- Deep Purple, Motorhead, Blue Oyster Cult, Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy, Led Zeppelin, Diamond Head, Judas Priest, Budgie, Queen, Killing Joke, Venom, Rush, Iron Maiden, Mercyful Fate, The Misfits, Samhain, UFO, Angel Witch, Saxon, Bob Seger, The Ramones, Aerosmith, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Joe Satriani
"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
, 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 non-existent 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 realised 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
. 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 song-writing 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 set-list 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
, 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 fan-base 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 antagonise the band and other fans.
Further division among the fandom—in particular those who play guitar, bass or whatever (of which there are many—like probably half the audience at the average show) divide their material based on the band's line-up at any given time. Bass players tend to favour the Cliff Burton years, although Newstead has his fans as well, as does Trujillo (though even fans of Trujillo's work with other bands—mostly Ozzy or Suicidal Tendencies split over whether his funk-influenced tone and style suit Metallica's material). Guitarists may debate whether Hammett's solos or Hetfield's riff-based rhythmic style are the true core of the band's sound. Others love to argue Hammett vs. Mustaine—still.
If you really want to get an earful, round up three Metallica fans (bonus points for one token hater, for the lulz) and ask them if and when Metallica sold out. It was after Cliff died. It was when they slowed down the music. It was trying to follow the alternative music trend in the 90s. It was the advent of the gimmicky stuff like Garage, Inc.
and S & M
. It was trying too hard to get their old sound back after ReLoad. No, it was everything after Kill 'Em All
. No, they never "sold out" at all, but got older and less angry and wanted to experiment in other styles, and besides, altering your artistic expression just to appease ANY fanbase, even your original one (thrash) is the very definition of "selling out." Whatever. In short, Metallica fanboys are arguably worse than Star Wars
fans in the way they love to argue. 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 apologised 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 concert-goers 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, bass (1983-Present)
- James Hetfield - lead vocals, guitar, drums (1981-Present)
- Ron McGovney - bass (1982)
- Dave Mustaine - guitar (1982-1983)
- Jason Newsted - bass, vocals, guitar (1986-2001)
- Robert Trujillo - bass (2003-Present)
- Lars Ulrich - drums, percussion, lead vocals (1981-Present)
- 1983 - Kill 'Em All
- 1984 - Ride The Lightning
- 1986 - Master Of Puppets
- 1988 - ...And Justice For All
- 1991 - Metallica, better known as "The Black Album"
- 1996 - Load
- 1997 - ReLoad
- 1998 - Garage Inc.
- 2003 - St. Anger
- 2008 - Death Magnetic
- 2011 - Lulu note
- 2012 - Beyond Magnetic
- 1993 - Live Shit: Binge & Purge
- 1999 - S & M
- 2009 - Orgullo, Pasión, y Gloria: Tres Noches en la Ciudad de México
- 2010 - Six Feet Down Under
- 2010 - The Big Four: Live From Sofia, Bulgaria note
- 2010 - Six Feet Down Under Part II
- 2010 - Live At Grimey's
- 2012 - The 30th Anniversary Celebration
- 2013 - Metallica Through the Never
open/close all folders
The band members themselves/live performance
- 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 behaviour 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.
- Ascended Fanboy:
- 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 Moustache: 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.
- Be Careful What You Wish For \ Writer Revolt: In 1996, MTV Europe asked Metallica to play "King Nothing" and don't curse in the EMAs. Their response...
- Butt Monkey: Jason Newsted quit Metallica because he was constantly mistreated by his band-mates. 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.
- Cool Old Guy:
- 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.
- Flanderization: James' memetic "Something-AHHH" Verbal Tic became much more pronounced after the "Black Album".
- Every Episode Ending: When you hear the first notes of "Seek and Destroy", start heading for the doors.
- Five-Man Band: Literally a Four-Man Band, but this trope applies to the group as a whole, including former members:
- Great Balls of Fire:
- 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. This was recycled for the concert portions of Through the Never.
- Used to great effect during their performances of "One".
- Harsh Vocals: Given Motorhead 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 favour 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, with Metallica in the audience) when he scribbled "Friends don't let friends get Friends haircuts..." on his bass. Made Hilarious in Hindsight during the 30th Anniversary shows, when Alice in Chains' 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 1980's to buy imported NWOBHM 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 realised 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 hearing.
- Lead Drummer: In a case that has more "Lead" than Cliff's above, Lars formed the band, and is the backbone of the whole thing along with James.
- 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.
- Mysterious Antarctica: They played there to become the first band in the seven continents. At least unlike Pink Floyd in Pompeii, there was an audience.
- Nice Guy: Kirk, Jason, and Cliff deserve special mention.
