Born on this day in 1963 was James Hetfield, the growling lead singer and
guitarist of Metallica, one of the most popular, influential and
critically acclaimed heavy-metal bands of the '80s. From their start, Metallica
shunned the rock theatrics common to most metal bands of the time and
instead concentrated on playing down-and-dirty speed metal in their street
clothes. In the process, the band brought the metal genre back to reality
and created some of its finest music.
Metallica's Kill 'Em All
(1983), which included the hard-driving "No Remorse," was the blueprint for a new,
intelligent metal filled with complex lyrics and instrumentation. Guitarist
Kirk Hammett influenced dozens of heavy-rock axemen; drummer Lars Ulrich
and bass player Cliff Burton made a formidable rhythm section.
Master of Puppets (1986), including the title track and "The Thing That
Should Not Be," was Metallica's greatest achievement. The album brought
together vivid images with a dense, thunderous sound that many competing
bands struggled to duplicate. But shortly after its
release, Burton was killed when the group's tour bus crashed in Sweden.
Metallica carried on, though, filling the bassist slot with Jason Newsted.
The band's next release, ... And Justice For All (1988), was a concept album
that turned off radio and music television; nevertheless, it broke
the top 10 of the Billboard 200 albums chart and amassed a devoted following.
Metallica broke into the mainstream with 1991's self-titled opus. The album saw the
band strip down its lengthy compositions in favor of short bursts of song. Metallica
went #1 and sold nearly 8 million copies in America alone. After the album's release,
Metallica began a tour, spanning almost two years, that ended with them clearly on top of
the metal heap in the eyes of fans and the music press. Rarely has a hard-rock band
earned so much respect beyond headbanger circles.
The well-received Load album (1996) was a little too alternative for some of the
group's most ardent metal fans. When the band cut its hair and joined
the metal-lacking Lollapalooza tour, fans complained loudly, but Load
still found its way to the top of the albums charts and went triple platinum
in three months. Metallica followed it with an album of leftover material,
appropriately titled Re-Load (another #1 album), with a few new
songs tacked on. They toured behind the album, which included such strong tracks as
Lyric" (RealAudio excerpt), featuring Days of the New and Jerry
Cantrell as the support acts. Metallica haven't begun working on a
follow-up album yet.
Hetfield recently told SonicNet about the band's new musical direction:
"F--- the fans that don't like our new music. From the [Metallica] album
on, it basically has been write what you know, so in a way it's
Other birthdays: Beverly Lee (Shirelles), 57; John Graham (Earth, Wind and
Fire), 47; and Ed Roland (Collective Soul),35.