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Released during 1991, Metallica’s self-titled fifth album,
better known as the “Black Album,” was the record that
catapulted the band to mainstream success. Although they
had achieved success within the Heavy Metal community with
their 1985 release, “Master of Puppets,” the “Black Album”
gave Metallica more crossover appeal, and consisted of
songs that were generally shorter and more tightly constructed.
The recorded sound of this album also raised the bar for other
bands, as well.

I recently learned how this album came to be, by watching
a 2001 installment in the Classic Albums series.  According to
this documentary, the making of the “Black Album” differed
from prior Metallica releases, primarily due to the talents of
its producer, Bob Rock. When interviewed for this DVD, he
had plenty to say, and recounted that when he was asked if
he would mix the album, he declined and said, “No. I’d like
to produce you.” According to the members of Metallica, Rock’s
methods of working were quite different from their prior
producers. Their initial collaborations resulted in tension
and resentment from the band, in particular from
drummer Lars Ulrich. Eventually, the band members realized
that they “…really had something there,” and they toiled
with Rock for more than nine months, thereby crafting what
would remain (as of this writing) their biggest-selling album.
With few exceptions, every successive Metallica album would debut
at number one on the charts, which meant that making the
“Black Album” was a real “career changer.” Nevertheless,
Bob Rock and Metallica parted ways in 2006.

In addition to Bob Rock and the four band members, other
notables weighing in with their views and recollections were
David Frick, senior editor at Rolling Stone Magazine, Metallica
co-manager, Cliff Burnstein, engineer Randy Staub, and their
orchestral arranger, the late Michael Kamen. I’d have to say
that the main 48-minute documentary and 43 minutes of bonus
features illustrate the creative process of album production, to
an unprecedented degree. I believe that “Classic Albums
– Metallica: Metallica” is one of the best installments
I’ve seen thus far in this series, and I highly
recommend it.

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