Former Metallica bassist Jason Newsted recalled the emotional experience of his final audition with the band, which took place in front of predecessor Cliff Burton’s parents.
Burton’s death on tour in 1986 meant they needed a new member to continue, and Newsted had already delivered two test performances with James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich and Kirk Hammett.
“That evening, it was the third day that I played with the boys,” Newsted told Metal Hammer in a recent interview marking the band’s 40th anniversary. “I think I stayed overnight in San Francisco for the first time.”
He continued: “That third night, they had ‘the elders’ come in for their blessing. So, Torben Ulrich [Lars’ dad], the Burtons, a couple of the crew guys, people that had been there from the get-go.” He recalled playing six of the band’s “masterpieces,” including “Master of Puppets,” “Fade to Black” and “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”
“So I am just composing myself for a second, putting my bass down, turning off Cliff’s amp — I’m playing fucking Cliff’s amp, dude!” he continued. “Jan [Burton, Cliff’s mom] comes walking in the room by herself, and she grabs me, and gets my attention. She says, ‘Great job, son,’ and I’m like, ‘Oh fuck!’
“She embraced me, and it seemed like it was quite a while, and she said, ‘You’re the one, you must be the one. Please be safe, we love you,’ and she gave me a kiss.” He concluded: “That was 35 years ago, and I’ll never, ever forget it.”
Metallica Albums Ranked
There are moments of indecision when compiling this gallery of Metallica Albums, Ranked Worst to Best. After all, we really could have had – for the first time ever – a three-way tie for first.
Gallery Credit: Ultimate Classic Rock Staff
11: ‘Lulu’ (2011)
We weren’t sure whether or not to count Lulu, the band’s collaboration with the legendary Lou Reed, as a proper Metallica studio album. But, once we decided to do so, there was no question where it would rank on this list. Both parties deserve a lot of respect for trying something so different. But the end result – this plodding spoken-word mess – is really hard to sit through.
10: ‘St. Anger’ (2003)
Metallica again bravely, but perhaps misguidedly, experimented here with the methods that made them the biggest metal band in the world. The high-tech production of Metallica’s previous albums is replaced with something much more grainy and shrill. Oh, and Kirk Hammett wasn’t allowed to play any guitar solos. But the biggest problem? The disjointed and bloated songwriting, which ultimately wasted a big bundle of tantalizing riffs.
9: ‘Reload’ (1997)
This is the follow up / companion to 1996’s Load, which was originally planned to be a double album. Everything from here on out is unquestionably worth your money – in this case, thanks to songs like “Fuel,” “Devil’s Dance” and the manic “Prince Charming.” But as Reload stretches past the 75-minute mark, it’s hard not to hear some of the songs as leftovers.
8: ‘Death Magnetic’ (2008)
Metallica makes a long-awaited return to their thrash roots, with epic, immaculately crafted compositions reminescent of their earlier masterpieces. Make no mistake, it’s a blast to listen to. Still, Death Magnetic just doesn’t stick as strongly in your head as the landmark records we’ll discuss later in this gallery.
7. ‘Hardwired… to Self-Destruct’ (2016)
Eight years after ‘Death Magnetic,’ Metallica returned with a looser, fuller sound on ‘Hardwired… to Self-Destruct.’ It features their best collection of riffs in decades, and several songs that should earn a spot on the band’s “all-time” playlist. However, after a very strong start the second half gets a bit bogged down with plodding, repetitive tempos and over-baked ideas.
6: ‘Load’ (1996)
After stripping the Metallica sound down to a bare minimum with their world-conquering Black Album, the band loosened things up just a bit – adding a dose of Southern boogie to songs like “Ain’t My Bitch” and “2 X 4.” Mix two-thirds of this one with about one-third of Reload, and you’ve got an undeniable classic.
5: ‘And Justice For All’ (1988)
Just about any other metal band would be proud to call this album their signature work. But the thin production remains a big sticking point, and the somewhat repetitive songwriting betrays the fact that this is the third time Metallica followed roughly the same formula in crafting an album.
4: ‘Metallica’ (1991)
Metallica perhaps understandably shifted their songwriting style drastically on the follow up to 1988’s And Justice For All. Some fans missed the thrash riffs and complex song structures that made them metal pioneers. But Metallica made 80-bajillion or so new fans who followed them into this more straight-ahead hard-rock territory, and they’re unquestionably right about songs like “Enter Sandman” and “Sad But True.”
3: ‘Ride the Lightning’ (1984)
We’re now left with a tight, three-album horse race between undisputed masterpieces. In fact, Ride the Lightning could easily top this list. Metallica confidently and dramatically expanded the sound of their debut album, which was barely a year old at the time. Highlights include the pummeling “Creeping Death,” the dramatic “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and their terrifically warped version of a power ballad, “Fade to Black.”
2: ‘Kill ‘Em All’ (1983)
By comparison, Kill ‘Em All seems a bit raw and unhinged – but, in this case, that’s not a bad thing at all. Unlike St. Anger, this time around the dazzling combination of speed and precision on songs like “Hit the Lights” and “Jump in the Fire” hits even harder, thanks to the lack of production.
1: ‘Master of Puppets’ (1986)
It may not have matched the huge steps forward made by their last two albums, but this time out Metallica refined what they already had proved they could do in the sharpest and most powerful ways imaginable. There’s not a wasted second on any of this album’s eight songs. It would take another half decade for the world to realize it, but in reality Master of Puppets – and not the Black Album – is the album that made Metallica the still-reigning kings of heavy metal.