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

Metallica – …And Justice For All (1988)

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.

9/10