Ranking Metallica's studio albums requires making difficult comparisons among several remarkably different eras of the band's career.

The long-reigning kings of metal rose to fame as part of a fierce cadre of bands who injected an aggressive new energy into metal, helping to revolutionize the genre with other early thrash legends like Anthrax, Megadeth and Slayer. But co-founders James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich haven't been content to rest on those laurels – something that's earned them millions of new fans even as it caused some older ones to scratch their heads.

Their second era, which lasted from 1990-2003, saw them collaborate with producer Bob Rock and achieve staggering commercial success with 1991's self-titled "black album." At one point, Rock even served as bassist in the group between the tenures of Jason Newsted and Robert Trujillo, shepherding them through the agonizing recording sessions for the divisive St. Anger.

Perhaps that album's polarizing response heralded a return to Metallica's thrash roots on 2008's Death Magnetic. Although their recorded output has slowed down considerably over the past two decades, the band has remained at the forefront of the rock world by employing the same basic approach on 2016's Hardwired ... to Self-Destruct and 2023's 72 Seasons. This era also saw them take one of their most surprising left turns with Lulu, a highly experimental 2011 collaboration with rock legend Lou Reed that deeply divided supporters from both camps.

Which record of original songs ranks as the pinnacle? Keep scrolling to see where your favorite lands on our list of Metallica Albums Ranked Worst to Best.

Metallica Albums Ranked

There are moments of indecision when compiling this list. After all, we really could have had – for the first time ever – a three-way tie for first.

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