The current line-up of Metallica. From left to right: Kirk Hammett, James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich and Rob Trujillo.
"You can always tell a Metallica fan; a fan of any other band, you ask them, 'What music do you like?' they say, 'I like U2, I like Genesis', you ask a Metallica fan, they're like 'Metallica, man! Oh, scuse me, I gotta get to work...'"
— Jim Breuer
The one, the only. Formed in the early '80s when aspiring Danish tennis player/drummer Lars Ulrich placed an ad in a Los Angeles newspaper, which, in one of those moments of synchronicity, was answered by singer/guitarist James Hetfield. With lead guitarist Dave Mustaine and bassist Ron McGovney (soon to be replaced by virtuoso Cliff Burton), Metallica was one of the pioneering bands of Thrash Metal, and is considered one of the "Big Four" of thrash, along with Anthrax, Slayer, and Megadeth (the last formed after guitarist Mustaine was kicked out of the band and replaced by Kirk Hammett, late of Exodus).In the heady days of The Eighties, they forged their way from being the supporting act at tiny club gigs to opening for and headlining stadium tours, with next to no support from radio. Their '86 album Master of Puppets was hailed by critics as a metal masterpiece, but on the subsequent tour, Burton was killed in a bus accident. Choosing to continue on in spite of their grief, they auditioned and hired Jason Newsted, an intense young musician who became the perennial "New Guy" and the butt of 14 long years of hazing, with the bass being almost nonexistent in the ...And Justice For All album being seen as the first major instance. It was with this album that the band first started getting accusations of "selling out", after they put out a music video for the song "One", something fans claimed they had promised in the past they'd never do.In The Nineties, the band moved away from thrash metal (according to Hammett, "Touring behind it, we realized that the general consensus was that songs were "too fucking long", though the rise of Grunge and alt-rock probably also had something to do with it), first coming out with their massively successful self-titled album Metallica (aka "The Black Album"), then the rock-, country- and blues-tinged alt-rock pair Load and ReLoad. The band were mostly quiet for a while, and when they finally set about making a new album, they had a full-on Creator Breakdown, with a fed-up Jason leaving the group (from a combination of his continued hazing treatment, Hetfield's refusal to allow him to become a full songwriting partner, and a neck injury that needed rest), James going into rehab for alcoholism, and the entire future of the band in doubt. St. Anger, the album forged in the midst of all this, is disdained by most fans, though for others it's an interesting experiment hamstrung by its intentionally unpolished production and overly introspective lyrics. Luckily for the band, new bassist Robert Trujillo both helped them mellow out and encouraged them to mix up their setlist on a nightly basis, pulling out songs they hadn't played for the better part of 20 years. Their latest album, Death Magnetic, is the most in-character effort they've had in years, but is a casualty of the Loudness War, and whether it's any good depends entirely on who you ask. In 2011, they collaborated with Lou Reed on Lulu, which has been panned by just about everyone that has an opinion on it. In 2012, to tie into their 30th anniversary mega-reunion shows, they released Beyond Magnetic, an EP consisting of four songs left over from the studio sessions for Death Magnetic. On 30 November the same year, they left Warner Bros. Records (where they'd been since being signed to subsidiary Elektra Records in 1984), with the rights to all their studio albums, master recordings and videos, and formed a new independent label, Blackened Recordings. Its first release, a month later, was Quebec Magnetic, a live DVD culled from two performances in Quebec City in 2009.Metallica is perhaps best known for its somewhat turbulent relationship with its fans. Some of this is the result of their long career and their experimentation with other musical styles. The fanbase tends to divide thusly: "hardcore" metalheads that stay away from anything after Justice, or after Master if they're not into prog-metal (Hetfield even mentioned in interviews that the band lost some especially vocal fans after the acoustic guitar intro on "Fade to Black"); fans who got into the band with the Black Album and like their anthemic '90s style better; those who uncritically love everything the band releases; and some who seem to exist solely to antagonize the band and other fans. Metallica hasn't always helped this situation. Lars Ulrich's crusade against Napster left a bad taste in the mouths of many, who wondered if he hadn't just shot his own band in the foot. Ulrich has never outright apologized for some of the things he said during this time (though he did mention he regretted the way he expressed some of his beliefs at the time), although the band has been much more internet-friendly since then, playing nice with iTunes, putting up old shows online for free, and allowing recent concertgoers to download a copy of the show they attended. They also cottoned on with atypical shrewdness to the popularity of Guitar Hero and the potential that their guitar-driven songs had in the format. After licensing a few of their more popular tunes for the series, they went the whole hog by releasing their most recent album as downloadable content, and followed it up by co-developing Guitar Hero: Metallica, an entire game allowing players to perform as the band themselves. (The Metallica tracks in any given Guitar Hero or Rock Band game are generally amongst the hardest, because...well, it's Metallica.)
