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Metallica must have been under a lot of pressure at this point in time. They had just released their 1986 album Master of Puppets album, which went gold without any airplay at all, and was considered one of the best thrash albums of all time, not to mention metal in general. Needless to say, they had a lot to follow up. So, what did they decide to do? Go bigger and better and this is just what they did. The problem with this, though, is that they went too big.
See, the track times are probably the biggest problem with this record. The shortest track time is over five minutes, and there are two tracks knocking on the door of ten minutes. I don't have a problem with long track times, so long as they make an attempt to keep the listener interested. Take, for example, Iron Maiden's Paschendale or Dance of Death which clocked in at over eight minutes, but are littered with tempo changes, interesting bridges, and all kinds of little nuggets to keep the two songs from being a chore to listen to. Such is not the case for a lot of songs on AJFA. They tend to be repetitive, and have simple song structures: (verse 1, chorus, verse 2, chorus, solo/instrumental section, verse 3, chorus). The biggest culprit for this is the title track, which runs for 9:46. It starts off with an acoustic intro, which is likely the most interesting thing the track has to offer as far as variation goes. After that, the heavy riffs come in. Don't get me wrong; this is a great song with a great intro and verses and chorus, but it starts losing me during the instrumental section after the solo and it goes through another verse, chorus, and outro before it ends. The members of Metallica have acknowledged this themselves.
Other songs have similar repetition such as The Shortest Straw and The Frayed Ends of Sanity. The former is saved by it's relentless pace and blistering solo. The latter is OK, but it never really did much for me besides a memorable tribute to The Wizard of Oz in the intro. It is the only track I can do without. To Live is to Die is beautiful, great solo and spoken word parts but my least favorite Metallica epic instrumental, because it is too long, and honestly doesn't seems like it has a direction.
Well, now that we got rid of the negativity out of the way, let's focus on the good, of which there is a lot. The guitarists Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield are in top form delivering excellent riffs and solos at each turn, including the famous guitar solos in Blackened and One. James Hetfield's voice is angrier than ever, and has developed and deepened substantially since their earlier albums. Even Lars Ulrich, usually considered Metallica's poster boy for his below average performances in recent years, was excellent on the drums, particularly on the track Dyer's Eve, which is a template for what drummers should strive for. Sadly, the bassist Jason Newsted is invisible in the album, which is another criticism for the album, as well as the dry production.
Similar to Metallica's previous albums, there is a central theme that winds its way through the album. For Master of Puppets, it was control; for Ride the Lightning, it was death; and for Kill Em' All, it was METAHL RAWKS! For this album, the band matures a little and discusses their views on politics. Topics include the Apocalypse, greed, limitations on freedom of speech, war, and blacklisting. Harvester of Sorrow and Frayed Ends of Sanity deal with mental illness; a more traditional theme for Metallica. The final two songs are much more personal. To Live is to Die is a ten-minute-long semi-ballad semi-instrumental with only a few spoken-word lines dedicated to their bassist Cliff Burton, who was tragically killed in a bus crash. The final track, Dyer's Eve, is a fuck you to Hetfield's parents for sheltering him as a child. The lyrics are very well done.
Without a doubt, One is the best song on the album, the best song by Metallica, and one of the best songs ever written. The song tells the heartbreaking tale of a soldier who lost his limbs and senses in an explosion and is forced to spend the rest of his life trapped in his immobile body in a hospital bed. The song starts out slow and ballad-like, like previous track fours Fade to Black and Welcome Home. After time, the song grows in heaviness, and after the vocals cut out, the song really takes off, showcasing that famous machine gun riff and face-melting solo. It's incredible from start to finish.
Other standouts include the opener, Blackened, which is speedy and heavy all the way through, featuring an excellent intro, solo, riff, bridge, chorus, etc. Harvester of Sorrow is the darkest song ever put out by the band. You gotta love the clean intro to this one. Eye of the Beholder, which is often considered filler, is another winner, mostly for the main riff and vocal melodies. Dyer's Eve is one of the fastest, heaviest Metallica songs out there, with standout drumming.
So, there you have it. Yes the flaws are formidable, but that should not stop you from picking this up. A must have for any thrash-metal fan.
One popular subject of debate is when Metallica ceased being good. I personally have not been one to shy away from the phrase "Metallica died with Cliff". As far as I'm concerned, Metallica were dealt a huge blow when Cliff Burton died after their first three albums. Does that mean that they turned to crap? No, it simply means that with Metallica's albums stopped being masterpieces, and instead were simply "great" or "good" (that is, when they weren't crap). What is not a matter of opinion is that And Justice For All is the band's last thrash metal album. As a result, a lot of people will say that this was their last even-remotely-good album (though I'd disagree, since "Metallica" and even "Load" were fine albums in their own right).
However, a disturbingly large amount will say that this album is Metallica's best. Not Ride the Lightning, where the band went experimental and managed to escape the one-dimensional sound present in Kill 'Em All. Not Master of Puppets, easily one of the objective landmarks in metal songwriting. Not even Kill 'Em All, which some may class as "best" purely for the energy and need to prove themselves that any band's debut album will have (which a popular school of thought). No, some believe that "And Justice For All", an album rife with 8 minute songs that shouldn't even cross the 4 minute mark, terrible production value, and generic, soul-crushingly boring music, is better than anything written when the band were young and, as said earlier, trying to prove themselves, or when Burton - a very talented composer - was creating music. That is not to say that the album fails because Burton is not involved - James Hetfield was the main songwriter from day 1 - but to say that Metallica made their best album without his contribution is a pretty bold statement.
I've already complained about the length of the songs earlier, and this is the single biggest flaw on the album. On KEA, the songs generally lasted 4-5 minutes. On Ride the Lightning, about 5-6 minutes. On Master, 6-8 minutes. Naturally, you'd expect the songs to end up being longer. As far as I can tell, that's what Metallica aimed to achieve. This works well on previous albums, because they were being progressive, and songs actually changed - allowing new ideas to lengthen the song. But for this album, they achieved this goal by writing long songs simply for the sake of writing long songs. As a result, a large number of tracks on this album just go on and on, repeating without any change of direction. At least the 8-minute "Master of Puppets" title track had a clean, melodic bridge to add some variation. On this album, the time or key signatures may occasionally change during bridges, or even tempos, but it's still the same bloody riff. Changing the time signature may make it longer or shorter, but it doesn't make it any more interesting if we've heard the same riff non-stop for the last 5 minutes. This is not a coincidence however; Hetfield himself has said that they refused to be progressive and harmonic - what Burton did best - "without Cliff". And as a result, we get an average of eight minutes of directionless riffs on each track.
Of course, the album does have its strengths, and one of them is how it manages to hide some true masterpieces in the pile. The song "One" - the most popular single from the album and one of their most popular songs - is a ballad, and as such does deserve to be over seven minutes long, and is actually interesting - providing a break from the dull nothingness surrounding it. But the album's high-points are the last three tracks. "Frayed Ends of Sanity" is easily my favourite song off the album, and has some brilliant lyrics about paranoia. Following is "To Live is to Die", the last song ever written by Burton that is mostly an instrumental, save for a spoken-word segment near the end, featuring lyrics about death that are really chilling considering his sudden death soon after. This song is almost superb, but one big flaw is that the song switches from "soft, ballady part" to "LOUD, DISTORTED AGGRESSION" too abruptly that spoils the mood a little. The album's closer is "Dyer's Eve", a track where Ulrich has some superb drumming (I wonder if he can still play it live?). Thankfully, this song is the shortest on this album at 5 minutes, which is a relief.
Let's talk some of the non-musical aspects. Lyrics on this album are among Metallica's best, and even the terrible tracks have superb lyrics. The production here - as anyone who knows of this album has heard - is beyond infamous for being so terrible. The most well-known flaw is the lack of bass. New bassist Jason Newsted had his bass volume turned all the way down. Many reasons have surfaced to explain this, the closest to being confirmed is that Ulrich demanded it be turned down because it was messing with the sound of his drums in the mix. However, other flaws include the guitars sounding really thin and bad, and the one that bothers me the most is that every track on the album (barring "One" as far as I remember) ends VERY abruptly. Even the soft instrumental suddenly breaks into loud drumming of the next song, and the final song on the album just stops out of nowhere. This is most obvious on "Frayed Ends" and "Eye of the Beholder", since both tracks are followed by fade-ins, since both songs suddenly turn into complete silence.
To understand why this album developed as it did we have to look back briefly at their history as a group and look at their discography. The albums which preceded And Justice For All were, in chronological order, Kill Em' All, which was a great debut, heavily influenced by Dave Mustaine of Megadeth. Then came Ride the Lightning which is arguably their strongest effort. This was followed up by Master of Puppets which was a good album although it revealed the limitations of the band; most notably that of Lars Ulrich and Kirk Hammett.
These albums set a reasonably high standard and the forth installment of the discography had a lot to live up to, but unfortunately it has to be one of the most infuriating albums in their history. It's one of those albums which had the potential to be great i.e like Slayer's "Reign in Blood" or Megadeth's "Rust in Peace," but it's not. So why is this album so flawed?
This is an album which has tried too hard to emulate its predecessor Master of Puppets, and by doing so, with its over the top complexities, ends up failing miserably. The general structures of the previous album are applied here with tracks having similar characteristics. For example the opening track "Blackened" is similar to "Battery" in so far as it's heavy and shares the same tempo. The title track is an attempt at being epic but doesn't come close to being as good as "Master of Puppets." "One" has subtle chord progression which develops into a torrent of fast simple riffs, and this is somewhat like "Welcome Home." I can only surmise that they were far more self conscious after the release of Master of Puppets, which they may have considered at that point their most accomplished work. The difficulty is that half of the band lack the quality to take them to the next level. All of the early Mustaine influences were now a distant memory and their bassist was no longer with them, so much of the talent had been extinguished from their ranks leaving only Hetfield to carry the band forward.
The most obvious reasons why this album is flawed is the fact that the track structures are tedious, as well as there being too many pointless riffs and unimaginative solos. On many occasions these tedious extra sections lead us absolutely nowhere, and it is evident that the band are drained of creativity while trying too hard. Hadn't they ever heard the phrase "less is more?" The album is over 10 minutes longer than Master of Puppets and that is ridiculous. For instance the title track "And Justice For All" is over 9 and a half minutes long. The entire middle section is laboured with an unimaginative solo, and this applies to the entire album which is riddled with tedious solos. There's a lack of a musical creativity and any good moments on this album are tarnished by those solos. This evident lack of creativity was detrimental to every succeeding album, and all of their live sets. Nearly all of the tracks need to be cut barring "Blackened" and "Dyers Eve," which are the only two which follow the traditional thrash formula.
On a positive note, James Hetfield's vocals continually improved with each album and they are excellent on And Justice. This is one of the few highlights and Hetfield practically carries the album. Even though Ulrich's drum track is limited, it's reasonably well played. He uses standard patterns and incorporates fills with marked improvement. This improved performance does raise some questions though and these are as follows; 1. why it's so much more accomplished than his previous efforts? And 2. why is he unable to play as solidly on live sets? There is another negative with regards to the drumming which is that it sounds like he's banging a couple of plastic boxes, and this must be the result of the album production.
The production of this album is appalling and has made it very flat, and that then leads onto the question as to why the bass is so inaudible? It is also noticeable that without the bass there's more focus on the drum track, which makes no sense seeing as it is unremarkable. We all know that prior to the And Justice album tragedy struck when their bassist Cliff Burton died, and it is understandable that the band members took this very badly. By all accounts this lead Hetfield and Ulrich to single out new bassist Jason Newsted for ridicule and thus treat him as an unequal. This is reflected in the fact that the bass recording is non-existent. No wonder they didn't replace Hammett; he's a wall flower and an average player who wouldn't dent Hetfield and Ulrich's ego. Just to digress, a character such as Dave Mustaine, regardless of timing, would never have lasted in Metallica because he was a superior musician.
