Maybe you just know “Enter Sandman.” Maybe you don’t listen to metal regularly. You still know the name “Metallica.” Since 1981, Metallica has cemented themselves as one of the defining bands of the metal genre, winning Grammys and a host of other awards along the way. Their popularity stretches far past metalheads, making them a staple of any discussion about rock music. Here are 41 headbanging facts about Metallica.
Metallica’s first official song, “Hit the Lights” was actually a carryover from James Hetfield’s first band, Leather Charm.
2. Rave Review
Metallica is considered one of the “Big Four” of thrash metal. They are joined by Megadeth, Slayer, and Anthrax. However, Exodus vocalist Steve “Zetro” Sousa calls Metallica the “Big One.” As far as Sousa's concerned, Metallica’s peers are just “The Other Three." Do you agree?
Drummer Lars Ulrich is officially the world’s richest metal drummer. The lucrative title comes partly as a result of the sales of Metallica’s first three albums, which netted him more than $12 million.
Ulrich’s net worth is currently around $300 million.
4. Merry Christmas
Just in time for the holidays, DJ Cummerbund created a mashup of Metallica’s “For Whom The Bell Tolls” and Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s “Carol of the Bells.” The accompanying music video uses footage from Santa’s Slay, a 2005 film about law enforcement hunting a murderous Santa Claus.
5. Role Model
For Metallica's 2019 European tour, which started in Lisbon, Portugal, they were accompanied by Swedish rockers Ghost. Ghost frontman Tobias Forge has stated that Metallica has practically served as mentors for his newer band—so the tour must be like a dream come true!
Kids today might not know that newspapers once had a classified section. Metallica was born out of a newspaper ad, when drummer Lars Ulrich put out a call for other metal musicians to jam with. Guitarist/singer James Hetfield linked up with Ulrich, and the band filled out with Hetfield’s roommate Ron McGovney on bass and Dave Mustaine on guitar.
7. R and R
Metallica’s 2008 album Death Magnetic came about as a result of their union with a new producer, Rick Rubin. The iconic Rubin has produced for acts such as Eminem and the Beastie Boys, and he encouraged Metallica to go back to their roots with the album.
8. Seven Deadly Concerts
Metallica set a Guinness World Record for becoming the first musical act to perform on every continent. The band headed to Antartica in 2013 to perform at Carlini Base. Metallica and Coca-Cola organized a competition for fans to win tickets, where the fans also received a weeklong Antartica cruise.
Hetfield spends some of his spare time as a mechanic, with a focus on classic cars. One of Hetfield’s favorites is a Chevy Blazer called “The Beast.” The Beast is reportedly outfitted to survive earthquakes and nuclear blasts.
10. Radio Silence
Hetfield has openly stated his distaste for expressing political opinions in music. Hetfield believes that a musician’s popularity poses the risk of making their opinion seem more valid. He probably isn’t a fan of Rage Against the Machine then.
11. Third Time’s the Charm
Metallica’s third LP, Master of Puppets, was their first gold album, and it ultimately sold six million copies. Master of Puppets was also their first LP released through a major record label, Elektra Records.
After Mustaine was kicked out of Metallica, he began writing new songs on the bus back to California. He didn’t actually have any paper, so he used one of Senator Alan Cranston’s pamphlets. The front of the pamphlet read “The arsenal of megadeath can’t be rid no matter what the peace treaties come to.” Mustaine then found his new band name, Megadeth. Megadeth has since sold over one hundred million records.
13. Doctor’s Note
Following Cliff Burton’s passing, Metallica found a new bassist in Jason Newsted. Newsted then helped Metallica create their fourth album, 1988’s …And Justice for All.
Newsted left Metallica in 2001, stating that the band was more focused on fighting Napster than making music. Newsted said he also needed time away to heal from neck and back injuries he sustained from headbanging. Is there a more appropriate injury for a metalhead?
Metallica has lost some members to side gigs or other bands, but drummer Lars Ulrich isn’t one of them. Ulrich has only played drums for one other band, Mercyful Fate. Ulrich’s work can be heard on their 1993 album In the Shadows.
15. Guest Stars
Later in their careers, James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich tried their hand at voice acting. The two played dragons in a 2004 episode of Dave the Barbarian titled, “Here There Be Dragons.”
Metallica’s second album, Ride the Lightning, is known for its blue cover. However, a French press misprint led to about 400 green copies, which have now become collector’s items.
Metallica’s current bassist, Robert Trujillo, likely would have played the keyboard if he'd had his way. Growing up in the '70s, he became interested in the instrument because of progressive bands such as Yes. However, picking bass was basically an issue of practicality. A keyboard took up more space, was more cumbersome, and since Trujillo’s dad played bass, it was also easier to get a hold of one to practice with.
18. Sip On
Distiller Mark Pickerell is best known for helping to craft whiskey brands such as Maker’s Mark. In 2017, Metallica approached Pickerell to commission their own drink. The result is Blackened, a whiskey crafted by Pickerell that is literally blasted with Metallica’s music while it ages in the barrel. The drink is named after one of Metallica’s songs, and it ended up being Pickerell’s last project before his passing in November 2018.
19. Think of the Children
Metallica has a soft spot when it comes to educating the youth. Their “All Within My Hands Foundation” recently announced a $1 million grant that will be distributed between ten American schools. The grants target the schools’ career and technical education programs. Drummer Lars Ulrich has stated that the funds are meant to provide students an avenue to be successful doing something they love.
