Kirk Hammett on How Metallica’s Audience Changed With the ‘Black Album’
A band's fanbase can shift over time, and Metallica certainly experienced the results of listener growth — and the backlash it can create — in the afterglow of their self-titled 1991 "Black Album," the landmark metal effort that celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.
Guitarist Kirk Hammett remembers the change well.
In a new portion of a retrospective interview with the rocker that Metal Hammer has been doling out this summer, the Metallica member looked back on how he observed the outfit's ascension to the big time.
"All of a sudden we were thrown into a different league where we're doing numbers like Guns N' Roses and U2," Hammett recalls in the excerpt from Friday (Sept. 3), "and it felt really strange."
The guitarist continues, "It was great, in that we were flying the flag for heavy metal, we were bringing our type of music to a lot of people that had not heard it all around the globe. But at the same time, a lot of our core underground fans, they thought they were losing us. And I can understand that. When a band goes from selling a million albums to all of a sudden selling 12 million albums, the feeling of intimacy with that band starts to erode. That feeling of intimacy with our core base kind of eroded."
It's a timeworn tale. Metallica and plenty of other rock and metal acts have faced accusations of "selling out" once they hit a new threshold of fame. Entire fandoms can seem to morph as a fast-rocketing act's old-school listeners drop off to make way for new ones.
The flip side for Metallica, Hammett adds, was that they "discovered this other huge audience of fans who totally loved what we were doing, and were ready to digest the rest of our catalog once they discovered us via the black album.'"
A remastered and expanded "Black Album" arrives on Sept. 10, the same day that The Metallica Blacklist, a collection of Metallica songs performed by over 50 other artists, comes out.
Past weeks have found Metallica sharing rare versions of "Black Album" tunes such as "The Unforgiven," "Sad But True," "Of Wolf and Man," "Nothing Else Matters," "Through the Never" and "Wherever I May Roam" from the reissue's bonus material. Weezer, Phoebe Bridgers, Volbeat, Biffy Clyro, St. Vincent, Royal Blood, Miley Cyrus and others have previewed their respective Metallica Blacklist covers.