Follow TV Tropes


Music / Metallica

Go To
The current line-up of Metallica. From left to right: Kirk Hammett, James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich and Robert 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.

Metallica is 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).

The band was formed in the early 1980s 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. The roster was then filled out by lead guitarist Dave Mustaine and bassist Ron McGovney (soon to be replaced by virtuoso Cliff Burton).

In the heady days of the '80s, 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 third album, Master of Puppets (1986), created the band's first notable commercial success, and was and is hailed as a metal masterpiece. Unfortunately, on their subsequent tour, Burton was killed in a bus accident. Choosing to continue on in spite of their grief, the band 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 mix of their next album, ...And Justice For All (1988), being seen as the first major instance. It was also 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 '90s, the band moved away from thrash metal (according to Hammett, they realized that the general consensus was that songs were "too fucking long", though the rise of grunge and alternative rock probably also had something to do with it), first coming out with their massively successful self-titled album Metallica (aka "The Black Album") in 1991, then the rock-, country- and blues-tinged alt-rock pair Load and ReLoad, respectively released in 1996 and 1997.

Metallica were then mostly quiet for a while, and when they finally set about making a new album, they had a full-on breakdown, with a fed-up Newsted 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), Hetfield going into rehab for alcoholism, and the entire future of the band in doubt. St. Anger, the album forged in the midst of all thisnote , was released in 2003. It's disdained by most fans, though for some 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.

The band's next album, Death Magnetic, came in 2008, and was the most in-character effort they'd had in years in the sense of it being a return to their thrash roots. However, it was 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 opened to mixed-at-best reviews from critics and was panned by just about every fan that had an opinion on it, although it received the unwavering support of David Bowie, who loved it and cited it as an influence on his final album, .

In December 2011, 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 November 30, 2012, 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.

In late 2016, the band released their 10th album, Hardwired... to Self-Destruct, which marked another clear return to their '80s thrash/speed metal roots. The effectiveness of the stylistic throwback at this stage in their career became a topic of debate, but it was a commercial success regardless. The album became Metallica's sixth to debut at #1 on the Billboard 200, making them the second band in music history to have that many consecutive #1 debuts after Dave Matthews Band. Their 11th album, 72 Seasons, was released on April 14, 2023; it debuted at #1 in 20 different countries, but not America, being kept from the top of the chart only by Morgan Wallen's One Thing at a Time.

Metallica is perhaps best known for their somewhat turbulent relationship with their fans, in part the result of their long career and their experimentation with 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 antagonise the band and other fans.

Further division among the fandom — in particular those who play guitar, bass or whatever — divide their material based on the band's line-up at any given time. Bass players tend to favour the Cliff Burton years, although Newsted 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 a token hater) 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. It was everything after Kill 'Em All. 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." In short, there are likely as many possible answers as there are people who have heard of Metallica.

Lars Ulrich's crusade against Napster also 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.)

Current Members:

  • Lars Ulrich - drums (1981-present)
  • James Hetfield - lead vocals, rhythm guitar (1981-present)
  • Kirk Hammett - lead guitar, backing vocals (1983-present)
  • Robert Trujillo - bass, backing vocals (2003-present)

Former Members:

  • Ron McGovney - bass, backing vocals (1982)
  • Dave Mustaine - lead guitar, backing vocals (1982-1983)
  • Cliff Burton - bass, backing vocals (1982-1986, died 1986)
  • Jason Newsted - bass, backing vocals (1986-2001)

Main Studio Discography:

Other Studio Discography:

  • 1987 - The $5.98 E.P.: Garage Days Re-Revisited (cover EP)
  • 1998 - Garage Inc. (cover album)
  • 2011 - Lulu (collaboration with Lou Reed)
  • 2011 - Beyond Magnetic (EP of B-sides from Death Magnetic)note 

Live Discography:

  • 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
  • 2019 - Helping Hands... Live & Acoustic at the Masonic
  • 2020 - S & M 2

Metallica are the Trope Namers for:

"Trope 'Em All!":

