frontman James Hetfield asks to the audience, "Do you want heavy?," referring to the fact that this song is as close as it gets to Metallica's traditional thrash metal roots. Chord progression of "Sad But True" is loosely similar to that of "Kill 'Em All." Once again, as it's the case with other songs on this album, the song doesn't explicitly discuss death, demons or other gloomy themes.

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