Metallica was formed in 1981 when vocalist/guitarist James Hetfield responded to an advertisement posted by drummer Lars Ulrich in a local newspaper.
The band’s current line-up comprises founding members Hetfield and Ulrich, longtime lead guitarist Kirk Hammett and bassist Robert Trujillo.
Lead guitarist Dave Mustaine and bassists Ron McGovney, Cliff Burton and Jason Newsted are former members of the band.
The band earned a growing fan base in the underground music community and won critical acclaim with its first four albums; the third album Master of Puppets (1986) was described as one of the most influential and heaviest thrash metal albums.
Metallica achieved substantial commercial success with its eponymous fifth album—also known as The Black Album—which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200.
With this release the band expanded its musical direction, resulting in an album that appealed to a more mainstream audience.
In 2000, Metallica was among a number of artists who filed a lawsuit against Napster for sharing the band’s copyright-protected material for free without consent from any band member.
A settlement was reached and Napster became a pay-to-use service. Ulrich talked to his friend Ron Quintana, who was brainstorming names for a fanzine.
Quintana had proposed the names MetalMania and Metallica.
Ulrich named his band Metallica.
A second advertisement was placed in The Recycler for a position as lead guitarist. Dave Mustaine answered; Ulrich and Hetfield recruited him after seeing his expensive guitar equipment.
In early 1982, Metallica recorded its first original song “Hit the Lights” for the Metal Massacre I compilation. Hetfield played bass on the song and Lloyd Grant was credited with a guitar solo.
Metal Massacre I was released on June 14, 1982; early pressings listed the band incorrectly as “Mettallica”.
Although angered by the error, Metallica created enough “buzz” with the song and the band played its first live performance on March 14, 1982 at Radio City in Anaheim, California, with newly recruited bassist Ron McGovney.
In October 1990, Metallica entered One on One Recording’s studio in North Hollywood to record its next album.
Bob Rock, who had worked with Aerosmith, The Cult, Bon Jovi, and Mötley Crüe, was hired as the producer.
Metallica—also known as The Black Album—was remixed three times, cost US$1 million, and ended three marriages. Although the release was delayed until 1991, Metallica debuted at number one in ten countries, selling 650,000 units in the U.S. during its first week.
The album brought Metallica mainstream attention; it has been certified 16 times platinum in the U.S., which makes it the 25th best-selling album in the country.
The making of Metallica and the following tour was documented in A Year and a Half in the Life of Metallica.
The tour in support of the album, called the Wherever We May Roam Tour, lasted 14 months and included dates in the U.S., Japan, and the UK.
In April 1992, Metallica appeared at The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert and performed a three-song set. Hetfield later performed “Stone Cold Crazy” with the remaining members of Queen and Tony Iommi.