Oh cool, didn't think they ever would. That's awesome
I have been on a Metallica-related quest for a while, and I was going to try to see if I can find any helpful Metallica superfans here before I try my luck on a dedicated Metallica forum (I would guess that most other metal band fansites are not as intellectual and friendly as this one).

When I first became aware of Metallica, I generally believed all the stuff about them "selling out" in 1991 with the Black Album. I mean, the music sounded to me like it changed. And therefore, I became a fan of the first four albums but with only lukewarm feelings towards the band members.

Somehow, though, Metallica fascinated me, possibly because of their highly divisive nature. As a result of having watched so many Metallica performances, many post-1991. I began to question the sellout theory. A few days ago, I finally decided to get the Metallica album and found that, while it is not as good as the first four, it wasn't really the commercial sellout that everyone made it out to be. Very few of the songs actually have a commercial feel to me. I can understand Enter Sandman and Nothing Else Matters becoming hits, but few of the others actually had that type of feel.

Through my near-obsessive research of Metallica, I have found a quote that, depending on the context, would pretty much end the sellout question. Unfortunately, the quote only has two unreliable sources with no context given.

This quote is:

"We don't give a shit, we are playing this song for us"
-James Hetfield (supposedly) before playing "Ain't My Bitch" from Load in Salt Lake City on January 2, 1997

The sources are:

I suspect that the second's source is the first. And yes, it is in Spanish, but the quote is in English at the bottom.

Anyway, I wanted to know if anyone knows anything about this quote at all, or else if they have anything else that would give a convincing sellout-related argument. If not, then I can instead take my quest to a Metallica forum, but I wanted to try here first.
Hmm. I don't know if that quote ""We don't give a shit, we are playing this song for us"" proves or disproves much at all...Metallica had a "So what" attitude long before the Black Album and its aftermath...And doesn't every band say that at some point?

Besides that Metallica being "sell outs" is a highly subjective matter....And what your definition of "sell out" is..
The quote may itself have been a reaction to all the sell-out discussion. By the way, they absolutely sold out. Choosing/accepting Bob Rock as a producer says it all. It would have been interesting if they'd gotten Martin Birch (or even Mutt Lange) instead.
I'm not so convinced...And Justice already had heavy leanings towards a heavier production and more mature themes and lyrics. "The Black Album" just carried on from that and took it a step further. Bob Rock did what no one had done to the band before and that was to actually work with them. Coach them, he taught James to sing for one thing and he pushed them in the songwriting department...Which eventually led to a more polished album and the death of the "thrash" Metallica of the 80s. "thrash" Metallica had never been so meticulous in a studio before...I think it was a mixture of Bob Rock and Metallica growing up themselves a bit, they weren't exactly the spotty teenagers from Kill Em' All anymore around that time. either..
I'm not sure that Bob Rock taught James to sing. He may have polished things a bit, but James sounded pretty good way before that. Take Welcome Home, for instance, or Fade to Black, or One. I don't think he sounded any worse there than on Enter Sandman (god, this song is so overrated!) or Turn the Page or any of the later crap.
I also just want to mention that simplification of the music from ...And Justice for All to Metallica cannot really be used as evidence of intent to "sellout" to a commercial audience. Consider Iron Maiden's transition from Seventh Son of a Seventh Son to No Prayer for the Dying. That was certainly not a sellout. It was just that, at the time, that was as far as they felt they could evolve in a progressive direction, so they stripped down the sound and complexity. Metallica really did the same thing, except that Metallica, while it is greater than the sum of its parts, is not nearly as talented as Iron Maiden. I definitely understand Metallica in 1990 realizing that they couldn't evolve on ...And Justice for All musically, and instead deciding to make simpler songs.

As far as singing, I think James' best sound in the studio is on the Black Album. However, if you listen to live performances throughout the '80s (you can download a lot of them free from , which is a part of Metallica's official website, making them perfectly legal), it is evident that James sings very differently live than in the studio. Kill 'Em All is the only of the first four albums that, to me, accurately captures the way James sang at that time. I'm not sure what Bob Rock did in terms of production, but the Black Album's vocals are much closer to the sound that James had live during that time than any of the preceding three albums. I think that he just doesn't sound much like himself at all on a lot of ...And Justice for All, and I would even say he sounds robotic on "Eye of the Beholder". My favorite studio performance for James on vocals are "The Unforgiven" and "Fade to Black".

