Sunday, March 20, 2016

Metallica – Master Of Puppets

It is hard to describe what this album means to me and to metal in general for that matter. 30 years has passed since the released on the 3 of March 1986 and Metallica is a totally different band today. But back then this album was the album that really made Metallica a name to remember. Ironically there were no successful EPs or tracks cut as single and video from it (the song “Master of Puppets” was released as 12” and 7” but made no bigger fuzz) so there was nothing played on mainstream radio. But that only means that we must see this album as an eight track long thrash metal experience. So let’s dissect it track by track.

The sinister acoustic intro forebodes the carnage and mayhem of the opening track named after Battery Street in San Francisco where the Old Waldorf club was located. Then the grand opening riffs hit you like a sledgehammer before the song just picks up subsonic speed in no time and James Hetfield spits out the tale of the thrash metal lifestyle.

Lashing out the action, returning the reaction
Weak are ripped and torn away
Hypnotizing power, crushing all that cower
Battery is here to stay

Yes James. Battery is here to stay. An instant classic.

Master Of Puppets
The Hetfield riff of the title track is carved into the roof of the big metal pantheon together with everything Iommi, Page, Blackmore and Young ever wrote. This epic monster of a song that tells the gruesome story of drugs and destruction (oh the irony in that) shows a band that reached a new level of ability in song writing. There is fast brutal stuff and slow doomy stuff in here showing the whole dynamic range of Metallica.  And the chorus is still a live favorite at the show. Who doesn’t like to scream “Master, master!”  until the lungs bleed?

The Thing That Should Not Be
Do you want heavy? Well you got heavy. The slowest track so far by Metallica is a classic tale of Cthulhu in HP Lovecraft style and could be seen as a continuation of “The Call of Cthulhu” that ended “Ride the Lightning”. This is a slow and down tuned beast that just slabs and crushes anything in its way. It’s kind of a new thing to hearing Metallica just turn so damn heavy without relying on speed.

Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
Mental madness is always a good theme for any thrash metal song right? Damn right! Here we get to spend six minutes inside the head of someone locked in at the Sanitarium and gets to hear all the voices and thoughts on how to get out of there. It ends with the line “Got some death to do” so there was no happy ending I guess. Musically it starts off as a ballad but like all of Metallica's “ballads” in the 80s it soon picks up speed and ends in a crescendo of fast and furious riffing leaving everybody exhausted on the floor.

Disposable Heroes
After witnessing the insanity close up how about a trip into the horrors of war? Hell yes! The overall theme on “Master Of Puppets” is the manipulation of the powerlessness. Here we follow the young soldier through bootcamp  and into battle where he gets told that “You will do what I say when I say, back to the front. You will die when I say you must die.” And in the end he does so and dies. This is one of the fastest songs on the album that serves as a nice release after the two previous tracks. Stellar solo by Kirk Hammett by the way.

Leper Messiah
Hetfield's upbringing in a strict religious home where all the trust was put to Jesus Christ and led to the death of his mother lays the ground for the theme of song. It’s a heavy and deeply disturbing story about lies, faith and obedience and you can really feel the frustration and anger in the lyrics. And it can be seen as a prequel to “The God That Failed” that they later did for The Black Album in 1991. It’s a mid tempo song with crushing riffs and I think it’s one of those song that is sadly underrated in the Metallica catalogue. 

I have not mentioned Cliff Burton yet. Well “Orion” is his great legacy as a bass player and composer. It is intricate and a massive piece of music that contains solos from all three string men of the band. Hammett's and Hetfield's solos shines but Burton's bass solo in the third part is very emotional and progressive. And when the song fades to black in the end with the thrashing riffs we go straight into…

Damage Inc 
…even more bass work by Cliff. The whole song-like intro on the bass is beautiful and sad now that we know that this was the last thing we got to hear from Cliff Burton on a record. Then the violence commences. “Damage Inc” is one of the most violent songs Metallica ever recorded musically and it fits perfectly to illustrate the theme of the lyrics about staying true to yourself and take the consequence of it in a world that constantly tries to grind you down.

Dealing out the agony within
Charging hard and no one's going to give in
Living on your knees, conformity
Or dying on your feet for honesty

It is still one of the most perfect closing tracks on an album ever recorded. This states exactly what Metallica was at the time and even so about the whole thrash metal scene in 1986. Remember that this year also saw the release of Slayer's “Reign In Blood”, Megadeth's “Peace Sells...But Who’s Buying?” and Dark Angel's “Darkness Descends”. So thrash metal was pretty much the happening thing this year.

For me personally this album is the one that really made me a Metallica fan for life back in 1986. I still love them with all of my heart 30 years later despite all the symphonies, movies, Lulu’s and other strange projects they have undertaken through the years. “Master Of Puppets” still makes my fanhood legit and makes it possible for me to proudly say that I’m a part of the Metallica family that James always talks about on stage these days. They always play tracks from the album live no matter what. And why not. “Master Of Puppets” has always been and will always be Metallica's finest moment in their career.

-The Void

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