Four Ways to Get Metallica Black Album Style Drum Sounds You Can Play From Your Electronic Drum Kit
On August 12, 1991, Metallica dropped their commercial breakthrough with the self-titled “Black Album”. Housed in the grooves, on the tape and encoded in the CD release, it was – and arguably still is – Metallica’s most successful recipe for honed songwriting, progressive experimentation and sonic sophistication. More specifically, the latter applies to the drum sound.
For the black album, Metallica entered One On One (now 17 Hertz) studios, Hollywood, in October 1990, and they remained there (except for a few vocal and guitar sessions at Vancouver’s Little Mountain Sound) until in June of the following year.
Impressed by his work on Motley Crue’s Dr. Feelgood, Metallica enlisted Bob Rock as producer – a role he would reprise several times, with less applause for his drum sound on St. Anger – and during the run of 8 months at One On One, Rock, engineer Randy Staub, assistant Mike Tacci, and Lars Ulrich set about creating the album’s drum sound.
Now, we could all associate Lars closely with his Tama kits – after all, he played the mark throughout Metallica’s career. But for the recording of the black album, Metallica hired an 80s Gretsch “Stop Sign” kit from Ross Garfield/Drum Doctors.
The monstrous kit included a pair of 24″ bass drums, 5 toms (12″, 13″, 14″, 16″ and 18″) and the legendary Tama Bell Brass snare drum. Joining that was Lars’ small army of cymbals, and a collection of close, airy and ambient mics to match.
The resulting sound often tops the all-time top heavy drum sounds polls, while being considered more widely as one of the best drum sounds ever recorded on tape. But what if you don’t have access to a world-class Hollywood studio, vintage kit, and tens of thousands of dollars worth of mics?
There is still hope. Here we’ll look at a few different tracks that will deliver the Black Album drum sound, playable from the comfort of your electronic kit.
Chocolate Audio: The Black Album Drums
This one tops the list for good reason. chocolate audio (opens in a new tab) didn’t just create a sample pack that looked a bit like the Black Album, he instead got hold of the original Gretsch kit that Ross Garfield rented from Metallica in order to sample it.
But it doesn’t stop there, because having the drums is one thing, but it’s better to install them in the exact same room where the Black Album was recorded, with a reconstruction very close to the configuration of the microphone. Oh, and they also managed to bring in Black Album assistant engineer Mike Tacci to record the session.
So what we get here is a fully playable e-kit recreation of the album’s drum sound. It loads into Native instruments Kontakt – the bad news is that you need the full retail version rather than the Kontakt player – and can also be used to replace samples in your acoustic drum recordings.
If you don’t have Kontakt, but use BFD, you can purchase a BFD extension using the same samples with this Tama Bell Brass snare drum, all captured in great detail with plenty of punch, crack and the beefy room sounds that help make Black Album drumming so great.
Steven Slate Drums 5.5
Steven Slate Drums (opens in a new tab) was born after mixing engineer Steven Slate’s drum enhancement/replacement samples made the rounds of several studios. Sensing demand for his sounds, Slate released him as a product and Steven Slate Drums was born.
Now SSD 5.5 does a lot, with a huge library of ready-to-mix drum samples and presets that can be played from electronic kit. But one of the most fun parts of the SSD are the signature kits. Here Slate has processed and based their presets on a number of classic drum sounds including Deftones, Nirvana, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pantera and, you guessed it, Metallica’s Black Album.
Ok so it’s not the offering of attention to detail we get from Chocolate Audio’s sample pack, but if you just want to play around with your electronic kit album with a very distinctive sound, the SSD makes it very easy. Plus, you’ll get all the other signature kits we’ve mentioned and more, plus a whole host of non-signature sounds you can use to get started. You can download SSD 5.5 and use Slate’s Splitit payment plan which only costs $9.99.
Toontrack Rock Foundry SDX
If you already own a copy of Superior Drummer 3, you’ll be able to use Toontrack’s Rock Foundry SDX expansion pack (although Toontrack themselves have also created a quick tutorial on getting the Black Album sound from the library main SD3, see the video below).
As you may have guessed, Rock Foundry (opens in a new tab) was produced by Bob Rock himself at the famed The Warehouse Studio in Vancouver (owned by Bryan Adams).
There’s plenty to be excited about here – drum sounds created by the Black Album producer (among many others) in a renowned recording environment. The pack contains sample kits from Yamaha, three vintage Ludwigs, Ayotte, and most importantly here, a Gretsch hybrid kit pieced together to approximate Lars’ set from the Black Album.
As far as presets go, the LA 1991 and Sparkly Green Metal kits come close, but Superior Drummer is a tweaker’s dream, so for $165 you really get a lot of extra firepower that can be used elsewhere. If you don’t have Superior Drummer, but use EZDrummer, read on…
Toontrack Hard Rock
You didn’t think Toontrack had forgotten the users of its most popular title, did you? If you regularly trigger EZDrummer through an electronic kit and want to get closer to the sound of the Black Album on a budget, this one’s for you. $80 will barely buy you half a vinyl reissue of Black Album, but Toontrack’s Hard Rock EZX (opens in a new tab) the expansion pack gives you the drum sound of Bob Rock.
It’s basically a scaled down version of the Rock Foundry for SD3, but Metallica fans will be happy to hear that Hard Rock includes Rock Foundry’s Gretsch kit as well as one of Ludwig’s vintage sets, and of course it was recorded by Rock in L’Entrepôt.
Head straight to the Great Dane preset and get ready to start pronouncing your backbeats like Lars, because at this price we think your jaw will drop.