Metallica had been really torn apart after the death of their bassist Cliff Burton in a road accident. They felt as though they had lost the one that they had all looked up to. It was a sad moment in Metallica’s history. They were never the same again.
To replace him, they opted for Jason Newsted who was never as good as Cliff as a bassist but was okay for the time being. He lasted until 2001 in the band but was no Cliff on bass. The insecurity of things lead to the overall sound and mix is very much a scooped sound with no bass guitar on this recording.
But still, wow! What an album. The songs here are masterful and fantastic. They demand repeated listening as it is almost a concept album about the hypocrisy of law and government. But musically it’s the most intellectual and complex Thrash Metal that you will ever hear. It’s absolutely a great listen.
We begin with Blackened which refers to environmental disaster and end times on planet earth. It has a long intro, going into a multi-structured thrash metal song. It’s absolutely a great piece, and so much better than anything on Load or Reload later on in their career.
The title track …And Justice For All refers to a tainted and corrupt legal and government system. The songs on this album are really quite long, this being no different in that respect. It’s an epic listen but all the same doesn’t bore with the changes in tempos and arrangements.
Eye Of The Beholder follows and is a good piece about self-determination to eliminate evil things in society. It perhaps is a little weaker, but still doesn’t at all sound out of place on this awesome album.
One was the group’s first single ever. It marked the beginning of Metallica’s selling out phase, which the band likely regrets going through. It tells a war story and perhaps is pro-Euthanasia in its outlook. It features a mid-section which drastically changes things and is percussive. A great Metallica song.
The next song The Shortest Straw refers to political powers taking away people’s rights in society. “The shortest straw has been pulled for you!” screams James Hetfield. No longer does James Hetfield sound pitchy and struggling to hold notes as he did on Kill ‘Em All and Ride The Lightning. Instead, he has a menacing growl to boot.
The overlong Harvester Of Sorrow continues and does seem very repetitive. It could have been shortened a bit, but then again most of the songs on this album could also have been shortened. Still, it is worth listening to as well.
The Frayed Ends Of Sanity refers to sinking into madness. It’s a better song than the previous two and has a lyrical twist towards the end of it. It’s a good song that combines the headbanging of thrash metal with something far deeper. Good overall.
To Live Is To Die is an unofficial dedication to Cliff Burton who the band clearly missed. It is mainly instrumental, but all the same is so beautiful and well done that it never tires the listener through the whole almost 10 minutes listening. It’s a solid piece.
The fast and furious Dyer’s Eve follows with a menacing attack on parenting standards. It’s a bit different to the longer songs on the album, and it is brutal in its statement. It finishes the album nicely.
Why should you check out this album? It’s a step in the correct direction for thrash metal, with Metallica pushing the boundaries of what was ordinarily seen in the genre. It’s also almost progressive rock like in its orientation. It makes one think as well as wanting to party hard. Fans of Metallica will be delighted to hear the re-release of the album with loads of extra tracks and other outtakes available for listening.
A thrash metal masterpiece. Essential listening.