Why The Hate?: Metallica

Why The Hate?: Metallica

Metallica is one of the most influential and iconic bands in heavy metal history. With over 160 million albums sold in the band's 40 year career. From the band's origins in thrash metal with their debut Kill 'Em All, to the adaptation of a more mainstream heavy metal sound of their self-titled (aka The Black Album), the band has cemented a legacy and influence that bands dream of having in their career.

So, why you may wonder, why the biggest band in heavy metal history is appearing in this series? Well to start, the road to success and longevity hasn't been easy for Metallica. With countless missteps with studio albums and musical direction, derailments in band lineup changes, tension within the band, and non-music related backlash from their fans. Metallica has not been a band that has been bulletproof through out their career. Today, I will do my best to see what is everyone's beef with this iconic heavy metal act. Do these titans of thrash metal deserve the hatred the band has gotten?

In this article, I will break it down into three categories. The Music, The Band Itself, and The Fanbase. This will be a tough one to do since Metallica is a legendary band and have done so much for heavy metal and have been a gateway band to countless metalheads out there today, including myself. But I will do my due diligence to understand, explain and justify the backlash this band receives.  


If you are a fan of heavy metal, you know what Metallica's music sounds like, so I will not be doing a deep dive into each individual record. For the sake of time and telling you what you already know, I'll summarize each album.

Metallica's first four albums are considered some of the cornerstones of the thrash metal genre. With Kill 'Em All, the band wanted to go faster and heavier than their contemporaries, and with Dave Mustaine on the songwriting on some of the band's biggest hits from the album, the technical skill was on point and impressively fast. On the follow up, Ride The Lightning, emotional lyrics and more complex, almost progressive rock style arrangements began to appear in the band's sound. Master of Puppets had the band create a beautiful marriage of heavy thrash intensity, dark lyrics, and impressive musicianship. The album has been cited as one of the quintessential records in thrash metal. The band would sadly lose their bassist Cliff Burton in a bus accident during the album's promotional tour. With ...And Justice For All, and the addition of new bassist Jason Newsted, was a continuation of that sound, with the band breaking into the mainstream on MTV for the music video for the song "One".

The band would change their sound with their monumental self-titled fifth album. Straying away from their thrash/progressive/speed metal roots to a more straight forward, heavier and refined sound. The album would launch the band into the stratosphere with the opening single "Enter Sandman". The album has been certified sixteen times platinum and is a landmark release for the heavy metal genre. It is also one of the most influential records in heavy metal.  

Following a five-year break, the band would shock their fanbase by cutting their trademark long hair and updating their image They would release albums in 1996 and 1997 with Load and Reload. The band would deviate further from the heavy metal sound and focus more of a hard rock sound, along with elements of blues, alternative, and country music. Following mixed reviews and a divisive reception from fans, calling them "sell-outs" and coining the term "dad rock" to sum up the band's new sound. Newsted would leave the band before production of their next album due to his request for the band to take a break, along with Hetfield's rejection of Newsted working on side projects.

The band would dive further into unfamiliar territory with the making of the band's eighth studio album St. Anger. Going for a more grittier, alternative/nu metal addition to their sound. The album was panned by a lot of critics for bad production (the infamous Lars Ulrich drum snare sound comes from this album) as well as lack of focus and direction. With a lot of the focus and direction stemming from Newsted's departure, along with Hetfield going to rehab for alcoholism during the making of the album. The making of the album was documented in the 2004 documentary Some Kind of Monster.

After the touring cycle, the band would go on a break and regroup. Returning with 2008's Death Magnetic, an album that was dubbed "a return to form" for Metallica. The band would bring back the longer song structure, complex arrangements of older albums, and with new bassist Robert Trujillo, the album brought a lot of fans back from the brink of losing them forever.

In 2011, the band would collaborate with singer/songwriter Lou Reed on an album called Lulu. Very avant-garde and experimental with elements of spoken word and heavy metal, the album was panned by critics and the fans. Comparing it to your grandpa talking over some heavy metal music in the background. The album became a polarizing release and a stain on the band's illustrious career. Following this, the band would stray from the public eye and go dormant.

2016 brought the band's first double album with Hardwired...To Self Destruct. Debuting at number one on the Billboard 200, the album continued the success and direction of Magnetic, but with darker and more nihilistic themes in the lyrics. The album did receive positive reviews from critics as well as even Ulrich himself stating this is the band's best record in an interview with Classic Rock.  

After a seven year wait, Metallica returned with a new album in 2023 with 72 Seasons. With the opening single "Lux Æterna" having a sound and production style similar to the band's debut, the hype was through the roof. The album would be featured on many best of 2023 lists, with the lead single receiving a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Performance.

So, after all the music, all the band's turmoil affecting it, the constant musical shifts and experimentation, does the music deserve the hate? NO! Yes, Metallica has made some, let's say "interesting" choices, in their musical career, their music has still been influential in almost every stage of the band's career. Whether you prefer the classic thrash sound of the early records, the modern heavy metal sound of the self-titled, or the experimental era between Load and St. Anger, the music doesn't deserve any of the hate.


