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From the moment they formed in 1981, Metallica have embodied all things metal ...

The Early Days

The band remembers its beginnings, when the object of the game was to seek and destroy ...

The Bassists

After Cliff Burton's death, Jason Newsted joins, only to be tortured for years and years before finally giving up ...


The group speaks candidly about James Hetfield's life-changing stint in rehab ...

The Music

Metallica talk about the songwriting process, and share memories of recording Master of Puppets, the Black Album, St. Anger and more ...

Photo Galleries

Metallica: 20 Years Of Photos, Tickets, Posters

Avril, Snoop, Sum 41, More On "mtvICON: Metallica" Black Carpet

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-- Introduction by Jon Wiederhorn, interviews by Erica Forstadt

They couldn't have chosen a better name. From the moment they formed in 1981, Metallica have embodied all things metal. Not the glossy, teased-hair metal of Mötley Crüe or the leather-and-studs biker rock of Judas Priest, but the primal, rage-driven noise of four misanthropes living in a society with which they can't remotely relate. And while Metallica have been rewarded with great fame and fortune, they've endured obstacles and change along the way.

The core of frontman James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich has remained constant over two decades as the rest of the lineup has shifted around. The first change took place when original guitarist Dave Mustaine was booted in 1982 for being too drunk and belligerent (he later formed the platinum act Megadeth). The last band modification happened in January 2001, when Jason Newsted quit, throwing the band into limbo and forcing their producer, Bob Rock, to handle basslines on their new album, St. Anger. Metallica found their footing in February when they hired former Ozzy bassist Robert Trujillo, who'll join them on the upcoming Summer Sanitarium Tour.

But the most damaging and heart-wrenching experience came in September 1986, when bassist Cliff Burton died while Metallica were on tour in Sweden. The group's tour bus was driving between Stockholm and Copenhagen, Denmark, when the vehicle hit a patch of black ice and flipped over into a ditch. Burton was crushed under the bus.

Metallica dealt with their grief by returning to work without missing a beat. They hired Newsted, who proved more than capable, and the bandmembers soldiered on, but their inability to properly mourn haunted them in later years and was a key factor in the rift between Hetfield and Newsted.

The band has made it through a pyrotechnics accident that badly burned Hetfield's arm, the singer's ongoing battles with alcohol and other substances, and a highly publicized lawsuit with Napster that caused some fans to question Metallica's motivations.

 "Enter Sandman" (live)
There also have been musical credibility issues. Old-school headbangers bristled when Metallica abandoned thrash tempos and complex rhythmic structures in favor of the commercial metal stomp of 1991's Metallica (the "Black Album" to fans), which turned out to be the band's most successful disc, selling a mammoth 12 million copies. Then, when the alternative revolution hit, Metallica cut their hair and flirted with boogie-rock grooves, Southern rock textures and experimental flourishes on 1996's Load and 1997's Reload, albums that gained some new fans but further alienated others.

As disappointed as many were, the discs were thoroughly representative of Metallica's irreverent we-don't-give-a-damn-what-you-think approach. The band has never bowed to pressure or succumbed to trend. When Bon Jovi were huge, Metallica played thrash metal. After they set the standard for speed and intensity and other metal groups were riding the velocity train, Metallica got melodic and commercial. And after they were crowned the biggest band in rock, they got a little obscure.

Then they stopped releasing new material, instead issuing a B-sides double album and a live double disc with a symphony orchestra backing them. Even devoted fans thought the group's creativity might have dried up. Then right when they were expected to fold, they laid down a royal flush.

Metallica have bounced back and delivered the record no one expected. St. Anger is packed with the fastest, most furious and complex songs the band has played since 1986's Master of Puppets, and though it's insanely noisy and aggressive, the disc contains not one guitar lead, a major surprise for the band that formerly reveled in solos.

Of course, if you look at Metallica's track record of doing exactly what they want, when they want and with whom they want with little concern for the consequences, St. Anger is just another defiant step from a 20-plus-year-old band that may never die.

The guys spent hours giving us their blisteringly honest take on what it's been like to be in Metallica for the "mtvICON" special. We've compiled some of the best moments here. In "The Early Days," the bandmembers remember the beginnings of Metallica, from the moment Ulrich and Hetfield first met through their first gig (which was canceled when their crew stole a keg) to the recording of their debut. In "The Bassists," the group talks about the fallout after the death of Burton, the never-ending torture of Newsted, and how new bassist Trujillo has shaken things up for the band. "Alcoholica" delves deeply into Metallica's problems with alcohol and Hetfield's stint in rehab. And in "The Music," the band talks about the songwriting process and shares memories of recording Master of Puppets, the Black Album, St. Anger and more.

NEXT: Stealing kegs, sharing a bed, rooting out the poseurs and saying f--- you to Loverboy and Mötley Crüe ...
Photo: Elektra

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