It’s no surprise new fans are still picking up Metallica’s so-called Black Album, what with the hits “Enter Sandman,” “Nothing Else Matters,” and “Sad But True” effectively bringing heavy metal from the after-midnight asylum of MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball to mainstream rock radio and the video channel’s own afternoon countdown program, Dial MTV. What is a bit unnerving is that for the sales week ending May 25, a whopping 3,000 copies of the record — 23 years old this summer — were purchased (combining all formats), putting the game-changer in the pole-position since Nielsen SoundScan started tallying up point-of-data sales earlier that same year with a staggering 16 million copies sold in the United States alone.
According to Billboard, who has used SoundScan to compile its weekly Top 200 chart, the Black Album is now sitting at 16,002,000 to be precise. The closest to them, sad but true, is Shania Twain’s 1997 hit machine Come on Over, with a distant 15.57 million. Twain and Metallica do share the distinction of being the only two artists who have sold more than 15 million copies of a full-length release since SoundScan began keeping count; though there are some 20-plus who have exceeded the 10 million unit plateau.
The Black Album ushered in the much-maligned Bob Rock era of the band which started off strong enough but devolved into short haircuts that sent shockwaves through the band’s fanbase, releases with artwork by Andres Serrano that depicted semen and blood and blood and urine – respectively – and the producer’s final strike which had drummer Lars Ulrich sounding like he was banging on a kit from Toys “R” Us. Still, the Black Album remains a landmark, and this week is slotted at Number 144 on the Top 200, marking its 307 week on the charts — a number that seems impressive until realizing that Pink Floyd looks down on the sixth place Metallica in that category with their Dark Side of the Moon checking in at number one with an astounding 861 weeks.