The Black Album is a commonly used alternative name or nickname for Metallica’s self Titled, 5th studio album that was released in 1991. The Black Album is over 30 years old at this point and it’s Metallica’s most successful album with over 30 million copies sold. It also topped charts in 10 countries, including the Billboard 200 chart which it topped for 4 consecutive weeks, so if you’re reading this, you’ll either already be quite familiar with it or at least familiar with some of the tracks on it. Nobody visiting a site called Eat Sleep Guitar Repeat is oblivious to this album or its contents.
This means that a standard review of the album wouldn’t be very interesting. You and I both already know that the album is good and there would be zero value in me telling you that I like Enter Sandman for example. I guess I could go all contrarian and tell you that actually, I don’t like the album but then, I’d be lying.
Having said that, I think that this is one of those albums that should be highlighted on a guitar focused website so I’ve decided to review it, but in a more interesting way. I’m going to rank all the tracks on The Black Album from worst to best! This will make sure I cover both the good, and the areas for improvement in depth. It will also help me to test this album rank concept thing… Let’s get on with it.
The Black Album Ranked #12 Wherever I May Roam
I’ve always loved the whole middle Eastern kinda vibe on guitar. So much so that I like to replicate it myself and this song has it in abundance. The mood throughout is cool but it’s not very songy songy and I do honestly find it hard to become fully immersed. The guitar solo has some lovely stuff going on but it does feel a little disjointed at points. The lead guitar in the outro is however, quite impressive. The only problem is, it’s coupled with an underwhelming fade out. Overall, I like the riff work and the concept but Wherever I May Roam doesn’t quite land how I’d like. The full 7ish minutes doesn’t live up to the hype created right at the start. It’s at the bottom of the list but still a decent track and could be higher on another day. For whatever reason, I just never get fully into this one even though it has plenty of good elements.
The Black Album Ranked #11 Of Wolf and Man
Of Wolf and Man gives me exactly what I expect in some aspects, primarily, strong guitar riff work but this one does feel like it’s roaming around without direction. It may not have an end destination but it’s sure determined to get there with a driving force. The guitar solo is solid enough but stays in the box of expectation and the post solo breakdown is interesting to a point but this one didn’t really suck me in. There are other positives in here too though such as some of the vocal melody and the outro. Enjoyable enough track but doesn’t pop out in any area
The Black Album Ranked #10 Holier Than Thou
Holier Than Thou or as my device keeps autocorrecting, hillier Than though, has a brilliantly fun tempo and some solid and tight guitar riff work which lays a strong foundation to build on. The only problem is, the building that was constructed on this foundation was only one floor high and the materials used were a little on the cheap side. Perhaps a little harsh. I guess what I’m saying is, I think more could have been done here and this is very evident in some parts. Having said that, the song retained my attention throughout and I wouldn’t say I was bored at any point. The guitar solo was alright and I did enjoy the strip back to bass and drums and build up even if it was brief and not all that dramatic. The abrupt ending was cool.
The Black Album Ranked #9 The God That Failed
The God That Failed does more to stand out as an individual than the previous songs. It has much more personality. The main riff is more than “good’, and I love the bass too. This song has a very nice pace to it and as for the guitar solo, beautiful. The solo builds brilliantly and it lasts a good amount of time too. The ending is very impressive but for this one to rank higher in the list, it needed more building blocks. Pretty dam good song. Could have been even better though I reckon.
The Black Album Ranked #8 Unforgiven
I’ve always admired and loved the opening to Unforgiven. Very Hollywood. This spectacular mood is carried through the whole six and a half minute track, almost. The dynamic range is nice and the depth of the track is impressive. In fact, the whole mix is art. I mean, can you hear those guitars? Both the clean and heavy lead guitar parts are divine . They’re both beautiful and powerful which does reflect the song as a whole which is emotion packed. Unforgiven is well paced and it does a good job of helping me forget how long it is but it does start to loose me at the end. I love the sound of the leads at the back end of the song but at this point I feel the strength of the arrangement starting to slip and the fade out is a little disappointing. I’m well aware that this one would be higher for many but it is what it is.
The Black Album Ranked #7 Through the Never
Through the Never is just slightly over 4 minutes of mindless and unapologetic hard rock heaven and I love it. A criticism that could be thrown in the direction of this song is the repetitiveness of the riff work. One could argue that it’s almost monotone. Not me. I love this kind of thing if I’m in the mood for it. This song is a driving force. Shout out for the guitar solo which is shear perfection. The only problem with the solo was that I wanted more but it was in keeping with the fast moving track. Could this one have been developed more with a tiny tweak here and there? Yes for sure but that’s the only thing I can pick fault with.