As I've stated before, this album is "infuriating" because it had the potential to be a great! Thus matching Ride the Lightning or at the least be the equal to Master of Puppets, but when taking into account the fact that it has too many flaws; most notably the tedious song structures, pointless extra riff sections and unimaginative solo work, it's just a mediocre album. Some fans have suggested that this is the point where Metallica began to slide, but this isn't entirely accurate. The cracks were beginning to show when they released Master of Puppets. Some also say that the "black" was their sell out but I think that it was the natural progression for a band who needed to simplify their style, dropping the more complex arrangements heard on Master of Puppets and And Justice. Even by Ulrich's own admission he said and I'll paraphrase "We felt as if we were lacking as musicians and that made us go too far with Master of Puppets and Justice." This statement in itself explains why Justice was a just a "Riff Too Far."
So Master Of Puppets was completely popular and acclaimed, consolidating the status of the band, not only among thrash fans, its more accessible sound also had an impact on alternative subgenres. That record featured much more complexity and difficult schemes, still not impossibly technical, yet reaching certain level of progression. The following album went even further into that direction, intended to be the most intricate ambitious offering of their short discography back then. It was a crucial moment for these guys, not only to prevail musically and evolve, …And Justice For All was the first full-length recorded without Cliff Burton, who was replaced the same year of his tragic death by Jason Newsted, already introduced by the fans on the preceding Garage Days Re-Revisited EP.
The opening track “Blackened” shows from the beginning a clearly complicated pattern, including effective diversity of large-scale structures, tempo changes during the distinct sections and a much more rigorous instrumental display. The stability of the rhythm is intentionally broken and riff variations are nearly constant, defining some competent passages of great musicianship. Still that tune is straighter than most on the album, along with the absolutely frantic and kinda uncontrolled “Dyers Eve”, which starts lacking consistency and direction, which aren’t notable either on “Eye Of The Beholder” and “Harvester Of Sorrow”, whose tempos are contrarily weightier and heavier, their development equally unfocused and repetitive. Metallica try even harder to increase the level of difficulty on “The Frayed Ends Of Sanity” and “The Shortest Straw”, incorporating lengthier instrumental series and more incessant riff alterations, sadly leading nowhere and turning scandalously tedious as they abuse of the same vain model. Melody and tender harmonies are added, providing the music of admirable versatility, other times unreasonably breaking the continuity of these numbers usually uniform aggression. Specially, some sequences of “To Live Is To Die” are lyrical and touching, its configuration revealing unoriginality too soon even though that combination of sweet harmonies and decent harsh riffs works out successfully for a second. However, the most melodic dramatic part can be found on “One” with its introducing tender polite chord progression, at first kinda emotional, transformed suddenly into outrageous ferocity based on few limited technically humble riffs. Its chaotic empty extended pickin’ part is just another proof of the evident absence of direction and sense the whole pack is showing.
Progression seems to be the exclusive objective of these tunes, becoming completely exhausting and pointless mostly. The pretentious title-track is the clearest reflection of the band’s incompetence on giving their music continuity and solidity. There are some advanced riffs and well-defined variations, some instrumental parts are truly rich in details, but generally this is too unfocused and dumb. The group’s patterns are uninspired, lacking fresh ideas and grace, repeating the same sequences and lines perpetually, making these songs so uninteresting and mediocre. Metallica are still unable to develop the riff structures correctly, unable to achieve consistency and give their stuff variety either. Song-writing process has failed totally, making clear these guys are lacking creativity and inventiveness once again. Musically, these titles are weaker, deprived of the strength and fluent dynamism of previous attempts, relegated behind the tiring complication and convoluted complexity. Solos are usually terrible, uncontrolled, out of tune so maybe it was right the band needed some guidance, a real producer that would also engineer and mix their material properly. We all know who really did it, the same guys who wrote all this as well, taking total control while Newsted virtually disappears. There’s no way you can hear the bass, so the only contribution of Jason for the album was co-writing the opening number. Lars’ drumming is as limited and generic as usual too, while Hetfield’s strong raspy vocal tone and efficiently-executed riff basis are the only elements to highlight from this performance. Unfortunately, his lyrics have also become so boring and incoherent occasionally, contributing to the general decline the band was going through. So you see, more progressive doesn’t mean better after all.
Well, at least there are some thrashy moments and fine rough riffs that would become inexistent later, once Metallica deliberately followed a completely alternative direction of simplicity and refinement. So if you want something brilliantly technical and progressive, choose Invocator, Pyracanda, Target or Аспид instead because there’s nothing particularly remarkable here. They didn’t have the potential and skills to conceive something so complex and pharaonic like this successfully, it was all funnier and more enjoyable when they thrashed simply and raw, when their music came naturally and honestly without much pretention.
„…And Justice For All“ is my favourite Metallica record along with the thrash metal milestone „Ride The Lightning“ and the controversial, desperate and pitiless “St. Anger”. The song writing, innovation and intensity are different from the other two releases but as impressive in my humble opinion. Obviously, this record also has a strong disadvantage many people have already pointed out: the production. The sound is too clinical and the bass guitar is nearly inaudible. Yes, this approach gives the band sound a completely new style, it makes the final result unique and fits to the sinister lyrics. On the other side, a more natural sound would have added given more power instead which I would have preferred over the constantly angry atmosphere it incarnates. This is one of the rare cases where I would support a completely re-mastered version of the original. Otherwise, one may enjoy many songs on several outstanding live records and I would give the band the advice to play the full album in concert and release it as a double-disc version for their fans so that everyone can finally perfectly enjoy the material. Personally, this irritating production issue doesn’t bother me enough though to ignore the nine excellent songs on this release.
Metallica went away from the straight sound of the two first albums and also from the more melodic side of the predecessor. The band offers instead more challenging and slightly progressive song writing with technically improved musicianship, extended instrumental parts and many powerful breakdowns with two songs nearly hitting the ten minute mark. The vocals are maybe more emotional and still technically appealing than ever, the drum sound is drier than usual, the riffs may sound repetitive but are always effective and I especially like the few colourful melodic guitar solos that lighten up rather dark songs as “The Shortest Straw” for example.
At the same time, the stronger use of mid-tempo riffs and more versatile vocals that vary from calm clean passages over angry and slightly uncontrolled screams to a few vocal effects makes this record an often ignored prototype of the controversial groove metal genre that would become popular a few years after with releases by Exhorder, Fear Factory, Machine Head, Pantera, Prong and Sepultura. A good example for the use of more modern mid-tempo riffs and vocal effects is portrayed in “Eye Of The Beholder” while the fusion of a calm half ballad approach that slowly shifts towards a more destructive sound with angrily shouted vocals can best be heard in the lyrically intriguing “One” which is maybe the best and probably the most atmospheric song Metallica ever wrote. The quasi-instrumental “To Live Is To Die” hits a similar vein and has a great and coherent progression which makes this track one of my favourite instrumental songs ever. The menacing guitar sound, the tight and precise drum play and the pissed-off vocals in the first single “Harvester Of Sorrow” also perfectly represent the style of this record.
It’s somehow ironical that this uncompromising record that is a lot less approachable than the first three outputs in my opinion would hit the charts and pave the path to worldwide commercial success for the band. Those who seriously claim that Metallica would flirt with mainstream on this album must be deaf as the opposite is the case. After the tragic death of their bass player Cliff Burton the band simply had to release this desperate sixty-five minutes of music as much as the liberating “St. Anger” fifteen years later after years of internal disputes and growing pressure. This band seems to work best when put under pressure. I must admit that this album has a very own and special mood which makes this release so controversial. Sometimes I enjoy this record a little bit less but when I’m in the right mood I definitely dig it and am close to consider it as the best output the band may have released. This record is not for everyone. Old school thrash metal fans might only like the powerful opener “Blackened”, the vivid “The Frayed Eyes Of Sanity” and the fast closer “Dyers Eve” which consistently grew on me. Fans of the later and more commercial years will appreciate “One” as well as “Harvester Of Sorrow” but could fail to make it through the even longer songs on this release. In my opinion, this release is though one of Metallica’s most emotional, groundbreaking and technically stunning albums for those who like both Metallica’s early and later days. In the end, this groove metal prototype is better than anything the real genre would ever manage to release.
Where do you begin with this? Its a subject that has been covered over and over again, time after time for over 20 years now. The fact remains that "Justice" is a strongly polarizing album, one of the most polarizing in all of metal. Many people outright dislike it because of the production. I've always been able to ignore that aspect, and even grow to like it. The same is true of the songs themselves. One side of the fence proclaims it to be their most technically accomplished moment, the other side's opinion being that a lot of it goes on for far longer than it needs to. I can relate to both viewpoints, however this has most likely always been my favourite Metallica album.
Obviously, we all know about the circumstances that led the way to this album being the way it is. Cliff Burton's untimely death in late 1986 dealt a crippling blow to Metallica, stopping their original creative train dead in its tracks, and really they never quite recovered from it. It would seem that the tragedy of his death fueled this album, because they are PISSED here. James' vocals were never so angry sounding, and to achieve the desired aggressiveness the drums had to be recorded in sections to maintain consistency, as Lars was apparently hitting them so hard. The lyrics are the darkest yet. They had covered such things as abuse of power and corruption before, but on this album that's the overriding theme. Injustice, discrimination and environmental themes are also heavily touched upon. Naturally a replacement for Burton had to be found, and Jason Newsted was recruited from thrashers Flotsam and Jetsam. He was given a trial run (not to mention some volume) on the 1987 "Garage Days" covers EP where he cut his teeth finely and proved he was just as good a bassist (if not as wildly creative, then arguably tighter as a musician) as Burton was.
Now, this issue of the production. The album has a very strange (for the time, techniques used on this record would later become commonplace in extreme metal), very scooped sound where the guitars are largely all bass and treble, with not very much mids at all. The bass guitar track was reduced in volume considerably, and subsequently swallowed up by the scooped guitars. The drums are much drier than any of their previous albums, as is the overall mix. The sound is quite a shock the first time you hear it, especially coming to it from the much fuller sounding previous albums. However, despite the hailstorm of production complaints that regularly gets thrown at this album, I've always found it suits the feel of the music. Even the unfortunate lack of bass (and it really is unfortunate, having heard the original bass tracks made louder I can tell you they're very good and its a damn shame the guy was buried so much) adds to the feel of it. The second of the main criticisms of "Justice" is the songwriting. The grinding, repetitive nature of some of the songs (most notably the 11 minute title track) can be a turn off to some listeners. Personally I don't have a problem with it, though after the amount of times I've heard the album I admit I do have to be in the mood for some of it. Many of this album's tracks regularly find their way into Metallica fan's (including mine) favourite songs, Harvester of Sorrow, the relentless Blackened, and of course One - a song that broke new ground for the band with its brilliantly executed video, and despite how overplayed it is the fact remains that its a stone cold classic, and one of the album's highlights. Other favourites of mine include the steady, mechanical grinding of Eye of the Beholder, and the more adventurous and lengthy compositions like the title track and Frayed Ends of Sanity which show Metallica fully embracing the progressive tendencies that "Puppets" had hinted at. Then of course, the only instrumental of theirs that gives Orion a good run for its money in my mind.
This was Metallica's last go at what could be called "real" thrash - we all know what happened next. Despite its perceived faults, the success of "Justice" paved the way for them to fully conquer the world 2 years later with the massive selling self titled album. Despite the fact that the Black album toned down the apparent excess of "Justice" resulting in shorter, more concise and more successful songs - it isn't half as creative or adventurous as this album. Listen to this to hear their creative peak.