20. Hot Streak
Metallica is the only US band to have six consecutive studio albums debut at number one on the Billboard 200, with 2008’s Death Magnet being the sixth.
21. Auspicious Start
Metallica’s first album appearance wasn’t actually on their own album. They appeared on Metal Blade Records’ Metal Massacre compilation. The band’s name was also misspelled as Mettallica.
James Hetfield’s first foray into instruments came when he was nine. Hetfield started playing with a friend’s piano and his mom decided to sign him up for lessons. He liked the cookies he’d get at the end of a lesson, but found the lessons themselves somewhat dull since he was learning classical pieces instead of the kind of music he listened to. However, Hetfield credits his early piano experience for making it easier to play guitar and sing, since playing piano trained him to balance the two.
23. Rich Get Richer
Lars Ulrich, metal’s richest drummer, is also into art. Jean-Michel Basquait’s Untitled (Boxer) netted Ulrich a cool $13.5 million when he sold it in 2008.
24. M and M
Metallica’s self-titled fifth album was the first to debut at number one on the Billboard 200.
Metallica’s subsequent four albums also achieved the same feat.
25. Nap Time
Metallica played a part in making Napster become a paid service in 2000, since they joined with other artists to sue the file-sharing giant for sharing copyrighted material without consent.
26. Two Extremes
Metallica’s shortest song is “Motorbreath,” clocking in at 3:08. The longest song is “Suicide and Redemption” at 9:57.
27. Hitting the Road
Metallica has played more than 1,700 shows to date, with more still to come. The band has played on every continent, with a total of sixty countries being graced with their live music. The band has performed in San Francisco the most, with a total of 51 shows.
Metallica has won a total of eight Grammys. The accolades stretch back to 1989, and the most recent came in 2009. Their awards include Best Rock Album and Best Metal Performance. Metallica also received a 2017 nomination for Best Rock Album for Hardwired…To Self-Destruct.
Metallica played in San Francisco in December, and rapper Post Malone was in the audience. Post Malone met the band backstage afterward. The rapper has previously covered “Nothing Else Matters.” Maybe a new album is on the horizon?
30. Silver Screen
Jason Momoa, best known as Aquaman, uses metal songs as inspiration for his characters. Momoa says Conan the Barbarian was heavily inspired by Pantera, while Aquaman is “mostly built out of Tool and [Metallica’s debut album] Kill ‘Em All.”
31. No. 1
Louder ranked Master of Puppets as the best album of the 1980s, beating out greats such as Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction and AC/DC’s Back in Black. Louder’s online poll had a tally of about 35,000 votes, with most going to Metallica.
32. Quick Turnaround
Drummer Lars Ulrich grew up in Denmark. In fact, he got his first introduction to metal in Copenhagen, when he saw a Deep Purple concert with his father. He moved to California in 1980, and within five months, he met James Hatfield and formed Metallica.
33. Never Enough
Dave Mustaine was kicked out of Metallica and went on to form Megadeth. Megadeth has sold over twenty million records, but in 2003 Mustaine admitted he still felt like a failure at times since he can't help but compare his success to Metallica’s.
34. On Second Thought…
Kill 'Em All was originally going to be called Metal Up Your A--. The artwork featured a hand, clutching a dagger, reaching out of a toilet. The band’s label forced them to change the art, but the image has become a popular Metallica T-shirt.
35. New Kid
After Dave Mustaine was kicked out, the band found a new guitarist in a hurry. Kirk Hammet had one week to learn Metallica’s songs, and then rehearsed with the band for another week before he began performing shows. To add to the sting of getting kicked out, Hammet re-wrote a lot of Mustaine’s solos, using the first four bars of every solo and altering the rest.
36. Career Change
Ulrich initially intended to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a professional tennis player, but that Deep Purple concert planted a new seed in his brain—he started learning drums on the side soon after. Though he first moved to California to play tennis, he didn't make his school's tennis squad, and that was it—from then on, his focus was music. I'd say it worked out pretty well.
Metallica was once forced to cancel an Indiana show because James Hetfield broke his wrist skateboarding. New rule: No skateboarding leading up to a show. Seriously—the band's management allegedly included a clause in Hetfield's contract that forbids skateboarding while the band was on tour.
38. See Ya
Metallica’s original lead guitarist, Dave Mustaine, was kicked out of the band on April 11, 1983. Apparently, he had a nasty habit of getting “aggressive and confrontational” when drunk, so his bandmates gave him the boot. They woke Mustaine up around 9am and told their hungover guitarist he was out of the band. They also gave him a bus ticket back to California.
Metallica met with tragic misfortune in 1986 when their bassist, Cliff Burton, perished in a tour bus accident. Burton was thrown out of the bus's window when the vehicle began to careen from side to side. The bus then landed on Burton, and an attempt to save him with a crane only led to the bus crashing onto him again. The bus driver said he hit a patch of black ice, but frontman James Hetfield said he walked up and down the street afterward and didn’t encounter any. Hetfield speculates the driver might have been inebriated or asleep at the wheel, but a subsequent investigation cleared the driver of any wrongdoing.
Metallica joined the esteemed ranks of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on April 4, 2009. Their deceased bassist, Cliff Burton, was posthumously inducted with his former bandmates.
Cliff Burton’s death was due to a bus accident, but ex-Pentagram member Joe Hasselvander believes something else was at play. According to Hasselvander, Burton lost his life because he possessed tarot cards covered with human blood that dated back to the Salem Witch Trials. That would certainly have been a little more metal.