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RMU Sentry Media

The news site of Robert Morris University

RMU Sentry Media

Ranking All of Metallica’s Albums


Metallica is one of the greatest heavy metal bands to ever roam the Earth. Their influence on the American heavy metal scene has been continuous over the past 40 years of their existence. They, along with Megadeth, Anthrax, and Slayer were colloquially known as the Big 4, and were the primary influencers of a new genre called thrash metal.

With Metallica going on tour to promote their new album “72 Seasons,” here is a ranking of all 11 of their studio albums.

11. “St. Anger,(2003) – 5.4/10

“St. Anger” was a dark point for Metallica. On the verge of potentially breaking up, and their bassist Jason Newsted quitting, this album was a culmination of that. With the snare sounding like a trash can and the lack of guitar solos, this album is seen as the black sheep of Metallica albums. There are bits and pieces that are good, but the whole album is poorly mixed and the lyrics are something to behold.

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10. “Reload,” (1997) – 6.8/10

This album is very forgettable. The latter part of a double album with Load, this album only has a couple of songs that stand out on this album, including “Fuel”, “The Memory Remains”, and “The Unforgiven II”. But this album has songs on it that have not been played live and are not popular with fans. The song “Prince Charming” is an underrated song, but that may be the only other bright spot for this album.

9. “Death Magnetic,” (2008) – 7.4/10

This album would be ranked higher if it wasn’t for the fact that it was mixed so poorly. The audio is very compressed to the point of digital clipping, which was made to make the album louder, as part of the ongoing “loudness war,” which was an industry movement to make recordings as loud as possible. However, the songs themselves are outstanding, including “The Day That Never Comes,” “That Was Just Your Life,” and “All Nightmare Long.” Every other song is at least decent in its own right, and all have memorable parts. Solid album.

8. “Kill ‘Em All,” (1983) – 7.9/10

I’ll give them a slight pass on this album, as it was their debut. It features guitar riffs and solos written by former lead guitarist Dave Mustaine, who went on to form Megadeth. This album has memorable tracks including “Seek & Destroy,” “Whiplash,” and my personal favorite from this album, “Phantom Lord.” All of the other songs are good, but they don’t seem to have any special flair to make them stand out. However, this album was the genesis of what would become thrash metal.

7. “Hardwired… To Self Destruct,” (2016) – 8.0/10

I am a huge fan of this album. It is only ranked 7th because of some less memorable songs that bring it down, but there are some songs that have become staples of my playlists. “Hardwired,” “Halo on Fire,” “Now That We’re Dead,” and, in my opinion, the best Metallica song of all time, “Spit Out The Bone.” These songs are fast, groovy, and can easily compete with the Metallica of the 1980s. With only a few songs that could be considered filler tracks, this album has room to grow and could easily take a higher ranking someday.

6. “Metallica,” (1991) – 8.2/10

The first Metallica album of the 1990s, “Metallica,” better known as “The Black Album,” was seen as an attempt to get Metallica more mainstream. With them going away from their traditional thrash metal roots and moving towards more of a heavy metal sound, this album is very divisive among fans. However, the songs themselves are very good and some of them are very, very popular among non-metal fans. Songs like “Sad But True,” “The Unforgiven,” and “Wherever I May Roam” are seen as classics, and two songs, “Nothing Else Matters,” and “Enter Sandman,” have found their way into everyday media, such as the entrance song for Virginia Tech football and New York Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera. But with a couple of forgettable songs, this album can’t get much of a higher rating.

5. “72 Seasons,” (2023) – 8.6/10

The most recent album that Metallica has put out, “72 Seasons,” took some time to grow on me. There is no clear-cut favorite from this album because all of the songs are equally good in their own right. “72 Seasons,” “Room of Mirrors,” “Too Far Gone?” and “Inamorata” are some of the more notable tracks for their unique features that have never been done on a Metallica album. This album does have some drawbacks, however. The album seems to be at a slower pace and the guitars don’t sound as crisp as they did in the 80s. If the album was faster, and the songs were a bit shorter, this album could be higher, but this album is top-tier.