If Master of Puppets is the media's favourite Metallica album, ...And Justice For All seems to sit in the shadows most of the time for only the most hardcore fans to proclaim the best. This is because ...And Justice... suffers from the one of the biggest issues of all: the production.
Musically, it is a solid prog-thrasher where the average run time per song is 7.52 minutes over nine songs. That's pretty long. Death Magnetic is the only Metallica album close with 7:48 minutes over ten songs. Excessive length can sometimes be Metallica's biggest weakness, but ...And Justice... succeeds with carefully crafted ideas and an excellent relationship between guitarist and vocalist James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich. In fact, ignoring any background, the album almost sounds like it was recorded by just Ulrich and Hetfield. With songs so long, it's hard for Hammett to really get in on the action, and besides his first solo in 'Blackened', it's difficult to remember his highlights, although solos in 'One' and 'To Live Is To Die' seem to receive praise. Newsted's bass playing is mixed so low it is practially impossible to hear (sometimes I think I can hear it, most of the time I can't). So the biggest draw here is definitely the collaboration between Hetfield and Ulrich. The best thing is that, if you like one song, you're bound to like most of if not all of the rest. On the flip-side, dislike the first song? You'll probably dislike the rest.
The production isn't a 'problem' per se, but many are put off by the very low levelled bass guitar and the clicky, dry drums. The low, barely audible bass is supposedly down to the juvenile behaviour of Ulrich and Hetfield, hazing the newcomer Jason Newsted. The drums being down to the neglected use of the ambient room microphones during the mixing process is definitely easier to believe. The result of such mixing decisions is that no matter how great the music is, it can sound dull. The lack of bass removes energy from the low end, and the lack of ambience on the drums results in a dead and unnatural sound. It would have been nice to have similar ambience of Ride... or Master..., but time has been kind because it's now very hard to imagine it any other way than how it is.
'Blackened', '...And Justice For All' and 'Eye of the Beholder' are three most 'Metallica' songs the band have written, and set the standard high for the rest of the album. 'Blackened' features a weird reversed guitar intro, whilst sounding better musically when played the right way, has a strange but beneficial atmosphere to it. And Kirk's solo is lightning! The best part is when he harmonizes over the chorus... woohee that sounds great! '...And Justice For All' starts with one of my favourite introductions of all time, with convoluting rhythms and riffs, jerky guitar parts and even jerkier drumming. It is yet another example of Metallica's mastery of rhythm and maturity to know when and how much variation to use. 'Eye of the Beholder' has an almost groove-like feel and proceeds to a bridge I was hoping was going to happen: a simple development of the previous riffs. It might not sound like much but it's always nice to hear an artist say 'Hey this riff is awesome, let's see how we can change it and make it different', which is a lot better than 'Hey this riff is awesome, let's use it to death'. To these ears, the rest isn't quite 'up there' with those three tracks, but ends strongly on Ulrich's crowning moment: 'Dyers Eve'. It's definately the track to play for people who doubt the tiny drummer's skills. James also gives his all vocally, sounding very emotional when screaming 'DEAR MOTHER, DEAR FATHER! What is this hell you have put me through?!', it's enough to give you the chills and an astonishing way to end the album.
...And Justice... is the last fully thrash metal album Metallica would do for 20 years, much to many people's disdain. It might take a while to fully appreciate but in the end it is totally worth it, although I do wish a tiny bit that the production was better. I feel as though I'll end up liking it a lot more the longer I spend time with it. With plenty of bright spots (especially in the first half), it still isn't quite a 'must-listen' of the genre, but a pleasantly consistent album to perk things up a bit after Master of Puppets.
Sometimes, at certain gigs, I feel so “un-cool” in my Metallica t-shirt, I really do. I’m in my 30’s now and I really shouldn’t have any self-conscious hang ups at this stage, but the weight of that existential, Metallica hating, pressure within metal circles is immense and undeniable. Nobody’s ever said anything to me of course, but I know it’s so far from the “right band” merchandise to wear; on top of that, I can’t help but think of that kid in the press a few years back, who got put in hospital for having the audacity to put on a Hammerfall t-shirt. Yet, I still risk life and limb and adorn that, still fucking incredible logo, having my apprehension mix with pride. I hold both …And Justice For All, and my adolescence, as a major cause for this exceptional act of metallic gallantry.
Yep, that’s a perfect score, right there (something I would only give one other record btw) and it’s for an album that is somewhat grudgingly included in that astonishing run of classic albums by the ex-thrash band. I can indeed see most of the criticisms levelled at Justice; obviously the biggest beef, was/is, the bass been almost completely mixed out, on top of that, the song structures are far more sprawling than before, and it isn’t exactly sing along either, there’s no Creeping Death to shout “Die!” to here. And yet to theses ears it is all totally irrelevant, this is due to that feeling ladies and gents, that intangible, incredible, incomparable, feeling that this record has, even fifteen years after first hearing it. For me, it’s the reason that this style of music becomes part of your life and not just part of your record collection.
The distant walling strings that draw you into the opener “Blackened” with their cold, mourning cry that suddenly snaps, becoming an urgent, remorseless, crushing guitar sound leading in to a precise and perfectly weighted song structure that every 80’s ‘tallica transmission is blessed with. Only there’s something else on this record, adding something to a thrash album that I’ve never heard performed as effectively before or since; there’s fear. A genuine and palpable sense of fear is pervasive throughout every note played, it’s compulsive, consuming and (I’m guessing) partly unintentional genius. Yes, this is Metallica’s most complex, heaviest and darkest album and this probably is, as the press usually say, a reaction to the tragic loss of Bass legend Cliff burton. However, underneath all that, I think the three young men left to cope with that loss where actually just scared. Fear is twisted into every song, every guitar cord, every angular tempo change, but instead of dragging the whole thing down it imbues the sound with such vitality. In turn, this vital, powerful, sense of fear which makes the layer upon layer of guitars work, the super complex song structures sync and make the lack of Bass totally inconsequential. It also allows it to trample right over my head and twists its barbs right through and deep inside my heart making it my favourite record of all time.
All the usual plus points still stand of course; “One” with its Morricone style opening and hellish cascade of solo distortion is indeed fucking awesome. The Guitar sound is great, Lars probably puts in his best performance, feeling loose not sloppy and it is arguably the greatest of Hetfield vocal workouts too. But still, maybe you had to be there, not the 80’s thrash scene, but my mums house in the mid 90’s, painting crucified soldiers on a, rather terrible school art project, listening to Justice for the first time, but hell, you wouldn’t understand, because you weren’t there. Shame really.
Well, what can I say about this album that hasn't already been said? "This is where Metallica went mature"? No. "A few good ideas, but the end-result is a little long"? Phhbt. Not even. Oh, how about "Good music, but presented with bad production"? Oh, wait, I've read that before too. Oh well, might as well make a generic "...And Justice For All" review.
Sorry about that unfunny beginning, but what I'm trying to say here is "Don't expect the most original review in the world". There's a lot about this album that I'm going to bring up that have been brought up before countless times, so I'm going to do my best to make this my review with what I can say about the album.
Okay, now onto the review, where do I begin. Well, Metallica has definitely matured with this release, when compared with the previous three albums. "Kill 'Em All" was nothing but a fun-as-fuck, thrashy, and balls-to-the-walls metal album, "Ride the Lightning" was that same album, but with atmosphere and classical music influences, "Master of Puppets" was THAT same album, but with complexity and showing signs of maturity, and "...And Justice For All" is MOP with even more complexity. Wow, imagine if they kept this going, they would eventually have to fire Lars (haha, I made a Lars joke). But the problem is, Metallica go too far with the complexity of the music, and sometimes get lost in Over-long-ville.
The main factor that brings this album down is the repetition in a lot of these songs. Most of these songs would be fine with about a minute or two cut off from them. All of these songs contain at least 3 minutes of heaviness in them. For example: "One" and "To Live is to Die" have moments where they explore the more acoustic sides of progressive-thrash, but then the other moments are powerful and heavy thrash. In terms of heaviness, this album knows it's shit, but it's just too damn repetitive at times. "Dyer's Eve" and "Blackened" are the only songs where I would say that they don't need shortening, and it's no coincidence they're also the thrashiest ones as well. They feature blistering riffs, a monstrous vocal performance by Hetfield and some of Lars Ulrich's best drumming. As a matter of fact, the whole album is Hetfield's and Ulrich's best performance. Lars Ulrich is playing complex drum patterns and fills really tightly and Hetfield attacks the microphone like a goddamned lion. But apart from the good performances, songs like "Harvester of Sorrow" just sound so damn boring.
Another thing that brings this album down is the production, the drums sound thin, the bass is inaudible, and the overall sound is underwhelming. This is heavy metal guys, crank it up to 11. Like a lot of metal-heads, I get pissed off when I can't hear the damn bass, I mean if you're going to drown him out, why have him in the fucking band to begin with? Not to mention that this was Newsted's first album with Metallica, nice way to treat the new guy, you fucking assholes.
Mostly, it's what's around these songs that bring this album down, as most of these songs are actually really good. The only song I would consider to be bad is "Harvester of Sorrow", it's just too slow, boring and repetitive. It's also driven by this uninspired riff that just grooves along, not interesting at all. "One" is kind of ...eh, I've always found it's chorus to be weak and out-of-place. Also, Metallica have done much better ballads before ('Fade to Black' comes to mind). "Shortest Straw", "Eye of the Beholder" and "...And Justice For All" show signs of good progression, as it actually moves like it's traveling instead of jumping all over the place and being incoherent (an example where progressive metal is actually *gasp* progressive(!)). "Frayed Ends of Sanity" takes a little while to get started, but by the time the bridge comes in, it's thrashy as all hell, otherwise a forgettable song. "To Live is To Die" is a great instrumental, it has some of the flaws that the other songs on here have, but it's still a unique instrumental. It starts off with an acoustic introduction, then the electric guitars jump in unexpectedly chugging on this heavy set of riffs and then it gets all melodic on your ass. Then it turns around and repeats those three phases as if it were a musical parabola.
So, what I get from this album is a good idea that isn't played to the full potential that it could have been. Aww. :( The bad moments on this album are only few and far between, fortunately, but some of the good parts aren't really that good. Some people say that this is where Metallica started to go downhill, others say this is before they went downhill, and others say that this is after they went downhill with the downfall starting with MOP. I can hold no argument against this because I haven't listened to any Metallica later than this, but for those saying that this is a bad album, I have to disagree, because for what it is, it's really good, it just could have been a hell of a lot better.
This is the 4th studio release for Metallica while they remained a thrash metal outfit. A more technical approach to songwriting and probably the most out of their entire 1980's discography. At the time, this was the first release that I owned by the band. It really got me into thrash metal. Not only was the music dark, but it showed a more technical approach to their songwriting.
Remaining musically doomish and dreary in terms of the song features, this is probably the heaviest release of theirs. Even though some tracks portray clean and/or acoustic guitar melodies, the actual songs are really depressing. That seemed to be Metallica's focus for this album. This remains to be one of my favorite releases from the band.
An introduction to this release begins with lead guitar melodies that segues into a much heavier, E-tuned guitar riff for the song "Blackened". All of the songs are lengthy. The last track entitled "Dyer's Eve" was still well over 5 minutes in length. The tempos for each track vary. Not all of them are downright fast though many melodic especially on the title track and "To Live Is to Die". This song was a tribute to Cliff Burton (RIP).
They remained innovative regarding to the guitar riffs as well as the leads. Kirk Hammett still does a good job in the lead department, though less technical than on "Ride the Lightning" and "Master of Puppets". Hetfield belts out some seriously heavy rhythm guitar structures. His vocals are more hoarse than prior releases though it definitely accompanies the music and overall atmosphere.
