The first thing that comes to mind is that I might not be sitting here listening to metal in 2015 if it wasn't for "The Black Album." It was the album that got me interested in heavy music, and when I heard that opening bassline to "The God That Failed" I was hooked. One thing is definitely certain: the world of heavy metal would look a lot different without this 1991 metal classic.
The most obvious thing that could've stopped the album from happening, is off course if Metallica had never existed. For instance, if Lars had decided to keep playing tennis, but that would make for a very short article, so here is what I came up it instead...
When Cliff Burton tragically dies in an accident involving the bands tour buss while Metallica is touring Europe, James Hetfield is also injured, hurting his left arm. This, in combination with Cliff's death, causes him to go into depression and the band is put on hiatus while he recovers.
In August of 1987, almost a year since the accident, James' arm is fully healed and Lars has persuade him to come and take a look some bass players. The band goes for Jason Newsted, but James can't put himself through performing any of the songs they wrote with Cliff, so they only play new songs, covers and songs from "Kill 'Em All." The exception is "The Call of Ktulu," which the band performs as the permanent encore and as a three piece, because it's the only song they can play without James, since he doesn't let Jason sing any songs by himself. The reason why they can't play Orion is because of James' solo.
After a short North American tour, the bands goes into the studio and records "... And Justice for All," which becomes a much darker and slower album. It's released on March 1, 1989. Fans and critics don't respond well to the record and the fact that Metallica is not performing some of their best songs. The album still does pretty well as far as sales go, but because of disappointing ticket sales; the band quickly decides to go back into the studio and record a covers album.
"Garage, Inc." is released in mid 1990 and is now a single disc album. Metallica embarks on a Metal Up Your Ass World Tour, but James refuses to play any shows in Sweden. This results in Megadeth becoming the household name instead of Metallica, which has a huge impact on the Swedish metal scene. By the time Metallica gets back into the studio, Nirvana has already released "Nevermind" and grunge has taken over the world. Metallica now hires the producer of "Nevermind" Butch Vig to produce their 5th studio album, and to help them infuse the grunge sound into their music. In early 1993, "St. Anger" is released, but it's now called "Frantic" and has a strong grunge sound. The album is a huge flop and Phil Anselmo calls it a piece of crap, Kerry King says it's the worst album that he's ever heard and Dave Mustaine, with the success of "Countdown to Extinction" in his back, is having the time of his life.
Jason Newsted soon leaves Metallica to pursue other projects, this causes the remaining members to disband the group and Kirk becomes a director of horror movies. Lars and James forms a blues/classic rock band called "Unforgiven, together with Alex Skolnick, who's just left Testament, and original Metallica bassist Ron McGovney. The band releases two albums; 1995's "Unforgiven" ("Load") and 1997's "Unforgiven II" ("ReLoad"), with Bob Rock as the producer. Critics love the album and "Bleeding Me" becomes a big hit, but without the Metallica name, the albums only sell enough copies to reach #53, and #71 on the Billboard 200.
Megadeth is now bigger than Metallica, and the 3rd biggest metal band in the world behind Iron Maiden and Pantera, so Dave Mustaine doesn't feel that it's necessary for Megadeth to go for more mainstream success. This results in "Cryptic Writings" being much thrashier and "Risk" becomes a double concept album called "Time: The Beginning" and "Time: The End." It's the heaviest and most progressive Megadeth album to date.
When Nick Menza is fired from Megadeth in 1998, he receives a call from James Hetfield who wants Metallica to make a return and is eager to play songs from "Ride the Lightning" and "Master of Puppets" again, but Lars and McGovney only wants to do Unforgiven, so the band needs a new drummer. Knowing that joining Metallica is bound to piss off Mustaine, Nick agrees.
Unforgiven keeps going with the same lineup and Alex Skolnick now becomes Metallica's lead guitarist. Jason Newsted re-joins the band and Metallica slowly begins working on a new album. In November of 1999, Unforgiven releases a third album: "Unforgiven III," featuring the now classic single "Nothing Else Matters." In the summer of 2000, Metallica releases an EP entitled "Resurrection." It has 4 new songs on it: "Enter Sandman," "King Nothing," "Sad But True" and "Fixxxer," and thanks to "King Nothing" being featured on the "Mission: Impossible II" soundtrack, the EP peaks at #12 on the Billboard 200. The live album "Metal Up Your Ass" follows in 2001, and in April of 2003, "The Devil's Dance," Metallica's first album in 10 years, is finally released. Fans love it and critics are calling it the greatest thrash album since "Rust in Peace." The record debuts at #1 on the Billboard 200, and the song "Dyers Eve" becomes Metallica's biggest hit ever.
2004: Kirk Hammett rejoins Exodus after being absent from the band for more than 20 years.
2005: Jason Newsted leaves Metallica again and is replaced by David Ellefson.
2006: Unforgiven releases another album; "Eye of the Beholder" (#26 on the Billboard 200).
2007: Without "The Black Album," many of today's most popular bands like "Avenged Sevenfold" and "Five Finger Death Punch" don't exist. This results in "Bullet for My Valentine" becoming one of the biggest bands in the world.
2008: Metallica releases a self-titled album (A thrashier and better mixed version of "Death Magnetic").
2011: Metallica is working on new album.
2015: Metallica is working on a new album...