When Metallica came onto the music scene in the 1980s, there was something altogether different about them. Rather than the stereotypical rock star attitude, the band brought a new energy and sound to the rock music scene. The music of James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, and Cliff Burton was hard to define when Metallica was formed; their sound has since been described as thrash, metal, heavy metal, rock and hard rock. Though their music has been hard to define, the incredible sound of this band is undeniable. Metallica concerts are always a mixture of complex sound: unparalleled rhythm, clean lead guitar, thundering drums, and deep thrumming bass. The early success of the rockers was nearly cut short in 1986 when the band's tour bus crashed in Europe. The talented bassist Cliff Burton died in the crash, leaving three band members to survive him. If the accident had been worse, Metallica might never have gone on to contribute all the amazing music they have to the music scene. In spite of a tragic loss, the band decided to regroup and they chose Jason Newsted as a replacement bassist.
It wasn't until the early 1990s that Metallica became a mainstream sensation with a self-titled album (also known as The Black Album). With singles "One" and "Enter Sandman" on the album, the band achieved exposure that would keep their songs in the minds of an entire generation. Millions of copies of their 1991 album were sold in the U.S., with millions more sold worldwide. In support of The Black Album, a Metallica tour was launched and the band toured for nearly two years. The thrash band from LA achieved something that no metal group had accomplished during the 80s and 90s: a loyal and legitimate following among metalheads, the respect of the underground music scene, and immense popularity in the mainstream. Even music critics couldn't deny that Metallica were at the top of the heavy metal music genre and that they were talented musicians in their own right. Since the 90s, the thrash band has changed bassists and produced a mix of albums that premiered at the top of the charts a majority of the time. Metallica's rendition of "Turn The Page" by Bob Seger produced another hit single for the group (popular among karaoke singers worldwide).
In 2000, Metallica became embroiled in a lawsuit against the file sharing company Napster. The hard rock band's suit against Napster wasn't without merit, but it didn't gain them many fans. Several hundred thousand users were banned from Napster for having "pirated" copies of Metallica's music. While a settlement was eventually reached in the matter, it is still widely remembered as one of the band's less popular moments in time. In their August 2006 issue, Blender magazine named Metallica #17 on their list of the "biggest wusses in rock" for their "anti-Napster crusade." This brief moment in the band's history didn't do too much damage to their fan base. Metallica's 2003 album St. Anger opened at the #1 spot on the Billboard charts, in spite of their lack of a bassist; at the 2004 Grammy Awards, the heavy metal band won a Grammy award for Best Metal Performance for the track titled "St. Anger." In 2006, the band underwent a change in producers, and they started work with Rick Rubin, producer for Slayer, Slipknot, Danzig, and System of a Down.
The renewed vigor of Metallica is evident in their newest album, Death Magnetic. In addition to exploring the release of the album through online digital sources and traditional CD release, they worked out a deal with the makers of Guitar Hero III to have the album available for download through the game on the same day the CD was released. Ten days before the release of Death Magnetic, a Paris record store released the album early. The early (and unauthorized) release of the album caused a buzz in the heavy metal community: would Metallica sue? Would this be another Napstergate? Instead, USA TODAY discovered in an interview that Lars Ulrich was unconcerned. In a time of high technology, Ulrich and his band consider a leak only 10 days out a victory instead of a defeat. Metallica band members were laid back in the interview; though they haven't changed their stance on pirating music online, they aren't sweating it either.
Metallica didn't have anything to worry about when it came to the early release of their album. With half a million albums sold at the debut of Death Magnetic and over a million since, the new thrash metal album appeared at the top of the Billboard charts. In addition to topping the US charts for three weeks running, the heavy metal artists also achieved top-of-the-charts status in Europe and Australia. In addition to their popularity in the current music scene, a new Guitar Hero game called Guitar Hero: Metallica was released in the spring of 2009, featuring all of the band's hits! A few things about Metallica are certain: thrash metal is not dead, and after over 20 years, this rock group isn't going anywhere.