Hetfield has a lead guitar part featured on "To Live Is to Die". It's not wholly technical at all and I figure that they wanted to create something that fit the clean electric part which takes place in about the middle of this song. Also, the introduction to this track was an acoustic guitar which then flows into more distorted electric parts. Probably their longest song overall throughout this whole album and 1980's discography.
The title track is lengthy also and filled with clean parts mainly for the introduction but not the entire song at all. There's also a ballad which also became a video. That was something that Metallica wasn't too keen on doing in their earlier days. However, "One" was a huge success overall. But mainly to a darker audience. I don't think that they anticipated going mainstream with it.
Sound quality wise came out more fluidly than previous 1980's releases. This was thanks to Flemming Rasmusson's contribution for the mixing. The only complaint though would be that the bass guitar efforts by Jason Newstead seemed to be totally void. Hearing all of the tracks and not one of them you can really tell that there's bass included on this album.
The focus in terms of the lyrics dealt with society, corruption, inner struggles and anger. Hetfield belts out some seriously heavy throat as previously mentioned. He seemed to really sound like a death metal vocalist spewing depressing lyrics in a much greater magnitude. His only cleaner voice is featured during the clean guitar moments for the song "One". They didn't do any cover songs at all.
This album is their last as a thrash metal outfit. As I said previously, it's their heaviest and darkest release ever. The best tracks to hear are "Blackened", "One" and "To Live Is to Die". All of the tracks are noteworthy though. The ones that I mentioned are my favorites. Their songwriting
here was probably the most creative though some would challenge this view. A sad farewell to the Metallica of the 1980's.
Metallica’s history has been probably the most contentious of any within metal’s 4 decade history, let alone within the narrower spectrum of their co-pioneered sub-genre within it. The biggest mistake made in judging them is assuming that they were constant trailblazers throughout the entire 80s, though there is definitely something to be said about the products of their infancy circa 1982-84. The second biggest mistake is attempting to throw out the baby with the bathwater by allowing unearned judgment of their past material to be visited due to the repeated commercial pandering and musical failures of the past 20 years. Nevertheless, some of the band’s widely heralded albums are not beyond criticism in this regard, be it what these albums ended up influencing or simply in what changed from before. It all really breaks down to priorities, and it is by the merits of the contents that “And Justice For All” should be judged.
As a whole, this album could be chalked up to a longer, expanded version of “Master Of Puppets” minus not only Cliff Burton, but the bass as any sort of a consequential instrument. Contrary to popular opinion, the bass is not a complete non-factor, though its present would only be missed if it were to be completely removed from the mix altogether. But with the recent advent of the master tapes having been communicated and a few alternative mixes with the bass’ presence augmented, it can be safely stated that this was not only an inevitability that the bass was taken down significantly, but the best outcome as well. The overtly tinny character of the guitars and the semi-clicking tendency to the bass drum (a precursor to the annoying sound often heard out of some present day death metal bands) utterly clashes with Newstead’s dark 5-string bass, and short altering the tone of everything else to the point where this would have sounded exactly like “The Black Album”, the mix results would have been abysmal.
But while the overall character of the album’s mix is extremely high end and a complete departure from past efforts, this is largely where the innovative aspects of this album leave off. Some might quibble over the fact that the songs are longer and more involved, and thus this crosses over into progressive territory. Such assertions would seem to downplay the innovations of several Bay Area bands that actually went beyond mere ad nauseam repetition and actually increased the riff set to something really intricate as in “Time Does Not Heal” or “Victims Of Deception”. Likewise, when considering the wide array of bands exploring harsher vocal tones (Sodom and Morbid Saint), keyboard and effects usage (Voivod), more adventurous musical contrasts (Megadeth), or even mixing in creepy atmospheric and melodically dissonant qualities in place of speed and mayhem (Slayer). These songs are long, and there is a fair amount of complexity, but they tend to be the former simply for the sake of it, while the latter category mostly comes into play with Hammet’s lead playing, which is still fairly one-dimensional, but at least more melodically intricate than his work on “Puppets”.
It might be considered unfair to compare this album against other bands who most likely took influences from Metallica at some point (save Megadeth) and who released their comparable material after this album. But it becomes inevitable given a large sentiment amongst certain circles that this band is the tip of the iceberg and often becomes the token thrash band of people who couldn’t give a damn about the genre. The innovative qualities of the contents on here in regards to past work could be chalked up to an angrier and more cynical view of humanity and life, which is hardly anything new even within pre-metal rock bands. This is communicated through songs that are either slowed down, or otherwise expanded in scope through repetition or very slight variation in order to make room for more lyrics and still pay equal attention to instrumental sections. Perhaps the biggest examples of this trend is the overlong title song and the band’s first commercial breakthrough “One”, which pile on the repetition like crazy while putting an emphasis on expanded verse and chorus sections, all of them preceded by an overabundant amount of segue material.
To be fair, a lot of the ideas that were put together can suffer the repetition factor and come through with their luster intact. Even some of the slower material such as “The Frayed Ends Of Sanity” and “Eye Of The Beholder” manage to stay interesting despite a limited riff set that is largely based around a slightly varied verse/chorus structure. Similarly, although it takes a while to get going, “The Shortest Straw” works quite well as an upper mid-tempo version of their formerly blistering thrash style, and manages to come off intelligently lyrically withal the corniness in Hetfield’s cliché rhyme schemes. But in some cases things just take too long to get going and turns into a hypnotic binge of slower metallic grooves, particularly in the case of the overlong “To Live Is To Die” and the utterly boring “Harvester Of Sorrow”, the latter of which is a good precursor towards the dumbed down character of “The Black Album”.
There is a sentiment that this album is an ancestor of the soon to follow half-thrash craze of the early 90s, and examining the lack of consistently thrashing material on here does lend credence to that notion. The lone exceptions to the mixture of slower ideas is the lightning bolt opener “Blackened”, which functions as a better version of “Battery” by exchanging the overlong acoustic drone for a fade in approach with a much less repetitive melody, and the even more agitated closer “Dyer’s Eve”, which outclasses everything on “Puppets” and even challenges some of the more orthodox thrashers from the early days. Between the speedy drums, agitated riff work and Hetfield’s still gritty and powerful growl, everything works perfectly and pays credence that brevity is usually the preferred course in this sub-genre.
When taking into account the massive flaws in how this album is often perceived, which is usually the result of not exploring other bands in this style, the most important question shouldn’t be ignored, namely “Is this a good album?” The answer to that question is mostly yes; though it could have been a good deal better had ‘Harvester Of Sorrow” been dropped along with about 10 minutes of purposeless repetition. There are plenty of decent albums out there that utterly downplay the bass and still come off as ingenious, and there are slower Thrash albums that work very well (“South Of Heaven” and “Souls Of Black”). But given its massive notoriety, “And Justice For All” isn’t an album to be recommended so much as to simply be critiqued.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on March 2, 2011.
Metallica's career is the official roller-coaster experience in the history of metal, no matter how you look at it. Denying their important part in the formative years of thrash is silliness, no matter how influental you consider Mustaine's contributions, and no matter how much you disagree with him being given the boot. Kill 'em All is one of the handful of original thrash full-lengths, even if someone somewhere might have done something similar before. Ride the Lightning, along with the commercial behemoth Master of Puppets, defined the frontier between thrash and mainstream on the map of music, with MoP sometimes slipping over to the other side. The S/T black album was a carefully planned commercial success, and the Loads were the next, logical step in the mid-life mellowing of millionaires. St Anger is the album they'd disown, weren't they too embarrassed of it to discuss it enough to disown it. But where does ...And Justice for All fit in this stomach-churning series of ups and downs?
...And Justice for All should have been the album that killed Metallica. And to emphasize, it could have been exactly that, looking from a musical/financial angle, it should have been exactly that, looking from the tr00 metalhead's angle, and it might even have turned into that, had the audience and the band listened to critics and each other more than they did. Also, it's perhaps the "forgotten" Metallica album, after the waves it made upon its release died and the albums that came after it left it wedged between the thrashy beginning and the commercially successful section of Metallica's long career.
The music on ...And Justice for All is curiously something thrash could have evolved into in its mature years. As such, it could perhaps be seen as a manifesto, an attempted new beginning for a genre that burned the candle from both ends and virtually disappeared for a decade after shining so very brightly. The songs have a progressive feel to them, but without any real progressive elements; considering long songs a telltale sign of "progression" has always been a shining example of faulty logic. Here, the scent of progressive influence stems more from the chosen sound, the controversial clinical production, and the fact that they gave up the last remnants of their original fury and replaced it with a taste of cold steel and controlled restraint, but didn't yet inject any of the radio-friendly components of the later albums.
The songs have a nice variance between them, from the thrash pieces such as "Blackened", to slower but almost as uncompromizing songs such as "Harvester of Sorrow". The underlying template from Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets found its way onto ...And Justice for All, and "One" holds the position of the song that turns from a mellow thing to more angry metal stealthily as a ninja in the night, reserved by "Fade to Black" and "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" on the earlier albums as the last song of the first side of the vinyl version; the albums were a product of the days of staggeringly expensive CDs, and the gatefold vinyl version was one of the neatest formats of metal albums ever. The song placement follows the same pattern on other tracks as well.
The controversy of the production led to some heated discussion back in the day, even before the popularization of internet allowed Joe Sixpack to voice his opinion, followed by a muffled "durr....". The drums have a neutered cardboard box sound, especially compared to the fleshy cudgeling on most 80s thrash albums. Unlike MoP, the album didn't get rest of the world onto the bandwagon, and very few albums emulate the sound of ...AJfA. The problems in the production are difficult to point out, and even the bass frequencies, often mentioned as missing, are there. The overall sound resembles a bread knife more than the earlier baseball bat, and has a thin, serrated feel to it. Why didn't it work? That's a good question, because the guitars on the front have a sharp edge, the drumming is perfectly audible despite the odd choice of sound, and even Hetfield's last decent vocals are fully audible, if a bit distant. Somehow the production robs a big part of the punch the songs could have held, but on the other hand, it is the origin of the "progressive" tag too often glued on the album.
Technically, the performance is rather good, and almost mechanical in its perfection; it gives the music a robotic, soulless exterior, and distancing the vocals to the background and giving the sharp guitars the main role further turns this into the least readily accessible Metallica album. No doubt Ulrich's drums have been doctored, and Hammett's solos were finally starting to get too stale to really work on this kind of metal, but the album is a rhythm guitar driven creation, and the things that stay in the mind's player are the riffs. And there is a bunch of really good riffs on the album. It just takes a dozen spins before the box opens, the production makes ...AJfA a difficult thing to approach.
But what about the part about ...And Justice for All being the death of Metallica alluded to earlier? What makes this album so potentially lethal to the band? The answer comes in three parts, just like the question.
The album could have killed off Metallica, and it sort of did, because after it Metallica wasn't the Metallica of the earlier albums, and promptly "sold out" on the black album immediately a couple of years afterwards. After the surprising success of Master of Puppets, Metallica was one of the metal bands most closely followed by music media, if not the metal band. And media didn't like ...And Justice for All. The critics bashed the production, the radio played the songs less than those of MoP two years earlier, and a lot of people who recognized several of the songs off MoP never learned to know a single track from this album, until Metallica gave in on their "no videos" policy and shot a music video for "One". The video is a child of its times, and a decent thing at that, with the Johnny Got His Gun clips, even including the coversations from the movie on top of the music, and unheard of thing back in the late 80s. Only the appearance of the video made this album known among the mainstream crowd, and "One" remains the only track with any household value here. Yes, this could well have ended the career of Metallica, but the days of hundreds of millions of people online, all willing to voice their informed opinions and jump the bandwagon, were still far ahead. Should this kind of release see the light of day now, it would get beaten to pulp before release date by the downloading masses, and it would be guaranteed to fail commercially. This time, however, the fans were loyal to the band, and ...And Justice for All didn't kill Metallica. They learned from the experience, though, and instead of an ambitious metal album, they created a commercial album with radio tracks and several accompanying videos next.
