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The rise and fall of Metallica.

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I've been doing some thinking about Metallica, following on from a thread on here - and wondered when it was exactly they became the monster they are, from the great band they used to be. I think everyone can pretty much agree that there best output was during the Burton-era of the band - something that is certainly backed up by the number of tracks they play from say their first three albums as compared to those recorded after their death.

So when was it that they became a mainstream attraction - at what point did they stop being a "bay area" thrash band and become the unit-shifting, money-making machine they are today?

I've attempted a scientific analysis of this based on cumulative album sales plotted against key moments in the 'tallica story. By doing this we can clearly see on "chart one" hereunder that Metallica's record sales took a significant upturn following those key moments. Those moments are

  • When they signed for Megaforce
  • When they signed with Elektra
  • The day Cliff died
  • When they released a video for "one"
  • When they recorded an album with Bob "Bon Jovi / Cher" Rock
  • When they released a orchestra version of Nothing Else Matters on the b-side of Sad but True
  • When they released their Spinal Tap-esque Orchestra collaboration
  • The Napster dabacle.

Chart One - Metallica


Whilst this analysis gives us an general indication of the growth of the populartiy of the band, it does not really give us a definative date as to when they did in fact sell out. For that, I decided to use some kind of 'image' related statistic, which when taken in conjunction with the album sales would prove beyond any doubt that the time when they became a sell out. And what better 'image' to use, than Hefield himself and - the length of his hair. The once long flowing tresses are now some kind of military accademy cut - but it didn't just disappear overnight. Statistics from his hairdresser show that the length of his hair over time. When plotted over the top of Chart One, we can see that the point when the two intercept to prove that the sell out occurred shortly after the release of the Black Album, but before the release of the Sad But True single which contained the orchestral re-working of "Nothing Else Matters". Further analysis show this date to be the day when they supported AC/DC at Donnington in 1991.

Chart Two


So there you have it. Metallica stopped being a thrash band and became a mainstream rock band on that date.

I wonder if the devil's got that circled in his diary as the day they sold their souls?

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