Metallica wrote some of the greatest metal anthems ever but what’s crazy is that they consistently make those huge hits sound even better live, as seen on their inspired live cut of “Nothing Else Matters”. The song was a hit from The Black Album, but even Bob Rock’s legendary production doesn’t quite capture the raw power of their live show.
In the video, lead guitarist Kirk Hammett treats us to a short solo melodic improv before going into the instantly recognizable finger-picked intro of the song. Frontman James Hetfield then delivers the first verse, putting plenty of heart into it and enjoying the crowd singing along with every word. Check out the performance below, which is one of the most popular Metallica videos on YouTube, with 247 million views and counting.
Metallica tweaked the intro of the song, rearranging the vocals and both guitar parts as well as cutting the bass and drums out. This gives the first half of the song a campfire singalong vibe with the Metallica family. The fact that they can make such huge changes to their classic hit and have it all come off so naturally is a testament to their skill as songwriters. The band has played the song live more than 1300 times since its release so it makes sense to give it a new twist at this point.
Drummer Lars Ulrich and bassist Rob Trujillo do get their chance to shine in the second half of the song, when the rhythm section drops in and the groove picks up. “Nothing Else Matters” is quite a notable cut in the Metallica catalogue, as the ending of the song features a rare guitar solo from Hetfield, who typically sticks to rhythm guitar. You can hear the studio version in the video below.
“Nothing Else Matters” represents a turning point in the history of Metallica, as it’s the first time the band did a romantic ballad, complete with a largely clean guitar arrangement. It also showcased a newfound vulnerability from Hetfield, as prior to The Black Album he never wrote nakedly personal lyrics before. Rock also pushed Hetfield in the studio to really dive into singing melodically on the album, and Hetfield delivered his most emotionally affecting performances as a result.
Hetfield wrote “Nothing Else Matters” about missing his then-girlfriend, Kristen Martinez, due to Metallica’s gruelling tour schedule. The singer reflected on the progression the song represented for him in an interview with Mojo in 2008, saying he didn’t even want to play the song for the guys in the band at first.
“I thought that Metallica could only be the four of us,” he said. “These are songs about destroying things, head banging, bleeding for the crowd, whatever it is, as long as it wasn’t about chicks and fast cars, even though that’s what we liked. The song was about a girlfriend at the time. It turned out to be a pretty big song.”