- Nice Hat: Lloyd Grant has one sweet hat on during the 30th anniversary show.
- Nobody Loves the Bassist:
- Jason Newsted, treated as the new guy for 14 years.
- 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.
- Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield.
- Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll:
- In their early days the band was sometimes nicknamed "Alcoholica" because all the members were such heavy drinkers.
- Metallica's struggle with alcohol was a significant reason for their nasty split with Dave Mustaine. "Some Kind Of Monster" (the song) was in part about how years of that lifestyle frays a person.
- Shirtless Scene:
- Lars has a tendency to strip down during shows, especially hot ones, until he's down to his tighty whiteys with sweat flying everywhere.
- James also occasionally removes clothing, but he stops with his shirt, and so the majority of Metallica's fans have never seen James Hetfield in his underwear (unlike Lars).
- Start My Own:
- After being fired from Metallica for his drug, alcohol, and violence problems, Dave Mustaine formed Megadeth.
- After a few side projects and some years of silence, Jason Newsted 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 lead 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. 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. Others argue that Welcome to Hell by Venom was the first thrash metal album, but Kill 'Em All was the first one to sell a lot of copies.
- 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!"
- Another great example from the same album:
"You've reached the end of the LIIIINE-AHHHH!"
- 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 favour of (Cliff wasn't just into metal) whatever they've just announced.
- Wild Hair: During the 80s and early 90s, everyone. Since the Load era, only Kirk and Rob.
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 home-made 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.
- The Eighties: Thrash metal, denim, and long hair.
- Iconic Logo: One of the most iconic in all of metal music. It's so widely recognised 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.
- Kill 'em All: Not an example, but the Trope Namer.
- Licensed Game: Guitar Hero: Metallica.
- Licensed Pinball Table: In addition to the 2013 pinball from Stern, artist "Dirty" Donny Gillies had previously rethemed an Earthshaker! table with a Metallica theme. That later led him to do the artwork for the Stern game.
- 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.
- Record Producer: The band has had:
- 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.
- Ride The Lightning: Again, not an example, but the Trope Namer.
- Rockumentary: Some Kind Of Monster.
- San Francisco: The home of the band, and the setting for many of the videos, including an obligatory chase scene with Hetfield in a black muscle car for "I Disappear".
- Self-Deprecation: Along with making "Alcoholica" merchandise, the cover for the "Whiskey in the Jar" single◊ consists solely of Garage Inc. negative reviews.
- Signature Style: Graphic artist Pushead's work is so synonymous with Metallica's image that the band really doesn't need a Mascot like Megadeth's Vic Rattlehead or Iron Maiden's Eddie The Head.
- 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 gruelling 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.
- Xtreme Kool Letterz: Hetfield likes to do this, a lot.
- On the back of their S&M album, in lieu of a track listing, they just added a picture of the set-list they used for the show. All the song names have been shortened this way. ("Puppetz")
- Used in the recording sessions shown on Some Kind of Monster, and lampshaded in the film Some Kind Of Monster when James noticed someone misspelled "Metallica" to read "Metllica"
- Apparently in high school, he wrote his name as "Jaymz" on his papers and whatnot.
- Besides "Jaymz", the band members were named "KRK", "Jasun", and "Larz" in the inner sleeve for The $5.98 EP: Garage Days Re-Revisited.
- After the End: "Blackened", about some kind of apparently fire-based catastrophe.
- And I Must Scream:
- "One" is about a soldier who's been reduced to an insensate hunk of still-conscious meat after stepping on a land mine.
- "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.
- Author Vocabulary Calendar:
- Bad Dreams: "All Nightmare Long".
- Bawdy Song / Auto Erotica: Notably averted when the band re-purposed 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"
- Bedlam House: "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)".
- Call Back: "St. Anger" contains two in the couplet "Fuck it all and fucking no regrets/I hit the lights on these dark sets" in the chorus. Most of it references the lines "Fuck it all and fucking no regrets/Never happy endings on these dark sets" from "Damage, Inc.", but "I hit the lights" is likely a reference to "Hit the Lights", their first song.
- Cluster F-Bomb: "Ain't My Bitch," St. Anger to some extent, and most of all, their cover of the Anti-Nowhere League's "So What?".
- Contemplate Our Navels: Started with "Dyers Eve" from ...And Justice For All. Increased on the Black Album and the Load and ReLoad years, reaching its peak on "St. Anger" and "Some Kind Of Monster".
- 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.
- Cue the Sun: The ending to "The Unforgiven II":
The door is closed, so are your eyes
But now I see the sun
Now I see the sun
Yes, now I see it
- Death Row: "Ride The Lightning" which is about execution by the electric chair.
