Metallica was formed in Los Angeles, California in 1981 by drummer and former tennis protege Lars Ulrich, and guitarist and vocalist James Hetfield, who met after each had separately placed classified advertisements in the American publication The Recycler. The band got their name when drummer Lars Ulrich was helping a friend to pick out a name for the magazine he wasplanning to use to promote Thrash metal and the NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal) bands. Ulrich's friend came up with a suggestion: "Metallica." Lars quickly suggested another and decided to use that name for the band he and James Hetfield had just started.
The band's first demo, "No Life Till Leather", featured Lloyd Grant on guitar; Grant was soon replaced by Dave Mustaine, theguitarist and singer who later went on to form Megadeth. Guitarist Jef Warner and Bassist Ron McGovney were brief members, and Mustaine soon departed due to personal tensions with the other members. Bassist Cliff Burton was the next to join, and would remain a member until his untimely death in 1986. Mustaine was replaced by guitarist Kirk Hammett, who first performed in concert with Metallica in 1983.The group relocated to San Francisco and eventually built a healthy local following via word-of-mouth and live performance bootlegs which, somewhat ironically in light of later events, were encouraged by the band. After traveling to New York in 1983 at the urging of local promoters Jon and Marsha Zazula, the band signed with the Zazula's brand new label, MegaForce Records, and who wouldrelease their first two albums. The first album, Kill Em All set the template that they would follow throughout the 1980s, strongly featuring the heavy vocals and rhythm guitar of James Hetfield. The next, Ride The Lightning expanded and improved their form with longer songs featuring both instrumental pyrotechnics and lyrics which rose above some of the more puerile songs on Kill 'Em All. Perhapsthe most significant feature of Ride the Lightning was the inclusion of "Fade to Black," a slower, more interior song that mused on the thoughts of someone contemplating suicide. Indeed "Fade to Black" is the first such song in a tradition of these kinds of songs that would come to include "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" and the band's first single to receive a video, "One." The inclusion of thesesongs distinguished Metallica from other speed metal bands such as Anthrax, Slayer, and Megadeth.
Metallica's formation was seen by some fans as a direct reaction to the prevalent rock and roll music of the early 1980s. Inspired by bands such as Diamond Head and Saxon, the so-called New Wave of British Heavy Metal, as well as hardcore punk like the Misfits and Discharge, Metallica weresingle-minded in their desire to break the grip of soft metal on heavy metal fans.
Signing to a major label Elektra Records in 1986, Metallica went on to produce another album, Master Of Puppets, regarded by some of their fans as their best work. The same year the band's bassist Cliff Burton perished in a coach-accident during a tour. The band eventually found a new bassist in JasonNewsted. As a preliminary effort with their new bassist, Metallica produced in 1987 The $5.98 EP: Garage Days Re-Revisited. This album continued the band's interest in recording obscure songs by relatively obscure (to American audiences) British metal and hardcore bands. In 1988 they recorded ...And Justice For All, an album full of some of the band's most structurally complex music. Critics regarded...And Justice For All as a milestone in the history of metal, noting its intense focus on topics related to personal control and independence. Importantly, many writers also celebrated this album (and, by extension, Metallica itself) for the way it appeared to divorce hard rock from the blues in ways bands such as Mötley Crüe or Poison resisted.
In 1990, their self-titled album, Metallica...