I was planning on listening to this again now – some 15 years after I first did so – with a kind of disparaging, snobbish retrospect that being twice the age of my Metallica-debuting teenage self naturally allows me. As it happens though, it’s just a fucking good album isn’t it? I don’t know why I cynically thought that way, I just expected it to be so. And for some reason doing things like entirely rejecting everything my younger self stood for makes me feel better about getting older.
I didn’t care that Metallica apparently sold out when they released this album then, and I certainly don’t now. Because funnily enough at age 14 I hadn’t cultivated a purist taste for thrash-metal. I don’t even care anyway; all I know is that this is a rightfully commercially successful album which – for many – was a gateway to appreciating metal. That’s because nearly every song is an absolute classic that made the genre accessible. At least, they did for me when I discovered this album.
Even though it’s definitely more of a masterclass in production than songwriting (nod to Bob Rock), there’s plenty of riffs and motifs that are surely now musically immortalised; nobody will ever not instantly recognise Enter Sandman, and I’ll forever happily, unashamedly be that wanker who can and will recite the entirety of Nothing Else Matters – note-for-note – at parties whenever a guitar is brought out. Because it’s just that good. And because I can’t play Stairway.
The attempts of lyrical sensitivity dealing with issues of war, death, and betrayal, at first seemed silly in an album of otherwise chest-puffed, head-banging metal anthems but ultimately they’re lapped up when presented to us in arrangements such as The Unforgiven and My Friend of Misery. In fact the entire thing is an assortment of somewhat-grievance, served on a platter of easily digestible heavy metal, and I like it.