Kirk Hammett Discusses How ‘The Black Album’ Changed Metallica’s Fanbase


Metallica promo photos, featuring James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett, Lars Ulrich and Robert Trujillo, dressed in black and gray.

Metallica – Story by Cat Badra, photo by Ross Halfin

“The Black Album” may have been polarizing for old-school metal fans, but it also opened a new, bigger audience for Metallica

Metal fans often debate about Metallica’s self-titled “Black Album.” The record propelled the thrash metal band into the mainstream with it’s heavy but commercial sound, but it also alienated some hardcore fans that felt they became too friendly to the masses.

“The Black Album” hit stores in 1991 and turns 30 this year. Now, decades later, guitarist Kirk Hammett is reminiscing about that important moment in Metallica’s career and how it changed everything for the Bay Area band.

As part of an interview that Metal Hammer has been publishing throughout the summer, the lead guitarist discussed the band’s move to the mainstream with “The Black Album.” He says it was a massive change, in that, “All of a sudden we were thrown into a different league where we’re doing numbers like Guns N’ Roses and U2, and it felt really strange.”

Hammett added, “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.”

While some Metallica fans and contemporary bands thought they were “selling out,” Hammett most remember the huge amount of people who discovered Metallica for the first time with “The Black Album.” He tell Metal Hammer the band “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.’”

Metallica will release a remastered and expanded version of “The Black Album” on Sept. 10. The band will also release “The Metallica Blacklist” that day, a collection of Metallica cover songs from more than over 50 other artists and musicians.



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