    open/close all folders 

    The band members themselves / live performance 
  • Actually Pretty Funny: Kirk's reaction when a fan managed to get his high school yearbook (the one with this picture to be precise) and had him sign it.
  • 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.
  • 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 or the New York Yankees when Mariano Rivera was the closer), "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.
    • Jason pulls it off nearly as well as Hetfield. After all, he has the distinction of being the only other member to handle lead vocals, singing Seek and Destroy several times live.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For / Writer Revolt: In 1996, MTV Europe asked Metallica to play "King Nothing" and don't curse in the EMA's. Their response...
  • Big Guy, Little Guy: James has been the tallest member of the band since Cliff's death in 1986 (6'1"). Lars (5'6") and Kirk (5'7") are short, and apart from Cliff (6'2"), Jason and Robert are both 5'9". Photos such as the one in our page image or the cover of Garage Days Revisited try to disguise it.
  • The Big Guy: Ignoring the height part, Rob Trujillo is a massive dude, just look at any live show where he goes sleeveless.
  • 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 to form another band as a side project.
    • According to Dave Mustaine's book, Ron McGovney was this to Lars and James. They would apparently throw his stuff out of the car and talk shit about him, since he wasn't one to fight back.
  • Catchphrase: During live performances—usually while playing "Battery"—James will often ask the audience "Are you alive?!" followed by "How does it feel to be alive?!"
    • To a lesser extent, "Metal up your ass!", which was supposed to be the title of Kill 'Em All. It has notably been used as one of James' phrases in the pinball game.
  • Careful with That Axe: James before and during the Kill 'Em All era. He hit some truly insane high notes as well, though - given his lack of training these were more like very convenient voicecracks rather than impressive displays.
  • Changing Chorus: "Enter Sandman" changes up the chorus slightly towards the end of the song. The chorus is normally "Exit light, Enter night, Take my hand, We're off to Never Never Land." The final iteration is "Exit light, Enter night, Grain of sand, Exit light, Enter night, Take my hand, We're off to Never Never Land."
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Cliff. The guy wore bell bottom jeans in the 80's, moved around on stage like he was possessed, and actually convinced the band to move from Los Angeles, the Metal hotspot of the 80's to San Francisco. Craziest thing? He made it work.
  • 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; Tanner played with James in his previous band, and Bush had been approached to be Metallica's singer, but turned down the gig in favor of making it - or not - with his band Armored Saint, who were all high school friends) among others.
  • Dude Looks Like a Lady: Kirk Hammett, yes, even during the short-hair era. His short, slight build and soft, high-pitched voice help sell the illusion.
    • James in his younger days as well, though nowhere near the extent of Kirk. Though he lost basically all of it after losing the baby face and growing a beard.
  • Dumb Blonde: James had his moments in the early days.
    Interviewer: So how long have you been together as a band?
    James: Uh, since we started.
  • Embedded Precursor: All of the tracks from their 1987 all-cover $5.98 EP, as well as the original "Garage Days Revisited" (released in Europe as a B-side to the "Creeping Death" single), were included on Garage, Inc. which is a full-length Cover Album.
  • Every Episode Ending: When you hear the first notes of "Seek & Destroy", start heading for the doors. (or if it's a shortened concert, "Enter Sandman")
  • Flanderization: James' memetic "Something-AHHH" Verbal Tic became much more pronounced after the "Black Album".
  • Forgotten Fallen Friend: Averted totally with Cliff, as James, Lars, and Kirk will still talk about him readily if prompted, and always lavish praise on his musical talents and uncompromising personal beliefs. Jason was a huge Metallica fan before joining the group and has admitted to breaking down in tears when he read of Cliff's death, and though the other three's failure to deal with their grieving laid the groundwork of his ultimately leaving the group, he has always spoken fondly of Cliff himself.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble:
    • Lars: Sanguine.
    • James: Choleric.
    • Kirk: Melancholic.
    • Robert: Phlegmatic.
  • Guest-Star Party Member: After James got burned on stage, he couldn't play guitar in his recovery, so guitar technician John Marshall performed as James only sung. And along with a few guest singers in three 2000 concerts where James was injured (see Step Up to the Microphone below), Lars' absence during Download Festival in 2004 forced the drums to be filled in by Dave Lombardo, Joey Jordison, and Lars' drum technician Flemming Larsen.
  • Harsh Vocals: Given Motörhead is one of their influences, it's not surprising that James likes to mimic Lemmy's vocal tics.
    • Jason Newsted's backing vocals as well.
  • He Cleans Up Nicely: James looks rather clean-cut in his acting debut as Officer Bob Hayward in a movie about serial killer Ted Bundy.
    • In fact, the entire band did this. Mostly since they were all zitty awkward teenagers when they started, so not place to go but up we suppose?
  • 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.
  • Iconic Item:
    • Cliff Burton's legendary burgundy Rickenbacker 4001, later his "Black N' Gold" Aria Pro 2, and of course his Morley fuzz wah.
    • James' Explorer/Snakebyte model guitars, particularly the "Eet Fuk" one. Also his various other signatures like The Grynch and his Iron Cross Les Pauls.
    • Kirk's horror movie themed guitars, and more recently the 1959 Les Paul "Greeny" previously owned by Peter Green and Gary Moore.
    • Rob's 5-string Warwick basses.
    • Jason, despite not having any particularly iconic basses, is noted as being one of the first big players to almost exclusively use 5-string basses, especially outside of really technical Jazz Fusion guys.
  • 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".
  • Insufferable Genius: Dave Mustaine in a nutshell as far as his time in Metallica was concerned. He was an exceedingly talented guitarist whose ability was acknowledged by everyone. Unfortunately, he was also a godawful mean drunk with drug issues that were serious even then and a sober personality that was apparently not that much better.
    • Lars, though not really in regards to his drumming. Say what you will about the man personally, but it's in large part his connections, business savvy and the fact that he is the one arranging most of the songs from whatever riffs and lyrics James makes that made Metallica something more than just a garage band.
  • 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 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.
    • Cliff had shades of this. Aside from his stage antics, about half of the pictures with him seem to have him making some goofy face, was known to carry around a hammer to go nuts with, and was generally quite an odd guy.
