An Introduction to Metallica

Have you really never heard Metallica? Of course you have! You may not be a hardcore fan, but we expect you will likely find it difficult to argue that they don’t have some stellar tracks in their arsenal.

If you’ve only heard a few tracks then it is also probable you’ve liked one or two of the songs you’ve heard. Of course it leaves one problem; where to dive in and start wading through their 30-year history?

What follows is a 12-track Introduction to Metallica to help you dip your toe in and understand what the band are about.

1) Fuel.

“Give me fuel, give me fire, give me that which I desire!…” bellows James Hetfield as this song unleashes itself from the traps. The opening track from their 1997 album Reload, ‘Fuel’ is the perfect opener. So easy to sing along to and fast and furious yet relatively short for the band at only four and a half minutes. Often played live (with many flames on stage) this song is also a real favourite with fans world-wide.

2) Master of Puppets.

Considered by many to be their opus, Master of Puppets the album was released in 1985. The title track is possibly the cream from that album’s crop coming in at close to nine minutes. ‘Master of Puppets’ takes us on a musical journey with what I consider to be one of the most beautiful pieces of “orchestral” music in the middle.

Written about drugs, the “Master” in the song controls you and your life  with lyrics like, “chop your breakfast on a mirror,” and “The Master Of Puppets is pulling your strings, twisting your mind and smashing your dreams.”

‘Master of Puppets’ is truly crafted genius. Heavy, harrowing, beautiful, and energetic.

3) For Whom The Bell Tolls

I first heard ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’ watching an old TV show in the UK called “The Power Hour” presented by Nikki Groocock. At the time Metallica only really had two music videos; ‘One’ (which was their debut video and on heavy rotation), and a live bootleg video of this which was taken from their Cliff ‘Em All VHS.

Metallica’s bassist Cliff Burton was killed in a road accident in 1986 and the band released a collection of bootleg live shows by way of a tribute. Rather than fast forward through – I was 14 and thought I didn’t like Metallica – Cliff’s bass playing at the start of this song was the reason I started listening to the whole song.

That guitar sound you hear in the intro solo? That’s bass. That’s Cliff Burton.

4) Until It Sleeps

After the phenomenal success of Metallica (or The Black Album as most now refer to it), Metallica returned with Load to a reaction from fans which was unfair to say the least. Sticking with the Producer of Metallica, Bob Rock, Load was mostly shorter songs with a strong radio-friendly production. Much in the ilk of ‘Enter Sandman’.

But worse! Metallica had cut their hair and adopted eyeliner as their new friend. The denim on denim long-haired brigade were having none of it!! Load is often overlooked by fans when choosing what to listen to. ‘Until It Sleeps’ was the first single from the album. It’s a slow burner, and absolute corker. If up until now you’ve struggled with Metallica’s sound, you owe it to yourself to skip to this song.

5) The Day That Never Comes

This sounds like classic Metallica. Not only does the tone of the intro remind us of ‘One’ and ‘Welcome Home (Sanitarium)’ the song is another grower with a slow build up.

A classic “opus” Metallica song structure weighing in at a full eight minutes long, this song alone proved to me that the band were still the masters of their game, and no other pretender to the throne would be taking the crown away from them any time soon. 5 years have passed since Death Magnetic and they still reign supreme. Listen to ‘The Day That Never Comes’ and appreciate how the band still has the song-writing ability which got them to become the largest “metal’ band in the first place.

6) Enter Sandman

When I first put this list together ‘Enter Sandman’ wasn’t on it. It was also pointed out by another writer for the ‘scramble websites that I hadn’t put any of the “black album” on the list. Firstly it wasn’t intentional. I struggled to keep the Introduction playlist down to around 12 songs, there are so many great tracks to choose from and yet nothing from there was on my list. That is wrong, the whole album is superb.

For many ‘Enter Sandman’ is the song which introduced them to Metallica, or at very least was the first “accessible” song they had heard. For that reason many fans claim they dislike the song, and even the album it is from. I don’t believe them. Sure it got over-played (as it was so good) and it may not be their favourite but it certainly isn’t “bad” in any way. When picking a track from Metallica for this list it had to be ‘Enter Sandman’. Sing along now…

7)  …And Justice For All

The title track from the first album by the band since Cliff Burton’s death is a track which clocks in at 15 seconds shy of ten minutes!

“…And justice for all” are the last words of the American Pledge of Allegiance though here the song comments on false justice and the behaviour of some to pay the Judge to fix the court case in their favour.

Much has been written about the production values of this album – some complain of “tappity drums” though most complain over the lack of bass sound on the album. Both are perhaps fair, but shouldn’t detract and new bassist Jason Newsted more than pulls his weight throughout the album. For me it is this title track which shows the band at its most venomous from that era.

8) One

Before ‘Enter Sandman’ this was the track to herald the return of Metallica. Taken from the album …And Justice For All focusses on a favourite subject of the band a the time; war. The song is epic (a word which often describes the band’s music) but it must be said the video – the first music video Metallica filmed – takes this track to a stand out place.

Interspersed with clips from anti-war film “Johnny Got His Gun” the video is a one of the best ever made. MTV thought so, played it almost constantly, and when Metallica returned with a new album and ‘Enter Sandman’ the rise was meteoric.

9) Welcome Home (Sanitarium)

As mentioned before when discussing ‘The Day That Never Comes’, this track is classic Metallica for me. Slow build-up, difficult lyrics, perfect melody and a heavy crescendo to finish. From the Master of Puppets album this used to be my favourite track ever, by any band.

10) Orion

Lets take another moment to reflect on Cliff Burton’s influence and input on the earlier years of Metallica. Regarded by many to be his greatest composition, ‘Orion’ is an instrumental track of sheer beauty. Cliff himself said this was his favourite Metallica song second only to ‘Master of Puppets’.

Like that song, this track is also taken from Master of Puppets – the last album Cliff worked on.

As Cliff used his bass in a fairly uniquely way there are two bass solos in this song that are commonly thought to be guitar. The first begins at 1:42 and continues on until 2:13. The second is found much later in the song after the bass interlude. This one begins at 6:36 and continues until 6:55. Cliff also created the opening sounds using a wah-wah pedal on his bass.

Such a powerful song, ‘Orion’ was played at Cliff’s funeral.

11) Creeping Death

Written by Kirk Hammett when he was in Exodus, ‘Creeping Death’ is from the album Ride The Lightning. The track is played live at most shows since it was written.  A firm favourite by fans who always sing “Die! Die! Die!” along with the lyrics.

12) Seek and Destroy

One of the oldest songs in Metallica’s catalogue, ‘Seek and Destroy’ is taken from the band’s first album. A mainstay in their live show this is another classic guitar riff and sign-a-long pleaser. In more recent years ‘Seek…’ has closed the show so it is also the perfect closer to this playlist.

Gareth Fraser
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