I think the Black Album, taken by itself, does not present a strong enough argument to consider Metallica to be sellouts. Load and ReLoad, however, might, depending on the circumstances around the shift in musical direction for those albums. We know that the change in image was a phase that Lars and Kirk were going through, of which James disapproved:

"Lars and Kirk drove on those records. The whole 'We need to reinvent ourselves' topic was up. Image is not an evil thing for me, but if the image is not you, then it doesn't make much sense. I think they were really after a U2 kind of vibe, Bono doing his alter ego. I couldn't get into it. The whole, 'Okay, now in this photoshoot we're going to be '70s glam rockers.' Like, what? I would say half — at least half — the pictures that were to be in the booklet, I yanked out. The whole cover thing, it went against what I was feeling."

I want to believe them, but those two albums are pretty damning at times, as James freely admits in his remarks above.

Oh, and I just want to quickly talk about St. Anger: I have not heard the whole album. I have heard probably three songs. What I have heard is pretty bad. It is bad, but not at all commercial. So, I think if there is a "sellout", it consists primarily of Load and ReLoad.
This is the third time I'm going to state it on this forum : Metallica is underrated because of their overratedness. People seem to forget about the pure quality of the first four albums just because they did more mainstream stuff later. It's nonsensical. And leave that to the side, I'm absolutely okay with them "selling out". They never fell off to the path every single thrash metal band has fallen : Repetitiveness. Megadeth started to sound same, Anthrax started to sound same, Slayer did, Testament did, all of them did. Metallica didn't. They accepted to change (which was a brave move considering they were going to lose so many old fans, which they did) and make themselves more known to world music audience by trying out mainstream material. It was okay. They used the success One and ...And Justice for All brought to them and turned it into business I see nothing wrong with that, it's not like they went ahead and did pop albums all of a sudden. Black Album is a good one to listen to, Load and ReLoad are okay, they have their moments, too.

St. Anger is completely a different story because of all the things that led them to it, so I try to leave that to the side. Many think Death Magnetic is a forced, desperate attempt to come back to 80's roots, I disagree. It has elements from 80's Metallica and 90's Metallica, is complex and creative, I love it.

I do believe Metallica has done everything they've done for themselves. They "sold out" because they wanted to reach to bigger audiences and experience it. They did country stuff on Load/ReLoad because James was into country. They did blues stuff because James and Kirk were into blues. They did St. Anger because they needed to do it to stick the band together. They did Death Magnetic because they felt good about themselves and got out of stress. They did Lulu because they wanted to experiment with Lou Reed, who is himself has not been the most popular guy around because of his movements in his career.

Say whatever you want to say, but appreciate Metallica's stand on anything that happened more than I do for any other band. They went through most difficulties, most problems out of any heavy metal band around. And they still stand strong, they could've seperated years ago. Many may disagree, but the fact that they still stand tall, the fact that they still continue to do long tours makes me believe that they still have the soul of the 80's in them. They still try to rock the crowd, maybe that includes stuff like Enter Sandman and Nothing Else Matters, but they still try.
I'm not sure that Bob Rock taught James to sing. He may have polished things a bit, but James sounded pretty good way before that. Take Welcome Home, for instance, or Fade to Black, or One. I don't think he sounded any worse there than on Enter Sandman (god, this song is so overrated!) or Turn the Page or any of the later crap.

No James could sing of course..and I love his 80s voice, but to be honest I doubt he actually had much idea of what he was doing in the 80s. I don't think he gave stuff like vocal technique, control, vibrancy, range etc much thought. He started experimenting and working on that during The Black Album sessions which made him capable of singing stuff like Nothing Else Matters and The Unforgiven...
The Flash, I have much enjoyed your writings on Metallica, especially when you have remarked that they are "underrated because of their overratedness". This post is no exception, and may be your greatest on the subject. What you stated here, very explicitly, about them having "done everything they've done for themselves" puts into words what I've been feeling more and more about them recently. Despite all the accusations, despite all the mainstream success, something does just seem honest about them. In watching recent performances, nothing about any of them, especially not James, seems phony.

I'm thinking now that maybe it doesn't matter about the whole "sellout" thing. I get the sense that they are honest, and they have produced some great music. Having now purchased the Black Album and realized that it is not some abomination brought forth by the betrayal of the Kingdom of Metal by the evil duo of Lars Ulrich and Bob Rock, I now feel more inclined to try the rest of their discography, starting with Death Magnetic and followed by the Load albums. I suppose that I should just stop obsessing about their motives and trust that they have been honest in their music and try their albums, and if I like them, keep listening to them, and if not, just stop listening and not play character assassination games.
Nothing Else Matters is a very simple song vocally, in terms of both range and singing technique. Fade to Black is far more demanding.
I think Flash has hit closest to my views here.
I think the notion of Metallica's sellout has more to do with the unwillingness of their intensely conservative fanbase to accept change than any conscious " fuck artistic integrity, give me that brass ring" grab on behalf of the band.