  • Kick the Dog: Done to each other by James Hetfield and Dave Mustaine; the most notable incident is when James literally kicked Dave's pitbull for attacking Ron McGovney's 1972 Pontiac LeMans, resulting in Mustaine splitting his lip open.
  • 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.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: James, during the late 1990's. During the band's post-Black Album hiatus, Lars and Kirk had developed interests (art, drugs) that he wanted no part of (him taking up hunting also kept him physically away from both during off-hours). During the Load period, they had been the primary forces behind the band's "new image." In particular, James hated the cover art by Andres Serrano, saying in a Guitar World interview that "I'm not a big fan of the man and his perversions. There's art and then there's just sick motherfuckers, and he's one of those." Additionally, he felt that the focus on the band's image was overshadowing what he felt was some of their more innovative work (as he said in the same interview "'Bleeding Me' is, I think, some of my best lyrics of all time. And what are people talking about? Lars' fuzzy jacket.") He had more in common with Jason (both were into hot rods and classic guitars, among other things), but years of hazing had effectively scorched that bridge to a crisp. As a result, being isolated from the rest of the band, he developed the "Doctor No" personality that led to Jason's departure and almost led to the band's breakup.
  • Long-Runner Line-up: As much as Jason was the new guy for 14 years, his tenure was the longest of the band without changing members, until Robert (in the band since 2003) equaled it in 2017. Cliff likely would have stayed longer were it not for his tragic death.
  • Man on 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.
  • Mistaken for Terrorist: James Hetfield was once detained at London's Luton Airport for questioning. The airport officials released him without any explanations, but everyone believe it was because of the Taliban-like beard he had at the time.
  • Mysterious Antarctica: They played there to become the first band to play on all seven continents (within the same year, too!). At least unlike Pink Floyd in Pompeii, there was an audience.
  • Nice Guy: Kirk, Jason, and Cliff deserve special mention.
  • Nobody Loves the Bassist:
    • Jason Newsted, treated as the new guy for 14 years, though ironically beloved both by fans and other musicians. Dave Mustaine praised the guy in multiple interviews.
    • Ron McGovney, (original bassist, 1981-83). In Dave Mustaine's autobiography, he was not fond of McGovney at all, and neither were Lars and James allegedly. According to various sources (VH1 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 Robert.
  • Older Than They Look: In the first few years, James was skinny, baby-faced and had quite a bit of acne, basically making him look like a really tall fifteen year-old.
    • Kirk, basically his entire life. Since he's always got a soft speaking voice, a young-looking face and a small build, he basically looked 10 years younger than the rest of the band at any given time. Hell, he looks the same these days as he did 20 years ago, only with grey hair.
    • Lars counts to an extent. He's basically looked the same age their entire career, with only his weight and hairstyle changing.
  • 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". After the release of Hardwired… to Self‐Destruct he began asking the questions, followed by his own answer "If you want to live forever, then first you must dieee.", before playing the very fitting "Now That We're Dead".
  • Overly Long Name: Roberto Agustín Miguel Santiago Samuel Trujillo Veracruz. Fans prefer to call him "Rob", for obvious reasons.
  • Pro Bono Barter: Basically how James and Lars got Cliff to quit Trauma (his old band) and come to them. He was unwilling to move to L.A. and made their relocating to San Francisco his only condition for joining.
  • Put on a Bus: Dave Mustaine, quite literally. The rest of the band told him he was fired and gave him a bus ticket back home.
  • Rage Breaking Point: James hit this, understandably, when an inattentive security guard jostled his burned arm back in 1992.
    We're backstage, and it's Montreal, you know, French-speaking, "Uh, can I get to a hospital?" (*affects overly French accent*) "Oh, 'ospeetal, yez." And as we're waiting for the ambulance, a guard walks by and he bumps into me. Bumps into my hand. And I just screamed and I punched him right in the nuts.
  • 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.
    • Averted in the case of Lars Ulrich, whose father Torben Ulrich already was an established artist when the band was formed, and additionally had a successful tennis career behind him.
  • "Rashomon"-Style: The exact details of how Dave Mustaine left the band tend to change depending on who's telling the story - the only things for certain is the way he got sent home, and his reaction to the aftermath.
  • 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.
    • Dave Mustaine and Kirk Hammett - Dave was notoriously abrasive, and his erratic, aggressive behavior got him kicked out. Kirk is soft spoken, fairly down-to-earth, and has remained in the band with no real conflict for 35+ years.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield.
  • "Sesame Street" Cred: Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield guest-starred in Dave the Barbarian as a pair of dragons.
  • 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 is down to his tighty-whitey briefs 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.
  • Steel Ear Drums: Averted by James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich.
  • Survivor Guilt: It is 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.
  • Take That!: During one of their early tours, James dissed Exodus fans as "freaks" just before the band played "Phantom Lord". Also an example of Biting-the-Hand Humor considering the other guitarist, Kirk Hammett, came to the band from Exodus.
  • Two Decades Behind: While the rest of the band had teased hair, wore tight-fitting black jeans, metal studs, and other common fashions of 80's thrash and speed metal, Cliff had long flowing hair, wore bell bottom jeans, and a jean jacket. He looked like we was straight out of the 70's.
  • 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 studio 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 Dissonance: Watch any early interviews with James. That deep, powerful-speaking voice should not come from a zitty, skinny blond-haired kid, especially one who sung like a spotty teenager. Eventually averted progressively during the time between Justice and Load, during which, in addition to lowering his singing to match his standard voice, James aged and bulked up, growing into the voice.
  • Vocal Evolution: Starting with Justice and consolidated with the Black Album (although it wouldn't be totally clear until Load), 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 Robert, once he joined (though he often has it braided into pigtails, either for convenience or as a Shout-Out to his Mexican/Amerindian roots).
  • Younger Than They Look: After growing his mutton chops, James, then in his mid-twenties instead looked to be at least in his thirties, ironically after spending the earlier part of his career looking about fifteen.

