From a Newspaper Ad to the Birth of Thrash Metal: The Story of Metallica

Metallica has been synonymous across the world with furious drumming, lightning fast riffing, mosh pits, and sold-out arenas for the last 30 years. Through virtuoso ensemble playing and its use of extremely accelerated tempos, Metallica took rock music to places it had never been before. It is for that reason that Metallica was honored with the prestigious Polar Music Prize in Stockholm earlier this month.

Metallica’s success story is a story to behold. And at the Polar Music Talks, Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich took fans back in time to the early 80’s to tell the full story. His talk is now available in an exclusive podcast on Spotify.

In the podcast, Lars Ulrich tells the story of a band dead-set on making it big with an entirely new sound that combined blazing speed, unconventional song structures, complex time signatures, and in-your-face lyrics. Lars put up an ad: “Drummer looking for other metal musicians to jam with,” and a couple of outsiders answered the call. They started to jam together in an LA suburb garage before eventually moving up to the Bay area. By the end of the 80’s, they had birthed four massively successful albums and a new genre: thrash metal.

“Back then, people thought I was crazy listening to Metallica since it was so rough and filled with anger,” says Renaud Doucet, Senior Editor for Metal at Spotify. “But then the ‘Black Album’ came along and the story changed completely. The stars aligned and Metallica became a household name almost overnight with hits like ‘Enter Sandman’ and ‘Nothing Else Matters.’ The band went from being thrash metal pioneers to the one the biggest rock bands around, introducing mainstream audiences to heavy metal and paving the way for more bands in adjacent genres.”

Closing in on their 40th anniversary, the hard-riffing quartet isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. With their Polar Music Prize win, the band joined the ranks of legends like Led Zeppelin, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, Elton John, Emmylou Harris and many more. This year, the band was accompanied by Dr. Ahmad Sarmast, founder and director of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music. Listen to Dr. Sarmast’s full polar talk depicting his brave work bringing traditional music back to Afghanistan.

Metallica is known for constant experimentation that allowed them to come up with new sounds and new ideas, which might be why you receive a different answer every time you ask a fan why they enjoy Metallica’s music. But no matter which of the many albums is your favorite, Metallica fans can all agree that from their first jam sesh to now, Metallica changed the music game.

Check out Metallica biggest hits in This is: Metallica and the complete interview from this year’s Polar ceremony in Stockholm.