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Biography

It's the sort of story that scriptwriters would get laughed out of conference rooms for proposing. The sort of story that illustrates perfect synchronicity between hunger, passion and time. The sort of story that only happens every 30-odd years. And the sort of story that would need approximately 500 pages to do it true justice.

Metallica. A household name. The 7th biggest selling act in American history.

Who'd have thought it when, on October 28th, 1981, drummer Lars Ulrich made guitar player/singer James Hetfield an offer he couldn't refuse: "I've got a track saved for my band on Brian Slagel's new Metal Blade label."

The truth is, Lars didn't have a band at that time, but he did that day when James joined him. The two recorded their first track on a cheap recorder with James performing singing duties, rhythm guitar duties and bass guitar duties. Lars dutifully pounded the drums, helped with musical arrangements and acted as manager. Hetfield's friend and housemate Ron McGovney was eventually talked into taking up bass and Dave Mustaine took lead guitar duties.

The band adopted the moniker Metallica after a suggestion from Bay Area friend Ron Quintana, and they quickly began gigging in the Los Angeles area opening for bands like Saxon. Eventually recording a fully-fledged demo called No Life 'Til Leather, Metallica quickly saw the tape whistle around the metal tape-trading underground and become a hot commodity, with San Francisco and New York particularly receptive.

Metallica performed two shows in San Francisco and found the crowds friendlier and more honest than LA's "there to be seen" mob. They also caught up-and-coming band Trauma, and most importantly their bass player, Cliff Burton. Cliff refused to move to Southern California: it was enough to convince Metallica to relocate to the Bay Area, and Cliff subsequently joined Metallica.

In New York, a copy of No Life 'Til Leather made its way to Jon Zazula's record shop, the aptly named Metal Heaven. Zazula quickly recruited Metallica to come out east to play some shows and record an album. The band made it to New York in a stolen U-Haul. Dave Mustaine, at that point the band's guitarist, was proving to be more problematic than even these loose young chaps could handle. Thus a few weeks after arrival, Mustaine was sent packing, roadie Mark Whitakker suggesting Kirk Hammett from Bay Area thrashers Exodus. Two phone calls and one flight later, on April 1, 1983 Kirk Hammett joined Metallica.

Metallica's first album, Kill 'Em All, was released in late 1983 and there was some ferocious touring which saw the band's reputation soar both in the US and Europe. The album itself was wonderfully unlike anything; a fusion of the crunchiest metal with the grating riffery of punk attitude, tracks such as "Phantom Lord", "Metal Militia" and "The Four Horsemen" were instant classics. In 1984 they went to work with producer Flemming Rassmussen in Copenhagen at Sweet Silence Studios on their second album. Ride The Lightning proved that Metallica were not some thrash-in-the-pan one trick pony, the writing and sound illustrating a growth, maturity and intensity, typified by classic compositions such "Fade To Black" and "For Whom The Bell Tolls" but without sacrificing an iota of energy and aggression, as shown on "Fight Fire With Fire". This surefire ball of fire and brimstone was immediately targeted by major management in Q Prime, and a major label in Elektra. Metallica happily got both deals done by the fall of '84 and their reputation continued to grow worldwide.

Returning to the same studios in 1985, the group recorded Master Of Puppets, mixing in LA with Michael Wagner and releasing in early 1986. They quickly secured a tour with Ozzy Osbourne, and that stint (plus a top 30 album chart position) saw their fan base and name take a quantum leap. What had once seemed so unlikely was now closer than ever to coming true: world domination.

On September 27th, 1986, that dream was given the most shattering of blows. Somewhere in Sweden on an overnight drive, the bands' tour bus skidded out of control and flipped, killing Cliff Burton. His influence on the musical growth of the band was enormous. Burton combined the DIY philosophies of jamming and experimenting with an acute knowledge of musical theory, and Hetfield in particular found a lot in his playing and personality. It was impossible to imagine Metallica without him. Yet Cliff would equally not have cared for people throwing in the towel because he wasn't around. And so it was that after a brief yet intense mourning period, Lars, James and Kirk decided to fight on. Jason Newsted was chosen from over 40 auditions to be the new bassist, the Michigan-born four-stringer leaving Arizona based Flotsam & Jetsam to take on the chance of a lifetime. The quartet immediately jumped into a tour, and then quickly recorded an EP of cover tunes titled Garage Days Re-Revisited (the band literally did the dirty work in Lars' garage, which they helped refit into a small studio space by hand themselves!).