    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.
  • Avant-Garde Metal: Their collaboration with Lou Reed, Lulu combines Thrash Metal with Post-Rock, Progressive Metal, Spoken Word and Noise Rock.
  • 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.
    • When Self-Destruct leaked early, the band responded by putting videos for every song on the album up on YouTube.
  • The '80s: Thrash metal, denim, and long hair.
  • Fan Remake: A rare music example. There exists a fan remake of St. Anger on YouTube that attempts to correct many of the complaints people had with the official release. It has vastly improved production, partially streamlined songsnote , and the notorious snare of the original is ditched in favor of more standard drum tuning/mixing. On the other hand, guitar solos are still absent, and a number of Narm-tastic lines like "Fran-tic-tic-tic-tic-tic-tic-tok!" were kept in. Nevertheless, despite being essentially a cover album with no involvement from the band itself, a number of fans have agreed that it's probably better to just listen to this instead of the official album.
  • Licensed Game: Guitar Hero: Metallica.
  • Licensed Pinball Table: In addition to the 2013 pinball from Stern, artist "Dirty" Donny Gillies had previously re-themed 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.
  • Mid-Vid Skit: The video for "One" contains several clips from a film version of Johnny Got His Gun between the vocal sections. This is justified, since the song is based on the book. This is also what is known as Sampling, and has been used frequently in audio-visual art.
    • Their cover of "Turn the Page," where the video pauses for the protagonist to give a short interview excerpt.
  • Minimalistic Cover Art: Metallica, consisting only of an extremely dark Metallica logo and a coiled snake (taken from the historical Gadsden Flag) on a black background.
  • The Movie: Metallica: Through the Never is a feature-length film by the band that follows the story of Trip (Dane DeHaan), 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 & Redemption" (a long instrumental) goes by is "K2LU", an apparent reference to that other long instrumental "The Call of Ktulu".
  • The '90s: Traditional 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 the Some Kind of Monster EP (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 had no problem with, and then made an Ass t-shirt with the original concept art. Ironically enough, the record executives were the ones they wanted to kill all off.
  • 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.
  • Textless Album Cover: St. Anger's cover is solely an artwork by Pushead mainly consisting of a clenched fist with no other information. (the back cover shows it's a fig necklace)
  • 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. (e.g. "Puppetz" for "Master of Puppets")
    • 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.

