Arguably Metallica's biggest anthem amongst a vast back catalogue of memorable metal masterpieces; “Enter Sandman” is the one that everybody knows, hugely popular and massively over-played.
The release of the bands self-titled album in 1991, dubbed 'The Black Album', turned Metallica from big to biggest, instigating a level of commercial success rarely achieved by a heavy metal band. 'Enter Sandman' is the album's opening track and sets the style for the rest of the album, introducing a slower, heavier sound and simplified song structures that were all met with huge acclaim from a wider community of music fans.
Based on a riff blurted out by lead guitarist Kirk Hammett, the song features one of the most instantly recognisable intro lines, superbly designed to build up the sound layer by layer before erupting into action and the trademark throat-work of James Hetfield. Other features of the track include a visceral example of the Metallica shout-a-long chorus and a noteworthy solo from Hammett that is utterly fitting and rife with Wah-wah abuse and a child-spoken prayer. All this add together to conjure eerie imagery and suspense at the most effective point in the song.
It was one of the first pieces of music written for 'The Black Album', although the last to be given lyrics. Existing in the pre-production phase as a more disturbed story of family pain, Hetfield was eventually convinced to pen new lyrics dealing with fantasised nightmares and storybook horrors. This version, as heard on the record, better suited the new style of music whilst keeping the song appropriately sinister and psychological in tone. ~Ross Main. Copyright (c) Shazam Entertainment Limited 2009. All rights reserved
After the muddled production and ultracomplicated song structures of ...And Justice for All, Metallica decided that they had taken the progressive elements of their music as far as they could and that a simplification and streamlining of their sound was in order. While the assessment made sense from a musical standpoint, it also presented an opportunity to commercialize their music, and Metallica accomplishes both goals. The best songs are more melodic and immediate, the crushing, stripped-down grooves of "Enter Sandman," "Sad but True," and "Wherever I May Roam" sticking to traditional structures and using the same main riffs throughout; the crisp, professional production by Bob Rock adds to their accessibility. "The Unforgiven" and "Nothing Else Matters" avoid the slash-and-burn guitar riffs that had always punctuated the band's ballads; the latter is a full-fledged love song complete with string section, which works much better than might be imagined. The song- and riff-writing slips here and there, a rare occurrence for Metallica, which some longtime fans interpreted as filler next to a batch of singles calculated for commercial success. The objections were often more to the idea that Metallica was doing anything explicitly commercial, but millions more disagreed. In fact, the band's popularity exploded so much that most of their back catalog found mainstream acceptance in its own right, while other progressively inclined speed metal bands copied the move toward simplification. In retrospect, Metallica is a good, but not quite great, album, one whose best moments deservedly captured the heavy metal crown, but whose approach also foreshadowed a creative decline. ~ Steve Huey, Rovi
Track samples provided courtesy of iTunes
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