Metallica's Kirk Hammett on the Black Album: "We wanted a Back In Black”

(Image credit: Paul Natkin/WireImage)

Metallica's self-titled 1991 record, known to most as The Black Album, was a game-changer that vaulted the Bay Area quartet from mere stardom to outright superstardom.

Now 16x Platinum, the Bob Rock-produced album has sold more copies in the United States than any in the last 30 years. That sort of success is difficult for anyone to wrap their head around, but – according to the band's guitarist, Kirk Hammett – it's exactly what the band had in mind when they first began to assemble the now-30-year-old album.

In a new interview with Classic Rock magazine, Hammett discussed the band's ambitions while creating the LP, and the origins of some of its most iconic songs.

"We didn’t want to go down the same progressive, demanding route," Hammett said. "We had our sights set on bigger things. You have to remember that there had been some mega albums around that time – Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Bruce Springsteen – eight million, nine million copies sold. And we wanted that. It’s obvious. We wanted a Back In Black.

Though the sessions that produced the Black Album were notoriously difficult, and expensive, the album's legendary opening track came easily at first.

"The Enter Sandman riff was a riff that just fucking appeared," Kirk says. "It was three o’clock in the morning, I was sitting in my bedroom. People say: 'What were you doing up at three o’clock in the morning?' Well, I was still in tour mode. I was playing my guitar, I had nothing else to do. I’d been listening to Soundgarden all day. They were a band that me and James loved. I was just trying to capture that feel. That riff came out of nowhere. 

"The best parts of that album kind of just wrote themselves," Hammett continued. "Solos and music and songs felt like they just appeared out of nowhere. It was like the universe handed it to us on a platter. Not like the first four albums."

Metallica are doing plenty to celebrate the album's 30th anniversary, simultaneously releasing a fully remastered, deluxe version of the album and The Metallica Blacklist, a 53-artist tribute to the LP, next month. The band are also producing an eight-part podcast about the album's creation, the first episode of which drops next Friday, August 20.

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Jackson Maxwell

Jackson is an Associate Editor at He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player. Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder and Unrecorded. Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.