When guitarists James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett, bassist Jason Newsted and drummer Lars Ulrich started recording Metallica's fifth studio album in 1990, it was the first time they had paired with renowned producer Bob Rock (Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, Motley Crue). Eight arduous months of work and conflict followed as the band chafed against Rock challenging them to try new recording tactics, like having the band follow Ulrich’s drumming instead of the other way around and drop-tuning their instruments. Rock told Music Radar, “It wasn’t a fun, easy record to make. Sure, we had some laughs, but things were difficult … I told the guys when we were done that I’d never work with them again. They felt the same way about me.”
That prediction was proved dead wrong: Rock continued helming projects for the act through 2003’s St. Anger. That’s because the resulting artistic and commercial payoff of Metallica (released Aug. 12, 1991) justified its harrowing recording process. It debuted atop the Aug. 31, 1991, Billboard 200 at No. 1 -- Metallica’s first chart-topper -- with 597,000 copies sold, according to Nielsen Music, and ruled the list for four weeks. Metallica showed that the band was just as fiercely metal when it played shorter, catchier songs instead of berserker-style thrash jams, and its status transformed from cult heroes to superstars. The album has became so iconic it’s better known by its nickname, The Black Album, which sprang from its starkly designed cover. And it has sold … and sold … and keeps on selling, 25 years later.