Metallica: Master of Puppets and Self Destruction

In 1981, Danish drummer Lars Ulrich posted an advertisement in the paper that read: “Drummer looking for other metal musicians to jam with Tygers of Pan Tang, Diamond Head , and Iron Maiden.” Guitarist James Hetfield responded, and the rest is ear-deafening history.

Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield / Metallica / Metallica / James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett
Source: Getty Images

The band has sold millions upon millions of records since they released their debut studio album, Kill ‘Em All. Time to dig deeper into the history of one of – some would say THE – most successful metal bands of all time. Here are some unearthed facts about Metallica.

“The Big One”

According to the world of thrash metal, Metallica is one of the genre’s “Big Four.” The other three are Megadeth (founded by Metallica’s ex-band member, Dave Mustaine), Anthrax, and Slayer. However, some believe Metallica is the only real metal band of the bunch.

Metallica in photo session at a hotel
Photo by Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images

Lead singer of the group Exodus, Steve “Zetro” Sousa was quoted saying that in his opinion, Metallica isn’t really part of a “Big Four.” Rather, the band is actually the “Big One.” To Zetro, Metallica’s peers on the list are just “The Other Three.”


Drummer of Metallica, Lars Ulrich has been officially crowned as the richest metal drummer in the world. This impressive title came partly as a result of the band’s first three successful albums, Kill ‘Em All, Ride the Lightening, and Master of Puppets.

Lars Ulrich performs at the Pine Knob Music Theatre.
Photo by Ross Marino/Icon and Image/Getty Images

The band’s first albums earned him a little over 12 million dollars. Over the years, the band’s success kept on growing, as did the member’s bank accounts. Nowadays, it’s reported that the hardcore drummer is worth around $300 million.

Merry Christmas

Right in time for the holidays, a mashup of the band’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s “Carol of the Bells” was released by DJ Cummerbund. The music video shows footage from a 2005 film called Santa’s Slay.

Metallica poses in a group photo dressed as Santas.
Source: YouTube

The movie is about law enforcement hunting down a killer Santa Claus. An additional weird yet somehow good mashup is “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” Which one do you like better?

Role Model

For the band’s 2019 European tour, which kicked off in Lisbon, Portugal, Metallica’s members were accompanied by Swedish rockstars Ghost. Ghost’s frontman Tobias Forge has been quoted saying that Metallica served as mentors for his young band.

Tobias Forge of Ghost opens for Metallica.
Photo by Sergione Infuso/Corbis/Getty Images

The tour with Metallica must have been like a dream come true. But as much as the members of Ghost idolize Metallica, Tobias also said that covering them is nearly impossible: “As a singer, you just want to sing it out — you want to sort of flesh it out more. The problem with Metallica songs is that they’re so fleshed out, they’re so cemented, there’s really no room for interpretation in my head.”

The Band Was Born Out of Craigslist

Nowadays, kids likely have no idea that old newspapers used to have a classified section. But here’s a fun fact – Metallica was born with the help of a newspaper ad. Drummer Lars Ulrich put out a call for other musicians to jam with him.

Lars Ulrich, Cliff Burton, James Hetfield are at a bar drinking beer.
Photo by Pete Cronin/Redferns/Getty Images

That’s precisely how guitarist and singer of the band, James Hetfield linked up with Lars. Gradually, Metallica began to take form after Hetfield brought his roommate, Ron McGovney, along to play bass, and Dave Mustaine later joined on guitar.

They Went Back to Their Roots

Metallica’s album Death Magneti (2008) was created as a result of their meeting with Rick Rubin, an iconic producer who worked with huge names like The Beastie Boys and Eminem. On discussing the 2008 album, Rick said he encouraged the guys from Metallica to go back to their roots.

A photo of Rick Rubin.
Photo by Shareif Ziyadat/FilmMagic/Getty Images

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Rick Rubin stated: “I tried to get them to re-engage with everything everybody fell in love with, with Metallica, in the first place. I got them to listen to the music that they were listening to at the time that they made Master of Puppets, those influences. I asked them to live with those influences and spend more time playing together as a band.”

Seven Deadly Concerts

The metal band set a Guinness World Record for becoming the first musical group to perform on every continent on the globe. In 2013, Metallica headed to Antarctica to rock out at Carlini Base. They joined forces with Coca-Cola to organize a competition for fans to win tickets to their concert.

Metallica performs a concert in Antarctica.
Source: Reddit

Whoever won a ticket also earned a weeklong Antarctica cruise that finished at Carlini Station for the band’s concert. The station is located on King George Island and is named after the scientist Alejandro Ricardo Carlini.