Principal Members (Founding members in bold, current members in italic):
Cliff Burton - bass, vocals (1982-1986, died 1986)
Kirk Hammett - guitar (1983-Present)
James Hetfield - lead vocals, guitar (1981-Present)
The Alcoholic: Most of the band members have struggled with alcoholism at some point, to the point where the band was nicknamed "Alcoholica" by some fans, In particular, Dave Mustaine, whose alcoholism and violent behavior when he was drunk were the big factors in his being fired from the band, and James, who had to undergo rehab for his issues with it.
Dave: When we would drink, they would get really silly and I would get really violent. And violent people and silly people don't mix when they're inebriated.
Jason, who was a fan of the band before being hired as the new bassist, and became famous as part of his new gig. Unfortunately for him, the rest of the band never let him forget that he was, first and foremost, Cliff's replacement.
Also true for Rob, though less so, as he came to the group with his own professional history (Suicidal Tendencies, playing bass with Ozzy Osbourne on tour) and a more even footing.
Audience Participation Song: It's actually harder to name Metallica songs that haven't become this at one point or another. "Seek And Destroy", "Enter Sandman" (especially if you're an old-school ECW fan or a fan of Virginia Tech football), "Creeping Death", "Master of Puppets", and "The Memory Remains" are some of the most prominent. "Suicide & Redemption", an instrumental, became one during Metallica's first ever live performance of it without the band even calling for it, when the crowd started singing the melodic, slow solo in the middle of the song.
Badass Baritone: Hetfield pulls this trope off nicely. Notable in interviews due to the relatively high voices of Lars and Kirk.
Badass Beard / Badass Mustache: Hetfield has gone for this look to one degree or another since the Justice days. As his hair has thinned out on top, his beards have gradually gotten bigger.
Butt Monkey: Jason Newsted quit Metallica because he was constantly mistreated by his bandmates. With the biggest reason for his departure being James Hetfield refusing to allow Jason form another band as a side project.
Catch Phrase: During live performances, James will often ask the audience "Are you alive?!" followed by "How does it feel to be alive?!"
Cluster F-Bomb: Every one in the band dropped the F bomb at least once per sentence in the early days, as can heard on Live Shit: Binge and Purge. They were surprisingly restrained about it at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, though.
Even then, James still managed to add a couple of f-bombs into the lyrics of "Stone Cold Crazy" ("Here come the deputy, he'll try to fuckin' get me, gotta fuckin' get up an' run").
Continuity Porn: Their 30th anniversary shows. The only thing they DIDN'T have was Cliff's ghost. It featured Jason Newsted, Glenn Danzig, Rob Halford, Ozzy Osbourne, Lou Reed, Bob Rock, Dave Mustaine, Ron McGovney, Lloyd Grant, and Hugh Tanner and John Bush (who weren't even in Metallica) among others.
Ray Burton, Cliff Burton's father. He's over 80 and still sometimes appears in Metallica things, and appears remarkably cheery despite his often depressing life (he's outlived his two sons and his wife).
Torben Ulrich, Lars Ulrich's father. A former tennis champion and now well into his eighties, he has since ridden his son's success into a musical career of his own.
