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7 Fast Chart Facts About Metallica’s ‘Black Album,’ 25 Years Later

Metallica's Black Album 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…

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.

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Here are seven fast chart facts about the seminal album:

-Metallica is the best-selling album in the United States since Nielsen Music began tracking sales in 1991. It has sold 16.4 million copies.

-Metallica has never sold fewer than 1,000 copies in a week since its release. In 2016, it sells an average of 5,000 copies per week.

-Of the album’s 16.4 million copies sold, 5.8 million were purchased on cassette.

-Metallica has spent 390 weeks (and counting!) on the Billboard 200 through the list dated Aug. 20 — the most weeks on the chart since the list began using Nielsen Music data 25 years ago.

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-The album remained in the top 40 of the Billboard 200 until nearly two years after its release; it last occupied the region on the April 17, 1993, chart. It stayed in the top 100 of the chart all the way through to Oct. 8, 1994.

-Metallica produced five top 25 Mainstream Rock Songs hits: “Enter Sandman” (No. 10), “The Unforgiven” (No. 10), “Nothing Else Matters” (No. 11), “Wherever I May Roam” (No. 25) and “Sad But True” (No. 15).

-All five of Metallica’s singles also reached the Billboard Hot 100. “Enter Sandman” was the act’s first top 20 hit, reaching No. 16. It was followed by “The Unforgiven” (No. 35), “Nothing Else Matters” (No. 34), “Wherever I May Roam” (No. 82) and “Sad But True” (No. 98).