    Lyrics/Themes/Concepts: A-L 
  • Affectionate Parody: The Evil Laugh at the end of "Master of Puppets" was meant to parody Iron Maiden.
  • 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, ironically unable to scream.
    • "Trapped Under Ice" which is about a person who is cryogenically frozen but still conscious.
  • Apocalypse How:
    • “The Four Horsemen”, like most of the unsubtle lyrics in the first album, is about the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (the song even provides the page quote). It’s also a bit of Heavy Meta, likening themselves to said Horsemen, and it’s since become a nickname for the band.
    • “Fight Fire With Fire”, written at the height of 1980s Cold War tensions, is about how nuclear warfare will inevitably lead to the complete destruction of both sides (and everyone else).
    • "Blackened" foresees environmental catastrophe, as well as an indifferent populace who’d rather live it up than do anything to stop the unfolding disaster that will kill even them.
  • As the Good Book Says...: "The Four Horsemen", about the characters of the same name, and "Creeping Death", about the final of the ten plagues of Egypt — once the band was watching The Ten Commandments (1956), Cliff reacted to the newborn slaughter with "Whoa, it's like creeping death!".
  • 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.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: "Dyer's Eve" is an angry call-out to both parents of a sheltered religious household.
  • Celebrity Is Overrated: "Moth Into Flame." The lyrics reflect drug use, self-destruction for the sake of fame, and how quickly people can be replaced in the music business. James has stated he was inspired by Amy Winehouse's life.
  • 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).
    • 17 years apart, "Fuck it all and fucking no regrets" appeared in both "Damage Inc." (1986) and St. Anger's title track (2003).
    • Lux &A Elig;terna contains the line "full speed or nothing", referencing Motorbreath from Kill 'em All, and the song is on the whole very structurally similar to Hit the Lights from the same album.
  • Corrupt Church: "Leper Messiah" is an attack upon televangelism.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: The band has four pieces, three 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, "The Thing That Should Not Be" from Master of Puppets, "All Nightmare Long," from Death Magnetic (inspired by The Hounds of Tindalos, though most people just remember the zombies from the video) and "Dream No More" from Hardwired... to Self Destruct.
  • 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
  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: "Spit Out the Bone", which is inspired by the current generation's ever-increasing reliance on technology.
  • Death Row: "Ride the Lightning" is about execution by the electric chair.
  • 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
    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.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Kill 'Em All has a muddier sound compared to every album that followed, and two Heavy Meta songs that heavily contrast to the thoughtful lyrics James usually writes.
  • 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.
  • 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
    Absolute horror
    I cannot live
    I cannot die
    Trapped in myself
    Body my holding cell
    • Going by the original work Johnny Got His Gun, the military honchos that kept him alive decide not to kill him and just ignore his pleas for a dignified death, which only adds insult to injury.
  • Fire and Brimstone Hell: "Jump in the Fire" which is sung from the perspective of Satan.
  • Four Is Death: The earliest version of "Fight Fire with Fire" has a chorus consisting of James shouting the title four times.
  • Freak Out: "The Unnamed Feeling", given it's supposed to be anxiety.
  • Funetik Aksent: The title for "Call of Ktulu". The H. P. Lovecraft character is actually spelt "Cthulhu"; the explanation given for the title change is that writing (or for that matter, saying) "Cthulhu" in the story will summon him, and the band members chose this title as a reference.
  • Gaia's Lament: "Blackened", which foretells the The End of the World as We Know It through environmental catastrophe.
  • General Ripper: “Disposable Heroes” is sung from the perspective of one. He urges his troops to die by the thousands and calls them cowards when they try to fall back.
  • 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, their cover of "It's Electric" from Garage Inc.
  • Hidden Villain: Cthulhu from "The Thing That Should Not Be":
    Fearless wretch
    He watches
    Lurking beneath the sea
    • Also in "Dream No More", though in that he is awakening.
  • Heroic Self-Deprecation: All the subjects of the three "Unforgiven", who have been battered by life with extreme prejudice.
  • Homesickness Hymn: Metallica's cover of Bob Seger's "Turn the Page" is one of rock's most vivid examples of road fatigue, as it's told from the perspective of a world-weary, burned-out musician who's grown sick of being on the road and just wants to get home and be away from that life for awhile.
  • Humans Are Bastards: The narrator of "ManUNkind" has a firm belief in this.
  • Human Popsicle: "Trapped Under Ice", which is sung from the perspective of someone in a cryogenics chamber.
  • In Your Nature to Destroy Yourselves: The title Hardwired... to Self-Destruct shows many of the songs in that album are about this, starting with the Title Track.
  • 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.
  • Lyrical Tic:

