Record Company: Elektra Records
Release Date: March 3, 1986
Producer: Metallica & Flemming Rasmussen
Web Site: http://www.metallica.com/
James Hetfield ~ Rhythm Guitar, Vocals
Lars Ulrich ~ Drums
Cliff Burton ~ Bass, Backing Vocals
Kirk Hammett ~ Lead Guitar
1.) Battery [5:10] (Hetfield/Ulrich): A strong acoustic guitar intro gives way to a frenzy of guitars and cymbal crashes. From there, it's a blitzkreig of galloping riffs and growled vocal goodness:
"Thrashing through the boundaries... Lunacy has found me... Cannot stop the battery!"
This song is my candidate for the soundtrack to the Apocalypse. Bring it on!!! Rating: 15/10
2.) Master Of Puppets [8:38] (Hetfield/Ulrich/Burton/Hammett): This song smacks you in the face right from the get-go and keeps on hammering until you submit. An anthem for those trapped in a cycle of hardcore drug abuse and addiction, the lyrics are a wake-up call for headbangers everywhere to steer clear. Unrepentant and punishing, the lyrics paint a picture of addiction laced with fear and helplessness:
"Needlework the way... Never you betray... Life of death becoming clearer...
Pain monopoly... Ritual misery... Chop your breakfast on a mirror..."
The acoustic interlude only lets you catch your breath long enough for you see the next beating you are about to receive. A fucking masterpiece from first note to last, this is easily one of the top 5 metal songs of all time, without a doubt.
3.) The Thing That Should Not Be [6:32] (Hetfield/Ulrich/Hammett): This tune takes a slower, if not more pounding, route straight through to the center of your skull. The lyrics are based upon an H.P. Lovecraft book, including a direct quote: "Not dead which eternal lie... Stranger eons death may die..." The music is equally creepy and evil sounding, mixing in reverb-laden clean electric guitars to add to the suspense during the verses. This song would have been the perfect addition to the soundtrack of any "Friday the 13th" movie. Rating: 11/10
4.) Welcome Home (Sanitarium) [6:28] (Hetfield/Ulrich/Hammett): Here is Metallica's tribute to the criminally insane. Clean electric guitars ring out harmonics, which leads into a suspense-filled, dramatic progression that builds as it goes through the verses. Hetfield tells the story of a paranoid mind, trapped and searching for a way to escape... by any means necessary. The music gradually builds in force and aggression, following the lyrics as the protagonist builds his schizophrenic army into a force to be reckoned with, hell-bent on escape from his prison.
We can just call this one my theme song and leave it at that, OK? Rating: 15/10
5.) Disposable Heroes [8:14] (Hetfield/Ulrich/Hammett): Heavy-duty machine gun riffs and a bomb-heavy rhythm section marches us along through the Valley of the Shadow of Thrash. The song makes a strong statement about war, with lyrics about nameless pawns littered across the battlefield and left to die (or live) with the horrors of fighting and dying for someone else's cause. One of the most powerful songs they ever did. Truly awesome. Rating: 15/10
6.) Leper Messiah [5:38] (Hetfield/Ulrich): An oft-overlooked mid-tempo masterpiece, this tune manages to find a killer groove that reaches right out of your stereo, grabs you by the hair and drives your head up and down like a five-dollar hooker on speed. The lyrics are a vicious indictment of Sunday morning false prophets and their money-grubbing, deceptive ways:
"Time for lust... Time for lie... Time to kiss your life goodbye...
Send me money... Send me green... Heaven you will meet...
Make your contribution and you'll get the better seat..."
Sorry, got carried away there for a minute. Yeah, it's that fuckin' good. Rating: 18/10
7.) Orion [8:12] (Hetfield/Ulrich/Burton): An extended fade-in gives way to a mid-tempo thrash attack with a bit of groove thrown in for good measure. Repeated themes and melody lines weave in and out as the band jams along. Cliff's bass intro to the interlude is perfect, and the band manages to cover a wide variety of styles and sounds, showing a knack for writing simple yet sophisticated melodies and then weaving them together to create an intricate web of musical themes. One of the best metal instrumentals since Eruption. Rating: 12/10
8.) Damage, Inc. [5:08] (Hetfield/Ulrich/Burton/Hammett): There is no better way to end a thrash symphony like "Master..." than with a final all-out assault on your ears like Damage, Inc. A slow, swelling intro gives way to a battering ram of drums and bass firing off with rapid-fire precision. The song barrels through your speakers at a break-neck pace, and by the time it's over, you're left a twitching lump of sweat and blood. Who could ask for anything more from a sonic ass-whippin' than that? Rating: 11/10
Bassist Cliff Burton's love of the writings of H.P. Lovecraft contributed to two songs on the band's first three albums, The Call Of Ktulu from "Ride The Lightning" and The Thing That Should Not Be from this album.
