Now 30 years old, the Black Album has sold more than 30m copies. The band discuss its legacy, fighting in the studio – and making an all-star cover version

By the end of the 80s, it seemed certain that Metallica would be the biggest metal band in the world. Their 1988 album, … And Justice for All, had been in the US chart for a year and a half. Their first music video, One, had finally earned them MTV airplay, blasting their intricately crafted savagery through every TV set in the US. Their Damaged Justice tour had packed arenas across the US and Europe.

They seized their moment with the Black Album, as their self-titled next LP became known. Released 30 years ago this month, no metal album since has matched its impact; every parameter was reset for what such belligerent music could achieve. It went 16 times platinum in the US and has spent 622 weeks (and counting) in the US album chart. Its third single, the swelling Nothing Else Matters, passed 1bn YouTube views last month. The band are commemorating the record’s 30th anniversary by releasing a 52-track covers album, The Metallica Blacklist, with stars as giant and eclectic as Miley Cyrus, Elton John, Phoebe Bridgers and Biffy Clyro giving their takes on the album’s tracks.

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