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Enter the Sandman - 100%

metanix, December 10th, 2015

The album we got from Metallica in 1991 was a complete reaction to the album we got in 1988 from Metallica. In 1988, Metallica released their fourth studio album titled "...And Justice for All", which featured some of the group's longest running cuts, with only two tracks being under six minutes. As the band toured their 1988 studio album; the problems revolving around the track lengths started to develop. There's a quote from lead guitarist Kirk Hammett, regarding not only the album itself; but the title track as well, where he stated: "Touring behind it, we realized that the general consensus was that the songs were too fucking long. One day after we played 'Justice' and got off the stage, one of us said, 'we're never fucking playing that song again.'" Metallica bravely wanted a change, and when rhythm guitarist and vocalist James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich began arranging new material in the middle of 1990, they took that want very seriously as they focused on writing shorter, tighter, and more compact tracks that would end up making the 12 songs for "The Black Album".

Which brings us to the song that made Metallica a house-hold name. Enter Sandman was the first song to be written for the album and strangely enough was the last song to have the lyrics written. Regarding the running order of the album, Hetfield and producer Bob Rock both wanted the track Holier than Thou to not only be the album's first single; but to also be the track that opened up the album. From the album's conception though, Ulrich always thought the demo that would end up becoming Enter Sandman was going to be the album's opener and debated Hetfield and Rock on the subject. Enter Sandman was released as the album's first single in July 1991 and ultimately opened the record. Metallica had worked hard during the previous decade with very limited radio airplay and video rotation; they owe much of their success in the 1980's to their constant touring and respected live performances. When Metallica released Enter Sandman in 1991, radio and MTV would finally embrace the group and the song became a huge hit, even making the album the band's first to be number one on the Billboard Charts.

Ultimately, the goal for Hetfield and Ulrich when arranging their new material was to create songs that had one or two solid riffs used for the duration of the tracks and Enter Sandman is the perfect example of this mission that Metallica had set out to accomplish. The song opens with one of the strongest build-ups in the history of music which also plays a significant role for Metallica. The material on previous Metallica albums, while being tight, was also very stiff. There is no denying this and even the band reflects on their older material with this respect. Opening with Hetfield's clean guitar tone and Ulrich's tom-tom heavy performance on the drums, the track soon heads into familiar territory, being that famous Hetfield chug. So we set ourselves up for more of that tightness and stiffness that we have grown accustomed to when listening to Metallica. The build-up is subjected to literally constructing the song for us with each band member kind of off in their own world. Complementing each other; but off in their own world. It isn't until the first minute mark that the group finally come together and jam on Hammett's main riff, the basis for the song. It was at this point one could realize we were in for something completely different. It's almost as if Metallica were kicking our doors down and announcing to the world: "Here we are! Now bask in our groove and our loose vibes!" In one minute, Metallica had ingeniously completely changed their entire musical atmosphere; evolving from their stiff past and welcoming their future in loose grooves.

Overall, Enter Sandman runs for five and a half minutes and manages to retain the same groove throughout its full duration. It follows a very simple formula and the main body of the song is comprised of two iterations of a verse, a pre-chorus, and a chorus. The lyrics deal with a subject that Metallica at that point had yet to write about in their decade long career, nightmares. The second verse in particular sums up the subject quite well with Hetfield's "Dreams of war, dreams of liars, dreams of dragon’s fire and of things that will bite." After the second chorus, Metallica unleash Hammett for a very memorable lead-break which leads directly into the song's breakdown. This section borrows heavily from the song's opening; a major difference being Hetfield taking the opportunity to recite and put an evil twist on an old children's nursery rhyme. He even goes as far as teaching a child his new evil take on the rhyme and having him repeat everything being said. We are then built back up into the song's final chorus as the band begin to play the opening section; only this time in reverse. We had a build-up and now we have a build-down, which slowly fades out for the track's final moments.

In conclusion, yes, the song One from "...And Justice for all" did receive a decent amount of airplay and video rotation; but it was Enter Sandman that really blew the doors open for Metallica. Metallica would continue to further their musical exploration in the 90's, releasing two albums of original material titled Load (1996) and ReLoad (1997), a covers album which featured a few songs one would not expect to hear from Metallica, called Garage Inc. (1998) and a live album that saw Metallica collaborate with conductor Michael Kamen and the San Francisco orchestra called S&M (1999). The great thing about Metallica was that they were and still are constantly growing and evolving. They stayed pretty conservative in regards to heavy metal throughout the duration of the 80's; keeping their evolution quite subtle. Once Enter Sandman was released in July 1991; the band knew there was no going back and kept looking to the future. In 1990, the group found themselves at a crossroad in their life. Judging from their peers in the metal community at the time; it is safe to say that they took a huge risk and ultimately, Metallica took the road that was less traveled by in their community.