The Beast

James Hetfield reportedly spends some of his spare time working as a mechanic. His focus? Beautiful, shiny, classic cars. One of his favorite vehicles is a Chevy Blazer he calls “The Beast.” It’s reportedly structured to survive nuclear blasts and earthquakes.

James Hetfield talks about his love of cars.
Source: YouTube

Some of his other classic cars include a 1932 Ford Roadster named “Blackjack,” a 1934 Packard named “Aquarius,” a 1936 Ford he named “Iron Fist,” a 1936 Auburn called “Slow Burn,” a 1937 Lincoln Zephyr called “VooDoo Priest,” and a 1937 Ford Coupe “Crimson Ghost.” The list goes on and on, but I’ll end it here.

Radio Silence

James Hetfield has publicly stated how much he dislikes expressing political opinions in music. He believes that because people idolize musicians, their political opinion will automatically be considered valid and true.

James Hetfield performs live on stage.
Photo by Michel Linssen/Redferns/Getty Images

“I hate politics. I don’t want to talk about politics. It’s not important to me. What’s important to me is connecting people with music. Politics, religion… they separate people,” he was quoted saying during an interview with the Chilean newspaper La Tercera.

Third Time’s the Charm

Metallica’s third album, Master of Puppets, became their first gold album, and it ended up selling a whopping six million copies. Master of Puppets was also Metallica’s first album released through the major record label – Elektra Records.

Cliff Burton, Lars Ulrich, James Hetfield, and Kirk Hammett pose together.
Photo by Ross Marino/Getty Images

Master of Puppets was also the group’s highest-placed album on the list of Rolling Stone’s influential top 500 albums ranking in the year 2003, coming in at No. 167. The band’s other entry on that same list is 1991’s Metallica, also known as The Black Album. It made No. 252.


After Dave Mustaine was kicked out of Metallica, he started writing new songs on the bus ride back to California. He didn’t have any paper on hand, so he decided to use a random pamphlet he found.

A portrait of Dave Mustaine.
Photo by Frans Schellekens/Redferns/Getty Images

The front of it read: “The arsenal of megadeath can’t be rid of no matter what the peace treaties come to.” And just like that, Mustaine found his new band name – Megadeth. Mustaine’s “rebound” band has since sold over 100 million records.

Why Jason Newsted Left the Band

Following Cliff Burton’s death (Metallica’s bass player), the band found a new bassist named Jason Newsted. Jason then helped the metal band with their fourth album, 1988’s …And Justice for All. Years later, in 2001, he left the band.

Jason Newsted performs onstage.
Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Newsted parted ways with Metallica, claiming that the band was more focused on “fighting Napster than making music.” He also mentioned that he needed some time away from all the ruckus to heal from a neck and back injury he sustained from constant headbanging.


Metallica has lost some of its bandmembers to side gigs or other rock groups, but drummer Lars Ulrich certainly isn’t one of them. Lars Ulrich has only jammed with one other band, Mercyful Fate. His work appears on their 1993 album In the Shadows.

Lars Ulrich of Metallica during a portrait session.
Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

When Mercyful Fate’s longtime bassist Tim Hansen passed away, Lars posted his condolences on his social media account. He wrote: “[Hansen] was not only a close friend of mine and a close friend of the band’s, but he was part of a musical force that helped shape Metallica’s sound, direction & desire to be in a hard rock band.”

Guest Stars

Later on in their careers, Metallica’s members James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich dipped their feet in the world of voice acting. The two musicians played dragons in an episode of Dave the Barbarian (aired in 2004) called “Here There Be Dragons.”

Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield attend an event.
Photo by Steve Jennings/WireImage/Getty Images

For those of you who don’t know, Dave the Barbarian was an animated series that aired on the Disney Channel. It centered around a barbarian named Dave who goes on these surreal, medieval-themed adventures. It first aired in 2004.


The band’s second album, Ride the Lightning, is known for its eerie blue cover. The album was a major success, peaking at No. 100 on the Billboard 200. In 1984, around 85,000 copies had been sold around Europe and 75,000 in the U.S.

A copy of the green Ride The Lighting album.
Source: Reddit

Fun fact: The French record label Bernett Records misprinted the album with a different color. Instead of its original blue color, it printed 400 copies of the album in green. Nowadays, it’s considered a rare collector’s item.


