The band Metallica poses for a photo shoot in West Hollywood, California, 1991. From left are guitarist Kirk Hammett, vocals James Hetfield, bassist Jason Newsted and drummer Lars Ulrich.
It was 1988 when the photographer Ross Halfin realized for the first time that there was something special, something different about Metallica.
“They were on this Monsters of Rock tour with Van Halen, Scorpions, Dokken and Metallica that helped bring the price down,” he recalls. “And I started to notice – especially at Giants Stadium in New York and the Colosseum – that after Metallica played, half of the audience started to leave. And I said, ‘Wow.’ Then you start to think they mean more than you realize.”
The heavy metal band had already released three critically acclaimed albums at the time and were just months away from releasing their fourth, “…And Justice For All.”
But it was their fifth album that changed everything.
“For all his stage personality, you know, aggressive and strong, (Hetfield) is actually a pretty shy guy,” said photographer Ross Halfin. “He’s also nice when you know him.”
Hetfield performed in Melbourne in the early 1990s.
On August 12, 1991, the band released a disc titled “Metallica”. Fans today know it simply as Black Album because of its cover.
It has become one of the best-selling albums of all time, selling over 30 million copies over the past 30 years. It contains some of Metallica’s most iconic songs, including “Enter Sandman”, “The Unforgiven”, “Sad but True” and “Nothing Else Matters”.
The album also marked a change in the band’s style, having a slower tempo than the thrash metal it had primarily played until then.
“Their performance on the album is more controlled, and more polished and more radio-friendly,” Halfin said.
Halfin, who has photographed Metallica for decades, worked closely with the band when Black Album was recorded and released.
His new book, “Metallica: The Black Album in Black & White,” chronicles this historic time in the band’s development.
Halfin said: “By the time Black Album came out, they were starting to explode into a big band. “And what the book ranks in the charts is how they really went from being a regular band to a stadium gig.”
The book showcases classic and never-before-seen photos of Metallica in the studio and on tour. The band performed nearly 300 shows when they toured from August 1991 to July 1993.
Metallica started with Ulrich, who in 1981 ran a classified ad in a Los Angeles newspaper that read: “Drummer looking for other metal musicians to hang out with. Tygers of Pan Tang, Diamond Head and Iron Maiden. “
“Lars can seem a little aloof and aloof at times,” Halfin said, “but he is the best person I have ever seen when it comes to dealing with a fan. … Lars has always been nice to the fan base, to anyone who shows up. And he’s interactive and effortless, and I have to give him 10 out of 10 for that. ”
Halfin has worked with many legendary musicians during his career, including Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Paul McCartney, Aerosmith, Van Halen and The Who, and he made a name for himself in the industry when he first met Metallica in 1984.
Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich “wanted me to shoot them because his favorite group at the time was Iron Maiden and I was the photographer of Iron Maiden,” Halfin recalls. “I did all the Iron Maiden album covers. So I started working with them. They really have no money. “
Halfin went to El Cerrito, California, just outside of San Francisco, and remembered that the band was “really green.”
“The first time I shot Metallica, they were really excited and they were going to wear AC/DC shirts, all these different fan t-shirts,” he said. “I think I told them you have to stand out individually.”
The tour took them all over the world, including Moscow.
Hetfield plays in front of a crowd in Turin, Italy.
Halfin said the band’s people-to-people personalities were part of what made it famous.
“Children are most likely to recognize them in the sense that they look like children on the street. They looked like people playing in a garage,” he said. “Certainly they don’t look like that now, but in those days, Black Album, they were just like long-haired kids playing.
“That’s the charm of Metallica: You can do this. And the children identify with them in that sense. “
By the time the Black Album was released, the band was much more secure and confident than in the early years. They are also much more recognizable and any anonymity they still have is fading.
Halfin’s new book includes introductory text for all four band members at the time of Black Album: Ulrich, conductor James Hetfield, guitarist Kirk Hammett and bassist Jason Newsted. It also features an introduction from current Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo. All photos are in black and white.
Halfin said: “If you look at an old photo of Elvis, the Beatles or Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, it always looks better in black and white. “I think that color is a great medium, but black and white as a medium stands the test of time. When you look at something old, it actually looks more vintage. I think it looks nicer. I think it stands out more. ”
Looking back, Halfin recalls a simpler time for rock music. No one encouraged. No extra security. No one has to worry about managing social media. Just him and Metallica, and he enjoys unfettered access.
“You see pictures in the book with just Lars or James or the four of them walking on stage. Or maybe the tour manager,” says Halfin. “Now when they step onto the stage? There are 30 people around them in an area that you are not allowed to enter. “
Halfin said of her new book: “I’m trying to show the days that it’s really about access and what you can do.
Hetfield sasses during a photo session in West Hollywood.
The band is 40th anniversary this month with two shows in San Francisco on December 17 and 19.
Halfin will also be in town, taking pictures of the band as well as holding an art exhibition on December 18 open to the public. He will also sign books and participate in a Q&A session to talk about his experience with Metallica over the years.
“They’re one of those bands that when you see them, whether you know them or not, you’ll be amazed at how powerful they are,” Halfin said. “There are very few bands that have that power that they have. When engaging an audience, they engagement Audience. When you join their program, you become part of them.
“You can feel the electricity in the air with them. You really can. I started noticing it in the early 90s, but it’s very obvious now. You can feel it.”