An Analysis of Album Structure – Metallica Edition

The Fandom

On November 18, 2016, Metallica will make their triumphant return to the remind everyone that they are still, undeniably, the biggest & heaviest metal band around.

Yes, I’m a Metallica fan. It was the summer of ’96, I was 15 and MTV stilled played music videos. I used to watch MTV all the time with my friend and next door neighbor. I still remember the first time I heard this song for the first time. Until It Sleeps was the lead single on Metallica’s sixth studio album, Load, and their follow-up record to the wildly successful self-titled album that became known as The Black Album. Long time fans were less than pleased with what they were hearing on Load but I… I was at the prime age for an introduction to the world of Metallica and heavy metal music.

Up to this point, I was still listening to Classic Rock, the music my parents listened to. But I was 15 and I was in that awkward phase we all go through and heavy metal music was right up my alley.

That winter, Metallica was touring arenas and they planned a stop in Kansas City. My dad took me to first big concert to see Metallica. It was awesome, it was loud, it was profane, I was with my dad and it’s a night I’ll never forget. From there, I went back and listened to the rest of the Metallica’s catalog and was blown away. I had a new favorite band and a new obsession.

Fast forward 20 years, I’m 35 now, happily married with two amazing kids. But I still listen to heavy metal and a lot of Metallica. So it only seems fitting that I do a Metallica themed Tableau viz.

The Inspiration

I’ve always been a professional appreciator of all kinds of music. In fact, my first ever Tableau viz was music related. I’m also a big fan of Spotify (sidenote: the Discover Weekly Playlist is one the greatest inventions ever). I also keep up with the Tableau Public blog and September was Back to School themed and I stumbled across this awesome blog post about, among other things, vizzing your Spotify playlists. All you have to do is go this website, log in with your Spotify credentials and Echonest does the rest.

After playing around with my playlists, my data viz thinking mind starting going crazy with ideas. And it got me thinking, “I wonder if there is a known or unknown pattern to how a particular album from an artist is comprised and is that theme carried out through their entire catalog?”

Now that I had my question in mind, I needed to pick a band to test this out on. I had an initial list of bands to investigate including but not limited to:

  • The Beatles
  • Metallica
  • Rush
  • Tom Waits

I finally landed on using Metallica first because they are about to release a new album and it’s no mystery that they’ve definitely had a few shifts, musically throughout their catalog:

  • 1980’s – Early Metallica in the 80s was loud & fast
  • Early 90’s- They grew up a bit and released a metal album that shot them into the stratosphere.
  • Mid to late 90’s – They went into hiding for 5 years and came back with much shorter hair and a sound that was, for long time fans, nowhere near what they used to sound like
  • Early 00’s – Possibly the lowest point in the band’s career personally and professionally. The band’s frontman, James Hetfield goes through rehab, the long time bass player, Jason Newsted, quits the band and there were serious concerns about the future of the band
  • Late 00’s – James is back, they’ve got a new bass player, a new producer and many believe that they returned to their early sound. Fans are happy with the results except that the album, Death Magnetic, was produced so poorly it sparked a controversy known as “The Loudness Wars”
  • 2016 – The first 2 singles, with the third being released on Halloween sound very promising that this is new album is going to be their best album in a couple decades.

So you can see that there’s a lot of ebb and flow and ups & downs in their catalog. But what does the data say? Now we can, thanks to Echonest.



Click to view the interactive version


Click for the interactive version

I plan on writing a separate post regarding some of the technical aspects of this viz.

Keep rocking!

Until next time!

Download the Raw Data


0 comments on “An Analysis of Album Structure – Metallica Edition”

  1. Pingback: The Most Metal Viz of All-Time – MY DATA MUSINGS

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