The very thing that resulted in James getting severe burns on the left side of his body and (indirectly) allowing Guns N' Roses to cause a riot by refusing to play for more than half an hour. They later mocked this very trope during the Load tour, where the stage setup "collapsed" during "Enter Sandman" and a member of the crew ran across the stage while on fire. They then came back out and played encores using small lights hanging from the scaffolding and mobile amps wheeled onto the stage.
Used to great effect during their performances of "One".
Harsh Vocals: Given Motörhead is one of their influences, it's not surprising that James likes to mimic Lemmy's vocal tics.
Heel-Face Revolving Door: Dave Mustaine can't seem to remember whether or not James Hetfield is his enemy. Currently, they seem to be getting along quite well, if the Big Four shows at the Sonisphere Festival are any indication. For whatever reason, though, Dave still dumps on Ron McGovney, the original bassist. The other members neglect him in favor of Cliff sometimes, too (it's honestly hard not to), but Dave went as far as referring to the Ron-era band as a three-piece with him happening to be around them and in their band, but not really important at all. Ron disputes this, saying that he learned to play bass in a short time, and without his house and sometime managerial skills, the group would never have gotten off the ground.
Important Haircut: Lampshaded, years before people knew what lampshading was, by friend of the band and Alice in Chains bassist Mike Inez on that group's MTV Unplugged performance (which was filmed shortly after Load was released) when he scribbled "Friends don't let friends get Friends haircuts..." on his bass. And Metallica was in the audience for that performance. Made Hilarious in Hindsight during the 30th Anniversary shows, when Alice in Chains's Jerry Cantrell performed with Metallica, and he was the one with the "Friends haircut".
Keet: Those who knew Lars Ulrich when he was a teenager describe him as being a hyperactive young man who was extremely enthusiastic about heavy metal. Brian Slagel of Metal Blade Records recalls that whenever they would go to the specialty record stores in the early 1980s to buy imported NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal) albums, Lars would jump out of the car before it had even stopped moving because he was so anxious to get new metal albums to listen to. After Brian Slagel had founded Metal Blade records he planned on putting together a compilation album called Metal Massacre featuring local heavy metal bands. When Lars found out about this he got so excited that he begged Slagel to let him record a song for the album despite the fact that Lars wasn't even in a band at the time. This motivated Lars to call up James Hetfield and Lloyd Grant (after the two realized they were short two members, and could get James to play bass) to help him record a song for the album, and that's the story of how Lars' keet-ness resulted in the birth of Metallica.
Kick the Dog: Done to each other by James and Dave; the most notable incident is when James literally kicked Dave's pit bull for attacking Ron McGovney's 1972 Pontiac LeMans.
Lead Bassist: Cliff Burton, considered one of the best of his instrument in metal - and among older/more fanatical fans, the guy in the only albums worth earning.
Long Runner Lineup: As much as Jason was the New Guy for 14 years, his tenure is the longest of the band without changing members so far (14 years). Right behind is the Trujillo line-up, since 2003. Cliff likely would have stayed longer were it not for his tragic death.
Ron McGovney, (original bassist, 1981-83). In Dave Mustaine's autobiography, he was not fond of Mc Govney at all. According to various sources (VH-1 documentaries, books, interviews, etc.) Dave hated Ron so much he actually poured beer into his bass to the point it was unplayable, tore up his house and got his dog to get on his car to ruin the paint job. Dave only denies ordering the dog to jump on the car, not that the dog did it.
At least within the band, averted with Cliff (who the fans also like) and Rob.
Once per Episode: "Are you alive? How does it feel to be alive?", usually said by James before the solo to "Battery" or "Fight Fire With Fire".
Rags to Riches: Metallica literally started out as a garage band formed by a bunch of teenage kids. They would go on to become the most successful heavy metal band of all time, and even 30 years after the founding of the band they can still pack arenas and every new album is guaranteed to go multi-platinum, be it Master of Puppets or St. Anger.
"Rashomon"-Style: The exact details of how Dave Mustaine left the band tend to change depending on who's telling the story.