To say that the album should have killed Metallica is a more opinionated claim. The aforementioned selling out on the black album was the point where an old school Metallica fan's interest in the band started to wane, and the development reached its nadir on Load and even more acutely on Reload. Had we never seen the days of radio-friendly Metallica, the modern rock phase of the Loads, or the pseudo-symphonic foolishness of S&M, not to mention the desperate throwback abomination known as St. Anger, and had Metallica known better and disbanded after ...And Justice for All, they'd hold much more credibility among the metal audience. Naturally, their bank accounts would also hold at least one digit less, but this album could well have held the same position as, say, Emotional Playground in Stone's discography, as the difficult to access but rewarding final album in a beautiful run of a handful of quality metal. Instead, they kept going, made a shitload of money, turned into a stadion dinosaur with surprisingly good live shows, had a midlife crisis known as St. Anger, made a "return to the roots" on Death Magnetic and so on. Things could have gone a different way, and Metallica could have left a beautiful corpse instead of the Grandpa Simpson of today.
Finally, ...And Justice for All might have been the death of Metallica. The album indeed wasn't loved by the media, except, of course, by the corporate metal magazines. A group with less drive and ideas, or, alternatively put, less bony foreheads and stubborness, could well have seen the reception of the album as a coup de grâce, and maybe even seen the looming end of the wonderful thrash era ahead, and dropped their instruments there and then. But Metallica turned the knobs titled "commercial" on their amps to eleven, and started to walk the road of transformation to AOR. More so, had the audience listened to the media and each other as much as it does today, and the decision might not even have been theirs to make. This may sound tautological with the above, but things are different from the band's and the audience's points of view.
If Metallica indeed has an album that could be called "forgotten", this is it. No radio hits or well-known songs beyond "One", no real controversy after the first year's discussion on the production died down, and few people with strong opinions on it, ...And Justice for All gets less mentions than the albums both preceding and following it virtually everywhere. The low accessibility, combined with the production and the last ambitious examples of Metallica's songwriting make this the album with no obvious target audience. No target audience translates to little discussion, and that's the extent of it.
...And Justice for All is a good album. It has its flaws, but the songs simply beg for cover versions, to show their real potential. There are bucketfuls of good riffs, the songs work like oiled machines, and for the last time before compromizing, Metallica plays real thrash. There are those of us who took the time to get used to the album, and consider it better than MoP, but even we sometimes forget it on the CD shelf for half a decade. Returning to it is always a delight, though, once the effort of getting the door to its soul open is taken. Don't give up, there are nuggets of gold among the rust-coloured sand here.
Let me establish something first: I never considered Metallica anything new or original, even in their glory days. Kill Em' All was raw, beer-fueled aggression, sure, and Ride the Lightening was pure thrash to the core. But it had been done before, by bands better at it, in greater quantities. Most of the riffs that made Ride the Lightening and Kill Em' All great were Mustaine riffs, and you could definitely start to hear the absence of Mustaine on Master of Puppets. And on this, you can REALLY hear the absence of Mustaine, as well as the lack of any bass presence whatsoever (Newsted isn't to blame, it's the band and the producer), lending it a rather one dimensional sound.
I have a theory that Hetfield was never really a riff genius. He wrote some great lyrics back in the days when they went through rough times (loser lunch, anybody?), and hell, he's come up with a good riff or two. But most of the good riffs from Kill Em' All and Ride the Lightening were most likely written by Mustaine. Metallica didn't dramatically sell out with the Black Album, Load/Reload, and St. Anger. James/Lars (the other two don't really have any creative control, it seems) have have been sellouts long before it showed any signs, even back in the Master of the Puppets days. Why do I mention that album? Because it's basically a facsimile of Ride the Lightening, but instead of being fresh and innovative, it was tired and boring, the "epic" songs long and meandering and the thrash songs copies of past genius. Remember when they went on MTV for the first time, and spent the speech whining and bitching about how they didn't get their MTV? They've always wanted money and fame. It's just that when the tide of music started turning, and metal wasn't so popular anymore, they tried making a modern rock album (Load) and when Numetal was really popular, they made a numetal album (St. Anger).
What does that have to do with ...And Justice For All? Everything. It was made with the same mentality as the Black Album, Load/Reload, and St. Anger. That is, they write songs for the fans, not themselves. They don't use introspection to create metal that came from the depths of their soul, they just write what they think the fans will like, what will be popular. It shows, here, because even though it's touted as progressive thrash, it's not real progressive, and it's really more heavy metal than thrash metal. More specifically, Metallica wanted to create music that was "epic" and slower than their usual fare. That's a good intention and all, but it's entirely disingenuous if there's no real desire for change. See, Metallica are using the same riffs, Kirk doing the same solos, and Lars doing the same drum patterns as always. They wanted to change for superficial reasons, and because of that, little actual change occured.
Having heard music made around the same time attempting the same thing but doing it several times better, ...And Justice For All can't help but sound mediocre. James is a mostly pentatonic riff writer, and you can't really do "epic" with pentatonic riffs, and that's what he tries to do here a lot, and it comes off sounding cheesy and half-baked. His gruff bark, which works for thrash, doesn't work for epics. His cleaner style sounds forced and rather thin, akin to another heavy metal giant of the period, Jon Oliva. Both are better off barking along to pugilistic heavy metal than singing along to more ballad-y music. As well, the "yeah"s and the "uh-huh"s and other cliche'd rockstar-isms Hetfield uses are annoying as hell, and further detract from the seriousness of what they're attempting.
But it takes much more terrible vocals to ruin good music, but, alas, if ...And Justice For All had good music. It doesn't. It has mediocre riffs with mediocre solos on top of mediocre drumlines. The bass, of course, doesn't factor in at all. Of course, Justice for All is nowhere near as aggravatingly MTV as the Black Album nor is it as downright embarrassing as Load/Reload and St. Anger, as this is years before Hetfield & Co. started scraping the bottom of the artistic barrel.
Ahhh ...And Justice For All. The soundtrack to that halcyon summer before I started junior high. This album is forever linked to my first beer, ciggy and porno movie. Needless to say I have a soft spot for this album but I will try to stay objective. Did I also mention that this was the winning shot in the thrash vs. glam wars? Yes this album but Metallica on the radio. Consequently all the glam fans started to listen to Metallica and you got the Black Album. Thats why it gets a 90.
This album gets a lot of flak over the production. It's too dry? Who really wants to listen to reverb tails feeding back and muffling the sound? The drums are strange? Well, thats only because they basically pieced the drum parts together measure by measure, not fun in those pre-Pro Tools days. You can't hear the bass? Having seen Metallica live about 3 times I can honestly say you don't want to hear the bass. It's not like Jason Newsted was Jaco Pastorius. Hell, he wasn't even Kip Winger. The production is tinny? Are you listening to the album on your headphones from 1988? This was the album that forced metal heads to get kicker boxes and speakers made out of a material other than paper. The Mesa Boogie Mark IIc's put out enough low end to make you sterile. This is the one criticism that has gone on for too long. Invest in some speakers.
Blackened, Shortest Straw and Dyer's Eve will all tear your head off. Greatest songs to skateboard to. I know that there were faster bands and drummers but no one infiltrated thrash into society like Metallica did. Eye of the Beholder and Harvester of Sorrow are the groove that they were looking for in their 90's albums. Sad that it was right in front of their faces the whole time. Which brings me to the long songs. ...And Justice For All and To Live Is To Die are just flat out self-indulgent but you have to give them a break as they were working out the ghost of Cliff Burton with the latter. That leaves us with Frayed Ends of Sanity. I don't know what to make of this song. It's somewhat fast. It's kinda got a proggy riff. It's got the coolest Wizard of Oz opening in heavy metal. Yet it somehow leaves me cold. I'm noncommittal on this particular song. The strength of this album is that it is an album take it all in as a whole. War, insanity, death, fire are all tried and true heavy metal subjects. The communist witch hunts of the 50's and environmental disaster are not. At least not until this album.
So whatever the faults of this album it still holds a place in my heart. Music for me is invariably tied to the emotions I had when I first heard it. This album will always remind me of the sheer hedonism of youth. Skate and destroy my friends. Thrash if you got 'em.
California's Metallica, possibly the biggest name in the metal world, is a band of progression. Many will denote the passing of Cliff Burton as the band's untimely death, and the albums that follow this tragic event as the mere shadow of a once-great band. I will make no such denotes. To me, a band that explores its creative juices is a truly artistic band, for a true artist does not fear the idea of trying different things.
This effort, oddly named ...and Justice for All, is a true sign that Metallica are a bunch of truly expressive artists. There is a certain charm to the album's bare-bones, dry, raw production and its technical structures, but there's also a lot of expressive anger, discontent and even emotion in here. It may not have Cliff Burton written on its "Metallica is", but it doesn't have to - ...and Justice for All is arguably Metallica's greatest metal record.
...and Justice for All is a very ballsy album. Speaking of defiance of social ideas, greed and war, Justice can be justifiably called a rebellious record. In fact, it's probably the band's most rebellious release yet, using a heavier sound and a much more aggressive approach to the music.
Take "Eye of the Beholder" for example. This completely emotionless song speaks of freedom of speech and the way it is mutilated by authorities, governments and the likes. The band's frustration shines through this one in its crushing riffs and difficult melodies. The lyrics don't stop there. Even the apocalyptic "Blackened" describes the end of the world and doesn't waste its time making a hint.
To begin whipping dance of the dead
Blackened is the end
To begin whipping dance of the dead
is the outcome of hypocrisy
In the exit of humanity
Color our world blackened".
Metallica's discontent with society is possibly most apparent on the titular song, which happens to last for almost 10 minutes. The song, surprisingly melodic for such an angry tune, speaks of the power that money has over people and the corruption that it causes.
..but Justice touches on more than just corruption and social deformities. The band's anthem, "One", is the band's most well-known ballad, taking influences from the book and movie "Johnny Got His Gun". The song, just like "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" before it, keeps shifting between the soft and melodic and the crunchy and heavy, creating a very dynamic song that only keeps building up until it finally explodes into complete chaos, incorporating what is probably Kirk Hammett's best guitar solo ever and the band's famous machinegun riff.
If that's not enough, then for the first time since "Fade to Black", James Hetfield decides to show his darker, more personal side, this time through the thrashy Dyers Eve. Just like the violent burst of an emotional breakdown, Hetfield assaults his parents for not doing the best job raising him.
"Dear mother, dear father
You've clipped my wings before I learned to fly
I've outgrown that fuckin' lullaby
Same thing I've always heard from you
Do as I say not as I do"
Hetfield's powerful lyrics are full of light metaphors and direct attacks at different things, and they remain great throughout the entire album. It's amazing how some of these topics remain relevant to this very day, making Justice quite a relevant record, even almost 20 years after its release.
And the music, well, is excellent. As stated above, this is Metallica at its rawest, most aggressive, most technical. The bass is barely audible, the guitars are thick and the drums make a clicking sound, and all this can and will turn some off, but here's a person who thinks the dry production serves the album well. The pure raw anger is complimented by the raw production, and overall the sound of the album isn't half as bad as some make it out to be.
