Metallica Albums Ranked Worst to Best | rBeatz

Editor's Pick Metallica Albums Ranked June 2024

Metallica is one of the most iconic metal bands of all time and one of the big four bands of the thrash metal subgenre alongside Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax. Metallica’s live shows are legendary. They don’t just play their music; they unleash it. The energy, the pyrotechnics, the sheer power of their performance — it’s an experience that captures the spirit of hardcore thrash music. Over the years, the band has released some of thrash music’s greatest albums.

Here are some of the best Metallica albums ranked from worst to best:


St. anger (2003)

St. Anger Cover Art Metallica

When it comes to ranking Metallica albums, St. Anger consistently gets a less-than-stellar review. The overall reception of the metal album was predominantly negative, with fans citing a sense of trying too hard to fit into contemporary metal music trends.

For fans familiar with Metallica’s earlier work, the sound of St. Anger was seen as a departure from their classic style. This shift was partly attributed to an attempt to align with the new metal music of the early 2000s, like those from bands such as Slipknot.

The drums on the tracks were also described as sounding like “garbage can lids.” For many fans, the lyrics were repetitive and lacking depth, with several tracks criticized for repeating phrases excessively.


Load (1996)

Load (1996) Cover Art Metallica

The Load era consisted of two releases, 1996’s Load and 1997’s Reload, which were Metallica’s most controversial yet. Fans of the band’s signature music felt alienated by the group’s decision to go from thrash metal to a more mainstream rock and hard rock sound.

Plus, all four band members decided to cut their hair short, which led to widespread accusations that Metallica had officially sold out. Still, some fans liked Load, describing it as having some really good ballads and the epic “The Outlaw Torn.”


Reload (1997)

Reload (1997) Cover Art Metallica

Reload was released just one year after Load. Metallica, typically known for their intense, fist-pumping anthems, now incorporated more danceable grooves. Songs like “Slither” and “Bad Seed” have a rhythmic swagger similar to AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long,” featuring strong rhythm guitar and James Hetfield’s powerful voice. “Devil’s Dance” stood out with its dark, grinding beat and Hetfield’s menacing growls. Another noticeable shift was the band’s exploration of country and Western music elements.

Ranking Metallica albums often brings Reload into the spotlight due to its mix of styles. The “Unforgiven II,” a sequel to their 1991 hit, featured a slide-like guitar riff and surprisingly sweet harmonies.


Death magnetic (2008)

Death Magnetic (2008) Cover Art Metallica

Death Magnetic marks Metallica’s split from producer Bob Rock, who worked with them from 1991 to 2004. With new producer Rick Rubin, Metallica takes a different approach. Many tracks on Death Magnetic are over 7 minutes long, with complex structures instead of the usual “verse/chorus/verse.” The songs feature long intros, heavy jams, verses, heavier jams, choruses, bridges, wild solos, and outros.

If you ignore the lyrics, Death Magnetic sounds like a comeback. Everything clicks on “Broken, Beat and Scarred,” which channels Metallica’s full force behind a positive message: “What don’t kill ya make ya more strong,” Hetfield sings, making the cliché feel fresh.


Hardwired...To Self-Destruct (2016)

Hardwired...To Self-Destruct (2016) Cover Art Metallica

This new two-disc music album was a significant return, following the dark complexity of 1988’s ...And Justice for All and the precision of 1991’s Metallica. The album mainly featured epic-length tracks written by drummer Lars Ulrich and singer-guitarist James Hetfield. Tracks like “Hardwired,” “Atlas, Rise!” and “Now That We’re Dead” showcased intense rhythms and rapid thrash music, pausing only for their powerful chorus lines.

A standout moment was bassist Robert Trujillo’s ominous lead-in on “ManUNkind.” Guitarist Kirk Hammett’s fiery wah-wah solos further cemented his reputation as a masterful heavy metal guitarist.


72 Seasons (2023)

72 Seasons (2023) Cover Art Metallica

Yellow and black are the colors we often see on caution signs, fallout shelters, and “Baby on Board” stickers — signals to be careful and alert. So, it’s fitting that

Metallica uses these colors for the cover of their album 72 Seasons, which delves into the harsh realities of youth and the challenges of growing up. This theme isn’t new for them, as seen in songs like “The Unforgiven” and “Dyers Eve.”

In their 12th full-length metal album, Metallica reflects on their early years living at full throttle. Hetfield even brings back the lyric “full speed or nothin’” from their 1983 debut Kill ’Em All in the song “Lux Æterna.”


