Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
A heavy metal band formed in LA '81, soon moving to San Francisco. Drummer Lars Ulrich (b 26 Dec. '55, Denmark, emigrated to USA '80) went to London and got involved in the metal scene, returned to LA and recruited vocalist/guitarist James Hetfield (b 3 Aug. '63, LA). Their first rhythm guitarist Dave Mustaine was fired '82 (he formed Megadeth), replaced by Kirk Hammett; the bassist was Cliff Burton. Their first album was Kill 'Em All '83 on Megaforce (working title said to have been Metal Up Your Ass); they had relocated to Queens NY where the label was, but soon went back to SF: Ride The Lightning reached no. 100 in the Billboard album chart in Sept. '84 and was reissued on Elektra a month later (it eventually went platinum); Master Of Puppets '86 reached the top 30 and the first album was reissued on Elektra that year, but that year also Burton was killed in a bus crash in Sweden (27 Sep. '86, aged 24); he was replaced by Jason Newsted. The $5.98 E.P.: Garage Days Re-Revisited '87 also went top 30; Kill 'Em All was reissued yet again early '88 with two new tracks but still did not reach the top 100 albums. They were clearly in no hurry, concentrating on keeping fans happy as the loudest and fastest stadium act of all in a genre which depends on live shows, their style derived from thrash and punk roots and called 'speed metal' by one source. They accomplished their success without videos and without forgetting to have a good time: Hetfield broke his wrist skateboarding '86 and his arm a year later. Just as everyone thought that HM had settled down as a fringe cult And Justice For All was a top ten album. Their albums were on Vertigo in the UK, who issued The Good, The Band And The Live '89, a compilation of early material.
Then Metallica '91 rewrote the HM rulebook, staying at no. 1 USA for six weeks, selling 15 million copies. Live Shit: Binge And Purge '93 included three CDs, three videos of live shows, a 72-page booklet and other collectables; despite retailing for $90 it went top 30 USA. The shows are good value if you like that sort of thing; Beavis and Butthead like them a lot. Hetfield was badly injured '92 when a prop exploded in Canada, and in their UK tour Oct. '96 the entire stage appeared to explode, as a new album Load was selling six million copies in its first three months, followed by Reload '97. According to Andrew Smith in the London Sunday Times (reviewing Reload) they had always written better songs than most HM acts and continued to defy expectation, which is the last thing most of them do. S&M '99 was a live album followed by St. Anger 2003.