4. “…And Justice For All,” (1988) – 9.0/10

This album was the first album since the unfortunate death of bassist Cliff Burton, who died when their tour bus crashed in Sweden, leading to an album that was filled with anger and sorrow. If I could describe this album, I would say that it is very dry-sounding, because of a lack of bass, which is one of the album’s drawbacks. However, it is very fast and has songs that are very memorable and fan favorites, including the number 4 ballad “One,” the opening track “Blackened,” and “To Live is To Die,” which was the instrumental dedicated to Cliff. The other songs on this album are very solid but not seen as very memorable, as they didn’t really stand out, but this is a very, very good album.

3. “Load,” (1996) – 9.3/10

This might be the hottest take on this list, but “Load” is a perfect addition to Metallica’s repertoire. “Load” was not a thrash metal album, but more so hard rock. Thrash metal was going down a path that Metallica was not going to follow, so they went towards a mid-paced, groovy-sounding album. The album’s lyrics take on themes of depression, addiction, and grief. It isn’t fast or heavy, but the songs are powerful. They have so much meaning behind them and are so relatable to everyday people. “Load” has so many top-tier songs such as “Bleeding Me,” “The Outlaw Torn,” “Hero of the Day,” “Until it Sleeps,” “King Nothing” and “Mama Said.” All of the other songs are incredible, although some of them are pretty standard. This is a great album.

2. Master of Puppets (1986) – 9.5/10

The first breakout album for Metallica, “Master of Puppets” only has 8 songs, but all 8 are just phenomenal. This album is fast, and brutal, and conveys social and political themes. They are telling stories in these songs, with powerful lyrics, and tight guitar riffs, but with delicate solos and bridges. “Battery,” “Master of Puppets,” and “Orion,” are the top-tier songs of the album, but all of the songs are hailed by fans and musicians alike. The fourth ballad of the album, “Welcome Home (Sanitarium),” is inspired by Ken Kesey’s novel, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” and is a brilliant testament to the powerful lyrics of this album. Even less popular songs, such as “Disposable Heroes” and “Damage, Inc,” have amazing riffs and solos that rival any of Metallica’s popular songs. This album is what brought Metallica and thrash metal in general to the spotlight, and was a sign of great things to come.

1. “Ride The Lightning,” (1984) – 9.9/10

This is peak Metallica. Granted all of Metallica is peak but this album takes the cake. “Ride The Lightning,” like “Master of Puppets,” only has 8 songs, but all 8 are immediate classics. Metallica was in their element when writing this album. Very similar to its predecessor, “Ride The Lightning” established who Metallica was and what they would become. Fast riffs, smooth guitar solos, and amazing harmonies are all that make this album great. The opening quartet of songs starts with “Fight Fire With Fire,” which has a melodic opening inspired by J.S. Bach. “Ride The Lightning”, “For Whom The Bell Tolls”, which was inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s novel of the same name, follow close behind, and ends with “Fade To Black.” This is easily the best four song sequence in their discography, and might be considered the greatest A-side in all of music history. These 4 tracks are as close to perfect as you can get. “Trapped Under Ice” is a criminally underrated song. “Escape” is a song that Metallica hates because the record label essentially forced them to put it on the album to make it an even 8 songs, but it is still incredible. “Creeping Death” is about the Plagues of Egypt, and it is a banger. Kirk Hammett, the lead guitarist, wrote the riff in the bridge section when he was only 16 years old. The 8th and final track, “The Call of Ktulu” is an instrumental inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s book, “The Shadow over Innsmouth,” and is a perfect ending to the best Metallica album of their discography.

I would also like to give a special mention to the EP “Beyond Magnetic and Garage, Inc.,” which is a compilation album of cover songs. These are two other great additions to Metallica’s discography and they should be recognized.

Metallica is one of the greatest heavy metal bands to exist, and these 11 albums prove that. They have been around for 40 years, and I have had the pleasure of seeing them live 3 times. They are rocking on and still making gnarly music, and here’s hoping for greater things to come.


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