Red Oni, Blue Oni: The two founding members of Metallica, James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich, are known for having very different personalities. Lars is known for being loud, outgoing, and enthusiastic while James is stoic, taciturn, and introverted.
After being fired from Metallica for his drug, alcohol, and violence problems, Dave Mustaine formed Megadeth.
After a few sideprojects and some years of silence, Jason Newsted has started his own band simply called Newsted in late 2012.
Step Up to the Microphone: On the "Wherever We May Rome" tour and the tour for Load, Jason Newsted would sing "Seek and Destroy" and "Whiplash." On very rare occasions, the entire band does a Chinese fire drill for "Am I Evil?" with Lars on vocals.
Survivor Guilt: It's thought that a great deal of James' angst in the post-Puppets albums stems from having survived the bus accident that took Cliff's life. And in their Behind The Music special, Kirk revealed that earlier that evening, the band had gotten into a mild argument about the sleeping arrangements and had drawn cards to determine who would sleep where. Cliff drew the highest card and claimed Kirk's bunk, which, due to faulty mounting and poor reinforcement of the window, led to his being partially ejected from the bus and killed.
Ur Example: Kill 'Em All is generally believed to be the first full-length Thrash Metal album ever released. Thrash metal had previously been included on various compilation albums, but Kill 'Em All was the first album entirely devoted to thrash.
Verbal Tic: James LOVES to add extra syllables-ah to his vocals-ah, with the shining example coming in "All Nightmare Long":
"You crawl back in, but your luck runs ou-TAH!"
Vocal Evolution: Starting with Justice and consolidated with the Black Album, the change in Hetfield's singing style is notable. Compare 1984 James to 1991 James. While the way he sings in Death Magnetic sounds like a combination of the two (exhibit A), he still uses mostly the lower vocals live.
What Would Cliff Do?: Popular among fans. Expect Cliff to be cited both against ("Cliff is spinning in his grave" is common) and in favor of (Cliff wasn't just into metal) whatever they've just announced.
Media and Fandom
Ascended Meme: Metallica's first album was called Kill 'em All and the cover art was a hammer in a pool of blood. Then they spotted a fan wearing a homemade shirt at one of their shows that said "Alcoholica" and had replaced the hammer with a bottle spilling booze, and titled it "Drink 'em All." They stole the idea and printed up their own shirts.
Digital Piracy Is Evil: The Napster controversy. To the band's credit, they've been much better about embracing the Internet and new technology since then, but some downloaders are still bitter. Lars has joked that his obituary will have "Napster" in its first paragraph.
Notably averted when they posted an ENTIRE ALBUM on the internet 12 days before it was fully released worldwide.
They also allowed fans to stream Death Magnetic from their official web site prior to the album's release.
Iconic Logo: One of the most iconic in all of metal music. It's so widely recognized that if you see anyone's logo for any purpose, and the consonants at the ends have stretched-out uprights with barbed ends, you know exactly who they're ripping off.
This was averted from Load through St. Anger, which featured variants on the original logo.
Manly Tears: Many were shed over Cliff's death. Try watching either this or this without shedding a few of your own.
The Movie: Metallica: Through the Never is a feature-length film by the band that follows the story of Trip, a young Metallica roadie who embarks upon a surreal adventure while on an urgent mission for the band. The film also features concert footage from Metallica concerts held in August of 2012. The film is described as being inspired by the Led Zeppelin movie The Song Remains the Same.
Mythology Gag: The bonus disc Demo Magnetic has demo versions of all of the songs from Death Magnetic, with different titles. The title that the demo version of "Suicide and Redemption" (a long instrumental) goes by is "K2LU", an apparent reference to that other long instrumental "The Call of Ktulu".
The Nineties: General metal, alt-rock, black clothes, and short haircuts.
John Zazula (executive producer) and Paul Curcio on Kill 'Em All.
Flemming Rasmussen for Ride The Lightning (only engineered), Master of Puppets, and ...And Justice For All.
Bob Rock on all albums from The Black Album to Some Kind of Monster (even playing bass on St. Anger).
