Like everyone else, I will qualify my 'Metallica credentials' by announcing what type of fan I am. I listened to this band in 1984 when "Kill 'Em All" ripped my head off and left me crying for mother's milk. I admit, these guys boggled the mind. But it was 1984...and I did grow to like them. The next 2 albums mindblowing. "Ride the Lighting" is impeccable. MOP is amazing. "...And Justice for All" a great album. As a whole this band was certainly the most complete band of the 1980's. It is in this context how 'Black Album' must be listened to. The songwriting is hit and miss, moreso than AJFA, which has a few misses. Some songs are just not good ("Of Wolf and Man"). But what's missing here is that unparalled Bay Area feel of the albums (many older fans will know from whence I speak). The sound everyone tried to copy, but could only be done by a few select bands, of which Metallica led the charge.
This album has a few high points. But Bob Rock is without a doubt the worst producer for a band such as this. If you don't beleive me, check out 'Rock and Hyde.' Or maybe check out Metallica's latest album ("Some Kind of Monster"?). This album is in my view, the turning point for Metallic. Where the division bell tolls. People who cite this album as their best missed the days waiting with bated breath for the next thrash album by Metallica (the 'Black Album' is not thrash). It is the best of the rest, and that is all. If you yearn for the old sounds Metallica, perhaps pray. Or perhaps buy Exodus' "Tempo of the Damned," a "Kill 'Em All"-like thrashfest. All hope is not lost however; D. Mustaine resurrected himself with a great album recently ("The System Has Failed"). Perhaps Metallica should take some advice from Mr. Mustaine--'if it's broke, you better damn well fix it!.'