With Jason fully established, the band went back to record their fourth full-length album, ...And Justice For All, released in August 1988. The explosion that had been threatening for some time finally happened. The album reached #6 on the US charts and received a Grammy nomination for Best Metal/Hard Rock album while the band was busy blowing headliners Van Halen off-stage during the Monsters Of Rock tour and subsequently embarking upon an enormous worldwide tour of their own.

...And Justice For All produced three singles ("Harvester Of Sorrow", "Eye Of The Beholder" and "One"), bringing the band unknown levels of success. They also chose this time to delve into new territory with their very first music video for "One" which was hardly the typical music video of the time. A dark, monochromatic, violent, and emotional piece, which pulled no punches, Metallica's continued to prove that they were anything but typical.

In 1991, Metallica released their self-titled album - better known by fans as The Black Album - and saw their popularity soar to stratospheric heights. With new producer Bob Rock, this album was a subtle departure from the previous album with shorter songs, a fuller sound and simpler arrangements. It went straight to number one all over the world, stayed there for several weeks, sold in excess of 15 million copies worldwide, spawned several legitimate singles, and earned various awards, including a Grammy, MTV, and American Music Awards. One of those aforementioned singles, "Enter Sandman", was to become Metallica's "Paranoid" or "Ace Of Spades" with regards to its enduring, talismanic popularity, and it remains to this day one of the most universal crowd favorites the band perform. The band also broke new ground by establishing a traditional "ballad-style" song within their lexicon, "Nothing Else Matters" proving to be an enduring tug at heartstrings of millions.

The band toured for close to three years, playing solo during the arena tour in An Evening With Metallica, playing alongside Guns N' Roses on the duo's joint-headline stadium tour, and as headliner at many festivals. It meant that by the time the fall of 1993 rolled around, the four members were shattered both physically and mentally (fragments of the tour were famously shown in the "Wherever I May Roam" video). The band also released a landmark video (now DVD) A Year And A Half In The Life Of Metallica, which documented the making of The Black Album and also captured some of the subsequent tour. They would also, in 1993, release Live Shit: Binge & Purge, a box-set shaped like a road-case containing live recordings from Mexico City & San Diego during The Black Album tour and Seattle from the Damaged Justice tour. Aside from being the band's first official live album, it contained one of the great booklets of our times, a collection of tour faxes, riders and assorted documentation which made for both informative, and sometimes hilarious, reading.

Save for some summer shed action in 1994, there was little major activity as the band decided to try and allow their real lives to catch up with their rock lives. It was certainly a time when the band members needed to re-discover access to normal life after the insanity of such a long tour, and forage the next direction they wished to go artistically. Subsequently, it wasn't until 1996 that the next Metallica album, Load, surfaced. Recorded at The Plant in Sausalito California, it was the longest Metallica album to date with 14 songs, and signaled some significant changes for the band. Produced by Bob Rock, the material was loose, powerful and eclectic, the sound thick and punchy and the image one which screamed out change and freedom from enslavement to The Black Album era. So many songs came from the sessions that a second album titled Re-Load followed in 1997. The Load tour was spectacular, encompassing cutting-edge technology, stuntmen, two-stages and an epic two-plus hours of performance that was documented on the DVD Cunning Stunts. Whatever doubts people might have had were swiftly blown away, and whilst Load could never match the heights of The Black Album sales wise, it became a phenomenally successful album in its own right.

