Why did Metallica make a sudden stylistic shift after becoming one of the breakout thrash bands of the '80s? While the self-titled Black Album has become one of their biggest sellers, it was initially met with some pushback from longtime fans and drummer Lars Ulrich has explained why they moved away from a style they had cultivated.

Why Did Metallica Change Their Musical Mission?

In speaking with Classic Rock, Ulrich reflects on the shift in the Black Album explaining, “I look at it very practically. With the first four Metallica albums, it was a journey that sort of got more and more progressive, more and more crazy and kooky and long-winded. It got sort of nuttier and nuttier along the way. So when we were done with the Justice cycle we were like, 'Okay, there’s got to be a reset here, because we can’t just keep going longer and crazier and more progressive.'"

He continues, "It’s sort of like we hit a wall. So when we got together to write the next batch of songs, the mission statement was: simplify. And the first song we wrote, on day one, was 'Enter Sandman.'”

Why Did Metallica's "Enter Sandman" Work?

"It's so hard to just write short and sweet," admitted Ulrich of their new challenge, but he adds of "Enter Sandman," "We nailed that one on the head because at the time it was completely instinctive."

"There was just something about that moment," he continues. "And you can never recreate that sense of having the slate completely clean or that sense of one hundred per cent instinct or just being completely devoid of thought or any sort of contrived idea of what you’re creating.”

So why did "Enter Sandman" connect with so many?

“I’m the worst one at being analytical and intellectualizing Metallica songs, but if I have to put that hat on, I guess it was just the right song at the right time,” the drummer explains.

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He later added, “If 'Enter Sandman' had come out five years earlier or five years later it may have been a different thing. The one thing I always make sure to say is you can never take the moment out of it. 'Enter Sandman' was a moment, and that moment happened to resonate with a lot of people."

Metallica "Mission" Accomplished

As Ulrich previously stated, the goal with Metallica's self-titled Black Album was to "simplify." After years of more long-running and progressive tracks, they reigned it in.

READ MORE: Is Metallica Rock or Metal?

The drummer adds, “The simpler the song is, the simpler it is to make it sound good. 'Highway To Hell' is probably the simplest AC/DC song, and it’s also the one that sounds the best. Because the simpler it is, the less that’s there, the more the sonics can speak. When you can simplify what it is you want to say – whether it’s 'Jumpin’ Jack Flash' or 'Rock And Roll' or 'Smoke on the Water' – it’s easier for more people to connect to.”

You can now add Metallica's "Enter Sandman" to that grouping. It's become an instantly recognizable song beloved by many, and as Ulrich has stated, the simpler the better.

Metallica, "Enter Sandman"

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Gallery Credit: Chad Bowar, Joe DiVita

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