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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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James Hetfield: : From the beginning I think people identified with us. Especially angry young men. Learning to embrace that was a big deal, and I've been kind of running away from my life's mission — identifying with people's brokenness and singing about it and bringing it into a stadium and on record — and not knowing it. And I've really tried to put on this shroud of this tough guy who can take it all. And at the end of the day I'm broken inside.

I would be writing about addiction, almost in a judgmental way. But whatever you're judging, that's what you see in yourself. And what you don't want to see in yourself, actually. There's no way I felt I had an addictive personality. I was pinning that tag on everyone else around me to avoid what I was going through. And it's pretty interesting, because I'd be writing about stuff I'd never tried — heroin or cocaine or any of that stuff, I never tried that. But the stuff I was dealing with I wasn't writing about.

For me the lyric process was, give me the music, I'll go in my cave, I'll shut the door and then just wallow in sh--. Or wallow in hell for a while. And see what it brings up. Then I'd emerge from the cave. Ta-da! Like I've got the tablets or something. And if someone would say, "Eh, that's OK," it would send me into this rage and I couldn't believe that my best was not good enough.

Lars Ulrich: The fight for control of the band made the day-to-day in the band pure hell a lot of times. The first thing you would do in the morning was put the battle armor on and prepare yourself for another 16 hours of just duking it out. We were never able to consider another guy's point of view. So everything was a fight. And we never learned that there are times when you take the front seat and there are times when you take the back seat, which is the case in most great creative partnerships. And there are times when you gotta let the other guy roll with it because of his intuition or his passion.

I think that whenever me and James were alone in a one-on-one situation, there were rarely any issues. But whenever there were other people around, whenever there was an audience, we had to fight for what I call "pole position." We had to show the other people around us that we were one up on the other guy. You know, we were trying to be the loudest one in the room. The coolest one. The most powerful one. Trying to get the most attention. Get all the girls. I mean literally kindergarten sh--. There was nobody that could push James Hetfield like me. I can piss him off in five seconds flat because I know what to tell him.

Hetfield: I remember going to my girlfriend's house [when Ride the Lightning was out] and walking in and her sister, who was the only one in the house, was blasting "Fade to Black." Over and over and over. She never knew I was in the house. It was like, wow, that means something to somebody. I certainly hear lots of people say, "You got me through high school. You got me through rough times."

Ulrich: I was really, really proud of that song because "Fade to Black" was the first time we ventured into new musical territory. And I was really proud of the fact that we had the guts to do it. When that came on on the album, people were shocked. Because it was melodic, it had acoustic guitars and picking guitars and all this stuff. At that time me and James spent a lot of time talking about death, obsessing about death. And obsessing about the fears that come in the wake of it. And about executions and all these types of things. Most of Ride the Lightning really is, I don't want to say it's the death album, but there's a lot of elements about the fear of death and the process of dying and so on.

 "Fade to Black"
Ride the Lightning
There were publicized instances that some kids used "Fade to Black" as a goodbye song [before committing suicide]. But nobody ever talked about the tenfold amount of kids that came up and said, "I was sitting there with a gun in my mouth. I was sitting out in the car getting ready to gas myself and I wanted to hear 'Fade to Black' one last time and it turned me around. It gave me hope. It gave me inspiration to give it another shot." Those were the stories only we heard. We weren't quite prepared for the fact that all of a sudden the lyrics really meant something to people.

But we decided very early on that we couldn't deal with singing about the same clichés that a lot of the other metal bands tackled. About medieval sword fighting and castles and demons and wizards and all that stuff. Or the motorcycles or the girls. So then we got branded "the intellectual heavy metal band." We were the band that it was OK for the writers at Rolling Stone to like.

Hammett: I've heard people comment how Master of Puppets is one of the ultimate metal albums, and for me it is my favorite metal album. Musically I really think that Master of Puppets is when we finally jelled as a band completely. When we started getting the songs together and rehearsing them I can remember getting a huge lump in my throat, just from the emotion from playing these great tunes.

NEXT: The band tries to sound like Mötley Crüe, and writes together for the first time ...
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Photo: Elektra

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