The master of sleep cometh. - 48%

hells_unicorn, July 24th, 2014
Written based on this version: 1991, CD, Vertigo

The misadventures of being a bargain bin cowboy occasionally lands one's lasso on some surprising satisfying past curiosities, but more often than not, the gain is proportional to the price. Granted, singles are usually not a terribly profitable venture, but when a measly dollar is all that's in view, it offers a little more staying power than a dinky little McDonald's hamburger. Thus is the tale of my rendezvous with Metallica's iconic commercial breakthrough single Enter Sandman, a polarizing musical affair for most who had any level of familiarity with the band prior to their recent success on MTV via their previous album, let alone their core thrash metal fan base from the early underground days of the mid 80s. While the author of this review will not deny being captivated by this song originally as it hit the radio just after his 11th birthday and he was still fairly new to metal, suffice to say, the years and further education into what constitutes metal have not been kind.

This was one of the few occasions where Kirk Hammett's rhythm playing became the focal point of the song, though Urlich and Hetfield definitely had massive input into honing this thing into it's final outcome. However, the true master behind the scenes of what occurs on this ode to the land of nightmares is Bob Rock, whose devotion to AC/DC oriented minimalism results in a very stagnant listen where a single riff cycles through a frustratingly long series of gradual changes and is only greeted with an occasional and fairly fleeting turnaround. Likewise, the early 90s obsession with overproducing the drums results in a sound that is massive, but also so much so that it almost becomes unintentional parody (see Queensryche's Empire for another example of this). From an overall production standpoint, every little moving part is so well mixed and nuanced that it is, for lack of a better word, perfect. Consequently, this perfection serves to attempt to mask a lack of power in the idea department, which plays well to rock radio trustees (who were the overwhelming majority at the time) but is about as telltale of a sign of antagonism to the spirit of metal, thrash or otherwise, as one can possibly make.

If the A side of this fit of commercial pandering stood alone on this release, it would not have been worth it's dollar price tag, but there is a somewhat redeeming B side to consider. The cover of Queen's "Stone Cold Crazy" was originally released on a 40 year anniversary compilation put out by Electra Records, but this was the first opportunity for Metallica fans to hear this cover without other stuff gumming up the listening experience, and it does present a few saving graces. It reaches back to a time just before Bob Rock took control of the creative process, and features the band playing faster than their "Black Album" peak tempo. It's rawer, nastier, and far more vital than just about anything that ended up rounding out the LP in question, with maybe the exceptions of "Through The Never" and "Struggle Within", and actually passes for a thrash song. It's pretty easy to see the line of succession from Queen's songwriting here and the eventual riffing style of Diamond Head, Blitzkrieg and a few others that would pave the way for Metallica's widely heralded debut, and the only mind boggling part of it all is why Metallica waited until 1990 to give this song a proper studio nod.

From a buyer's perspective, this is not really worth seeking out as the "Stone Cold Crazy" cover ended up on the Garage Inc., which is probably also a more readily available purchase for second hand treasure hunters, though there's a healthy level of crap to go with the good there. Likewise, this doesn't come with a demo version of the A side that would really make it a worthwhile go for completists, even if they are absolutely in love with Metallica's 1991 mainstream venture. From a metal standpoint, this is half good, half abomination; but even to a casual consumer of this longstanding art form, the sandman is offering little more than a snooze fest followed by a jolting wake up call.

Annoying at times - 64%

Vaibhavjain, June 28th, 2008

“Enter Sandman” was Metallica’s first single off their commercially most successful album that was named after the name of the band itself. It is lyrically about a child facing his nightmares and a music video was made for the track, which revolved around the lyrical theme of the track. It was later disclosed that this track went on to become one of the most demanded and most played tracks on the radio following “Paranoid” and “Stairway To Heaven”.

This track features Kirk’s first riff with his work with the band. It originally consisted of a two bar riff but as suggested by Lars the first bar was repeated thrice and it was this version that appeared on the album. (That can be seen in Metallica’s documentary “Classic Albums”). The track clocks in at over 5 minutes and the whole song revolves around the base provided by Kirk’s riff. The whole track is clean and simple with no complex parts in between as wasn’t the case with Metallica’s previous releases. James’ voice is nothing less than perfect and Bob Rock has done a great job with the production. Full marks for the excellent production.

Along with this track there is also a cover of Queen’s track “Stone Cold Crazy” but I refrain myself to comment on it because it has already appeared on Metallica’s cover album, “Garage Inc.”

The setbacks to this track are that the song is too damn repetitive and has a weak solo. Also being the first track off this album it disappointed a huge number of Metallica’s fans who were expecting signature Metallica style thrash, whereas they were handed this radio friendly less aggressive version of Metallica.The only way to enjoy this track if you were a long-standing fan of this track is if you are an open-minded metal head. If you are looking for something that sounds remotely as the band’s early works then this is NOT for you.