We have already shared with you an Introduction to Metallica by selecting a few songs you really need to hear.
As we continue our coverage of Metallica this week, let’s take a look at each album released by the band in a little more detail. We have decided to split this in-depth look into two parts. We shall start at 1983 with their debut album:
Kill ‘Em All
Released 30 years ago, Metallica’s debut Kill ’em All defined a genre. Drawing on influences from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, Metallica created a fast and dirty record that is arguably their first and last thrash album.
Opener ‘Hit the Lights” sets the tone that these four boys are to be listened to as a wall of distortion launches at the listener with unbridled fury. A reworking of former guitarist’s Dave Mustaine’s ‘Mechanix’, recorded as ‘The Four Horseman’, demonstrates a structural complexity beyond their musical inexperience.
Bassist Cliff Burton’s solo track ‘Anaesthesia-(Pulling Teeth)’ is a stark reminder of how ahead of his time the musician was and why he was so important in defining the band’s sound. ‘Whiplash’ is musical personification of Metallica, a snapshot taken in time that defined their way of life. Slowing the pace is ‘Seek and Destroy’, showcasing a maturity which proved there was more to the band than just how fast and heavy they could be with a lyrical mantra for what would become the Metallica family. A live favourite that can still close a show 30 years later is testament of the timelessness of the track.
Kill ‘em all influenced many bands as the thrash genre exploded. Metallica weren’t about to step aside though and returned a year later with Ride the Lightning.
Opener ‘Fight Fire with Fire’ proving that anything others could do, Metallica could destroy. A furious assault that was a statement of intent and clear message to other metal bands that followed in their wake. ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ provides an epic wall of sound with a slower groove while ‘Fade to Black’ is the ballad Metallica style. ‘Creeping Death’ provided a catchy hook making it an obvious single without having to conform to commercial standards. Closing instrumental ‘The Call of Ktulu’ would prove to be the final credit Mustaine would receive with the band as Metallica flexed their prog metal wings.
An unbelievable achievement which demonstrated how much the Bay Area thrashers had evolved in a year.
Add To Playlist: Fight Fire with Fire, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Creeping Death
If Ride the Lightning cemented Metallica’s position in the metal word then Master of Puppets galvinised it. ‘Battery’ paid homage to ‘Fight Fire with Fire’ as the acoustic intro provided the calm before the storm. Intense and fast, maturity hadn’t slowed the band down.
The title track is often regarded as the greatest metal song ever written and it’s hard to disagree. At 8:36 it’s the longest track on the album and is filled with subtlety, melody, thrash and a crunch that is masterfully arranged to present sheer brilliance. The opening chord alone is enough to send live crowds into a frenzy. ‘The Thing that Should not be’ slows the pace down with weighty depth plunged riffs. A dark brooding track it slots nicely into ‘Welcome Home (Sanitarium)’ with it’s themes of hopelessness and despair. Instrumental ‘Orion’ is classical metal with beautiful bass harmonies by Burton as the album batters the listener with closing track ‘Damage Inc’.
Add To Playlist: Battery, Master of Puppets, Orion.
…And Justice For All
The tragic death of Cliff Burton left Metallica without a bassist and the future of the band uncertain. Enter Jason Newsted of Flotsam and Jetsam.
The production of ‘…and Justice for All’ pales from earlier efforts with Newsted’s bass being lost in the mix, but that’s a story for another time. The quality still shines through though with opener ‘Blackened’ that tears through any preconception of melancholy that could be expected from the grieving band. The titles track is an epic tale of injustice while ‘One’ is a cacophony of emotion that has to be viewed at least once with the accompanying video for greatest effect. ‘Harvester of Sorrow’ is a pissed of snarl while ‘To Live is to Die’ pays tribute to Burton by featuring spoken words of the last lyrics he wrote. Metallica’s Back in Black may invite much warranted criticism for its production however the eerie spectre of death that lingers over it can be heard within. That’s some feat, even if the bass does sound shit.
Add To Playlist: …and Justice for All, One, Harvester of Sorrow.
Metallica / The Black Album
Metallica or the Black Album, is the record ‘real’ Metallica fans love to hate. With over 30 million albums bought it’s also likely the reason that many people ever heard of the band in the first place, while there are those that view this as a clear sign the band sold-out.
Opener ‘Enter Sandman’ provides an infectious riff without betraying their metal roots. ‘Sad but True’ is as heavy as the band will ever sound while ‘Holier than Thou’ is a nod to their thrash beginnings. Resorting to the acoustic guitar intro for ‘the Unforgiven’, The track is both ferocious and subdued while Hammett plays the solo of his life. Technically bettered, yes but not emotionally.
‘Nothing Else Matters’ is the song Hetfield was scared to show the band, but we’re glad he did. A power ballad without the added cheese. Newsted gets a chance to shine on ‘My Friend of Misery’ while ‘The Struggle Within’ reminds fans of what Metallica do best.
Yes the production is a more polished than what metal was used to, however when listening to the tracks (especially live) there aren’t many that would have felt out-of-place on the previous albums.
Add To Playlist: Enter Sandman, The Unforgiven, Through the Never
You can read the second part of our box set feature here.