Rick Rubin on Death Magnetic (whom Kerry King claims to have been stolen).
The band has self-produced (or at least co-produced) nearly the entire discography with the exception of Kill Em' All and Death Magnetic.
Refuge in Audacity: The band originally wanted to call their first album "Metal Up Your Ass" (complete with metal spike coming out of someone's toilet), but the record label wouldn't have any of it. So they changed it to Kill 'Em All, which the company apparently had no problem with, and then made an Ass t-shirt with the original concept art.
Something Completely Different: Arguably the point behind Metallica. Besides Hammett's comment about the songs being "too fucking long" and his claim that one of the band members swore that they'd never play "...And Justice For All" (the song) again after a grueling concert (he also mentioned "seeing the front row start to yawn by the 8th minute"), Hetfield recounted that they were encouraged to actually pursue the direction when they saw that a previously Hair Metal-infected MTV was showing harder Grunge stuff.
Also applies to "Trapped Under Ice" which is about a person who is cryogenically frozen but still conscious.
Arc Words: 17 years apart, but they're there: "Fuck it all and fucking no regrets" from "Damage Inc." (1986) and "St. Anger"'s title track (2003).
As the Good Book Says: "The Four Horsemen", about the characters of the same name, and "Creeping Death", about the ten plagues of Egypt. Though the latter was inspired by the band watching The Ten Commandments, and got its title from Cliff saying "Whoa, it's like creeping death!" during the newborn slaughter scene.
Bawdy Song / Auto Erotica: Notably averted when the band repurposed Dave Mustaine's "The Mechanix", full of double entendres about sex in an auto repair shop, into "The Four Horsemen", an ode to the Apocalypse. The song is arguably better for it, but don't let any Megadeth fans hear you say that...or Mustaine, for that matter. They then played it completely straight in their word-for-word Cover Version of the most profane British punk songs ever recorded, "So What?!", even though the song is a parody about two drunken idiots attempting to outdo each other.
Be Careful What You Wish For: "King Nothing" includes the lines, "Careful what you wish you may regret it/Careful what you wish you just might get it"
Continuity Nod: "The Unforgiven III" seems to be more like this than strictly the latest part of the "Unforgiven" trilogy (at least "II" still borrowed some elements from the original; "III" is a completely different composition).
Cosmic Horror Story: The band has three pieces, two lyrical and one instrumental, directly inspired by the Cthulhu Mythos, of which Kirk Hammett and Cliff Burton are/were huge fans: "The Call of Ktulu" from Ride the Lightning and "The Thing That Should Not Be" from Master of Puppets, and "All Nightmare Long," from Death Magnetic, which was inspired by the Hounds of Tindalos, though most people just remember the zombies from the video.
Taste me, you will see More is all you need Dedicated to How I'm killing you
Eagleland: And Justice For All (the album) is a Type 2. "Don't Tread On Me" from The Black Album is a Type 1. James said they wrote the latter in response to the anti-American vibe that the former had given and that, even though he feels there is a lot of bad stuff in America, he still considers himself lucky to live there.
Eldritch Abomination: "The Thing That Should Not Be" is inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft, specifically "The Shadow Over Innsmouth", in which the eponymous Thing is Dagon.
Fate Worse than Death: "One" details the life of a soldier, after he loses all his limbs, his sight, his speech, and his hearing due to a landmine. He has machines that breathe for him, and so he's unable to die. His mind functions perfectly, leaving him a prisoner in his own body.
Darkness, imprisoning me All that I see Absolute horror I can not live I can not die Trapped in myself Body my holding cell
Fearless wretch Insanity He watches Lurking beneath the sea
Human Popsicle: "Trapped Under Ice", which is sung from the perspective of someone in a cryogenics chamber.