Justice contains Metallica's most sophisticated, heaviest riffs yet. A lot of changing tempos, a lot of weird rhythms, a lot of palm-muted guitars and a lot of excellent solos courtesy of one Kirk Hammett, specifically One, Blackened and Dyers Eve. What's interesting about Justice is how most of its solos are actually divided in two, with a small break in between. A pure example of that is opener Blackened. The solo comes in after an impressive guitar harmony and at first, it's pretty measured. The riff in the background isn't the thrashy riff that's so characteristic of the song but a very heavy one, and the solo builds on it very well, only getting faster and faster until finally making a screeching halt, giving way to Hetfield's powerful rhythm guitar to show its face one more time before Hammett finally goes berserk and bombards us with perfectly placed, lightning-fast notes backed by fast riffing and drumming, eventually throwing the song's trademark riff right back at your face for the final blow. Justice is filled to the top with moments like this of songs building up, just like a hammer being swung backwards before it's flung forward to crush the rock below it. The drumming in Justice is also very good and definitely showcases Lars Ulrich's best, most inspired work, specifically on the title song.
This isn't to say the music on Justice is perfect. The technical nature of the album and the long songs might drag on a bit at times, and the album seems to be losing momentum on "The Shortest Straw" and "The Frayed Ends of Sanity". Do not get me wrong, these are two excellent songs, but sometimes they feel a bit overlong when you give the album a full listen. This is all forgiven by the song bridging them, "Harvester of Sorrow", which is quite possibly the band's heaviest song right next to "The Thing That Should Not Be".
Justice also includes an instrumental piece called "To Live is to Die". This instrumental, unlike the mysterious "Orion", is very sad and desperate, though it does have a very similar structure. Heavy guitars, a solo, a soft bridge and finally back to the heavy for one more moment of power and a fade-out ending. Worthy of special mention is the melodic section in the middle of the song. This depressing riff is divine on its own, but when it gets the company of James and Kirk's guitars it becomes the most powerful moment on the album. The ending of the instrumental, based around a poem written by the late Cliff Burton, only gives the piece more power and keeps making me feel bad that it actually ends.
"When a man lies
He murders some part of the world
These are the pale deaths
Which men miscall their lives
All this I cannot bear to witness any longer
Cannot the kingdom of salvation take me home?"
...And Justice for All is a difficult album. It's not easy to listen to, it's not easy to digest and it's definitely not easy for people used to lighter stuff. Its production is controversial, its lyrical themes aren't very optimistic and the entire sound of the album is just very dark and angry. However, as dark and heavy as it is, Justice is still a very melodic, musically fascinating album that not only can be considered the band's creative peak, but one of the greatest heavy metal records of all time. Metallica was great before ...And Justice for All and they were just as great after it, but if you ask me, it'd be hard for them to top this masterpiece.
One thing that most metal fans are sick of is the tired, clichéd criticisms thrown at heavy metal. “It’s just so Juvenile and Stupid”, “Just a load of bloody noise” and what have you. These days, it’s a claim that’s somewhat easily refuted, with some of the more mainstream bands like Mastodon, Meshuggah and even Tool taking a somewhat ‘intellectual’ and literate approach to metal. However, back in 1988 there wasn’t really any of this. Sure, there were plenty of bands making intelligent, interesting metal, but none of them were visible to the public. Instead, the public’s perception of metal was informed by bands like Motley Crue, Poison and the like, which were, well, “Juvenile and Stupid”.
Luckily, Metallica stepped in and begun to change things. Unlike the Hair Metallers of the time, Metallica didn’t wear heaps of hair spray and make up- they looked like they had came straight from the street. And of course, you’ve got the much more intelligent approach to lyric writing. Compare Motley Crue’s lyrics, from their tune ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’:
“Friday night and I need a fight
My motorcycle and a switchblade knife
Handful of grease in my hair feels right
But what I need to make me tight are
Girls, Girls, Girls, Long legs and burgundy lips
Girls, Dancin' down on Sunset Strip
Girls, Red lips, fingertips.”
Then compare Metallica’s lyrics on the title track of this album:
“Lady Justice Has Been Raped
Rolls of Red Tape Seal Your Lips
Now You're Done in
Their Money Tips Her Scales Again
Make Your Deal
Just What Is Truth? I Cannot Tell
The Ultimate in Vanity
Exploiting Their Supremacy
I Can't Believe the Things You Say
I Can't Believe
I Can't Believe the Price We Pay
Nothing Can Save Us”.
It’s pretty obvious how big the difference is here. Metallica’s lyrics aren’t going to beat a Shakespeare sonnet for lyrical genius, but they aren’t terrible, and compared to Motley Cure and the like, they are pretty damn good lyrics. Of course, it would be fair enough to say that Metallica weren’t quite as popular as Motley Crue. They definitely didn’t get as much airplay. Nonetheless, this album went to number 6 on the charts, which defines a mainstream album fairly well. A metal album, released in 1988, that sold lots and yet was still quite intelligent? That’s pretty unique!
Of course, just because an album is unique doesn’t necessarily mean it is any good. Fortunately, this album is one of the best thrash albums going. While I’m not going to say “Every riff is really fierce and brutal”, [i]almost[/i] every riff is brutal. Let’s forget the somewhat uninspired drivel that’s The Shortest Straw. The riffs in Blackened are freaking huge, and the pounding and ferocity of that song is really emphasized by the crushing, nihilistic breakdown in the middle of the song. It’s definitely a reminder to everyone that sometimes slowing down the tempo can make things really heavy. Eye of The Beholder is somewhat simpler, but no less heavy, with James doing some particularly effective growls throughout this song. Meanwhile, Dyer’s Eve is a surprisingly violent thrasher, full of super fast riffs and some surprisingly awkward rhythms. One takes a while to get anywhere, but when the machine gun drums and guitars come in, it’s pretty enjoyable to say the least. The instrumentation in this album is really tight. Lars may get a lot of hate, but his drum patterns in this album are really solid. Kirk’s soloing is at its prime- there’s not a lot of wah pedal here, there’s plenty of shredding, but it’s still all pretty memorable. James is in good form too- his vocals were probably the most aggressive they would ever get, but they’re still somewhat tuneful, and his guitar work is as solid as ever. Of course, I haven’t mentioned the bass, and we’ll get to that later.
There are also a few moments where Metallica stretch themselves, and do things they hadn’t really done before. To Live is To Die doesn’t have the most exciting riffs being mostly a slow, Sabbath like plod, but the clean break in the middle is surprisingly vulnerable, dare I say... beautiful? Hetfield’s solo right after this features some of the most heartfelt guitar work in any Metallica album. Frayed Ends of Sanity has a long, extended guitar break in the middle, and it works really well. It’s a surprisingly simple formula- get a riff, and play it in heaps of different keys- but it works so damn well. Harvester of Sorrow also features an extended instrumental break that’s particularly impressive. These bits aren’t that technical, but they aren’t exactly super easy to play either, and they do feature a lot of pretty impressive interplay between the instruments. Indeed, all of the instruments (except for the bass, which I’ll get to later) really shine on this album.
Of course, there’s a few moments where Metallica get a bit too caught up in their progressive dickery. While I enjoy the title track, it’s way to freaking long, and cutting two minutes of it would be pretty sweet. As I said, a cool track, but could you imagine hearing this live? It would be so freaking boring. One is a pretty enjoyable power ballad, but like the title track it could really use some cutting. The clean riffs at the start really aren’t that good, and the ending goes on for too long. Shortest Straw suffers from similar problems- generally, too many riffs that go on for too long. I’m not actually sure why they put this song in here, as listening to the album shows that it’s easily the weakest track on the album. If you’ve got 63 minutes of material, why not just drop one track? Oh well.
The other problem with this album is the production. Yeah, most people will have heard of how crap the production is etc etc. But when you’ve got material that’s as good as this, it really is annoying. Admittedly, I quite like the guitar tone. It’s razor sharp and fits quite well for the songs. But the lack of bass (and really, there is a complete freaking lack of bass) makes the whole album sound quite thin. It’s not that noticeable when these guys are going at a fast tempo, but whenever they slow it down (eg, Harvester of Sorrow, To Live is to Die, the breakdown in Blackened) the lack of bass makes the whole thing sound quite weak. Still, compared to 99% of metal albums, it’s got good production, so while someone who’s new to metal may have an issue with the way it’s recorded, most metal fans shouldn’t have too much of a problem with it.
Still, despite the flaws in the production, this is a great album, and a historically important one at that. It showed the world what metal could do, and just how damn epic and important it can be. Of course, that may not mean anything to you, and that’s cool, because at the very least, this is a really entertaining thrash album.
This for me was the last gasp of the "true" Metallica, the one that actually played thrash metal at one point. I remember buying this and liking it a lot at the time even though the production has a horrible tin can sound, as in it sounds as though it was recorded in a tin can. And it doesn't hold up well at all in that respect, honestly. The music, however, well...it still is pretty damn good most of the time.
Forget the utter lack of bottom end and tinniness for the time being, as those are obvious enough traits the moment the album starts proper. Let us also not harp on the fact that Kirk Hammett is still the weakest link with his thin, squeaky guitar tone and overly spastic vibrato technique. The riffs are still there and still strong on Hetfield's part.
Lars actually does a pretty decent job on here drumming-wise, I disagree with some reviewers, despite the dry and weak drum sound making him sound awful. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that Lars puts in his best performance on this album. Let us also forget how badly they fucked over Jason Newsted in the mix by taking the bass out altogether. It's a shame they removed him because he is a good player--if Flotsam & Jetsam was any indicator, mind you. The songs are good and solid in the long run; I still remember riffs from "Blackened" and "Eye of the Beholder", and even though I hate "One" now because it was so overplayed by (E)M(P)TV, I still think the machinegun bursts of riffing and drumming at the end are great!
"Blackened", "Eye of the Beholder", "To Live Is To Die", "Dyer's Eve" (with Lars' hellacious drumming), the title track, all still resonate with me these days. Musically, this was indeed their most ambitious effort and I appreciated them taking this risk and departing from their roots just enough to make something new out of them. I found it fresh and exciting and still enjoy the hell out of this album. It's better than the damn "Black Album", that's for sure.
It's more progressive in that it has longer and more challenging songs on their part, different time changes and signatures, and still maintains their signature heaviness that they once had. It is a powerful balance of all the old elements of their sound mixed with newer aspects that work and work well. Now if only they'd gotten a proper production job to make this excellent music sound worthy of greater acclaim!
This still will "bang the head that doesn't bang" but in a different manner. A more mature and ambitious manner, and it is still heavy as hell. Shortcomings aside, of course, it still works for what it is, which is a good and exciting album.
After 1986's critically acclaimed Master of Puppets, it was quite obvious that it would be incredibly tough for Metallica to release a record which could top the album which many perceive to be the band's maximum opus. This would be a difficult task for most bands to accomplish. However, most bands do not lose dear friends and band mates in tour bus accidents. The death of bassist Cliff Burton was definitely a blow to Metallica, and likely affected the writing process of their next album. But they survived the ordeal and in 1988, looked to release …And Justice for All. Predictably, the album had nothing on their previous works. Though by no means a terrible offering, Metallica's fourth album is quite unlike both Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets, as it is a difficult album to both get into and enjoy.
Like its predecessors, …And Justice for All is rooted in the thrash metal genre. The opening track, Blackened definitely shows listeners this. Yet something is definitely different this time. The riffy elements of songs like Ride the Lightning or Master of Puppets were one of the reasons I enjoyed each respective song and album so much. Metallica definitely has not forsaken the almighty guitar riff, but if I told you that the riffs and solos off this album were a treat to listen to, I'd be lying to you. In the past, the metallic sound that Metallica had once incorporated into their music has disappeared, for the most part. Often times the riffing sounds tasteless and dull. Something I'm not accustomed to when listening to early Metallica. Hetfield's rhythm work sounds weak, muffled and isn't exactly the most pleasing thing to listen to, especially when Lars Ulrich's drumming seemingly overpower them. In laymen's terms, the production is atrocious, and negatively affects the album in a rather large way. On the positive side, the solos of lead guitarist Kirk Hammet are not affected as much as the riffs, but a significant point makes this moot. Kirk Hammet is obviously not soloing for the entire record. What does this mean? The listless riff work is far more prominent, partly due to the extremely long track times. Because of the uninteresting song structure and the monotone rhythm guitar tones, I sometimes find myself completely ignoring Hammet's soloing. I guess soloing over white noise seems to be rendered ineffective. Musically, …And Justice for All is a very disappointing album.
