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Kirk Hammett on 30 years of the Black Album: "We had our sights set on bigger things – we wanted a Back In Black”

Metallica
(Image credit: Niels van Iperen/Getty Images)

Thirty years on from the release of Metallica's game-changing fifth record the Black Album, guitarist Kirk Hammett remembers how the band had big ambitions for the release right from the start. 

"We didn’t want to go down the same progressive, demanding route," Kirk says. "We had our sights set on bigger things. You have to remember that there had been some mega albums around that time – Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Bruce Springsteen... eight million, nine million copies sold. And we wanted that. It’s obvious. We wanted a Back In Black.
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The Black Album would go on to be a multi-million selling monster, that sold far wider than to just the metal masses and catapulted Metallica into the super-league. Speaking in the new issue of Classic Rock magazine that's out next week, Kirk goes in depth on the creation of this release. 

"The Enter Sandman riff was a riff that just fucking appeared," Kirk says. "It was three o’clock in the morning, I was sitting in my bedroom. People say: 'What were you doing up at three o’clock in the morning?' Well, I was still in tour mode. I was playing my guitar, I had nothing else to do. I’d been listening to Soundgarden all day. They were a band that me and James loved. I was just trying to capture that feel. That riff came out of nowhere. 

"The best parts of that album kind of just wrote themselves," he continues. "Solos and music and songs felt like they just appeared out of nowhere. It was like the universe handed it to us on a platter. Not like the first four albums."

Released on August 12, 1991, the Black Album debuted at No.1 in the US, the UK and Germany. All the signs were pointing to it being a monster, even though no one could have predicted just how huge that monster would be.

“It’s a cultural force in itself,” Kirk told Classic Rock. “As much as modern culture changes and morphs, there’s something within that album that continues to resonate around the world. And I mean the world, because it’s big everywhere.”

The Black Album’s legacy is brought home by a new reissue. As well collecting together the countless early demos and rehearsal tapes, it’s accompanied by The Metallica Blacklist, a 53-track all-star covers album comprising versions of Black Album songs by everyone from Ghost, Volbeat and Biffy Clyro to Miley Cyrus. Metallica Remastered and The Metallica Blacklist are out on September 10 via Blackened Recordings.

Read the full interview in the new issue of Classic Rock magazine, that's out next week.