- Do Not Do This Cool Thing: Every song they do about war, most notably "For Whom The Bell Tolls". Although it's about the futility of war, it's a kick ass song that gets one's adrenaline pumping.
- The Drifter / Walking the Earth: "Wherever I May Roam".
- Driven to Madness: From "The Thing That Should Not Be"
Drain you of your sanity
Face the thing that should not be
- Drives Like Crazy: "Fuel" is about road rage and/or street racing.
Turn on, I see red
Adrenaline crash and crack my head
Nitro junkie, paint me dead
And I see red
- Drugs Are Bad: "Master Of Puppets"
Taste me, you will see
More is all you need
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 HP Lovecraft, specifically "The Shadow Over Innsmouth", in which the eponymous Thing is Dagon.
- The End of the World as We Know It: "The Four Horsemen", "Fight Fire With Fire", and "Blackened".
- Enter Eponymous: "Enter Sandman".
- 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
I can not live
I can not die
Trapped in myself
Body my holding cell
- Filk Song: "The Four Horsemen," "One" (Johnny Got His Gun), "The Memory Remains" (Sunset Boulevard), "For Whom The Bell Tolls" (Ernest Hemingway) and "The Thing That Should Not Be" (HP Lovecraft, with even parts of his text).
- Fire and Brimstone Hell: "Jump In The Fire" which is sung from the perspective of Satan.
- Freak Out: "The Unnamed Feeling", given it's supposed to be anxiety.
- Get It Over With: "Ride The Lightning"
The final curtain all I see
How true is this?
Just get it over with
If this is true
Just let it be.
- A God Am I: From "Ride The Lightning" which denounces capital punishment.
Who made you God to say
I'll take your life from you
- Goodbye, Cruel World!: "Fade To Black" is about someone on the verge of committing suicide in despair.
- Grey and Gray Morality: "For Whom The Bell Tolls"
On the fight, for they are right
Yes, but who's to say
- Heavy Meta: "Hit The Lights", "Whiplash", and "Metal Militia" from Kill 'Em All, their cover of "Helpless" from Garage Days Re-Revisited
- Hidden Villain: Cthulhu from "The Thing That Should Not Be"
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.
- Ironic Nursery Tune: "Enter Sandman" which quotes the "Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep" nursery rhyme verbatim.
- Isn't It Ironic?:
- 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".
- Mercy Kill: The narrator of "One" asks for this.
Fed through the tube that sticks in me
Just like a wartime novelty
Tied to machines that make me be
Cut this life off from me
Hold my breath as I wish for death
Oh, please, God, wake me
- Missing Mom: "The God That Failed" is about James's mother, Cynthia, who was a strict Christian Scientist. She refused treatment for cancer due to her beliefs, and died when James was 16.
- Mondegreen: It's inevitable the way they stretch their syllables on.
- In "No Leaf Clover" it sounds like they're saying "And I'm constipated" when really they're just repeating "And it comes to be that".
- "Don't Tread On Me": A lot of people mishear the line "So be it, threaten no more" as "Soviets threaten no more," which is understandable as the album was released during the implosion of the USSR.
- "AND OF BAKED APPLE PIES!" ("and of things that will bite" from "Enter Sandman").
- Motor Mouth: Compared to most Metallica songs, "That Was Just Your Life" from Death Magnetic counts.
- Myth Arc: "The Unforgiven" trilogy, possibly. They're united in subject matter, even if they're not about the same guy.
- Murder Ballad: Their cover of The Misfits' "Die, Die My Darling". Not exactly a ballad, but...
- Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep: Famously quoted verbatim in "Enter Sandman".
- One Nation Under Copyright: "And Justice For All" (song)
- The Power of Rock: "Metal Militia".
- Precision F-Strike:
- "Am I Evil" (cover): "Am I evil / Yes I fucking am!"
- "Damage Inc.": "Slamming through / Don't fuck with razorback" and "Fuck it all and fucking no regrets"
- "Dyers Eve": "I've outgrown that FUCKING lullaby!"
- "Fuel": "Fuck 'em, man, white knuckle tight / Through black and white!"
- "Whiplash": "There's a feeling deep inside that drives you fucking mad" and "Now it's time to let it rip, to let it fucking loose"
- The live, orchestrated version of "Master Of Puppets" from S&M. The second time the line "Dedicated to how I'm killing you" is played, James replaces the word "killing" with "fucking".
Dedicated to how I'm fucking you!
- Kirk's comment about Justice:
Touring behind it, we realized the consensus was that the songs were too fucking long.
- Every time they play "One" live: "Tied to machines that make me be / Cut this shit off from me!"
