Metallica has gone indie.
The band announced on Friday that it has officially left its longtime home, the Warner Music Group, taken its master recordings and formed a new independent label, Blackened Recordings. All forthcoming Metallica projects -- including future studio albums, reissues, live recordings and long- and short-form video work -- will come out via Blackened. The label will also handle its own marketing and promotion, and be distributed by WMG reissue subsidiary Rhino Entertainment.
The timing of the announcement is notable. Under an agreement that Metallica signed in 1994, when the band was at the peak of its commercial powers and the phrase "illegal downloading" sounded more like trucker slang than a music biz concern, the band negotiated that ownership of all of its master recordings would revert to them on Nov. 30, 2012. That day has come.
Much has happened in the intervening 18 years: Haircuts. Symphonic performances. Napster. Psychotherapy. "St. Anger." A Lou Reed collaboration called "Lulu."
But through it all, Metallica remains. Despite the peaks and valleys its reputation has suffered among some fans and critics, the band has earned respect and kudos for its integrity.
"It's always been about control for us as a band," Metallica's Lars Ulrich said in a statement accompanying the news. "Forming Blackened Recordings is the ultimate in independence, giving us 100% control and putting us in the driver's seat of our own creative destiny."
Metallica thanked Warner Music for its dedication. When it first signed to the company's Elektra Records subsidiary in 1984, Metallica was co-headlining tours with W.A.S.P. and delivering hard, scary garage metal to the budding masses. Its most recent record (apart from the aforementioned "Lulu") "Death Magnetic," came out on Warner Bros. in 2008, and its subsequent tour made millions.
"We would like to thank everyone at the Warner Music Group for 28 years of a fantastic relationship, particularly since 1994 where we truly felt we had partners in every aspect of our business in North America," said James Hetfield.
Described in the press release as "a home for all of their recordings, both audio and visual, and anything else that suits them," Blackened will debut on Dec. 12 with "Quebec Magnetic," a DVD of a Metallica concert in Toronto in 2009.