But the negativity does not stop there, unfortunately. For …And Justice for All contains another irritating aspect, and again, this revolves around a rather important part of the album. This is the extremely long length of the album. Long run times aren't always a problem for me. But they are in this case, as Metallica only records two songs that are shorter than 6 minutes. So, how is this a problem, you ask? As a result of James' lacklustre riffs, the album plods along at a snail pace. Songs like the title track and To Live is to Die are both nearly 10 minutes in length and both tracks are adequate examples of what went wrong with Metallica in 1988. Nearly every song drags on for much longer than they should, and are rather boring to listen to. Due to the insipidly slow mood and atmosphere that many of the songs create, …And Justice for All feels a lot (lots of stress here) longer than it really is. I don't like that in my music. This was a major turn off for me, as Metallica's fourth album is very difficult to listen to, to begin with, and the incredibly long lengths of the tracks don’t help at all.
Though definitely not on the level of Master of Puppets, …And Justice for All was still a successful album and helped cement Metallica's legacy. Saying that, I can't see why the album gets so much praise at all. The band's fourth full length offering is a very dull album which often fails to maintain any interest what so ever. Quite difficult to listen to, it offers little in the field of enjoyment, and does not capitalize on the momentum that might have been gained from classic tracks like Blackened and One. …And Justice for All is definitely the weakest Metallica album of the 80's and is definitely not worth the $20 it costs. Avoid this whenever possible.
(Originally written for Sputnikmusic)
When listening to “…And Justice for All” the thing that always bounces around my mind is ‘what where they trying to do?’. Were they trying to make some sort of magnum opus? Were they trying to make Master of Puppets part two?
With the loss of Cliff Burton it is easy to imagine the band taking a few steps backwards. They do not move back musically, however unlike previous albums they make no leap forward from the previous album. Another thing that must be noted is the well has run dry of Dave Mustaine riffs to mold and modify songs around. This effects the sound immensely, there is the introduction of doom metal influence and the songs have become more progressive (only two songs are below six minutes), and most of all is the tinny sound of the guitars.
Which leads us into the production of the album, it’s awful. Unlike most people I have very few complaints with the bass, it could be farther up in the mix, but even Jason Newsted has said that he basically took James and Kirks guitar riffs and made bass riffs that would fit (behind) the music nicely. Though the bass is still there, it just happens to be deeper and darker, and somewhat more guttural, than anything Cliff ever made. Cliff had a style which intersected and cut through the music, much of the complaints could just be the awkward transition for fans and the band from Cliff (and his style) to Jason (and his respective style).
The guitars on the album sound bad compared to other albums, both by Metallica and other thrash bands. They have a tinny quality to them. They have a tendency to ring and sound too shrill. I do not understand how this happened, whether it was by choice or by horrid mixing. However their effort is not totally futile, they up the ante on the technicality (with shreds of neo-classical style worked in, no pun intended) to the guitar work, mainly in the solos, but it is also evident in the rhythm guitar.
As I said earlier about the production is that the bass was not my biggest complaint, however it is the drums. The drums on “…And Justice for All” aren’t really good but what makes them worse is that they seem to be the focal point of the music. On Metallica’s earlier albums the drums pounded with thundering force, on “…And Justice for All” they click and clack. Also the symbols rattle and crackle, and just don’t have the body that it really could.
And finally it comes to the vocals. There seems to be a hesitancy to admit that James Hetfield in his heyday was a great singer, and on “…And Justice for All” there is points which really help his case and on others it doesn’t. On as “One” he provides a very beautiful vocal performance, and his best on this album. One thing that will be instantly noticeable when listening is that there he sounds angry,
frustrated and pissed off throughout the whole album.
A few of the more notable songs from the album are the title track “…And Justice for All”, the hit “One”, the epic “Harvester of Sorrows” and the Cliff Burton tribute in “To Live is To Die”. I believe that while those are standout songs, the album hits its most epic, doomy, and powerful force when listened to in full. The album develops a tidal wave like intensity that you feel hit you in full force when you try to digest it in full. The album has a truly dynamic edge despite many of its failings. Also, the lyrics are darker and angrier than anything on previous (or even future) albums Metallica made.
Overall, “…And Justice for All”, is a quite impressive album which EVERY metal fan should try, at least. There is musicianship that impresses even the most arrogant classical snob, and still can be comprehensible to even the most basic thrash fan. Despite its faults and failings “…And Justice for All” has integrity and authoritativeness that were lost in later albums, which helps this stand out even more. All this said I cannot assure everyone will like it, but there is no denying its greatness. It can also be looked at the last great Metallica album.
Gripes about the production of the album aside, for me this is neither Metallica's best nor is it their worst. They make a good overall stab at being progressive but really once I listened more and more to this I found limitations and started to feel it wasn't as good as they'd hoped. They do have a formula that repeats itself for pretty much each song and also takes the album into murky territory during the middle. It opens excellently with "Blackened", escaping the trap of most of the rest of the album, no problems with songwriting or arrangement here, it spreads itself out well and shatters the senses like a good Metallica opener should. Then we get "...And Justice For All" which pretty much starts to display the main problems I find in the album. An excellent opening two mintues before we meet the verses, and then things slowly shift down a notch. The songs here are basically made up of a long verse/pre chorus/chorus passage, repeated at least three times held together by a lead break section in the middle. The only trouble with this is the long verses start to tire themselves out slowly each time they return. Twice before the mid section and once after, not just a chorus but the whole passage is played out again after the solos. The songs could really have been balanced out more and they wouldn't feel so monotonous. Sometimes it does work for the songs in the case of the title track, the thundering heaviness keeping it interesting. and the mid section is greatly refreshing once you reach it. Those parts really do save the songs in a way, you really feel better once the endless verses and choruses give way to something different. "Eye Of The Beholder" is the same, the quality of the parts that make up the song make the songwriting problems easier to forgive, excellent solos too. "One" is the token ballad with the same kind of structure from the previous albums, this one also gets played a lot more than the rest of the album for me as it's also a live favourite and a video too. It doesn't tire easily I have to say, it's stronger than most of the rest on here.
"The Shortest Straw" suffers heavily from a repetitive chorus, which starts the album's decline here, the riffs are good but the song needed to be put together better. The mid section again breathes life into it and gets your attention, but the ending verses kind of kill it off again. Another live favourite "Harvester Of Sorrow" is a good one... again kind of spoiled in that they could have reduced the number of times we hear the verse and chorus, it's still good. "The Frayed Ends Of Sanity" finishes this trilogy that just suffer the most from the album's problems, maybe it's to do with my mood, but since I was so into the first part of the album, I'll put this in with the other two.
Things just radically pick themselves up with "To Live Is To Die", I really like the way they made this one, it's just as long as the title track but there's much more to it. Love it or hate it, it's still a worthy tribute to Cliff, with a nice spoken part of his lyrics. "Dyer's Eve" starts off great, a good fast number to round off the album in true Metallica tradition... if only it weren't for the number of times the "Dear Mother, Dear Father..." verse is repeated, they must repeat that more than any other passage in the album! It's not as good as the other album closers, but it has good energy and riffs that ultimately get spoiled. I would love to give this album more , The Black Album probably has better songwriting than this but everything else is done better here, though it really did take away something from this album that it needed. It is definitely worth owning though.
Metallica returns, minus seminal bassist Cliff Burton, to shake the metal world once more. They've added Jason Newsted, though you wouldn't know if from listening to the album and they've gone as far as they could technically. This is the cold new frontier of thrash, Metallica creating or defining (depends who you ask) the new niche to be called Progressive Thrash.
The songs are longer, the music tougher, the lyrics more poetic, and the band uncompromising. Although I disagree, it's easy to see why people felt so betrayed by Metallica's musical shift in the 90's. This album is a mechanical paradigm shift after two similar (but equally important) mid 80's efforts. It still loosely follows the same structure, but these songs are so advanced from the familiar speed of the classic thrash era that one is almost disoriented by it.
"Blackened" is structurally like "Battery" from an album back, but the cold production makes it feel totally new, and that vocal melody is unforgettable. A nice moshpit worthy breakdown, and a brilliant Hammett solo. The riff recalls Slayer circa Hell Awaits, the same aggression, the same choppy chops executed throughout, simply cold steel played with an unpredictable and slightly mechanical edge.
And then we come to my absolute favourite Metallica song, the apex of their progressive thrash album. It's nearly ten minutes of sheer brilliance, trumping "Master of Puppets" in the tempo changes department and trumping everything save maybe "Fight Fire", "Dyers Eve", and "Disposable Heroes" in pure metal intensity. From the acoustic opening that rises dramatically to shattering crescendo before plunging down to a lone bass drum solo, to the buzz-sawing riff that precedes the chorus to the...this could take a while. Anyway, it features some of James's most politically conscious and highly effective tirades, this time aiming at the justice (duh) system. Kirk breaks out his best "Breaking the Law"-alike solo, a simple but effective reprisal of the main riff that sticks in your mind. And then we start to wind down, fading into the black...but WAIT! That unstoppable drum drags back that headbanging riff and we're back into it for one last go. I am a sucker for drama, and the way this song jerks you around and draws you in is like no other band. Perfect, grand, Metallica.
"Eye of the Beholder" is one of the more simple songs on the album, and thus it became a single. Oddly reminds me of "Leper Messiah", probably because it's a very similar tirade. Some call this number tossed off, but I beg to differ. It's one of the underrated Metalli-classics, the "Disposable Heroes" of this record.
Ah. And now we come to the most controversial song on the album. Some call it the best thing Metallica wrote. The others call it derivative and unworthy of the legacy of "Fade" and "Welcome Home". They are wrong. The acoustic solos at the outset are nearly (although they are a little too noodly) a match for "Fade", and the lyrics are even better. How disturbing is that idea anyway? Unable to move, simply drawing in breath after breath in anguish, completely lacking the ability to speak and even the option of death taken awayï¿½ Imagine it, or better yet just listen to the song. James conveys it pretty damn well. Then we get the machine gun riff, the quintessential thrash riff. James barks out a pair of "black as night" choruses before making an impassioned scream for help along the lines of the "Master" fade out. This is chilling stuff, a harrowing tale of anguish handled with a maturity and skill that puts a whole genre called black metal to shame.
And how does one follow "One"? If you're most bands, with filler. If you're Metallica, you release a devastating napalm thrasher that would give most good players fits. James writes a real tongue-twister lyric, then proceeds to bark it out over a tricky riff with some nice melodic bits. It almost feels too loaded up, and the absence of bass it palpable, but all is forgiven when James becomes perhaps the first musician to ever use the word "nadir" in a song.
"Harvester of Sorrow" is probably the best live song in the bands repetoire, right up there with "Creeping Death". It's a dead simple core, with some solid proggy window dressing and a stomping drum beat that really makes one want to rock their way into a neckbrace. Some of James's best lyrics (I keep saying that don't I?) here. "Look deep into my eyes/You'll see where murder lies". How fucking metal is that?
