Sound — 10
Sound-wise, it may not get any better than this. Bob Rock's production of the album is outstanding and despite all the crap that Bob has had piled on him in the time he was affiliated with Metallica, he did an amazing job at making this truly sonic record. Whereas in '...And Justice For All' the bass was barely hearable (some would say non-existent), the bass on the album is back and sounding as good as ever. Two excellent examples of this are on 'Holier Than Thou' when the guitars stop and its just drum & bass and also the bass-driven 'My Friend of Misery'. The guitar work on the album is also brilliant. Hetfield's crunching sound came into it's own and Hammett's blindingly good solos return with a vengeance. The riffs on the album are probably among some of the best known in rock, as 'Enter Sandman' and 'Sad But True' show, the boys are still able to create a great riff as the meat of the song and then build up more great things around it. But heavy electric guitars aren't the only presence felt on the album, there are also harmonic Spanish guitars and acoustics used as well as the opener for 'Wherever I May Roam' which features a Sitar. The drums are also a strong point on this, with the trademark Ulrich style being evident in more than one of the tracks. The album is widely revered as being the 'turning-point' for Metallica, it did divide fans and open up new possibilities for the band. But the overall sound and feel of the album cannot be denounced as anything less than great.
Lyrics — 10
On the whole, the lyrics are just another strong point of the album. Hetfield's trademark growl was truly showcased on this album with the album's opening lines: 'Say your prayers little one, don't forget my son, to include everyone'. The lyrics themselves are clever and thought-provoking and each song does have it's own unique feel and story to it. Whether it be a fear of nightmares in 'Enter Sandman', the feeling of people/society seeking to control weaker people's lives in 'The Unforgiven' or broken promises in 'The God That Failed', Hetfield manages to make the listener sit up and take notice of what he's saying. The lyrics all mean something different to everyone and the openness to interpretation is great. The Black Album also features Metallica's first real 'love song', 'Nothing Else Matters'. A true ballad, Hetfield's voice is tamer than on any other track previous to this album and the lyrics are heartfelt and suit the music they are put to. On this album, James definitely came into his own as far as vocals were concerned and it's among my favourite Metallica albums for how he sounds on CD.
Overall Impression — 10
When it comes to career-defining albums, Metallica traditionally has two, Master of Puppets being one and in my opinion, this one being the second. Their new approach of shorter songs which still packed one hell of a punch worked a treat for them and opened them up to a bigger audience. They may have 'sold-out' to some people, but at the end of the day, Metallica have always been a band that has done what they want and not followed any specific trends, doing what they believe in. I believe that it shows up on this album more than most. From start to finish there isn't a bad song on the album. The five released singles: 'Enter Sandman', 'Sad But True', 'The Unforgiven', 'Wherever I May Roam' and 'Nothing Else Matters' continue to be as brilliant today as they were when the album was released in August 1991 and still feature as fixed-songs in most of Metallica's live shows. Other favourites from the album include 'Holier Than Thou', 'Of Wolf And Man', 'The God That Failed' and 'My Friend of Misery'. The remaining three ('Don't Tread On Me', 'Through The Never' and 'The Struggle Within') are good songs however, don't be deterred, but personally I don't listen to them as much as the other tracks on the album. The Black Album is up there with my 'must-own' albums to the point where I'm on my second because I broke my first one due to over-use. I strongly recommend this album to anyone who likes rock and anyone who doesn't. Give it a listen and it could change whether you accept them or not. A brilliant album full of power, energy, emotion and feeling.