The Black Album Ranked #6 My Friend Of Misery
The placement of My Friend Of Misery was hard because the only thing, and I mean the only thing I can throw at it as a criticism (and it’s not even really a criticism) is that it lacks that very final sprinkle of magic that some of the following tracks have so it finds itself hear even though I can’t fault it in any other way. The guitars both clean and distorted sound just, wow and the clean guitars are just as powerful as the distorted ones. In fact, everything sounds amazing in this track from top to bottom. The pace is perfect and it really sucks me in. I find myself hanging onto every word of the brilliantly delivered commanding lyrics even though there’s no hook. The range of sounds and dynamics is very impressive and this is highlighted perfectly within that middle instrumental section. The guitar harmony section is orgasmic and the tone on those guitar solos! Yesssss. The first solo is on the short side but the later stuff makes up for it. My Friend Of Misery is almost a perfect piece of music and the only reason it isn’t higher is because of my person affinity for the next tracks.
#5 The Struggle Within
The Struggle Within is the final track on The Black Album and what a way to end. The album both starts and ends brilliantly, and so does this track. It has a solid outro and the military style march intro that transitions to that driving pace is spot on. This is a song that moves along with a real purpose and conviction. Before I know it, I’m singing along with the backing and I realise I’m fully immersed and that’s before that epic locked in and perfectly phrased guitar solo which thankfully, lasts ages. I could have listened to more though. Like My Friend Of Mystery, this one is impossible to fault and only funds itself here and not higher because of my love for the final three tracks. This one and the previous track could be in either order to be honest.
Which track will miss out on the top 3?
#4 Don’t Tread On Me
Don’t Tread On Me is a track that starts as it means to go on. That gradual transition into the triplet feel is masterful and the heavy sounds combined with that almost blues rock mood is outstandingly good. This one has a sing along factor to it thanks (in part) to that vocal hook that anyone can get behind. DON’T TREAD ON ME. The guitar solo comes at the right time, injecting variation in the ideal place but it does perhaps inject a little too much dissonance for some people’s taste. That wah is awesome though. The lead licks at the end do feel ever so slightly disconnected. This one needed a strong end, and it got a tremendous one. It may have the odd area for improvement, but I will NEVER get bored of Don’t Tread On Me. The ultimate middle finger to authority song.
#3 Sad But True
I love the darkness and intensity that we hear right from the start with Sad But True. The same can be said for the rest of the song. Very badass indeed. Powerful. If you like this kind of music, Sad But True is a track that you can loose yourself in. Immersion is never a bad thing. This is a very patient song and another thing I love is the implementation of silences! There’re two guitar solos in this song. The first is very well defined and well paced and the second is okay too. Maybe a little milk toast but ultimately still very good and enjoyable. I adored the melody and delivery of the vocals, and the ending was spot on. Sad But True is a very hard song to pick fault with. Maybe it lacks that magic spark but I must say though, the 5 minutes go by very quickly and it’s a song I could listen to over and over again. Much like the top two!
#2 Enter Sandman
Enter Sandman TAB and Guitar Lesson
Enter Sandman is the track that opens The Black Album and what an introduction. Sandman is one of Metallica’s most well known tracks and it’s not hard to see why. The long and slow building intro is perfectly paced and dynamically amazing. One of the best intros of all time and some of the recurring guitar riffs that we first hear in the intro are immense. Especially that one that ends with the Vibrato A note on the low E string. One of my favourite all time favourite riffs. Seriously, how can one song have so many great riffs? The sweet little wah based licks we hear are the cherry and the phrasing of the solo is textbook perfection. As is the transition to the slowly building refreshing spoken word section. The double chorus at the end is okay without being spectacular and the Outro fade out is on the weak side compared to the rest of the track. It’s these criticism which handed the top spot to…
#1 Nothing Else Matters
What can I say about Nothing Else Matters? Well, I could go for something along the lines of this. It’s one of the greatest guitar tracks of all time, undoubtedly one of the greatest Metallica songs of all time and perhaps, one of the greatest recordings of all time period. Nothing Else Matters is truly remarkable. A masterpiece. I can’t go through this song and list everything I love about it or I’d be walking you through the song bar by bar right up until the end where we get a fairly lacklustre fade out. The lame fade doesn’t hurt the song much for me as the rest is so great but the fact that it was milliseconds away from music perfection does matter enough for me to mention it. That said, Nothing Else Matters is still good enough to take top spot on this list.
I guess my top 3 will be very similar to a lot of people out there and many of the other tracks are all a close call so maybe the worst to best list doesn’t really present anything interesting but I wouldn’t say this has been a pointless exercise because there is something very clear here that the review has highlighted.
The Black Album isn’t perfect but most of the tracks within are very close to that very adjective which is very impressive. There is no bad music or tracks in this album. Every negative I’ve highlighted has been small and in most cases, down to my own hang ups.
There are isolated areas where things could have been stronger but that’s always going to be the case over a 12 track album and at the end of the day, the track that I ranked “worst” was one that contained elements that I quite enjoyed.
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Hello. My name is Ryan J Mellor and I play the guitar. I’m also the creator of Eat Sleep Guitar Repeat. I’ve ben a guitarist for many years and my guitar playing has been described as “above average”. My guitar and music knowledge is somewhat impressive but most importantly, I have a passion for creating great guitar and music related content.