    Lyrics/Themes/Concepts: M-Z 
  • Machine Worship: "Spit Out the Bone", a discussion on human dependency on technology - and in James's words, how the next step is "getting rid of the human flesh part" due to "convenience leaning into dependency"
    “Spit Out the Bone" – machinery is so much more efficient. We want things quicker. We want the convenience of technology. […] But at what point is We need it, or else we don’t know what to do.”
  • Mature Animal Story: The video for "Here Comes Revenge" is the dark tale of a Serial Killer who is haunted by his victims.
  • 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 (for which the song doubles as Rage Against the Heavens), and died when James was 16.
  • 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...
  • Nature Metal: "Blackened" is a prominent example of a pro-environment, anti-pollution song; it's about how humanity is destroying the world (and itself) by squandering and destroying the Earth and its resources.
  • Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep: Famously quoted verbatim in "Enter Sandman".
  • One Nation Under Copyright: "...And Justice for All" (song).
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: "Of Wolf And Man".
  • The Power of Rock: "Metal Militia".
  • Precision F-Strike:
    • "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".
    • "Hardwired", right before the Album Title Drop.
    • Live performances will add a few, such as the cover of "Am I Evil" ("Am I evil / Yes, I fucking am!"), the orchestrated version of "Master of Puppets" from S&M ("Dedicated to how I'm killing you" is replaced by "Dedicated to how I'm fucking you!") and "One" ("Cut this life off from me" -> "Cut this shit off from me!").
    • Kirk's comment about Justice:
      Touring behind it, we realized the consensus was that the songs were too fucking long.
  • 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":
    I got something to say / I raped your mother today.
  • Pun-Based Title: "ManUNkind", a combination of mankind and "man (is) unkind".
  • Rap Rock: "We Did It Again", a collaboration with rapper Ja Rule and hip hop producer Swizz Beatz, released on the soundtrack to the movie Biker Boyz - essentially they let Swizz Beatz come into the studio and rework a few unfinished riffs into a rap-rock beat on protools, with additional contributions then made by Kirk and James.
  • 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. note 
  • Religion Rant Song: "The God That Failed" is a "Hate the Faithful" type of song. The song is about James Hetfield's mother, who was a believer in Christian Science. Once she got cancer, Hetfield's mother forwent medical treatment, instead just praying to God to heal her. However, she died from the aforesaid lack of medical treatment as the cancer spread quickly. Hetfield felt that had she not followed her Christian Science beliefs, she could have survived.
  • 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 (the title comes from the motto of the Gadsden flag, used by the Navy in the American Revolution, while the snake itself also appears on the cover of the Black Album, where the song came from).
  • Revenge Ballad:
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: "The Day That Never Comes" is from the intentionally interpretable perspective from someone being constantly beat down and spat on by an outside force, implied to be an organization keeping many people down, from "seeing the Sun." As the song progresses, its protagonist goes from wishing for better days to swearing a rampage against them.
  • 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.
  • Rousing Lullaby: Enter Sandman is about falling asleep and having an apocalyptic nightmare.
    "Dreams of war!
    Dreams of liars!
    Dreams of dragon's fire!
    And of things that will bite!"
  • The Sandman: "Enter Sandman" is a song about to deal with the concept of a child's nightmares and as the name says, plays with the mythical figure of Sandman. The music video goes further with a young boy being chased in nightmares by various dangers and in one scene where he's praying, an old man appears being Sandman himself as The Man behind the nightmares (ported by R. G. Armstrong).
  • Sanity Slippage Song: "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)", "Harvester of Sorrow", and "The 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.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: “Confusion” is sung from the perspective of a former soldier (whom the video portrays as having served in the Middle East during The War on Terror) afflicted with PTSD.
    • “Hero of the Day” also portrays a veteran, but from a distance of years and reflecting on their physical wounds as much as the mental ones.
  • 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.
    • "Prince Charming" has a lyrical reference to the Voivod album Nothingface. Jason Newsted is known as a huge Voivod fan and even became an Ascended Fanboy when he later joined the band for awhile.
    • The title "Leper Messiah" is possibly borrowed from a line in David Bowie's "Ziggy Stardust".
    • During the ending of "The Memory Remains", along with the "ladadada-dada", Marianne Faithfull also says a quote from The Misfits that certainly fits a forgotten star ("Say yes, or at least say hello").
    • On early pressings of Master of Puppets, they featured a parody of Content Warnings:
      The only track you probably won't want to play is "Damage, Inc." due to the multiple use of the infamous "F" word. Otherwise, there aren't any "Shits", "Fucks", "Pisses", "Cunts", "Motherfuckers" or "Cocksuckers" anywhere on this record.
    Comedy buffs will note that this list contains six of George Carlin's Seven Dirty Words. Which one was excluded? "Tits", the one Carlin said "doesn't even belong on the list".
    • Hardwired has the song "Murder One", named after Lemmy's amplifier, and filled with references to Motörhead to honor the recently departed frontman. Also, "Spit Out the Bone" takes its title from GBH's "Passenger on the Menu".
  • Studio Chatter: "Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth)" starts with Cliff Burton saying "Bass solo, take one."
  • 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
  • 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?").
    • An easy-to-miss one in "One" during the last repeat of the chorus
    Now the world is gone/I'm just one
    Oh God help me!
  • Together in Death: "Now That We're Dead" is all about this, though the lyrics alternate between "we're going to die" and "we're dead".
  • 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", "No Remorse", "Seek and Destroy"), people who snap out and murder ("Harvester of Sorrow") and Satan ("Jump in the Fire"). "Master of Puppets" is from the point of view of drug addiction personified.
  • Vocal Evolution:
    • Along with James having more melodic singing instead of just shrieking like in the early days, he certainly sounds different due to all the screaming (he even blew his voice recording "So What") and smoking.
    • To put this in perspective — James' voice on Kill 'Em All was extremely high, and sounded basically nothing like James Hetfield, even when compared to Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets. Just five years later, he had already grown into a low-register baritone, which is basically the opposite to his high tenor vocals just years earlier.
  • War Is Hell: "For Whom the Bell Tolls", "Disposable Heroes," and "One." "Hero of the Day" is a more arguable example, depending on how you interpret it.
  • We Have Reserves: "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!
    • "Wherever I May Roam" seems to be another drifter song celebrating the art of travelling until we get to the last chorus:
      Carved upon my stone
      My body lies, but still I roam.
    • 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: Invoked in "The Shortest Straw".
  • Word Salad Lyrics:
    • Sometimes they are just strings of cool-sounding phrases. James admitted the lyrics' crypticness aims for "anonymous but powerful", making sure they resonate with listeners. ("I'll put two powerful words put together, and sometime I won't know what they mean, but I'll apply them to my life somehow.")
    • The line "No Life Til Leather" (which was both the title of their 1982 demo and the first line in "Hit The Lights") has no real meaning. The band, like most metal acts of the early-80's, just liked using the word "leather" in their lyrics due to its rough/cool sound.
    • The phrase “suffer unto” crops up in a few songs (notably “Harvester of Sorrow” and “My Apocalypse”), but is fundamentally meaningless. Even if it did mean something, it would likely be closer to “put up with” than “suffer from”, which kind of robs the lyrics of their impact. It’s probably best not to think about it too hard.
  • Working Title: "Until It Sleeps" was "Fobd" as they found it similar to Soundgarden's "Fell on Black Days". And Demo Magnetic reveals some amusing ones ("Hi Guy", "German Soup", "Gymbag"), which apart from "UN3" for "The Unforgiven III" are all unrelated to the end result.
    • “Atlas, Rise!” was initially “N.W.O.B.H.M. A.T.M”, which is presumably “New Wave of British Heavy Metal at This Moment”, putting its roots on display.
  • 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".
    I got something to say / I raped your mother today.
    I got something to say / I killed your baby today.