Interestingly, Metallica’s bassist Robert Trujillo would have preferred to play the keyboard! Growing up in the 1970s, he became fascinated with the instrument because of famous progressive bands like Yes.

A portrait of Robert Trujillo and his bass guitar.
Photo by Richard Ecclestone/Redferns/Getty Images

But choosing bass over keyboards came down to issues of practicality. Owning a keyboard takes up more space around the house, and because his dad already played bass, it was easier to get a hold of one and start practicing. We’re pretty sure today he has plenty of room around his house for one.

Sip On

Dave Pickerell is best known for helping to create whiskey brands like Maker’s Mark. In 2017, the metal band approached Dave to help craft their own whiskey. They joined forces, and the result of this fun union is a whiskey called Blackened.

Metallica band members and Dave Pickerell pose together.

The whiskey’s website reads: Each batch of BLACKENED is sonically-enhanced during the finishing phase by its own Metallica playlist, selected and arranged by the band members themselves.” The spicy beverage is named after one of the band’s songs and ended up being Daves last project before he passed away in November 2018.

Think of the Children

Metallica’s members have a soft spot when it comes to educating young kids. They believe education is key, and that every single kid deserves good education as their starting point in life. They formed the “All Within My Hands Foundation” which recently announced a $1 million grant that will be distributed between ten American schools.

Lars Ulrich poses with volunteers for
Photo by Steve Jennings/Getty Images

The foundation targets the school’s technical education programs, as well as their career programs. Lars Ulrich has explained that the money is meant to give students the possibility of becoming successful at doing something they truly love.

Hot Streak

Metallica is the only American band to have six consecutive studio albums launch and peak at number one on the Billboard 200. Their 2008’s Death Magnet became the sixth. A Billboard article read:

Lars Ulrich, Robert Trujillo, Kirk Hammett, and James Hetfield rehurse backstage.
Photo by Mick Hutson/Redferns/Getty Images

“Metallica scores its sixth No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 chart with the arrival of Hardwired… to Self-Destruct. The set debuts atop the list with 291,000 equivalent album units earned in the week ending Nov. 24, according to Nielsen Music.”

Auspicious Start

The first time Metallica graced an album, it wasn’t their own. They actually first appeared on Metal Blade Records’ Metal Massacre compilation. Fun fact: Being a newbie band, their name was overlooked and misspelled as Mettallica.

A group shot of Metallica backstage.
Photo by Fryderyk Gabowicz/picture alliance/Getty Images

Put together by Brian Slagel, the compilation introduced the world to one of the greatest metal bands in history. “When I was putting together the compilation, [Lars Ulrich] called me up,” Brian recalled of the talk they had while Lars was still a teenager looking to form a band. “Lars asked me, ‘Hey, if I put together a band and give you an original song, will you put it on the record?’ And I said, ‘Sure, of course.’ So, that was basically the beginning of Metallica.”


The first time James Hetfield laid his hands on a musical instrument was when he was nine. He began playing around with a friend’s piano and soon after, his mom signed him up for lessons. At first, he found the lessons boring (though he enjoyed the cookies he would receive at the end of each lesson).

James Hetfield’s high school photos.
Source: Pinterest

Hetfield didn’t appreciate the music they were teaching him; he wasn’t into classical pieces, and the sound was far from the music he enjoyed listening to. Still, to this day, James Hetfield credits his early piano playing for making it easier to play guitar and simultaneously sing.

Rich Get Richer

Lars Ulrich, the world’s richest metal drummer, is also a huge art fan. His interest in art has also gained him quite an impressive amount of money. In 2008, Ulrich sold Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled (Boxer) for $13.5 million.

Lars Ulrich sits on his couch in front of the painting.
Source: YouTube

“As a collector I view myself as a caretaker of works of art, rather than simply an owner,” the drummer said. “I have been fortunate enough to have shared 10 great years with this truly iconic painting by Basquiat, and it is time to put it back into circulation and let someone else enjoy it as much as I have over the last decade.”

Nap Time

Metallica took part in turning Napster into a paid service back in 2000, as they joined forces with other musicians to sue the file-sharing giant for distributing copyrighted material without consent. This lawsuit redefined the way we listen to music nowadays.

Lars Ulrich sits before the Senate Judicary Committee.
Photo by Stephen J. Boitano/Newsmakers/Getty Images

“From a business standpoint, this is about piracy — taking something that doesn’t belong to you,” Lars Ulrich was quoted saying. “And that is morally and legally wrong. The trading of such information – whether it’s music, videos, photos, or whatever — is, in effect, trafficking in stolen goods.”

