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Metallica is an American heavy metal band from Los Angeles, California, formed in 1981. Founded when drummer Lars Ulrich posted an advertisement in a local newspaper, Metallica's line-up has primarily consisted of Ulrich, rhythm guitarist and vocalist James Hetfield and lead guitarist Kirk Hammett, while going through a number of bassists. Currently, the spot is held by Robert Trujillo. Metallica has released nine studio albums, two live albums, two EPs, twenty-four music videos, and forty-five singles. The band has won nine Grammy Awards, and has had five consecutive albums debut at number one on the Billboard 200, making Metallica the first band to do so, this record was later matched by the Dave Matthews Band. The band's 1991 album, Metallica, has sold over 15 million copies in the United States, and 22 million copies worldwide, which makes it the 25th-highest-selling album in the country. In December 2009, it became the highest-selling album of the SoundScan era, surpassing 1997's Come on Over by country artist Shania Twain. The band has sold an estimated 100 million records worldwide as of the release of their latest album, Death Magnetic. As of December 2009, Metallica is the fourth highest-selling music artist since the SoundScan era began tracking sales on May 25, 1991, selling a total of 52,160,000 albums in the United States alone.

About Metallica

Metallica's early releases included fast tempos, instrumentals, and aggressive musicianship that placed them as one of the "big four" of the thrash metal subgenre alongside Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax during the genre's development into a popular style. The band earned a growing fan base in the underground music community and critical acclaim, with the 1986 release Master of Puppets described as one of the most influential and "heavy" thrash metal albums. The band achieved substantial commercial success with Metallica (1991), which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200. With this release the band expanded its musical direction resulting in an album that appealed to a more mainstream audience.

In 2000, Metallica was among several artists who filed a lawsuit against Napster for sharing the band's copyright-protected material for free without the band members' consent. A settlement was reached, and Napster became a pay-to-use service. Despite reaching number one on the Billboard 200, the release of St. Anger alienated many fans with the exclusion of guitar solos and the "steel-sounding" snare drum. A film titled Some Kind of Monster documented the recording process of St. Anger.

Influenced by early heavy metal and hard rock bands such as Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and Manowar and New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands such as Venom, Motörhead, Diamond Head, Judas Priest, and Iron Maiden, early Metallica releases contained fast tempos, harmonized leads, and nine-minute instrumentals. Steve Huey of Allmusic said that Ride the Lightning featured "extended, progressive epics; tight, concise groove-rockers". Huey felt Metallica expanded its compositional technique and range of expression to take on a more aggressive approach in following releases, and lyrics dealt with more personal and socially conscious issues. Lyrical themes explored on Master of Puppets included religious and military leaders, rage, insanity, monsters, and drugs.

In 1991, with new producer Bob Rock, Huey felt Metallica simplified and streamlined its music for a more commercial approach to appeal to the mainstream audience. The band abandoned its aggressive, fast tempos to expand its music and expressive range, said Robert Palmer of Rolling Stone. The change in direction proved commercially successful as Metallica was the band's first album to peak at number one on the Billboard 200. Metallica noticed changes to the rock scene created by the grunge movement of the early 1990s. In what has been described as "an almost alternative" approach, the band focused on non-metal influences and changed musical direction. Moving away from lyrical themes dealing with drugs and monsters, Metallica's new lyrical approach focused on anger, loss, and retribution. Some fans and critics were not pleased with this change, which included haircuts, the cover of Load, and headlining the alternative rock concert Lollapalooza. David Fricke of Rolling Stone described the move as "goodbye to the moldy stricture and dead-end Puritanism of no-frills thrash" and called Load the heaviest record of 1996. With the release of ReLoad in 1997, the band displayed more blues and early hard rock influences, incorporating more rhythm and harmony in song structures.

St. Anger marked another large change in the band's sound. Bored with guitar solos, Hammett chose to omit them from the album, leaving a "raw and unpolished sound". The band used drop C tuning, and Ulrich's snare drum received particular criticism. New York Magazine's Ethan Brown noted it "reverberates with a thwong". Lyrics on the album dealt with Hetfield's stint in rehab, including references to the devil, anti-drug themes, claustrophobia, impending doom, and religious hypocrisy. At the advice of producer Rick Rubin, for their ninth studio album, Death Magnetic, the band returned to E tuning and guitar solos, and adapted Middle Eastern influences.