It would be hard to write about rock music without writing about Metallica. They played hard and fast, and this wasn't music you danced to. You thrashed to it. There's a reason the show on MTV was called Headbanger's Ball.
They built up a pretty good following in the underground rock scene, and recorded and released several albums before they hit it big. Master of Puppets was one of their most critically acclaimed albums, and got them on tour with Ozzy Osbourne.
In 1986, the band's bus slid on ice and crashed, killing Cliff Burton. It took them a while to regroup and decide to go forward, but I'm sure they are glad they did. Their next album, ...And Justice For All earned their first Grammy nomination for One. The song is an extended one, with several changes in tempo and an intensity at the end that is unmatched. It is, simply put, a masterpiece.
Their fifth album, Metallica, was their biggest commercial success. That album cost over a million dollars to make, but the investment was worth it. By then, the hair bands had taken over the airwaves, and many people tried to lump Metallica in with them. True fans knew that wasn't a good idea, as Metallica was always harder and faster. They weren't just a sell-out. Hetfield was burned by on-stage pyrotechnics during a tour with Guns N Roses in 1992. Their following albums wouldn't come close to the sales of Metallica.
In a shocking move that alienated many of their fans, in 2000 they joined in a lawsuit against Napster, the free music file sharing service. Ulrich testified before Congress about copyright infringement, and Napster eventually filed bankruptcy after reaching a settlement. Ulrich, though passionate about this issue, angered a lot of people and the band lost a decent chunk of their base. He was booed on stage at the MTV Video Music Awards.
Metallica fans sided with Napster because they're lazy bastards and want everything for free. I like playing music because it's a good living and I get satisfaction from it, but I can't feed my family with satisfaction.
~James Hetfield, 2001.
Keep in mind, this was after their fifth album sold over 25 million copies worldwide. The guys weren't exactly hurting for money, and they pissed off a lot of people in the process. Including me. Lars came off as a whiny, spoiled, rich brat.
They are still making music and recording, though they've changed their sound again. In the St. Anger album, they dropped all guitar solos, which is something that most people can't understand given it's part of what made them famous.
Love them or you hate them, they've made their mark on music. They altered the way music is shared, and in the digital world we now live in, they've changed history.