A variation of the Lovecraft quote in the lyrics of The Thing That Should Not Be also appeared on the cover of Iron Maiden's 1985 "Live After Death" LP. The headstone behind Eddie reads:
"That is not dead
Which can eternal lie
Yet with strange aeons
Even death may die."
~ H.P. Lovecraft
"Master Of Puppets" reached #29 on the Billboard 200 album charts and #41 on the UK album charts... without the benefit of a single or any airplay on commercial radio or MTV. It reached gold status on November 4, 1986. It has since been certified platinum 6 times in the U.S. (6,000,000+), 5 times in Canada (500,000+) and once in Australia (70,000+).
The first presses of the album were shipped with a sticker intended to be a parody of the PMRC "Parental Advisory." It reads:
"The only track you probably won't want to play is 'Damage, Inc.' due to the multiple use of the infamous 'F' word. Otherwise, there aren't any 'shits,' 'fucks,' 'pisses,' 'sucks,' 'cunts,' 'motherfuckers,' or 'cocksuckers' anywhere on this record."
I actually still have that sticker with my original vinyl copy of the album. God bless Caldor.
On the morning of September 27, 1986, while on the European leg of the "Damage Inc." tour, bassist Clifford Lee "Cliff" Burton was killed when the band's tour bus crashed and flipped near Dörarp, Sweden. He was 24 years old. The world of metal has never been quite the same.
The Last Word:
The perfect thrash metal album. End of story.
OK. Some may argue with me... but those people also eat glue and sniff paint thinner, so who are you going to believe?
Metallica is one of those rare bands that started off with a killer release, but instead of falling victim to the sophmore slump, kept getting better. On "Kill 'Em All," the band learned how to play hard and heavy. On "Ride The Lightning," they explored their melodic side, while still retaining much of their energy and raw power. On "Master Of Puppets," they put it all together... and the result was in a league of its own. Their first two albums were outstanding, but this one was truly revolutionary.
From the first note of Battery to the final notes of Damage, Inc., the band delivers a merciless onslaught of tight riffs, pounding bass and growling vocals. The album is the culmination of four hard-working guys paying their dues, both on the road and in the studio. They had a seemingly insatiable need to take heavy metal to the next level, playing louder and faster than everyone else, while at the same time paying tribute to their rough-edged punk and melodic NWOBHM roots. The result was a unique mix of music that ranged from the pummeling to the progressive, with lyrics that were angry, insightful and just plain intense.
The band has always had a knack for changing themes effortlessly, intertwining soaring acoustic melodies and razor-edged rhythms in a relentless attack on the senses. I always found it amazing that Metallica could go through so many different themes in the course of just one song when most bands would be content to take just one of them and build an entire song around it. The band's confidence and aggressive songwriting style is a big part of what set the band's early albums so far ahead of what most conventional metal bands were doing at the time.
The other thing that set Metallica apart was the incredible musicianship displayed by the entire band. The deadly duo of Hetfield and Hammett were able to trade licks and solos one second... and then meld into a harmonic lock-step the next. Their twin-edged attack was one of the main reasons Metallica stood out from the pack. On the other end of the spectrum, you had Cliff and Lars, who were able to fire off tight, fast rhythms... and suddenly change gears and lay down a loose groove for the guitars to jam over. Add to all of that Hetfield's vocals, which were absolutely perfect for these songs. Granted, he'll never be mistaken for Dio... but at the same time, he delivered the lyrics with authority and aggression, the perfect complement to the vibe of these songs.
This album broke all the rules. It was too heavy, too aggressive and got no airplay anywhere. Despite all of that, it was responsible for the band's final transformation into a heavyweight metal juggernaut. When "Kill 'Em All" was released, they were a club act. When "Ride The Lightning" hit the shelves, they were an opening act on some of the biggest tours in metal. By the time "Master Of Puppets" hit the shelves, they had co-headlined with W.A.S.P. and played some very big arenas. By the time it was certified gold, the band was headlining... and they never looked back. The band's reputation was built on word of mouth, but "Master Of Puppets" screamed it from the rooftops.
If you don't own this one, you wouldn't know the difference between a smack to the forehead and "Metal Up Your Ass"...
This review is dedicated to Cliff Burton, a legendary metal god gone way too soon.
RIP Cliff Burton (2/10/62 – 9/27/86)
The Bottom Line (AKA - The Six-Pack Scale):