The best music you're not listening to.™ Reviews of lost classics and obscure titles. Unheralded bands and songwriters. New bands deserving of greater attention. The site for the music omnivore. It's all here, on the Ripple Effect
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 riffshit 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.
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 bootcampand
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.
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…
…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.