In 1998, they collected all the old B-sides, covers and the two previous Garage Days sessions and ran into The Plant to slam down 11 brand new covers. Electric, exciting and raw, they released the package of the old and new recordings as the double-disc Garage, Inc. It was great reminder that for all the success, Metallica's heart still lay not only in their music, but in the music of their roots. Metallica continued to stretch their boundaries in 1999, when with conductor/composer Michael Kamen, Metallica embarked upon collaboration with the San Francisco Symphony to bring new dimension to classic material. Any potential skepticism of the project was blown away by two nights in April at the Berkeley Community Theater which proved to be epic milestones in the group's history. Far from their material being compromised, the arrangements of songs such as "Master Of Puppets" gave symphonic instruments the chance to explode into the spaces and fill them with greater, heavier power than ever before. Having recorded and filmed the shows on the off-chance it might turn out alright those nights, Metallica released the S&M double-disc album and DVD in late '99, marking yet another significant chapter in a hall of fame history.

In the summer of 2000, Metallica took yet fresher steps towards establishing freedom from convention, proving that it was possible to assemble, and headline, your own stadium tour without promoting a record. Summer Sanitarium, Hetfield's back injuries not withstanding, was a huge success, and anticipation grew as to when the band would hit the studio again.

The anticipation was replaced by fear at the turn of 2001 when, after several rumors, Jason Newsted departed the band, citing several long-standing issues that over time, as well as physical ailments related to his neck, back and shoulder rather that any one exact reason. Of course many assumed that this would precipitate the break-up of the band, when of course it merely provided a conduit to newer levels of creativity and understanding.

The band realized there was much work to be done on both their personal and creative relationships, and spent the first part of 2001 investigating spontaneous avenues of discovery both in and out of the studio. They set up shop at an old ex-Army barracks called The Presidio, jammed together at length and made a decision not to rush the process of finding a new band member, opting instead to have producer Bob Rock perform all bass parts.

In the middle of 2001, James Hetfield reached a place in his life where he felt rehabilitation, rest and re-focus were necessary for him to not only proceed with the project, but to flourish as a musician and human in general. It meant that for many months, the members of Metallica embarked upon various levels of deeper discovery about themselves, the band and their lives both as a band and human beings. The results were to manifest themselves two-fold: when they came together again in the Spring of 2002 there was a deeper respect and appreciation for each other than ever before. And they were finally ready to make a new album, free of outside expectations, free of inner expectations and independent of anyone.

Settling into their new HQ, the band set about making St. Anger with Bob Rock. Those early Presidio sessions had certainly helped shape the freeform thinking and expression that was to come, but no one, least of all the guys themselves, could've known just how fierce, raw and passionate the St. Anger material would turn out to be. With Rock always offering prompt and support, lyrics were written by everyone, writing was shared and performance was off the cuff, spontaneous and a 180 degree turn from the months of meticulous fine-tuning which had become a part of the Metalli-recording process in the past.

This Metallica was proud, confident, appreciative, humble, hungry, edgy, angry, but more importantly, they were also happy. Nervous? Sure, a little bit, but that too was good ... yet another driver to new places and creative achievements that Metallica were enjoying.

It was in the Fall of 2002 that the band decided it was time to search for a new bassist, and after some closed auditions with personal invitees over a few months, ex-Suicidal Tendencies/Ozzy Osbourne bass player Robert Trujillo was chosen to be the new member of Metallica. Note: member. Not just a bassist or hired gun or replacement. But a band member, a real part of the family. His whole demeanor - happy, relaxed, warm, enthusiastic blended with over 15 years of experience and a ferocious finger-picking style - made Robert the only natural choice.

The St. Anger-era kicked off on April 30th/May 1st with the small matter of a video shoot at San Quentin prison for the same-titled track, and continued in earnest with an MTV: Icon tribute show a week later, where peers such as Korn and Limp Bizkit lined up to pay tribute to the chaps. The guys also performed live, marking the first 'official' live appearance of Robert Trujillo as well as James Hetfield's first large-scale public performance since his stint in rehab (the band had played a few surprise gigs in the previous months, most notably in the parking lot of Network Coliseum before an Oakland Raiders AFC championship game).