    Music/Music referential 
  • 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 name-checked in the closing track "My Apocalypse."
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: During a Seattle concert in 1989:
    James: Shit! Fuck! Cunt! Fag! Slut! Yo' Momma!
  • Audience Participation Song: Some songs seem made to elicit this effect.
    • Go to a Metallica concert and you'll be able to chant "Die! Die! Die" along with the whole audience during the song "Creeping Death."
  • Bowdlerise: Their first album, Kill 'Em All, fell victim to this; the original title was Metal Up Your Ass, with the cover art showing a hand holding a dagger sticking straight up out of a toilet.
  • Concept Album:
    • 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. Their latest is a version of Nazareth's "Please Don't Judas Me" in Helping Hands...
    • Generally speaking, if Metallica covers a song, it's going to be awesome. Even The Wizard of Oz music.
  • Cover Album:
    • The EP 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.
      • There's also a quadrilogy of cover albums from the Cleopatra Records label. If you've ever wondered what Metallica would sound like through a gothic rock / industrial lens, The Blackest Album 1, 2, 3 & 4 may be for you.
  • Distinct Double Album: The compilation of covers, Garage Inc.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • The pre-Kill 'Em All demos. James is imitating Sean Harris, Dave is writing lyrics about sex, Ron is plunking along and Lars' drum kit sounds like a cutlery cupboard being opened and closed. The production quality is also often (no surprise) quite poor.
    • Kill 'Em All counts both in the production quality grounds (the sound isn't as clear as anything from Ride the Lightning onwards), and the NWOBHM-style music, having the band's only Heavy Meta lyrics.
  • Epic Rocking: They frequently have songs over 5 minutes long, but some really fit the trope, such as "One" (7:26), "To Live Is to Die" (9:49), "The Outlaw Torn" (9:52), "...And Justice for All" (9:46), "Suicide & Redemption" (9:58), and the Mercyful Fate medley "Mercyful Fate" (11:11).
    • 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, which was the longest the manufacturing company could guarantee them without causing the CD to skip! And that's after shortening "The Outlaw Torn", whose uncut version lampshades with "Unencumbered by Manufacturing Restrictions Version").
      • They've written only 6 songs shorter than 4 minutes: "Motorbreath", "Holier Than Thou", "The Struggle Within", "Wasting My Hate" "Hardwired" and "Lux &A Elig;terna".
    • The Lulu album has 3 songs over 10 minutes, with the longest being "Junior Dad", which is almost 20 minutes long!
    • Self-Destruct and St. Anger both make extensive use of this trope, as well. After the first track, not a single track on Hardwired is less than five minutes long, and all but three are longer than six, with "Halo on Fire", the longest, topping out at over eight. And of course, the album itself is seventy-seven and a half minutes long. The bonus disc isn't as consistent an employer of this trope, but the longest track, the Ronnie James Dio medley, is over nine minutes long, and several other songs top the six-minute mark. As for St. Anger, every song tops the five-minute long mark and six of them top seven ("All Within My Hands", the longest track, is nearly nine minutes long).
  • Find the Cure!: "Cure"
  • For Doom the Bell Tolls: "For Whom the Bell Tolls", obviously. (the sound is actually Lars hitting an anvil)
  • 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 poem written by him, spoken by James Hetfield. "Suicide & Redemption", on the Guitar Hero soundtrack, actually has two versions, with solos from Hammett and Hetfield respectively.
    • Their albums in The '90s don’t feature instrumentals, although “My Friend of Misery” on the Black Album (with its prominent bass riff by Jason) was originally intended to be one. Load and Re-Load also feature album-closers with long jam sections (“The Outlaw Torn” and “Fixxxer”, respectively), which fulfill much the same purpose.
  • 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!"
  • Last Note Hilarity: After their cover of "Blitzkrieg" ends, there's an atonal guitar squeal, someone belching loudly, someone giggling, and Lars informing everyone that he "fucked up in one place."
    • Their cover of "The Prince" ends with a childish voice asking "Mommy, where's Fluffy?"
  • Lighter and Softer: A large factor behind Metallica's massive success, as the band downplayed their aggressive Thrash Metal sound in favor of more poppy and accessible material, especially the power ballads "The Unforgiven" and "Nothing Else Matters". Load and ReLoad fall under this as well, incorporating more influences from Blues Rock, Alternative Rock, and even Country Music.
  • Longest Song Goes Last:
    • Ride the Lightning ends with "The Call of Ktulu" (8:55).
    • Load ends with "The Outlaw Torn" (9:49).
    • ReLoad ends with "Fixxxer" (8:15).
    • St. Anger ends with "All Within My Hands" (8:48).
    • Inverted on Death Magnetic, which ends with "My Apocalypse" (5:01), the shortest song of the album.
    • Beyond Magnetic ends with "Rebel of Babylon", the EP's only track with a duration of more than 8 minutes.
    • Downplayed in Hardwired... to Self Destruct, where the first disc ends with the longest overall track, "Halo on Fire" (8:16).
    • 72 Seasons ends with "Inamorata" (11:10).
  • Loudness War: Death Magnetic is particularly infamous for this.
    • And yet the Guitar Hero song pack has the unaltered master tracks that avoid this, no seriously. The general rule for Death Magnetic is to buy the album, throw it out, and burn this version instead.
    • Beyond Magnetic, being songs left over from the sessions for DM, has a rough mix that's very loud, but is more dynamic and less clipped than the original master of DM (though still quite clipped in comparison to most other albums, even in modern times). The remaster of DM is substantially more dynamic and substantially less clipped than Beyond, though.
