Metallica – Master Of Puppets (1986)

The mid-1980s was a terrible era for mainstream music. Music began to sound so artificial and distant from what pop music originally intended to be in the decades before. Horrible synth-pop bands dominated the charts. Metallica needed to make an album to counteract this trend which would have a large and positive impact on the world of music. And they did.

The Master Of Puppets album is seen as Metallica’s best in a long career with many ups and downs. It’s thrash metal, of course. But that is merely scratching the surface of what the album is about. It’s a great album, no doubt and set Metallica on an upward commercially trajectory at the time.

We enter the realm of this album with the fast and furious Battery. The musicality of this album is wonderful. We begin with flamenco style acoustic guitar parts before the song begins, and then we go into beserk mode with James Hetfield screaming “Battery!” It’s a great introduction to a great album.

The title track Master Of Puppets has a quirky musical intro before going into some Black Sabbath style riffs and James Hetfield singing about the blind nature of the use and abuse of drugs. It has some wicked vocals on it. No longer was James Hetfield struggling with his pitch and delivery, here he sounds on top of the singing game at last.

The Thing That Should Not Be is the weakest track on the album, but even so, it’s great to hear even today. It talks about monsters which are likely inspired by Cliff Burton’s interest in H.P. Lovecraft novels and the like. A good song with an interesting guitar solo too.

Welcome Home (Sanitarium) talks about injustice and human mistreatment in the mental health system. It’s a strong message and a slower, more thought out piece. Brilliant to hear regardless. It bursts into a great Kirk Hammett guitar solo towards the end.

The follow up predates Nirvana style stop/start parts. Disposable Heroes refers to the waste of human lives in war situations and provides a gentle reminder of the horrors of war. It’s an epic piece which is super intense, all the way to the end of the song.

Metallica then points out the hypocrisy of organised religion in Leper Messiah. It’s so direct about the issue that some people are likely to be offended by this piece. But then again the statement rings true: “Send me money, send me green. Make the contribution and you’ll get a better seat. Bow to Leper Messiah!” It’s another great piece.

Orion is a great instrumental, so much so that it makes one feel deeply moved emotionally. It is perhaps Cliff Burton’s shining moment here, as he (and the rest of the band, too) put in a fantastic effort here. Essential listening. This track was played at Cliff Burton’s funeral after his tragic death shortly after the release of this album.

Damage, Inc. is the final track and is the fastest track on the album. It never lets up in the five and a half minutes. Metallica, at least at this point, were hugely talented musicians and could make great music.

Historical observers would notice that this album is structured just like the classic Black Sabbath Paranoid album, but for thrash metal fans. Metallica may have made other albums that are different in style and approach since, but none were ever as good as this one. Shortly after the release of this album, bassist Cliff Burton was tragically killed in a road accident. Metallica would never be the same again afterwards. Despite that, this album is a thrash metal masterpiece.

9/10

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