Love them or hate them, Metallica is synonymous with heavy metal music. They are often lauded as the inspiration for other bands. This year marks the band’s fortieth anniversary, which means entire generations of fans have grown up on this incredible music. We’re ranking all ten of Metallica’s studio albums in honor of four decades of hard, heavy rock.
10. Death Magnetic
Metallica holds the record for the first band ever to have five studio albums in a row debut at number one on the Billboard Hot 200. Death Magnetic is the album that won them that distinction. Choosing a ‘least favorite’ Metallica studio album is like choosing the worst dessert at a five-star restaurant. It’s still great. Coming after St. Anger, this particular album features some absolutely incredible, long, and complex guitar solos. Fans of the band were notably angered by the lack of guitar solos on the prior album.
Load and Reload were originally supposed to be a single, much more extensive double album. Unfortunately, due to recording deadlines, these two collections got split. Reload was the band’s last album of the 20th century, and it joins a very small, elite group of albums that debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 200.
Best known for the singles Until It Sleeps and Hero Of The Day, Load also debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 200. Although the album sold over six hundred eighty thousand units the first week, and it went platinum, fans were not happy with the new direction of the band’s sound. Love or hate it, Load is a part of Metallica’s legacy and helps to show the band’s versatility within their chosen medium and genre. According to Metallica Wiki, “The House Jack Built”, “Cure”, “Ronnie”, and “Thorn Within” have never been played live. Only “Thorn Within” and “Cure” had occasional jam sessions throughout 1997, but were stopped thereafter.
7. St. Anger
St. Anger is the most loved and hated of all Metallica’s studio albums. This collection was a passion project for the band, who wanted to create an album inspired by their own experiences. The band recorded the whole thing in an old army barracks the band rented and it is completely unedited. Additionally, the songs on this album do not contain a single guitar solo. Musical purists and serious fans of the band appreciate and adore St. Anger for all that it is. However, the average fan on the street isn’t as positive on this album.
6. Hardwired To Self Destruct
Hardwired To Self Destruct came out in 2016 after an eight-year hiatus. Metallica certainly didn’t slouch after such a long time without bringing a new studio album to fans. Moth to Flame is probably the most recognized new song on this album, but they also brought back several classics like Fade to Black. Every song on this album has a corresponding music video. Moreover, it’s a two-disc set packed with exceptional music, even if you don’t opt for the deluxe edition.
5. Metallica- The Black Album
The Black Album remains the most sold and commercially successful of all the studio albums Metallica has ever released. Over thirty million people bought a copy. It’s no surprise, with songs like Sad But True, The Unforgiven, and Enter Sandman who could resist? However, you don’t get this big, or this good at making music by chance. Mastodon Guitarist Bill Kelliher spoke about his time touring with the supergroup for The Black Album. He says “Metallica practiced for three hours a night before playing on stage for another two. Meanwhile, we were sitting around drinking beer and picking our noses!”
4. And Justice For All
Not only is And Justice For All fourth on our list, but it was also the fourth studio album. Released in 1988, this is the one that is often credited as the album that skyrocketed Metallica to fame. While there’s no question the release of AJFA grew the fan base, we’d argue that the previous three albums did all the legwork of building the group’s reputation. Regardless, it’s a great album from the height of 80’s rock stardom.
3. Ride The Lightning
Metallica’s second studio album has two of the band’s most well-known hits. Both Fade to Black and For Whom The Bell Tolls are quintessential fan favorites. Like many metal bands, Metallica often plays with dark themes. Call of Ktulu is based on a well-known and beloved gothic H.P. Lovecraft story Call of Cthulu. Unsurprisingly, Ride the Lightning is RIAA certified multiplatinum and has sold millions of copies worldwide.
2. Master Of Puppets
Master of Puppets is probably the most listened to and well-known of all Metallica’s albums. According to Rateyourmusic, Master of Puppets was the first Thrash Metal album to receive platinum certification. In fact, the album went platinum a stunning six times and changed the public perception of metal as a niche rather than a mainstream force to be reckoned with. Metallica added two bonus tracks to the digital reissue; Battery and The Thing That Should Not Be.
1. Kill ’em All
The original and still the best, Kill ’em All is the (studio) beginning of Metallica from 1983. If you grew up listening to metal, you knew every song on this album by heart, and you probably still do. For new fans just coming to the genre, we highly recommend heading back to this classic and listening to all the albums in chronological order. Doing so is an education in the evolution of heavy metal over the decades.
There is a lot of great metal available. However, few bands have done as much to popularize the genre as the incomparable Metallica. The music has changed over the last four decades, but every album on this last is worth listening to individually. However you rank them, Metallica’s studio albums are like a narrative of the band itself as it evolved through time.