The Story Behind the Band Name: Metallica

Music fan to music fan: We’ve all had a metal phase. In fact, some of us are still committed to the poetic doom and gloom of the genre. It’s a wonderful release to rock out to the heaviness of it all. But to get into the specifics, one of the most prominent bands in this space, and one that has shaped metal music as we know it today, is the San Francisco-based group Metallica.

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While most of us know at least one or two of the band’s songs (“Enter Sandman” ringing any bells?), not many of us can recall Metallica’s origins. For instance, where did their name come from?

Where the band name “Metallica” came from.

Metallica was first formed in the City of Angels, Los Angeles, in 1981 by vocalist/guitarist James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich. Today, guitarist Kirk Hammett and bassist Robert Trujillo complete the metal quartet, but back in ’81, Ulrich was the one to secure the name Metallica for the band of merry metal makers.

At the time, Ulrich was chatting with his friend, Ron Quintana, who was in the beginning stages of creating a fanzine. (A fanzine, for folks who aren’t familiar, is a magazine created by fans for fans of a particular music group or genre.)

“He told me he wanted to start his own fanzine, like a hard rock fanzine, where he wrote about all his favorite bands. And he wanted—he asked me whether he should call the fanzine Metallica or Metal Mania. So I suggested that he call it Metal Mania,” Ulrich said in a 2018 interview.

The drummer recalled that he suggested Metal Mania because he wanted Metallica for himself. Perhaps it was a splash of clever manipulation, but in the end, there was no harm done. In fact, Quintana explained in the same interview that Metal Mania worked best for his fanzine.

“I was happy to give the name for him,” he said. “I was a metal fanatic so I chose Metal Mania, actually before he used the name Metallica because I actually did not want to use it. There was already the (name) Encyclopedia Metallica, which is a very good name, but for me, Metal Mania was better and when he told me he was going to call his band ‘Metallica’ I told him to make good use of it.”

All’s well that ends well.

Metallica’s legacy

Once officially named, Metallica was born. The band dropped its debut studio album, Kill ‘Em All, in 1983, but was christened into the community with the success of its third studio album Master of Puppets in 1986. After that album’s release, Metallica was undeniably a major metal player in the music world. Today, the band is considered to be one of the “Big Four of Thrash Metal” with the others including Slayer, Anthrax, and Megadeath.

Metallica also pushed the boundaries of metal music, introducing more refined compositions and lyrics. They weren’t just wailing to wail; they had a message to deliver. And those messages continue to resonate with audiences today—just check out the recent resurgence of “Master of Puppets” for proof.

Photo Credit: Ross Halfin / Nasty Little Man

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