Metallica have reflected on the conception of their self-titled 1991 album, commonly referred to as The Black Album, which was profoundly influenced by AC/DC’s seminal Back in Back.
Lars Ulrich and Kirk Hammett recently sat down with Uncut magazine, in a discussion that saw them reflect on the biggest mainstream-breakthrough of their career.
“When we were done with …And Justice For All and the subsequent two-year tour, there was no place to go on that path,” Ulrich mused. “We’d hit the wall. The last song on that album is a song called ‘Dyers Eve’ and it’s six or seven minutes of the most crazy progressive off-the-wall stuff Metallica is capable of doing. After playing all those songs on the road for a couple of years, we said, ‘There’s got to be a reset here.'”
Hammett went on to detail that deciding on a sound for Back in Black did not come effortlessly.
“It wasn’t easy to make, as we wanted a certain sound on that album,” he continued. “We wanted everything to be the best it possibly could be, sound-wise, song-wise and performance-wise, and so we went in and — I’ll probably be the first person to mention this — we wanted to come up with a Back In Black, an LP stacked with singles. That was the concept, songs which sound like singles but aren’t.”
Lars echoed Hammett’s statement, revealing that the band drew inspiration from the music of Misfits, AC/DC and The Rolling Stones.
“We thought about the art of simplifying and writing shorter songs,” mused Lars. “It’s harder to write a short song than a long song and harder to be succinct. The new challenge was to write shorter songs. A little more bounce, to make the music more physical than cerebral.”
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The Black Album marked the first of five collaborations with producer Bob Rock, who went on to work with Metallica on Load (1996), ReLoad (1997), the band’s cover album, Garage Inc. (1998), and St. Anger (2003).
Lars admitted that tensions between Metallica and Rock were high during the recording process of their self-titled effort. Rock “had a different approach to sonics,” Lars recalled.
“We were interested in having our records be a little bigger and more impactful. That was the next significant thing. We’ve never been in the studio with someone who was challenging us in the way he was. The good news was Bob was very encouraging of us expanding our processes. The bad news was we were not very open to having anyone tell us what to do.
“When we walked out of the studio a year later with The Black Album in our pockets, I don’t think any of us thought we’d see each other again,” Ulrich admitted. “But we ended up spending the next 10-12 years making records together. It was a love affair, but it got off to a rocky start. But thankfully he pushed and challenged us. He didn’t accept our refusal to be experimental and to cast the net wider.”