A lot of the main hatred or backlash from the band is aimed towards the band's drummer Lars Ulrich. Primarily came during 2000 when Ulrich famously on behalf of Metallica sued the file sharing website Napster over copyright infringement, racketeering and unlawful use of digital audio interface devices. Napster at the time was the most popular file sharing program, that let you share music, video and pictures over the internet for free. The band sought a minimum of $10 million in damages at a rate of $100,000 per illegally downloaded song. Napster did lose the case, but Ulrich took a sour image from the fan base and people outside of the band's fanbase. Many fans critiqued and criticized Ulrich stating that people had bought the record in order to share it and Metallica already got their cut, and we're just being greedy.

But if you think about it, Ulrich might have been ahead of the game regarding how streaming and downloading worked. In 2023, many artists revealed how much money they received for the amount of streams they get per year from Spotify. Rapper Snoop Dogg received 1 billion streams and received $45,000 in royalty payments. Parody and comedy legend "Weird" Al Yankovic had 80 million streams in 2023 and only got paid $12 in royalties, joking that he could buy a sandwich with the royalties he received from Spotify. So, if you think about it, maybe Ulrich was ahead of the game regarding sales for artists and bands. He kind of predicted what Spotify would do to today's artists. So, maybe at the time of the actual case, there was some hatred towards the band as some saw Napster as a way to share their love for the band, similar to the tape trading of demos and releases back in the day.

Another criticism from the band was their treatment of bassist Jason Newsted after replacing the late Cliff Burton. On his debut album with the band ...And Justice For All, the bass is almost indistinguishable or not even present on the record, which some claim had to do with Ulrich and Hetfield's alleged controlling of the mixing of the album. A moment mentioned earlier was the band's decision, mainly Hetfield's, to deny Newsted's request for the band to take time off and for Newsted to pursue side projects. That, and along with still being treated like the new guy, almost the running joke of "Jason Newkid" even though he had been with the band for multiple releases and tours, was in my opinion very douchey. In later interviews, Hetfield does regret how he treated Newsted, along with not finding any ill-will or bad blood towards Newsted or Metallica as of the time of this article. Hindsight is definitely 20/20, and from what I've read and the research I've seen, Hetfield was very protective of the Metallica brand and worried that Newsted would go solo or leave the band, which as a front man, especially in a band as big as Metallica was, it's almost justifiable why he did what he did. Looking back at the band members decisions and the possible turmoil and dilemma that it might have caused, I don't think the hatred is deserved towards the band.


The last category is one that seems to stem from a feeling of the old not accepting the new. One example stems from the Netflix series Stranger Things using the band's classic "Master of Puppets" in one of the series most recent seasons. The band received a resurgence in popularity and streams on Spotify from its appearance. The backlash, came from the fanbase gatekeeping to the extremes for any new fans that became introduced to the band through the show. Grilling new fans and pulling an almost extreme variant of the "Name 3 Songs" stigma that has begun to hurt the metal community. Unable to accept new and younger fans that were not introduced the traditional way of listening to the music, but rather through TikTok or celebrities wearing band merch. Granted, yes I myself am not a fan of the stereotypical "Metallica Things" fans that came up after that song's appearance. At the end of the day, the band got a new fan to check out their music, maybe bought an album or some merch, or even saw them live. That's what metal should be, accepting new fans and people no matter how they got into the genre.

The other cliche the Metallica fanbase have is what I call "The Divide". A lot of fans seem to have almost a proverbial "line in the sand" with only listening to Metallica up to a certain release. The black album is considered that line. That if you like ANYTHING after that album, you are wrong, dumb, or get the WTF response from the fans that seems to love everything up to the black album. Not keeping an open mind or open to the band developing, experimenting or adding to their sound. The progressive death metal band Opeth has this same exact situation with their album Watershed. It is such a redundancy and a horrible mindset. I myself, do mainly listen to a lot of pre-black album Metallica, but I do occasionally put on Hardwired...To Self Destruct or Death Magnetic. To completely cause an internal fanbase divide within your own fanbase is completely idiotic. Gatekeeping your own fanbase is just such a unrealistic ideology in practice. For these reasons, I agree that this methodology to the band's fanbase deserves the backlash behind it.

In the end, does Metallica deserve the hate? Towards the band's music and the band members itself, no they don't deserve any of the frustrations and temper towards them. The fanbase, I agree that some of the traits addressed in this article does deserve some of the hatred. Luckily, from what I've found online and the people I have talked to, the fanbase has become more accepting and open to new fans, but they do admit there was some dark times in the fanbase. Also admitting that "The Divide" theory I mentioned does still exist with die-hard Metallica fans. The band does have a legacy that is untouched with their music and the things they have done. All I ask during this series is to take this information as a grain of salt and to do your own research and make your own opinions regarding the band. This was a tough one for me to do since I am a big fan of the band and trying to deep dive into the negativity and bad traits the band has had over the years were a little tough to address. Especially digging up old wounds like the treatment of Newsted as well as listening to the Lulu record.

Do you think Metallica deserves any backlash or hatred towards them and why? Let us know in your vote below in our poll, as well as comment your thoughts on our social media. You can also comment on our Reddit account as to what band you think we should tackle next on this series.  

Does Metallica Deserve The Hate? - Online Poll - StrawPoll
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