More than three decades after the Bay Area metal gods first crushed unsuspecting skulls with the 1983 release of thrash metal cornerstone Kill 'Em All, diehard fans are hoping Hardwired will be a brutal return to form.
As Metallica has continued to put out ever-evolving records that mark notable transformations in their composition and style, the metal masters have risen to dizzying fame and fortune, cemented their lofty spot in heavy rock nobility, and captured a multi-generational army of loyal fans, all while continuing to sell out stadiums on the reg.
Most importantly, they did it all without ever completely abandoning their artistic integrity and signature sound. It wasn't easy, but we sifted through Metallica's sprawling discography and tapped their 15 greatest tracks:
15. "All Nightmare Long" (Death Magnetic, 2008)
Death Magnetic marked a welcome return to form that was met with critical acclaim, and the haunting lyrics and epic riffs from the album's fifth single make it one of the best songs Metallica has released this millennium.
14. "Jump in the Fire" (Kill 'Em All, 1983)
With an old-school thrash tempo somewhere between "Seek and Destroy" and "Whiplash," this bracing early track has become a stone-cold classic.
13. "Fuel" (Reload, 1997)
There couldn't have been a more perfect lyric than "Gimme fuel, gimme fire, gimme that which I desire," to kick off this high-octane tune and set the tone for their chart-topping Reload.
12. "Breadfan" (Garage, Inc. 1998)
Metallica has recorded covers of the Misfits, Bob Seger, Thin Lizzy and Killing Joke, but this rocking redo of a 1973 single from the band Budgie, first released as a 1988 B-Side to their "Harvester of Sorrow" single, might be their very best.
11. "Nothing Else Matters" (Metallica, 1991)
James Hetfield showed us his soft side and his aptitude as a guitar soloist in this power ballad ode to his then-girlfriend, and it's since become a favorite of classic rock DJs across the country.
10. "Whiplash" (Kill 'Em All, 1983)
Abrasive vocals, chugging riffs and a crazy-fast tempo slammed the ears of headbangers everywhere back when "Whiplash" was released in 1983, and to this day it still remains a staple of the band's live shows.
9. "Battery" (Master of Puppets, 1986)
Don't let the melodic line of the acoustic intro fool you, this kick-off to Master of Puppets goes from pretty to gnarly in the blink of an eye.
8. "Sad But True" (Metallica, 1991)]
This chugging hit single exemplifies Metallica's departure from the speedy riffs and dense instrumental layering found on the band's previous albums, as a heavy groove-based riff takes the lead.
7. "Fade To Black" (Ride the Lightning, 1984)
At the time of its release, the acoustic instrumentation of "Fade to Black" pushed some of Metallica's audience to the point of alienation, but that didn't prevent it from becoming one of the greatest metal ballads ever.
6. "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" (Master of Puppets, 1986)
Metallica delved deep into dark subject matter in writing "Sanitarium," and it has since become a staple of the band's stadium repertoire.
5. "For Whom the Bell Tolls" (Ride the Lightning, 1984)
The ominous ringing of a distant bell made it almost entirely unmistakable, so long as you don't confuse it with AC/DC's "Hell's Bells."
4. "Seek and Destroy" (Kill 'Em All, 1983)
They probably didn't know it at the time, but the snarling vocals and shifting form of "Seek and Destroy" predicted the signature sound Metallica would ultimately develop.
3. "One" (...And Justice for All, 1988)
With a form and subject matter similar to "Sanitarium," the melodic introduction of "One" gives way to a pulsating guitar riff that you practically can't help but bang your head to.
2. "Enter Sandman" (Metallica, 1991)
It's nearly impossible to even think "Metallica" without hearing the opening riff to "Enter Sandman." 'Nuff said.
1. "Master of Puppets" (Master of Puppets, 1986)
The complex form, virtuoso instrumentation and unmistakable introductory riff makes "Master of Puppets" the quintessential Metallica track. It's no wonder it has become their most-played concert song of all time.