- Protest Song:
- "Disposable Heroes", which is an anti-war song about a young soldier whose fate is controlled by his superiors.
- Lars describes ...And Justice for All as the "CNN Years," where he and James would watch CNN and write songs on anything they disliked.
- Rape as Dramedy / Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: The cover of The Misfits' "Last Caress/Green Hell" from the "The $5.98 E.P.: Garage Days Re-Revisited"
- Refuge in Audacity:
- 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.
- Religion Rant Song: "The God That Failed" (Type 2) and "Leper Messiah" (Type 3)
- Reptiles Are Abhorrent: Played straight with "Slither," subverted with "Don't Tread on Me," as the reptile's fearsome qualities are meant to be associated with strength and honour.
- Revenge: "Fight Fire With Fire".
- Rock Me, Asmodeus!: "Jump In The Fire" is sung from the perspective of Satan. "Devil's Dance" is a less literal example of this, as the song is actually using Satan as a metaphor for rape.
- Sanity Slippage Song: "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)", "Harvester Of Sorrow", and "Frayed Ends Of Sanity".
- Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll:
- "Hit The Lights"
- "Master Of Puppets", but it offers a far less positive view of the lifestyle. It was partially inspired by a friend of theirs who was drug addicted and wound up dying of AIDS.
- Shout-Out: A (very off-key) bit of Iron Maiden's "Run To The Hills" plays at the end of the "Last Caress/"Green Hell" medley. They replied in a more jokey manner.
- Take That: "Leper Messiah" is an attack upon televangelism.
- Terror Hero: The eponymous "Creeping Death" which pressures the Pharaoh into letting God's people go, one plague at a time.
- Things That Go Bump in the Night: "Enter Sandman".
Hush, little baby, don't say a word
And never mind that noise you heard
It's just the beasts under your bed
In your closet, in your head
- Tomato in the Mirror: The line, "I'm you" from "Sad But True".
- Villain Song: A few are told from the point of view of people such as soldiers slaughtering others ("Disposable Heroes"), people who snap out and murder ("Harvester Of Sorrow") and Satan ("Jump In The Fire").
- War Is Hell: "For Whom The Bell Tolls", "One" and "Disposable Heroes."
- Wham Line:
- "Sad But True":
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.
- White-Dwarf Starlet: "The Memory Remains", about a fading starlet grasping at whatever's left of her former fame.
- Witch Hunt: "The Shortest Straw".
- Word Salad Lyrics: Sometimes they are just strings of cool-sounding phrases, such as "The End Of The Line":
Need… more and more
Bleed… battle scars
Stain… rot away
- Are you sure this isn't about drug addiction?
- Xtreme Kool Letterz: "Fixxxer", the last track on ReLoad.
- You Bastard: "Sad But True":
I'm your truth, telling lies
I'm your reasoned alibis
I'm inside, open your eyes I'm you
- Your Mom / Would Hurt a Child: The cover of "Last Caress/Green Hell" from the "The $5.98 E.P.: Garage Days Re-Revisited"
- Binge Montage: The video for "Whiskey In The Jar."
- Cold War: "All Nightmare Long", which also includes generous helpings of Zombie Apocalypse for good measure.
- Fanservice/Fan Disservice: The video for "Whiskey In The Jar". which features lots of scantily-clad women and Les Yay, but also features closeups of women vomiting and using the toilet.
- Lyrics/Video Mismatch \ Music Video Overshadowing: Both "Turn The Page" (the song is about a musician, the video about a stripper) and "All Nightmare Long" (instead of an Eldritch Abomination, soviet zombies).
- Mind Screw: "The Unforgiven", "The Unforgiven II", and "Until It Sleeps".
- Nightmare Sequence: "Enter Sandman".
- Single Mom Stripper: The video for "Turn The Page" features one of these, and it just gets darker and more depressing from there.
- Surreal Music Video: "Until It Sleeps", which is full of imagery taken from the surreal paintings of 16th century Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch.
- Video Full Of Film Clips: Inverted with "One," as the band actually bought the rights to Johnny Got His Gun so they could use it in the video. Unfortunately, they failed to license the film to a different company for home video for a couple of decades afterwards.
- Wild Teen Party: One of the most raucous house parties ever recorded on film for "Whiskey In The Jar."
- World War I:
- "One", specifically the footage from Johnny Got His Gun. The song itself is more evocative of post-WWII battle due to the helicopter in the intro.
- It's easy to excuse people mistaking "For Whom The Bell Tolls" for another song on that theme, but it's actually about (a book about) the Spanish Civil War.
- Zombie Apocalypse: "All Nightmare Long."