Metallica is an American heavy metal band from Los Angeles, California. The band's fast tempos, instrumentals, and aggressive musicianship placed them as one of the founding "big four" of thrash metal alongside Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax. Metallica was formed in 1981 when James Hetfield responded to an advertisement that drummer Lars Ulrich had posted in a local newspaper. The current line-up features founders Hetfield (vocals, rhythm guitar) and Ulrich (drums), longtime lead guitarist Kirk Hammett and bassistRobert Trujillo, who joined the band in 2003. Previous members of the band are lead guitarist Dave Mustaine, who went on to found Megadeth, bassists Ron McGovney (demos only), Cliff Burton (the first three records, died in 1986), and Jason Newsted (from 1987 to 2001). The band also had a long collaboration with producer Bob Rock, who produced all of its albums from 1990 to 2003 and served as a temporary bassist between the departure of Newsted and the hiring of Trujillo.
The band earned a growing fan-base in the underground music community and critical acclaim with its first four albums, with their third, Master of Puppets (1986), described as one of the most influential and heavy thrash metal albums. Metallica achieved substantial commercial success with their eponymous fifth album (also known as The Black Album), which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200. With this release the band expanded its musical direction resulting in an album that appealed to a more mainstreamaudience.
In 2000, Metallica was among a number of artists who filed a lawsuit against Napster for sharing the band's copyright-protected material for free without any band member's consent. A settlement was reached, and Napster became a pay-to-use service. Despite reaching number one on the Billboard 200, the release of St. Anger (2003) alienated many fans with the exclusion of guitar solos and the "steel-sounding" snare drum. A film titled Some Kind of Monster documented the recording process of St. Anger and the tensions within the band during that time. In 2009, Metallica was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Metallica has released nine studio albums, four live albums, five extended plays, 26 music videos, and 37 singles. The band has won nine Grammy Awards, and has had five consecutive albums debut at number one on the Billboard 200, making Metallica the first band to do so. The band's eponymous 1991 album has sold over 16 million copies in the United States, making it the best-selling album of the SoundScan Era. Metallica ranks as one of the most commercially successful bands of all time, having sold over 120 million records worldwide. Metallica has been listed as one of the greatest artists of all time by many magazines, including Rolling Stone, which ranked them 61st on its list of The 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. As of December 2012, Metallica is the fourth best-selling music artist since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking sales in 1991, selling a total of 53,642,000 albums in the United States alone. In 2012, Metallica formed the independent record label Blackened Recordings, and took ownership of all of the band's albums and videos.