Once, Metallica were innovators — the face of the burgeoning underground thrash metal movement. The songs were raw, bludgeoning, and ambitious. James Hetfield growled like he meant it; Kirk Hammett melted faces (despite living in the shadow of original guitarist Dave Mustaine); Lars Ulrich wreaked havoc on his drums; and Cliff Burton did things bass players weren’t supposed to do (and then came Jason Newsted). They simply drank alcohol and played heavy metal. Simpler times.
Metallica eventually changed as it grew older, cleaning up its image and sound. When interest in metal waned in the early ’90s, the group adapted to achieve commercial appeal. The move proved wise, as they survived when so many of their contemporaries perished into obscurity; however, the first wave of Metallica fans felt betrayed. Their favorite band had become some kind of SoundScan-driven monstrosity, no longer the scrappy L.A. upstarts of old.
That’s why you won’t find anything after 1991 on this countdown. If we’re to examine their 10 best songs, we must revisit the Metallica of old. Back when they still played thrash metal. Before Napster. Before Some Kind of Monster. Before they lost touch.
Senior Staff Writer