Intercourse with You / Hormone-Addled Teenager: Mostly averted. However, "The Four Horsemen" was originally called "The Mechanix", filled with double entendres about sex in an auto mechanic shop. It was released in the original form on Megadeth's debut album,Killing Is My Business...and Business Is Good. Additionally, "Jump in the Fire", a song sung from Satan's perspective, was originally about teenage sexual frustration; this version can be heard on the No Life 'til Leather demo. Notably, this one also had its origins with Dave Mustaine. Meanwhile, the only publicly released Metallica song that is clearly about sex is "Devil's Dance," which uses the image of Satan tempting followers as a metaphor for somebody soliciting sex.
Not a particularly bad offender but the use of "Master of Puppets" in the film Old School is a little odd during the scene where Beanie, Mitch, and Frank are kidnapping the pledges, seeing as the song is about drug addiction.
The use of "For Whom The Bell Tolls in Zombieland. Again, not a bad offender, but the song is about war between humans and other humans, not between humans and zombies.
Mad Lib Metal Lyrics: In general, Metallica is noted for averting this, but they play it straight in "Metal Militia".
The aforementioned cover of "Last Caress/Green Hell". Within the first four lines, the narrator, mentions raping someone's mother and killing their baby.
Their cover of the Anti-Nowhere League's "So What?", which is based on an argument the band heard two idiots having in a bar. The song's narrators claim to have had sex with a goat, a sheep, a schoolgirl, J.S. Bach, and the Queen of England, as well as having taken every drug imaginable and going to Hastings, Brighton, and Eastbourne.
I'm your truth, telling lies I'm your reasoned alibis I'm inside, open your eyes I'm you!
Also used in "Mama Said". And long pause is added for extra dramatic effect.
Mama, now I'm coming home I'm not all you wished of me But a mother's love for her son Unspoken, help me be Yeah, I took your love for granted And all the things you said to me, yeah I need your arms to welcome me But a cold stone's all I see.
Album Title Drop: Most of their albums have a Title Track in which this happens, but Death Magnetic is their only album without a title track to have a proper Album Title Drop. It is namechecked in the closing track "My Apocalypse."
Ride the Lightning, Master of Puppets, and ...And Justice for All each have thematic elements linking their songs together (death, those whose fates are controlled by others or who control others' fates, and the miscarriage of justice, respectively).
Death Magnetic is a borderline case, with Hetfield saying the general idea of the title was inspired by the untimely deaths of several friends and colleagues.
Cover Version: Lots. They covered "Remember Tomorrow" by Iron Maiden for the Maiden Heaven tribute album. They also did a cover of "Ecstasy of Gold", one of the songs Ennio Morricone did for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and usually open their concerts with the original piece. There's also a heavier version of "Stone Cold Crazy" by Queen, which they even played at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert. It was one of the earliest metal songs, and numerous metal bands have played covers as a way of tribute.
Cover Album: The $5.98 EP: Garage Days Re-Revisited, including songs from Diamond Head, Killing Joke and The Misfits (this was also Newsted's debut). Later, an entire double album of them, Garage Inc., with one disc being reissues of their older covers and the other being new covers, including Bob Seger's "Turn the Page", Thin Lizzy's version of "Whiskey in the Jar", and Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Tuesday's Gone".
They also have tribute albums of their songs covered by other artists; Metallic Attack: The Ultimate Tribute by other metal artists and one by punk artists, A Punk Tribute to Metallica.
Early-Installment Weirdness: The pre-Kill 'em All demos. James is wailing like Robert Plant (actually more like Sean Harris, but still), Dave is wailing away, Ron is plunking along and Lars is being Lars. The production quality is also often (no surprise) quite poor.
Kill 'em All itself kinda counts in the production quality grounds (the sound isn't as clear as anything from Ride the Lightning onwards), and having the band's only Heavy Meta songs.
Epic Rocking: They frequently have songs over 5 minutes long, but some really fit the trope, such as "One", "To Live is to Die", "The Outlaw Torn", "And Justice for All" (the song), and the Mercuful Fate medley "Mercyful Fate".