Two Extremes

Metallica’s songs range anywhere from three minutes to nearly ten. Their shortest song is “Motorbreath,” written by Hetfield long before Metallica was even formed. It’s about living life on the fast lane, which makes sense, seeing as it clocks in at 3:08, making it the band’s speediest song.

Kirk Hammett, James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, and Cliff Burton pose together.
Photo by Fin Costello/Redferns/Getty Images

The group’s longest song is the instrumental track, “Suicide and Redemption” taken from their album Justice for All. It clocks in at 9:57! Granted, Metallica has two other uncut versions of songs that turn out to be longer, but many fans consider Suicide and Redemption to be the longest.

Hitting the Road

Metallica has performed over 1,700 shows to date, with more yet to come! This metal band has played on every single continent, with a total of 60 countries enjoying their live music. Where has the band performed the most, though?

Metallica perform on stage.
Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Metallica has performed in San Francisco the most, with a total of 51 concerts. Bottom line, most concerts were played in America, but several shows were also played in the United Kingdom, Germany, and Canada among other countries.

They Have Won a Total of Eight Grammys

Metallica has taken home a total of eight Grammys. Their winnings stretch back to 1989, and the most recent one happened in 2009. The band’s awards include Best Rock Album and Best Metal Performance.

Metallica arrives at the 56th GRAMMY Awards.
Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic/Getty Images

They’ve also earned a 2017 nomination for Best Rock Album for their album Hardwired…To Self-Destruct. With so many impressive awards and nominations, it’s no wonder many consider Metallica to be the best thrash metal band in the world.

Aquaman Used Metallica for Inspiration

Jason Momoa, best known for his role as Aquaman, revealed that he listens to metal songs as a form of inspiration for his characters. Jason admitted that Conan the Barbarian was inspired by Pantera, while his character Aquaman has Metallica to thank for.

Jason Momoa poses with a Metallica album.
Source: Instagram/@prideofgypsies

“[Aquaman is] mostly built out of Tool and [Metallica’s debut album] Kill ‘Em All,” he was quoted saying. He even took to his social media accounts to profess his love for the band: “If you’re a Metallica fan, you’re a Jason Momoa fan. If you’re a Jason Momoa fan, you’re a Metallica fan,” he explained.

No. 1

The music critic site Louder ranked Metallica’s album Master of Puppets as the best album of the 1980s, beating out other huge albums like Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction and AC/DC’s Back in Black.

Master of Puppets album cover.
Source: Pinterest

The website’s online poll had about 35,000 votes, with most of the voters choosing Metallica. More than three decades later, it’s still impossible to overestimate the impact Master of Puppets had on the world of metal.

Proud to Be Danish

Metallica’s drummer Lars Ulrich grew up in Denmark and got his first taste of metal music in Copenhagen, after going to a Deep Purple concert with his dad. Ulrich then moved to California in the early ’80s, and within five months, he formed Metallica with James Hetfield.

A portrait of Lars Ulrich.
Photo by Krasner/Trebitz /Redferns/Getty Images

When discussing his Danish roots, Ulrich stated:

“It’s been an incredible 30 plus years, close to 40 years now [since I moved to America] but the Danishness in me still flourishes, and I’m very proud and happy about that side.”

Mustaine Still Compares His Success to Metallica’s

After Dave Mustaine was kicked out of Metallica for reckless behavior, he went on to form Megadeth. Fueled by vengeance and a burning desire to prove his former Metallica bandmates wrong, Dave Mustaine worked day and night to create some of metal’s most impressive records.

A portrait of Dave Mustaine.
Photo by Ross Marino/Getty Images

Mustaine’s band Megadeth has sold a total of over twenty million records and is considered one of metal’s “Top Four” bands. However, Mustaine admits that he still feels like a failure at times and has been haunted by his obsession of comparing himself to Metallica.

The Artwork Was Too Gory

The album Kill ‘Em All was originally supposed to be called something else entirely. Metallica’s band members wanted to call it “Metal Up You’re A-.” The album’s artwork was already done and featured a hand holding a dagger, reaching out of a toilet.

The original gory artwork.
Source: Reddit

Metallica’s label at the time believed that the artwork was way too gory and disturbing. Despite being a metal band and all, some things were just a bit too much. While they changed the art, the image has stuck around and has since then become a famous Metallica T-shirt.