Then came the small matter of rehearsals, which Metallica chose to do in front of their loyal fan club members over four nights at the historic Fillmore Theatre in San Francisco...and then it was off to Europe in June for the start of what would end up being 19 months of touring, with the festival circuit taking the early brunt, Metallica successfully playing to multiple 60,000-plus crowds. St. Anger saw its release on June 5th, a raw, feral, unrestrained slab of molten Metallica stuffed with abrasion, aggression and the overspill of four years excitement, anger, frustration and ultimate fruition. For those who thought it would signal a radio-honed band, St. Anger was a big, fat slap in the face. Indeed, it was actually too heavy and raw for some! Oh, and as if to prove that this "new" Metallica were not a bunch of ginger-snap panty-waists, the boys played three shows in three different Parisian clubs in one day during mid-June, each venue harboring a temperature of not less than 100 degrees.

In the US, a new Summer Sanitarium tour followed, with Linkin Park and Limp Bizkit amongst the support acts on another series of stadium sell-outs. In the meanwhile, the fervor was slowly building for Some Kind Of Monster, the documentary film by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky about the world of Metallica between 2001 and 2003. Ostensibly slated to be about the making of an album, the filmmakers found a whole new project developing when James went into rehab, and thus having been projected as a marketing tool, the end product ended up being an incredibly revealing two hour twenty minute documentary.

As the mighty Metallica continued plowing on through the world (going back to Europe, Japan and then onto Australia in January), Some Kind Of Monster debuted to enormous critical acclaim at the 2004 Sundance Independent Film Festival in Utah in January.

And the year continued in the way that you'd imagine a Metalli-year does, with the band deciding to play (seemingly) every single town capable of hosting a major arena gig in North America (some 80-plus dates) with Godsmack in support on the Madly In Anger With The World tour. Result? Oh well, the usual sell-outs you'd expect for this "in-the-round" two hour thirty minute set which saw no song off limits and many a fan favorite raised from retirement for a gleeful airing. (P.S...there was another Grammy in February for Best Metal Performance - the song "St. Anger").

July saw the nationwide theatrical debut of Some Kind Of Monster which opened to enormous critical acclaim and went on to hold its own in North American theaters for three months before going through Europe. And August also saw the release of the first official Metallica book, So What! The Good, The Mad, And The Ugly, an edited compilation of the band's fan club magazine spanning 10 years from 1994 to 2004.

And still the tour continued, selling out venues right through to its final date in San Jose, California on November 29, 2004. A busy spell? By the standards of many, most certainly. By Metallica's? Business as usual.

They did publicly state that the majority of 2005 would be spent re-charging those creative and mental batteries, and true to their word it was a quiet year, except for two little hometown gigs with The Rolling Stones at SBC Park in November. We all knew an entire year would not pass without at least a sighting of the guys.

With batteries re-charged after the two shows with The Rolling Stones, the guys hit the studio in early 2006 to start writing a new album and were excited to announce that they would be working with a new producer, Rick Rubin. The spring and summer found them escaping from the studio once again with shows in South Africa (their first ever visit to the continent!), Europe, Japan and Korea. Proving that they hadn't just spent the last many months slack off, Metallica debuted two new songs during these shows: "The New Song" premiered in Berlin, Germany on June 6 and "The Other New Song" made its debut August 12 in Tokyo, Japan. While still works in progress, both songs give us all a little taste of things to come with the remainder of the year scheduled for more writing and jamming.

Before teasing audiences with brand new material during that '06 summer jaunt, Metallica had decided to take a different approach to the studio, now working with Rubin. Having been availed of long-time twiddler Bob Rock's expertise and unifying qualities, the band wanted to see what happened when working with the decidedly hands-off Rubin. His message, when the band entered the studio in April of '07 to record, was simple; don't be afraid of your past, don't be afraid to rediscover your roots, embrace the ethic of performance over editing and get back to what Metallica essentially is. Thus began months of work with hands-on engineer Greg Fidelman handing the daily duties and Rubin overseeing and dropping in for tête-à-têtes to make sure matters remained on course. In essence, Rubin removed himself from the process as an ally to anyone and forced Metallica to find their own solutions and resolutions. He also made everyone re-record entire parts if they were unhappy to avoid a pro-tools dominated approach to creation, the idea being that it was always about the performance. Ironically, Rubin would later comment in the band's magazine So What! that the bulk of the album was recorded in a month, despite the fact that Death Magnetic didn't see the light of day until September 12, 2008, celebrating the release with two low cost ticket charity shows in Berlin and London's O2 Arenas.