Considering the 5-minute referential, Death Magnetic and ...And Justice for All (the album) are 100% made of this trope. Each has only one song below six minutes ("My Apocalypse" and "Dyers Eve" respectively), but they later wrote a new intro available for free download to "My Apocalypse", which makes it over six minutes. Not to mention every album since the self-titled one surpasses the 70 minute mark (Load clocks in at 78:59, the threshold for CD duration! And that's after shortening "The Outlaw Torn", whose uncut version lampshades with "Unencumbered by Manufacturing Restrictions Version").
They've written only 4 songs shorter than 4 minutes: "Motorbreath", "Holier Than Thou", "The Struggle Within" and "Wasting My Hate".
The Lulu album has 3 songs over 10 minutes, with the longest being "Junior Dad", which is almost 20 minutes long!
Heartbeat Soundtrack: "That Was Just Your Life" starts with a few seconds of heartbeats before the opening riff.
Instrumentals: "(Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth", "The Call of Ktulu", "Orion", "To Live Is To Die", "Suicide & Redemption". The first four feature Cliff Burton prominently, even though "To Live [...]" only has a vocal part from him. "Suicide & Redemption", on the Guitar Hero soundtrack, actually has two versions, with solos from Hammett and Hetfield respectively.
Lampshade Hanging: "King Nothing" is structurally identical to "Enter Sandman". The last line of the song is "Off to never never land..."
Large Ham: Whenever James is being overtly evil, he screams and hams up. "CANNOT KILL THE BATTA-RY!"
Loudness War: Death Magnetic is particularly infamous for this.
Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Every song in the 80's ranged from 6 ("Fade to Black") to 9 ("Battery", "Disposable Heroes") The Black Album's songs are between 6-8, with "The Unforgiven" around a 4 and "Nothing Else Matters" at a 3. The Loads were 6 and 7, with some 2-4s in there as ballads, and a couple songs (such as "Fuel" and "Wasting My Hate") bordering on 8. "Hero of the Day" has arguably the widest spread of any Metallica song, from about 2 on the softest parts to 8 on the hardest.
Mohs Scale of Lyrical Hardness: The band also ranks pretty high on this scale, where aside the instrumentals nothing is below a 5 - even the ballads are angsty self-reflections.
New Sound Album: The Black Album, Load and ReLoad, St. Anger, S & M. Inverted with Death Magnetic, an "Old Sound Album".
Non-Appearing Title: "Fade to Black", "Ride the Lightning", "...And Justice for All", "Disposable Heroes", "Enter Sandman" and "The Unforgiven III"
Additionally, while "Enter Sandman" doesn't have a line that goes "enter sandman", it does have the following:
Keep you free from sin/'till the sandman he comes
Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Hetfield sometimes sings with great emphasis, on syllables at times. A good recorded example is "Through the Never."
Self-Backing Vocalist: Hetfield does all the backing vocals himself on the albums. At concerts, Kirk, Jason, and now Rob do the backing vocals.
Song Style Shift: "Fade to Black," "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)", "One" and "The Day That Never Comes". Furthermore, their instrumentals after Ride mellow out considerably two thirds in before becoming heavy again.
Sophisticated as Hell: When introducing the song "Seek and Destroy" live (as seen in their 1989 Seattle show), James would sometimes say the title in a faux-fancy manner.
Surprisingly Gentle Song: "Nothing Else Matters", "Mama Said" and "Low Man's Lyric." "Fade to Black", "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)", "One", "The Day That Never Comes, and "Hero of the Day" start out like this, but build up in intensity.
Metallica borrowed the intro of Bleak House's "Rainbow Warrior" for "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)"; the bridge is based on "Tom Sawyer". The latter was acknowledged/lampshaded by thanking Rush in the Master of Puppets liner notes.
They lifted large parts of "Children of the Damned" by Iron Maiden for "The Unforgiven II"
The opening notes of "Don't Tread On Me" are from "America" from the musical West Side Story.
Title Drop: Quite common, though with "The Unforgiven" and "The Unforgiven II" it reaches Stealth Pun levels ("I dub thee unforgiven" and "Or are you unforgiven too?")
Uncommon Time: Showed up sometimes during their thrash days; for example the verses of "...And Justice for All" are in 7/4.