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NICHOLAS MERCER: A Metallica fan dishes on ‘The Black Album’

Singer and guitarist James Hetfield of Metallica During a performance in Prague, Czech Republic, May 7, 2012.
Singer and guitarist James Hetfield of Metallica During a performance in Prague, Czech Republic, May 7, 2012. - 123RF Stock Photo

Glen Noseworthy remembers where he was the moment he discovered the existence of the Metallica.

He was hanging out at the old wooden bandstand at Margaret Bowater Park in Corner Brook with some buddies when an older man popped a cassette tape of the San Francisco thrash metal legends into a nearby stereo system. 

The man hit play and watched as his listeners, including Noseworthy, had their musical foundations shook at what they were hearing.

It was Metallica’s “Fight Fire with Fire,” the first track off of the San Francisco thrash legends’ second full-length album “Ride the Lightning.”

“That is the gateway for me into the band,” said Noseworthy. “I’d never heard anything like that”

The group of guitarist/vocalist James Hetfield, lead guitarist Kirk Hammett, bassist Cliff Burton and drummer Lars Ulrich delivered crushing songs that blew away everything else at the time.

It was fast, aggressive and, as metalheads tend to say, shredded enough that it melted faces.

On Aug. 12, Metallica’s “Metallica” — or more famously known as “The Black Album” – celebrated its 27th birthday since its release in the summer of 1991.

Producer Bob Rock — known for Motley Crue, Loverboy and The Cult — was tabbed to lead the project and aimed to polish their sound.

It worked as the record sold over 598,000 copies in its first week and spent a month at the top of the charts. As of 2016, its sold over 16.4 million copies and still sells well to this day.

The record made Metallica a household name.

For a longtime fan like Noseworthy, the album was a departure from what made the band a favourite of his from the moment he first heard one of their chords.

There was no instrumental track, which had become a staple of a Metallica record, vocalist James Hetfield lost his strained delivery and the songs are shorter.

“It was a huge thing,” he said. “It was really shocking as a fan of the original lineup

“It was inevitable and it felt like a loss of innocence. That band was now gone.”

I first heard the name Metallica in the airport in St. John’s while waiting for a flight to Labrador City for a minor hockey tournament in the late 90s.

A friend had a case of CDs and I noticed a name that stood out amongst the other records.

“What’s Metallica?” I asked incredulously and was met with some strange looks.

Apparently, I was missing out. Turns out they were right.

Later that year, I heard “Enter Sandman” for the first time and bought “The Black Album” that summer in Corner Brook — it was one of the first albums I bought myself.

From there I was hooked on the band. I started working back through their records, although I mostly ignored the “Load” and “Reload” albums that came out in 1996 and 1997 respectively.

I played that record over and over, blown away by a sound that I hadn’t heard before. The solos, the drum kicks and vocals were all new to me and really sparked my love for the band.

The other Metallica was an unknown entity to me at the time. It isn’t now.

Growing up, Noseworthy was your stereotypical headbanger equipped with long hair, a jean jacket filled with band patches and white hi-top sneakers. If you’ve seen the short film “Heavy Metal Parking Lot” you’ll have an idea.

He and his friends listened to era staples like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath and Ronnie James Dio, but they had never a band play as fast and as heavy as Metallica.

Soon after Noseworthy picked up vinyl records of both “Ride the Lightning” and the band’s previous offering “Kill ’em All.”

He remembers wearing out both copies on his turntable while waiting for Metallica’s seminal release “Master of Puppets” in 1986.

“It was the most anticipated album for me,” said Noseworthy. “I consider it the purist form of their music.

“It is everything I think Metallica is.”

He isn’t wrong.

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