Well, this is the weakest track on the album, but that still makes it better than 90% of the stuff out there. I love the rumbly intro, and the solo is nice. The opening is a little bland, but the middle sections are nice head-bangers. "Frayed Ends of Sanity" is fatally uneven, almost like "Hanger 18" (not as good though) in that it's a very bland, mid-level thrash song that masks a god-like breakdown, one of Metallica's most technically demanding (and therefore rarely played) musical sections. It contains a lot of unconventional stuff, from the total Megadeth-y twin lead to the jolting staccato chunk metal that just builds up and up and lifts off.
Ah, the grandiose instrumental piece. It doesn't disappoint. "To Live is to Die" is sort of the logical apex of the prog-thrash experiment, with numerous tempo changes, interesting approaches, and even a very arty little Burton quote read oh so metally by James. Some soothing bits, some skull-crushing bits, another great Metallica instrumental, and also the longest track committed to record. Be sure the complexity and length of this one rubbed off on the next wave of proggers and thrashers. It features such alien beauty, Metallica playing sombre riffs with an aching sense of sorrow not found anywhere else save for perhaps "Fade to Black". It's also oddly Floydian, except amped up x10000 and without the dressy production.
And now we finish with the biggest piece of shrieking aggression Metallica ever wrote. This thing could kick a nice hole in a Slayer record or three, and the drumming is so crazy Lars can't even do it live... not that that really says all that much mind you. James breaks out the cussing once more for dramatic effect, and lyrically it's the most simplistic lyrics present. Doesn't detract from its awe-inspiring headbanging might.
Incredible, unparalleled stuff, and although you might hear different, the streak would continue onto the next record.
Stand-Out Tracks: "...And Justice For All", "Harvester of Sorrow", "One"
A big 'meh' is what I give this album. Metallica's fourth full-length album, and the last in the line of their legendary albums- the time when they were not sellouts (although they did a music video for One despite claiming a few years earlier that they'd never make one). And this is no MTV bullshit, this is extremely metal, it's just also extremely boring for the most part.
The average song length on "...And Justice For All" I'd guess is around 7 minutes, and with only two out of nine songs below six minutes length, this album just feels overlong and nearly all the songs seem unnecessarily extended. The thing is, having long songs is in itself not a bad idea, but what we have here is mostly 5 or 6 minute songs extended with forgettable middle sections and dumb repetition of both vocal lines and overtechnical riffs. "The Frayed Ends of Sanity", the title track and "The Shortest Straw" among others all fall into the category, and so does of course the instrumental "To Live Is To Die", which is even more boring than "The Call of Ktulu". Way more boring.
There are still a few good songs that keep it from being a complete waste. The opening track "Blackened" features some nice semi-melodic and occasionally strangely timed speed/thrash metal riffwork and catchy vocals, and doesn't really get overlong despite reaching a length of 6:40. Easily the highlight of the album. "One" of course ain't bad either, but it's bloody overrated. The mellow first couple of minutes are pretty damn lame. The "hold my breath as I wish for death" part sounds promising, but they never do anything with it. When this dreary crap ends and the song gets going we get some kickass material however- the double bass driven thrashy bridge is very cool.
And then there is one more really good song on here, and that is the closer "Dyer's Eve". Some of the riffs make it sound like a follow-up to "Damage, Inc", but the intensity and quality is nowhere near that classic. This still has some nice thrashing moments, the main riff especially is very fun. The kinda melodic bridge - "Innocence torn from me without your shelter" - is very solid too.
But the other songs just fall into the category 'mediocre'. Most songs have their fun moments - the title track is kinda catchy all over, but way too fucking long. "Eye of the Beholder" has very memorable verses, but boring music all through. Also, "The Frayed Ends Of Sanity" has some really fun backing vocals and riffs during the opening. But after a while, all of this stuff gets really boring.
Another reason for why the album is such a disappointment after the three classics "Kill 'Em All", "Ride The Lightning" and "Master of Puppets", is of course the production. Barely any audible bass at all if you don't listen very, very closely, and the drum sound is thin and worthless. Better than that of "St. Anger", but still worthless. And on the drumming, Lars continues to suck, on this release managing to be schizophrenic and repetitive at the same time.
Eventually, this album does little to nothing for me aside for a few good moments here and there. Metallica should've disbanded when Cliff died, cause after his departure their music sucked.
We've all heard the story thousands of times. Cliff died in a tragic accident, and supposedly, Metallica's heart went with him.
However, I don't necessarily think that's the case. Metallica still showed some great potential with this 1988 release, in my opinion. They could have easily pursued this direction with their music into the 90's, but as we all know, the atrocious Black Album forced an uneasy sense of "what the hell happened"? onto Metallica fans everywhere. What happened between the release of this album and the period prior to their infamous 1991 release will surely be a topic of discussion for years to come...
Anyway, onto the subject at hand. "...And Justice for All" succeeded in pushing the progressive elements of Metallica's sound to the forefront, while still maintaining their thrashier sound from the first three albums. This isn't your father's Metallica, however. Gone are the cliched metal lyrics of "Kill em All", and in their stead are contemplative pieces that succeed in revealing aspects of the band that were previously unknown to their audience. "Justice is lost, justice is raped, justice is done"? Well, what do we have here? Political commentary, or something more? I have no idea.
But what I do know, is that Metallica's playing sounds tighter than ever, albeit not as invigorating as "Ride the Lightning" or "Master of Puppets". Especially since Jason Newsted's bass is barely audible throughout the entire ordeal. What the hell? I pay very close attention to certain aspects of music, and bass is definitely one of them. This probably pissed me off more than the incredibly useless addition of the third track on the album "Eye of the Beholder". Filler I tell you!! Don't fret, however, since the infamous hit song "One" follows soon after. "One" is the type of song that takes time to build up, and then completely blows the listener away at the end. Not too shabby.
As for the rest of the album, "Harvester of Sorrow", the Cliff tribute "To Live is to Die", and the relentless "Dyers Eve" stand out as incredible numbers. All in all, this album is well worth your time and effort, especially if you're willing to work your way back through the band's discography. Metal fans are decidedly split when it comes to liking this album, but just ignore the hype and take a listen for yourself.
Cliff Burton, the bass genious of Metallica, died in a bus accident in late '86, and some people feel that Metallica died with him. Of course, that's a big pile of bollocks, if you ask me. Jason Newkid proved he was a worthy replacement with "Garage Days Re-Revisited". Unfortunately, though, the bass sound on "...And Justice For All" is virtually non-existent. I don't know how Metallica managed to fuck up the sound like that, but production isn't everything. The fact is, this album is the best album ever! Even despite a somewhat weak production, it stands above anything else released by anyone else.
Even people who think "Master of Puppets" is Metallica's last good album, think that opener 'Blackened' is a masterpiece. It starts with lead-guitars played backwards, before a mighty riff comes into display. Hetfield's vocals are more brutal than ever, and the song is one of their more pissed off ones. The chorus and verses are excellent, and the slower middle section features some excellent riffage with Hetfield screaming advanced English words over it. The solo, preluded by nice twin leads, is one of Metallica's best. It's quite lenghty, as it goes on over three different rhythm sections, and technically advanced as well. Probably the best 'tallica opener there is. It's a close call between this and 'Battery'. The title track, clocking in at 9:46, is actually only the second longest song. It starts with beautiful accoustic guitars, before the tum-tum-tum section starts. This is one of Lars' coolest moments. Again, there are some damn heavy twin leads, executed with brilliant feeling. Hetfield finally begins to sing after some 2 minutes. As with most of the material on "...And Justice For All", the lyrics deal with social issues, like the government, greed, and hypocrisy. Some people may feel the song is too long, but I wouldn't care even if it lasted twice as long, it's that good. The Hammett lead is again great, playing over some very nice Hetfield riffs. There are so many different riffs in each song, it's scary. On it goes, with different tempos, riff changes, small solos, and twin leads, making it a very complex song. The end section is brilliant, where the twin leads again is played, finishing the song with style.
'Eye of the Beholder' is quite an underrated Metallica song. To me, it's perfect. It's mid-tempo, with lots of cool riffs, great lyrics, a nifty solo, and solid drumming. Trivia: most of the songs on this album features multiple-layered guitars, making them just that more hard to figure out when trying to play them on guitar. Besides from that, it really adds to the songs. For example, the accoustic guitar intro for the title track has FOUR guitars in it! No wonder I didn't get it! 'One' is the best song on the album, Metallica's best song, and the best song in the world ever. Not bad. It starts with the familiar war noises, which is quickly followed by a beautiful accoustic intro, not as advanced at the title track's one, but just as good. It's a semi-ballad, Hetfield almost sings, actually. Only almost, though. 3:50 into the song it gets heavier, and soon enough Lars starts with some exquisite double-bass drumming. This section is brilliant, with Hetfield screaming out his horrors. Then the song is suddenly fast. The solo is probably Hammett's best yet. Then there's a fucking superb twin guitar riff, which almost makes me...well, no details needed, eh? One word describes the song perfectly: Orgasmic. Such a cool word, too! The song ends abruptly, when the machine gun-like riffs and awesome drumming stops.
'The Shortest Straw' is a fast song, very aggressive and headbang-inducing. It also features a wicked riff which sound cool. The mid-section features more double-bass drumming and a lead guitar solo which is just fantastic in its wickedry. So comes what I think was the first single from the album, 'Harvester of Sorrow'. This is a very slow song, but still very heavy. Lars' drumming in the intro is just weird, while the main riff is so cool and attitude-filled I want to slowly headbang my wits out. "Drink up/shoot in/let the beatings begin" Classic line number 104 from this album. For the other classic lines, look in the booklet. Now for the weakest track of them all, the excellent 'Frayed Ends of Sanity'. It's not often I use "weak" and "excellent" about a song in the same sentence, but it's true. It's not perfect, but somehow still great. The track is quite fast-flowing, with just small doses of tempo-changes. The Hammett lead is excellent.
The next to last track is 'To Live Is To Die'. The title, and the small poem in the middle of this instrumental, is based on things Cliff Burton said while he was still alive. It begins with an accoustic intro which eventually fades out, giving way to a badass riff and slow rhythm, which has this numbing, sad feel. It's no doubt this song works both as a tribute to Cliff, and as an outlet for the remaining members' grief and sorrow for their loss. There are many different leads throughout, each great in its own way. 4:31 into the song comes the best part. It's this tragically, beautiful twin lead play, which transforms into lo-fi accoustic guitars. It's enough to make you cry. The solo which eventually comes, just adds the the enormous feeling of loss. Then the rhythm guitar kicks in again, with more twin leads. Actually, they are more like triple leads, they sound so complex. 7:32 the main riff starts again, and Hetfield speaks a poem, which goes like this:
"When a man lies
He murders a part of the world
These are the pale deaths
Which men miscall their lives
All this I cannot bear to witness any longer
Cannot the kingdom of salvation take me home"
Whether Cliff wrote that, or Hetfield added to what Cliff had once said, I don't know, but it's powerful stuff. The song goes on for another couple of minutes. Nearer the end the rhythm guitar fades out, and the accoustic guitars which was present at the beginning of the song comes in again. When it suddenly ends, it's right into the last song of the album, 'Dyers Eve'. This is the opposite of 'To Live..', being really thrashy and fast. It's in fact the only Metallica song Metallica are uncapable of playing live! This is because of the double-drumming in the verses, which Lars actually didn't perform all the way through. He just played a few seconds, and pasted it where appropriate. Well, as thrash goes, this is thrash perfected. It's so pissed off, desperate and fast, you just have to love it. A great way to end this very complex album. 9 songs. 65:25 minutes. That's some long songs.
It takes time to fully appreciate this album, God knows I needed time (one and a half years, to be exact), but you will be rewarded. This is my favourite album of all time, and it will probably stay that way the rest of my life. Thanks for reading.