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What Is The Best Metallica Album of All Time?

metallica playing live

Metallica, one of the most influential and successful heavy metal bands of all time, was formed in 1981 in Los Angeles, California. The original lineup consisted of rhythm guitarist and lead vocalist James Hetfield, drummer Lars Ulrich, lead guitarist Dave Mustaine, and bassist Ron McGovney.

Lars Ulrich, who was a tennis prodigy and son of a professional Danish tennis player, moved to the United States in his late teens to pursue his passion for music. He placed an ad in a local newspaper, seeking musicians who shared his enthusiasm for bands like Iron Maiden and Diamond Head. James Hetfield answered the call, and together they formed Metallica.

In the early days, tensions among band members led to the replacement of Mustaine and McGovney. Mustaine’s erratic behavior due to his struggle with substance abuse became a liability for the band. He was replaced by Kirk Hammett, the lead guitarist of the band Exodus. Mustaine later formed the band Megadeth and became a significant figure in the thrash metal scene. McGovney, feeling overwhelmed by the chaos, decided to leave and was replaced by Cliff Burton.

With this new line-up, Metallica’s popularity began to rise rapidly in the underground metal scene. Their debut album “Kill ‘Em All,” released in 1983, is considered a groundbreaking record that helped define the thrash metal genre. It was followed by “Ride the Lightning” in 1984 and “Master of Puppets” in 1986, both further cementing Metallica’s position at the forefront of the genre.

Tragedy struck the band in 1986 when Cliff Burton died in a bus accident while the band was on tour in Sweden. Burton’s death was a significant blow to the band, but they decided to continue. They recruited Jason Newsted, a member of the band Flotsam and Jetsam, as their new bassist.

In 1991, Metallica released the eponymous “Metallica” album, also known as “The Black Album.” It marked a shift from the thrash metal of their early days to a slower and heavier sound. The album was a massive commercial success and included iconic hits such as “Enter Sandman,” “The Unforgiven,” and “Nothing Else Matters.” It broadened Metallica’s audience and solidified their status as one of the biggest rock bands in the world.

Over the following years, Metallica faced several challenges, including internal conflicts, substance abuse issues, and a backlash from fans for their stand against music piracy in the early days of online music sharing. Newsted left the band in 2001, leading to several years with the band playing as a three-piece or with guest bassists. Robert Trujillo, formerly of Suicidal Tendencies and Ozzy Osbourne’s band, joined as a full-time bassist in 2003.

Despite the ups and downs, Metallica’s popularity has remained high. They have sold over 125 million albums worldwide, won multiple Grammy Awards, and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009. They continue to tour and record new music, maintaining their legacy as one of the most important bands in heavy metal history.

That’s all well and good, but let’s ask the question that we must collectively answer—what is the best Metallica album of all time? Let’s vote. First, review their albums below.

Album Release Date AllMusic Rating
Kill 'Em All 1983 4.5/5
Ride the Lightning 1984 4.5/5
Master of Puppets 1986 5/5
...And Justice for All 1988 4.5/5
Metallica (The Black Album) 1991 5/5
Load 1996 3/5
Reload 1997 3/5
St. Anger 2003 2/5
Death Magnetic 2008 4/5
Hardwired... to Self-Destruct 2016 4/5
72 Seasons 2023 3.5/5

What Is The Best Metallica Album of All Time?

Breaking Down Every Metallica Album (in order of release)

  1. Kill ‘Em All (1983): Metallica’s debut album, often cited as a foundational thrash metal album. It received positive reviews for its energy and aggression, though many critics initially overlooked it due to the band’s independent label.
  2. Ride the Lightning (1984): Their second studio album, showcased more complex song structures and thematic depth. Critics praised it as a maturation of Metallica’s sound, with tracks like “Fade to Black” demonstrating their versatility.
  3. Master of Puppets (1986): Master of Puppets is considered an all-time classic of the metal genre. Critics praised the songs’ complexity, the band members’ performances, and the album’s exploration of dark themes.
  4. …And Justice for All (1988): The album received positive reviews and was noted for its progressive elements. However, it was also controversial for its production issues, particularly the low volume of the bass guitar.
  5. Metallica (The Black Album) (1991): The Black Album was a commercial breakthrough for Metallica, showcasing a more accessible sound. Critics were initially divided, with some praising the band’s growth while others accused them of selling out. Over time, it has been recognized as a classic.
  6. Load (1996): Load marked a departure from Metallica’s thrash metal roots, incorporating bluesy, hard rock elements. Critics were mixed, with some praising the band’s evolution and others missing the raw intensity of their earlier work.
  7. Reload (1997): Reload, often considered a companion piece to “Load”, this album continued the band’s exploration of bluesy, hard rock. Critical reception was similarly mixed, with some critics feeling that the band’s new direction was starting to feel formulaic.
  8. St. Anger (2003): St. Anger was noted for its raw, unpolished sound and lack of guitar solos. Critics were polarized, with some appreciating the band’s return to a heavier sound, while others criticized the album’s production and songwriting.
  9. Death Magnetic (2008): Death Magnetic was a return to the band’s thrash metal roots. Critics generally received the album positively, appreciating the band’s return to form, though some pointed out the loudness and clipping in the album’s production.
  10. Hardwired… to Self-Destruct (2016): Hardwired received generally positive reviews from critics, who appreciated the band’s return to their earlier, more aggressive sound.
  11. 72 Seasons (2023): Metallica’s most recent album and should be fresh and your head as the only album in several decades not to open as number 1 (in all fairness, it opened as number 2).