Kill 'Em All (1983)

Kill 'Em All (1983) Cover Art Metallica

The band’s debut perfectly blended punk’s raw energy with metal’s precision. Although the back cover showed four relaxed, pimply-faced guys, the 10 tracks (many co-written with Dave Mustaine before he left to form Megadeth) were all about intense, visceral energy.

Hetfield’s doomsday vision in “The Four Horsemen” is one of metal music’s most terrifying, while “Seek & Destroy” and “Metal Militia” depict violence for its own sake. Cliff Burton’s bass solo in “Anesthesia” is absolutely jaw-dropping.

However, the song that best captures Metallica’s “young metal attack” spirit, as they described themselves on their first T-shirt, is their headbanging anthem “Whiplash”: “Life out here is raw / But we’ll never stop, we’ll never quit / ’Cause we’re Metallica.”


...And Justice for All (1988)

...And Justice for All (1988) Cover Art Metallica

…And Justice For All marked Metallica’s first release after bassist Cliff Burton’s tragic death. The album was dense, complex, and seething with anger, featuring nine tracks that connected deeply with heavy music fans.

Some dominant themes in the songs included political oppression and corruption (“Eye of the Beholder,” “…And Justice for All”), feelings of betrayal by family (“Dyers Eve”), coping with murderous insanity (“Harvester of Sorrow”), and the horrific reality of being a mute quadriplegic due to war (“One”).

Despite the lengthy tracks (none shorter than 5 minutes) and having only one music video, Metallica achieved arena-level success. The album went double-platinum within a year of its release, eventually reaching eight times platinum.


The Black Album “Metallica” (1991)

The Black Album “Metallica” (1991) Cover Art Metallica

For someone curious about metal music but not ready to dive in fully, Metallica (often called The Black Album) is one of the best Metallica albums to start with. On this record, Metallica slowed down their usual thrash metal pace, creating a sound that was more accessible and commercial. Although hardcore fans have criticized producer Bob Rock for changing their sound, whatever he did worked. Metallica became the band’s most successful album, selling over 16 million copies in the US alone.

The album kicks off with “Enter Sandman,” featuring one of the band’s most iconic riffs and serving as the first single. “The Unforgiven” showcases the band’s slower, more commercial sound and remains a staple on rock radio. Other singles from the album include “Wherever I May Roam” and “Sad But True.”


Ride the Lightning (1984)

Ride the Lightning (1984) Cover Art Metallica

In the spring of 1984, the Bay Area thrash-metal band Metallica was recording in Copenhagen, Denmark. Less than a year earlier, they had replaced guitarist Dave Mustaine with Hammett and released their debut album, Kill ‘Em All, which defined thrash metal. Now, they were working on the album that would define Metallica.

Close to four decades after the release of Ride the Lightning, the album still retains its place as the one where Metallica introduced melody into their music.

Songs like the heavy ballad “Fade to Black” and the powerful “For Whom the Bell Tolls” became blueprints for later hits like “Nothing Else Matters” and “Sad But True.” The eerie, 9-minute instrumental “The Call of Ktulu” showcased their range, while “Creeping Death” became a concert favorite, especially with its chant-along outro of “Die! Die! Die!”


Master of Puppets (1986)

Master of Puppets (1986) Cover Art Metallica

Master of Puppets is widely regarded as the best Metallica album. The band—bassist Cliff Burton, drummer Lars Ulrich, guitarist Kirk Hammett, and singer/rhythm guitarist James Hetfield—delivers powerful messages.

The title track used the metaphor of drug addiction as enslavement, suggesting we’re all controlled by a higher power. “Leper Messiah” condemns false prophets, seeing them as links to the anti-Christ promoted by the sinister “Damage, Inc.” Metallica exposes the forces that turn young men into “Disposable Heroes,” with “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” offering a bleak escape into madness for those who see the world too clearly.

Produced with Flemming Rasmussen, Master of Puppets is a groundbreaking metal album that demonstrates the skill and nuance needed to create a new form of metal. 

A Lasting Musical Legacy


Metallica’s impact on the world of metal music is undeniable. Their ability to evolve while staying true to their core has cemented their place in music history. The band continues to produce music that resonates with fans, old and new, by pushing the boundaries of what metal music can be. In the end, Metallica’s music is more than just a collection of songs. It’s a journey through the highs and lows of human experience—a relentless pursuit of excellence in sound and storytelling

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