The New Kid in Town

After kicking out Dave Mustaine, the boys found a new guitarist – Kirk Hammett. Kirk was given one week to learn how to play Metallica’s songs and rehearsed with the band for another few days before appearing with them on stage.

James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett pose together.
Photo by Joby Sessions/Total Guitar Magazine/Future/Getty Images

As if being kicked out wasn’t harsh enough, Mustaine had his solo re-written by the new guitarist Hammett, who used the first few bars of every one of Mustaine’s solos and altered the rest. For years, Mustaine would go on to claim that Metallica had stolen his music.

A Sudden Career Change

Initially, Lars Ulrich planned to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a professional tennis player. However, that Deep Purple concert he went to as a kid planted a new seed in his brain – to learn to play the drums and master the instrument.

Lars Urlich, as a young boy carrying two tennis rackets.
Photo by Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Even though he moved to California to improve his tennis skills, he didn’t make his college’s tennis squad, which pretty much sealed the deal when it came to his tennis career. From that point on, it was nothing but music. We believe it worked out pretty well, don’t you think?

Why Hetfield Stopped Skateboarding

Metallica once had to cancel a show in Indiana because James Hetfield fell on his butt while skateboarding and broke his wrist. The band then formed a new rule – no skateboarding before concerts. Metallica’s management added the rule to Hetfield’s contract.

James Hetfield shows off his cast.
Source: Twitter

Some would say that the band’s managers weren’t being too harsh. But Hetfield had had so many accidents by then that they weren’t willing to endure anymore. “There was a couple of shows where I had to have my ankle taped up, for like a week,” Hetfield revealed.

Adios Amigo

On the 11th of April 1983, Dave Mustaine was kicked out of the band. As it turns out, the guitarist had a habit of “getting aggressive and confrontational” whenever he was drunk. Unfortunately, he was drunk around 99% of the time.

The original band members of Metallica pose together.
Source: YouTube

His bandmates eventually gave the boot. And they did it in a cold and heartless way, by waking him up at around 9 a.m. and telling the poor hungover guitarist that he was out of the band for good. They handed him a bus ticket back to California and said “adios amigo.”

Rest in Peace Cliff Burton

In 1986, Metallica met with tragic misfortune after Cliff Burton, their bassist, died in a tour bus accident. Cliff was thrown out of the window when the bus started to wobble from side to side. The bus then landed on Cliff, smashing him to death.

A portrait of Cliff Burton.
Photo by Krasner/Trebitz /Redferns/Getty Images

In his defense, the bus driver said he slipped on a patch of black ice, but James Hetfield reported that he walked up and down the street and didn’t find any. He speculates that the driver must have fallen asleep at the wheel.

Metallica’s Legacy

In the spring of 2009, Metallica was enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Cliff Burton, their deceased bassist, was posthumously inducted with the other bandmates. Newsted, who had left the band a bit before the ceremony, was also invited that evening.

Robert Trujillo, James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, and Jason Newsted perform onstage at their Induction Ceremony.
Photo by Kevin Kane/WireImage/Getty Images

Despite Newsted’s abrupt departure from the group, he has remained on solid terms with his former bandmates. Lars Ulrich invited him to attend the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony via a phone call. You know who wasn’t invited? Dave Mustaine.

A Bizarre Conspiracy

The death of Cliff Burton was due to a bus accident. However, ex-Pentagram member Joe Hasselvander said he believes something else was at play. According to Joe Hasselvander, Cliff Burton died because he got hold of some tarot cards covered with human blood.

Cliff Burton, Kirk Hammett, Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield pose together.
Photo by Paul Natkin/WireImage/Getty Images

Those tarot cards allegedly dated back to the Salem Witch Trials. So, Joe believes they were cursed and led to his terribly tragic demise. I must say, while this conspiracy sounds pretty bad a** and suitable for a metal bassist, it’s probably nonsense.

Cliff Had Real Integrity

According to Metallica’s Kirk Hammett, “Cliff had a lot of integrity.” The guitarist added that [Cliff’s] way of expressing that integrity was in one stock sentence which I still use to this day, and it was: ‘I don’t give a fuck.’ He really just cared about the music and the integrity behind the music. He was just very, very real.”

Cliff Burton, James Hetfield, bottom Kirk Hammett, and Lars Ulrich.
Photo by Krasner/Trebitz /Redferns/Getty Images

Cliff lived every day like it was his last. Stubborn and strong, he wasn’t’ afraid to speak about the things he wanted to change. He genuinely didn’t care too much about irrelevant people’s opinion. He managed to stay authentic and true to himself until the very last day.