The popular response was enormous, with the album smashing the charts at #1 and critical acclaim acknowledging that this was, indeed, the return to business that Metallica had threatened for so long. The groundwork for Metallica's creative process had been laid with St. Anger and the results were both clear and abundant with Death Magnetic, with cuts such as "The Day That Never Comes," "Broken, Beat & Scarred" and "All Nightmare Long" becoming instant fan favorites. In addition to the Death Magnetic album, on March 29, 2009 the band also saw Guitar Hero: Metallica released. An Activision game, Guitar Hero: Metallica features 28 Metallica favorites and 21 songs from bands Metallica like, as well as guest appearances from King Diamond and Lemmy from Motörhead.

Along with all these releases, the band of course hit the road, as the World Magnetic tour started on October 20, 2008 in Glendale, Arizona. It is a tour that kept on giving, kept on coming, and flowed deep into 2010, the band hoping to perhaps play in some places they've never been before. Gone, however, are the grueling days of 8-10 weeks at a time on the asphalt, instead the schedule ensures Metallica are never on the road for longer than a couple of weeks before taking at least a week off back at home. It is a highly effective solution to the problem of making the road work with family and home life, and as such the tour thus far has seen some of Metallica's best performances ever as "burn-out" is not even a factor.

And as the World Magnetic tour pressed on, it was documented via two very special releases. Following three sold-out nights in Mexico City at Foro Sol Stadium in June of 2009, the live DVD Orgullo, Pasión Y Gloria: Tres Noches En La Ciudad De México (directed by Wayne Isham) saw the band offering something special for their Latin American fan base, as the release only available in Mexico, Central and South America. The summer of '09 also saw a very special performance from, of all places, an ancient Roman amphitheater: The Arena of Nimes in Nimes, France. The show was subsequently released as a French-only' DVD entitled Français Pour Une Nuit. The remainder of the year saw the band rocking through Europe and in North American arenas, finishing the year with a uproarious Bay Area crowd December at San Jose, California's hp Pavilion.

2009 wasn't all just DVDs and arena tours, of course. There was, in April, the small matter of Metallica's induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. A memorable night saw Cliff Burton's father, Ray, and Jason Newsted reunite on stage for the induction. What followed were blistering, suited-and-booted performances of "Master Of Puppets" and "Enter Sandman" which saw Newsted jamming with his former band mates for the first time in years. Amidst the ongoing World Magnetic tour, there was also a very special evening at Madison Square Garden in New York, when on October 30, 2009 Metallica played the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame's 25th Anniversary benefit concert. Other performers on the bill included U2, Mick Jagger, The Black Eyes Peas and Aretha Franklin, but Metallica only got to prove their mettle by collaborating with a select few legends. Playing with Lou Reed ("Sweet Jane" and "White Light/White Heat"), Ozzy Osbourne ("Iron Man" and "Paranoid") plus Ray Davies of The Kinks ("You Really Got Me" and "All Day And All Of The Night"), it was a very special evening which underscored the range and dynamics of the band's musical abilities.

2010 saw the band kick-off the year by returning to South American for the first time in over ten years, with additional shows in Central America and Mexico during January and March, respectively (which also included the band playing in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Peru, Puerto Rico, and Panama for the first time ever!). After thoroughly dominating Latin America, Metallica took to Europe yet again in April for a Spring that was a mixture of arena dates and festivals as a series of historic Sonisphere dates loomed on the horizon. The bill for these monumental June shows? Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax, the fabled Big 4 of modern heavy metal. Any quips, comments or complaints exchanged between the quartet in the past had long-since evaporated by the time the bands met in Warsaw, Poland on June 16, 2010 for the first of seven Sonisphere dates together. Indeed, the old friendships rekindled, the vibe was electric and the balance perfect as each band consistently delivered storming sets to hundreds of thousands of satisfied fans. Historically, the show in Sofia on June 22 was beamed back to over 1,000 cinemas around the world, a same-day performance broadcast slightly delayed due to time differences. And as if this wasn't enough, there was a live DVD, blu-ray and box-set cunningly titled The Big 4 Live From Sofia, Bulgaria with box-setters getting a Big 4 pick, two DVDs documenting the entire show, five live CDs too, a 24 page booklet, and a photo of each band.

