They say imitation is the biggest form of flattery. Well, Metallica’s Black Album didn’t just imitate the dark facade of ACDC’s Back in Black, it wanted to be Back in Black at its core.
In a recent interview with Classic Rock magazine, Kirk Hammett details what drove them to make their ultra-successful Black Album and tells about the serendipitous writing experience in which the album seemed to write itself.
“We didn’t want to go down the same progressive, demanding route,” Kirk told Classic Rock. “We had our sights set on bigger things. You have to remember that there had been some mega albums around that time – Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Bruce Springsteen… eight million, nine million copies sold. And we wanted that. It’s obvious. We wanted a Back In Black. ”
During that time the group had already written four majorly successful albums, but the group wanted to hone in on a certain sound and really encapsulate what the biggest artists at the time were doing. Ironically, they didn’t have to try to hard as Hammett says the album seemed to magically appear.
“The Enter Sandman riff was a riff that just fucking appeared,” Kirk said in his interview. “It was three o’clock in the morning, I was sitting in my bedroom. People say: ‘What were you doing up at three o’clock in the morning?’ Well, I was still in tour mode. I was playing my guitar, I had nothing else to do. I’d been listening to Soundgarden all day. They were a band that me and James loved. I was just trying to capture that feel. That riff came out of nowhere. ”
“The best parts of that album kind of just wrote themselves,” he continued. “Solos and music and songs felt like they just appeared out of nowhere. It was like the universe handed it to us on a platter. Not like the first four albums.”
All this cosmological gift-giving would pay off as The Black Album would go on to become not only their best selling record but one of the best selling records of all time.
“It’s a cultural force in itself,” Kirk concluded. “As much as modern culture changes and morphs, there’s something within that album that continues to resonate around the world. And I mean the world, because it’s big everywhere.”
Metallica is set to release a remastered version of The Black Album, which includes many unreleased versions of the iconic songs, demos, and a large list of covers. Look out for the comprehensive Black Album rerelease on September 10th.