Metallica has not always been the talented group of rock musicians that they are today. It took many years and many albums to bring the band to its current standing as the kings of rock. Metallica has undergone changes in its lineup and its musical writing style. Comparing and contrasting the musical and lyrical content of each Metallica album shows exactly how much they have changed from the early 1980s to 2000.
Metallica was founded in the early 1980s when a young man from Denmark named Lars Ulrich was looking to start a band in the Los Angeles area. The musical style labeled The New Wave of British Heavy Metal captivated Lars. The New Wave of British Heavy Metal started in England in late 70s and was a product of some peoples distaste for the current punk rock scene (Crocker 11-12). Lars, who had recently moved to the United States, started searching excessively for someone to jam with. He came across the name of a local heavy metal guitarist and vocalist in a local newspaper called The Recycler. This man was named James Hetfield. The two quickly became friends and began to play their favorite heavy metal music together on a regular basis (Hadland, Encyclopedia Metallica).
The story behind the name Metallica is very interesting. A friend of Lars was starting a heavy metal fanzine and asked Lars for advice on what its title should be. The friend gave Lars a list of candidate names and the word Metallica was on the list. Lars liked it so much he told his friend to choose another name and kept Metallica for himself (Crocker 25-26). In 1983, the bands lineup came to consist of James on vocals and rhythm guitar, Lars on percussion, Cliff Burton on bass guitar, and Kirk Hammett on lead guitar. However, in 1986, while the band was several albums into their career, Cliff Burton was tragically killed in a bus accident while the band was on tour in Sweden. Jason Newsted of the band Flotsam and Jetsam immediately replaced Cliff after his death (Doughton, 73).
Metallicas heavy roots are traced back to their 1983 debut album Kill Em All. This album is considered by most the very first thrash metal album ever. According to Alan Gilkeson from the website about.com, thrash metal is basically derived from the Hardcore Punk cross over of the late 70’s and early 80’s, this style was of course brought to notoriety by the one and only Metallica. The bands main early influences include Motorhead, Diamond Head, and Judas Priest (Crocker, 24). Taking these influences and mixing them with their own writing style, Metallica invented thrash metal. Although a new style of music was spawned from this album, it was not technically advanced. The music mainly consisted of a lot of double picking on the guitar and fast double bass drum beats (Doughton, 25-26). The lyrical content of Kill Em All is not particularly profound. There are several examples of this on the album. The track Seek and Destroy is basically about a group of people looking to start an unsubstantiated fight, and the song entitled Motorbreath talks about fast cars and fast living (Hadland, Encyclopedia Metallica). Ultimately, Kill Em All, while being simplistic in musical and lyrical content, it has come to be one of the most influential metal albums of all time.
Metallicas sophomore release, Ride the Lightning, was a big step forward for the band musically and lyrically. Ride the Lightning was definitely the most maturing the band did from one album to the next. Cliff Burton played an enormous role in the bands evolution on this album. In Burtons earlier years, he had been trained in classical music and he brought his acquired knowledge to the band (Doughton, 48). The bands newfound classical influence is recognized most strongly in a few select tracks on Ride the Lightning. Fade to Black and The Call of Ktulu are two such tracks. Fade to Black shows off a classical guitar solo in the beginning of the song and also contains a classical guitar interlude. The Call of Ktulu, an instrumental song that is over eight minutes in length, is heavily influenced by classical music. The song contains many