Bruce Dickinson on the game-changing Black Album: “None of us had the balls to step up to the next level – but Metallica did”

(from left): Bruce Dickinson, James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett
(Image credit: Alessandro Bosio/Pacific Press/LightRocket / Tim Mosenfelder via Getty)

Bruce Dickinson has discussed the game-changing impact that Metallica’s seminal 1991 self-titled album (known to most as the Black Album) had on the metal world, saying that the band stepped up to the plate to take the genre to the next level at a time when no other group would.

Dickinson made his comments while in conversation with Classic Rock (opens in new tab) magazine, stating that, despite the slew of household heavy-hitters floating around the scene at the time, Metallica were the only ones to grab metal music by the coat collars and drag it into the limelight.

“Ourselves, Judas Priest and Pantera all reached a crossroads where we had the chance to really step up to the next level,” reflected Dickinson. “But none of us had the balls to do it. Metallica did, though.

“You have to give them huge credit for grabbing the opportunity when it came up,” he continued, “taking the risk and deservedly reaping the enormous rewards. You cannot underestimate their achievement with this album.”

Speaking of crossroads, Dickinson also went on to discuss the impact the Black Album had on the metal world as a whole, saying that the celebrated effort put the playing style in the shop window for a whole new audience when it was released.

He continued, “It’s one of those seminal albums that just gets it right. It’s extremely well-produced, and every note on that album is totally under control. 

“I admire how they did it, and what they did with the songs, and it was very effective: it undoubtedly did help push metal into the mainstream.

“I know it wasn’t Mutt Lange who produced it, but Bob Rock had that similar thing where the producer was very much in control.”

Despite the album’s monumental success – it is now 16x Platinum, having sold over 16 million copies in the US – Dickinson distanced himself and Iron Maiden from trying to make something similar.

“We could never do an album like that,” he admitted, “because we’re not that under control, and we don’t want to be. With us, the wheels would fall off the bus and we’d end up firing the producer!”

2021 marks the Black Albums’ 30th anniversary and, as you’d expect, the legendary band are celebrating the record’s achievements in style.

A fully remastered, deluxe version of the original album is on its way, as is the 53-artist tribute record The Metallica Blacklist, which features covers of classic Black Album tracks from a huge array of artists.

The band have also announced an all-new podcast in collaboration with Amazon – an eight-episode series that will take a deep-dive into the story behind the making of the Black Album – which will arrive on Friday, August 20.

Kirk Hammett recently made his own comments on the band's Black Album, saying, "We wanted a Back In Black," and that "the best parts of that album kind of just wrote themselves".

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.