Founded when drummer Lars Ulrich posted an advertisement in a local newspaper, Metallica's line-up has primarily consisted of Ulrich, rhythm guitarist and vocalist James Hetfield, and lead guitarist Kirk Hammett, while going through a number of bassists.
Metallica's early releases included fast tempos, instrumentals, and aggressive musicianship that placed them as one of the "big four" of the thrash metal subgenre alongside Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax during the genre's development into a popular style. The band earned a growing fan base in the underground music community and critical acclaim, with the 1986 release Master of Puppets described as one of the most influential and "heavy" thrash metal albums.
In 2000, Metallica was among several artists who filed a lawsuit against Napster for sharing the band's copyright-protected material for free without the band members' consent.
The band has won nine Grammy Awards, and has had five consecutive albums debut at number one on the Billboard 200, making Metallica the only band, other than the Dave Matthews Band, to do so. The band's 1991 album, Metallica, has sold over 15 million copies in the United States, and 22 million copies worldwide, which makes it the 25th-highest-selling album in the country. The band has sold an estimated 100 million records worldwide as of the release of their latest album, Death Magnetic. As of September 2008, Metallica is the fourth highest-selling music artist since the SoundScan era began tracking sales on May 25, 1991, selling a total of 51,136,000 albums in the United States alone.
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