In the year of the Orwellian prediction of the future, 1984, we had a monumental release by the thrash metal group from California, Metallica. Although the first release by Metallica was definitive thrash metal, the second album was designed not to be more of the same, but to expand on their first album. It does so, so let’s take a listen to it and see what comes out of it.
We kick off with the neo-classical intro to Fight Fire With Fire. It then leads into a super-fast and mindblowing tune that is very shred like. It is an ode to aggression and aggressive tendencies. Great stuff, and a definitely good listen. James Hetfield’s singing has improved by a great deal. No longer sounding pitchy or tuneless, he really does a great job here. Kirk Hammett’s guitar solo is magnificent, showing expertise and precision all the way along. In fact, the whole piece is wonderful. Brilliant to kick off the album with this tune.
Next is the title track Ride The Lightning which is a slower, yet more precise sounding piece of unison. Lyrically, it is about death itself. A really effective and brutal listen for all. The playing on this album is magnificent, even for a slower number such as this one. The multi-sectioned guitar parts and musical textures make this a far better effort than anything on the previous album before it. It goes over six minutes, but is an epic listen for all thrash metallers out there. Brilliant stuff.
For Whom The Bell Tolls begins with that bell sound, before launching into a loud and raw sounding piece with heavy as hell riffs and interesting textures. The musicality here is excellent and very genius-like. The main riff kicks in, which is headbanging inducing and inspiring. Lyrically, it deals with themes of war and the consequences that deal with such a set of events. It’s really fantastic listening, and a must-hear for any heavy metal fans out there. The guitar solos sound almost Slayer like in the outro.
Fade To Black is an ode to suicide with a bit of background history to it, written by James Hetfield after his favourite Marshall stack was stolen. It begins with acoustic guitars and a deep guitar solo. It then goes into a very moving ballad (yes, it’s a ballad) about losing the will to live. It’s one of Metallica’s most loved songs and is still brilliant to hear today. Great stuff, very melodramatic. This is not encouraging suicide like Nine Inch Nails would do, merely referring to the feeling of it. A great song regardless. It goes into an epic build-up of guitar parts and sections at the end, blistering your ears in a good way.
Next is Trapped Under Ice. It is a fast and brutal tune about said subject. The riffs here are super fast and excellent. This is another great thrash metal tune by Metallica. It is raw, relenting and inspiring. There are many great musical twists, turns and changes here so you’ll never be bored. Great stuff, even nearly 40 years later. Has not aged at all, and sounds really effortless. Metallica do well here.
The only track that sounds sort of out of place here is Escape. Metallica later admitted that they were attempting to write a more pop sort of song here, and it did not go as well as it could. Still, it is here and is a great singalong sort of song. The band sounds like a combined force of metal power all the same, although it is a rather slow piece. Nice to hear all the same. The guitar solos sound interesting and a little quirky. The outro has the repeated, “Life’s for my own, to live my own way,” which is good singalong stuff.
Creeping Death starts with some loud, in your face riffs. It then goes into a loud and pounding piece that is really excellent. It talks about Biblical like themes, although it is definitely not music for Christians. James Hetfield really delivers the lyrics here superbly, a great and brilliant listen, to this day. Heavy metal in your face for sure, but great heavy metal. There are multiple sections of literate and wonderful musicality here, including some chanting. The suspense towards the end with the change of riffs and musical sections are very interesting to hear.
The Call Of Ktulu refers to the specific monster mentioned in H.P. Lovecraft books. Note that these were favourites of bassist Cliff Burton, and are written in a very intelligent way, so grab a dictionary even if your first language is English if you read those books. Regardless of that side fact, it’s an awesome instrumental and follows some excellent musical structures here for our ears to enjoy. A great way to finish off a great album.
This album is very, very good. It is now seen as a thrash metal classic and something that many music lovers out there enjoy, to this day. Do yourself a favour and give it a listen, even if you are not really into metal of any sort. Fans may enjoy the fact that there are reissues of the album with multiple bonus tracks, so seek them out if you are keen.
If you liked the article and would like to support the author in his musical review quest, please donate to show your support. Thank you for your consideration. Chris Airey