Not stopping to catch their breath, the boys went all antipodean for the final leg(s) of the tour as they headed down to Australia and New Zealand three times to close out the World Magnetic tour in front of screaming fans from Christchurch to Perth to Sydney (they also slid two Tokyo dates in there during September). Finally, on November 21, 2010 in Melbourne, Metallica played the last show of the World Magnetic tour, before heading home for a spot of hibernation.

2011 was a "take it easy" year on the initially projected calendar. Yes, true, it was Metallica's 30th Anniversary, but still, not much planned/no new studio album/no long tours, etc... yeah right!

First the band brought the Big 4 to Indio, CA (the Coachella site) in April for the first Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax show on US soil. They then found themselves agreeing to collaborate with one of the legendary godfather's of punk and alternative music, Lou Reed (who had pushed for such a thing since the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame gig in '09) on an album project based around writing by Frank Wedekind about a 19th century French prostitute called Lulu, which was then reinterpreted by Reed. He, in turn, built a series of song frameworks and invited Metallica to come in and fill the space spontaneously. Thus work began in late April at HQ, and re-commenced in June after a break. The subsequent album, Lulu, was released on Oct 31st/Nov 1st,2011 and was not the best-received album project ever it must be said, in time it will surely start to be recognized at least for the brave exchange of creative energies it embraced.

Being a "quiet year" in the calendar, Metallica obviously also found time to nip off to Europe in July for five more Big 4 gigs, including one at Knebworth in the UK, and others in Germany, Italy, France and Sweden. There was also one further Big 4 show in the US during September, at New York's famous Yankee Stadium, the last Big 4 show so far.

They also traveled to Abu Dhabi, Delhi and Bangalore in late October, places never played by Metallica before. Abu Dhabi was a resounding success, uniting many Middle Eastern countries for their first-ever taste of Metallica live, and everything leading up to the show in Delhi promised the same, but after a huge safety issue occurred, Delhi was cancelled and a mini-riot ensued. Matters resolved sufficiently for the Bangalore show to take place in front of a rabidly enthusiastic audience, thus expanding yet further the breadth of Metallica's fan-tastic family.

After that, there was a quick five days stop at home in San Francisco (just enough time for a video to be shot with Oscar-winning director Darren Aronofsky for "The View") before heading to London, Paris, Köln and Milan to perform a series of television and internet-streamed mini-live sets with Lou Reed for the Lulu project. This was in November.

By which time, the few heads which had started to ponder what 30 years of Metallica might mean, how could it be marked, how could it be celebrated, found themselves thick in the slipstream of mobilizing a small army to make sure that on December 5, 7, 9 and 10, The Fillmore, San Francisco became the property of Metallica and their fan club, the Met Club. Four shows with four totally different sets (except for "Seek And Destroy" which was played on all four nights) and four totally different sets of guests ranging from Diamond Head to Ozzy Osbourne, from Glen Danzig to Rob Halford, performing the covers Metallica had themselves played in years gone by. Add to that Jim Breuer, the famed comedian, as the event host, a nightly game show, a nightly tribute to Cliff Burton, a Metallica Museum, limited edition posters and coin giveaways via the balloon drop at the end of the night, and it was about as much Metallica as any fan could possibly have imagined. And the real kicker? Only Met Club members got to attend, each night costing $6 with a special 4-night 4-pack ticket on sale for $19.81. plus, with one unheard song from the Death Magnetic sessions being performed live each night, the band released an original session recording of said-song free to all clubbers at the end of each night! It was, indeed, as close to heaven as a Metallica fan could get. Rounding off the year was a casual release of said 4 songs on iTunes called Beyond Magnetic, which subsequently shot to the top of the iTunes charts and saw the band decide to then release it as a CD. A quiet year indeed.

Metallica announced that they'll play The Black Album in its entirety at their European run in May and June of 2012 as well as announcing the formation of their very own music and arts festival, Orion Music + More. So it really isn't stretching the imagination to suggest there's a whole lot more gonna happen.

(Source: Official website, 28.1.2013)