    • Death Magnetic was remastered in 2015/2016 (originally released as the Mastered for iTunes version, then the 24-bit masters for those were released on Metallica's site), and it's a substantial improvement. The new score is DR7, which isn't great, but is a hell of a lot better than the original's DR3, and more importantly, it avoids the original's clipping issues (it's still slightly clipped, but compared to most modern records it's not even noticeable). This is probably how the album was intended to sound in the first place.
    • Self-Destruct comes out to DR6, which isn't great, but is certainly a hell of a lot better than Death Magnetic. Radiohead and David Bowie's 2016 albums were louder than Metallica's, for whatever that's worth.
  • Lyrical Cold Open:
    • "Gimme fuel, gimme fire, gimme that which I desire- uh!"
    • "Chasing Light" on 72 Seasons starts with "There’s no light!"
  • Medley:
    • Giving a recorded example, we have the appropriately named "Mercyful Fate" on Garage Inc. which mashes up five songs from King Diamond's old band. The album also has (from the Garage Days Re-Revisited EP) "Last Caress \ Green Hell", two unrelated Misfits songs.
    • During the Load tour, a mash-up of older songs called "Kill / Ride Medley" was frequently used. Similarly, a medley of Justice songs was performed during the Black Album tour; a version of this can be found on Live Shit: Binge & Purge.
    • The band recorded another medley of songs for a Ronnie James Dio tribute album, which they entitled "Ronnie Rising Medley". It's also available on the deluxe edition of Self-Destruct.
    • Though it wasn't officially called a medley, when they covered Black Sabbath's "Sabbra Cadabra", they also spliced part of "A National Acrobat" into it.
  • Metal Scream: Metallica are gods at this, though aren't really big users of these.
    • James basically has two kinds. The first one is the high-pitched traditional kind, which mostly disappeared as his voice matured, the second kind is a more mid-ranged yell, much easier to pull of for a guy with his voice.
    • Jason Newsted is well beloved for his punk/thrash screams, as well as his bona-fide death growls.
  • Never Trust a Title: The song "Through the Never" does not appear in the concert movie Through the Never or the soundtrack accompanying it.
  • New Sound Album: The Black Album, Load and ReLoad, St. Anger, S & M. Inverted with Death Magnetic, an "Old Sound Album". Self-Destruct provides a strange example because, unexpectedly, it combines elements of the sounds of Load and ReLoad and of ...And Justice for All alongside use of melody that perhaps eclipses that found on any previous Metallica record.
  • 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." (that album marks the point where this became prevalent in their music, apparently enforced: Bob Rock asked James to get less wordy and said the emphasis helped shorter lyrics fit the timing)
  • Rated M for Manly: Fast, loud metal with lyrics mostly about death and destruction, as manly as it gets!
  • Rock Me, Amadeus!: Cliff Burton was a massive fan of classical music, and would often incorporate classical pieces and techniques in his playing, especially his solos.
  • Rhyming with Itself: In "Harvester of Sorrow":
    My life suffocates
    Planting seeds of hate
    I've loved, turned to hate
    Trapped far beyond my fate
  • Self-Backing Vocalist: Hetfield does all the backing vocals himself on the albums. At concerts, Kirk, Jason, and now Rob do the backing vocals.
  • Sequel Song:
    • The so-called "Unforgiven Trilogy" consists of "The Unforgiven" from their 1991 self-titled album, "The Unforgiven II" from 1997's ReLoad, and "The Unforgiven III" from 2008's Death Magnetic.
    • "Lux &A Elig;terna" from 72 Seasons can be viewed as something of a successor to "Hit the Lights" from Kill 'Em All. The song's name means "Eternal Light" in Latin, and both songs are short, punk-y affairs with a very similar structure and tempo.
    • Also from 72 Seasons is "Sleepwalk My Life Away" to "Enter Sandman" from the self-titled, which shares much of the latter song's rhythm, melodies and lyrical themes.
  • Something Something Leonard Bernstein: A few songs are sung so fast that can end up like this, such as "Battery" or "Fuel".
  • Song Style Shift: "Fade to Black", "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)", "One" and "The Day That Never Comes". Furthermore, their instrumental songs in albums after Ride the Lightning tend to 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.
    James: It goes something like "Seek... and... Destroy."
    • The band's lyrics in general can be this; they are often quite intellectual, based on literary sources or thoughtful political protest, but contain Precision F Strikes and the like.
  • Special Guest: "The Memory Remains" has Marianne Faithful doing an ominous "ladadada-dada" chant with her Smoky Voice. (live, it's the audience who does so)
  • Speedy Techno Remake: "YOU LIVE IT YOU LIE IT", a happy hardcore remix of "Frantic", made by the electronic musician Renard under their "Captain Gotobed" alias.
  • Strictly Formula: A few of Metallica's albums seem to follow a specific formula when it comes to track order: A relatively slow song is placed as track four, the second-to-last track is an instrumental track with no singing, and the final track is a high-speed thrasher. Ride the Lightning, Master of Puppets, ...And Justice for All, and Death Magnetic all follow this formula (with the sole exception that the places of the instrumental and the high-speed thrasher are switched on Ride the Lightning).
  • Surprisingly Gentle Song: "Nothing Else Matters", "Mama Said", "Low Man's Lyric", "Little Dog", and "Junior Dad". "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.
  • To the Tune of...:
    • 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 Track: "Ride the Lightning", "Master of Puppets", "...And Justice for All", "St. Anger"... and "Hardwired", which does employ a full Album Title Drop on the chorus.
  • Uncommon Time: Showed up sometimes during their thrash days; for example the verses of "...And Justice For All" are in 7/4. They're back to using it a lot on Self-Destruct.

    Music Videos 

Alternative Title(s): James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich