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Everyone views this album as a classic, that's unquestionable. What is, however, is the song order. While both The Thing That Should Not Be and Welcome Home (Sanitarium) are great songs, having them back to back drags the momentum of the album down. This is also true with Ride the Lightning in regards to For Whom the Bell Tolls and Fade to Black which share the same spot in the song order. Both albums are dragged down by this, and Master of Puppets, albeit still a classic, is Ride the Lightning by numbers with the only deviation being the instrumentals.
While Ride the Lightning's track order works, sorta like a roller coaster of thrash metal, Master of Puppets seems to try to fit the same formula to the detriment of the order the tracks want to be. The album still works, but I feel sort of an Italian vibe from the album, though I'm not entirely sure why. Fight Fire with Fire and Battery both start with a clean or acoustic intro, followed by fast 16th note thrashing, followed by the title tracks, which both feature Hetfield's awesome ability to downpick just about anything at a quick tempo. After that comes the slow, but heavy as fuck song, followed by the soft "ballad-y" type song. And that's not to say that Master of Puppets as a whole doesn't work at all, but song order having similar songs in almost the same order kinda makes it seem like more of the same. That said, though, Master of Puppets is a tad more sophisticated, technical, and mature, so it's not a total loss.
All said, James and Kirk are great throughout the record. James really brings the heaviness and Kirk accentuates it greatly with his leads, fills, and overdubs. Rhythmically, the best song is either Battery or Master of Puppets, depending on your personal taste and/or mood during your listen-through of the album. The best Kirk solo is Battery or Damage, Inc. He "says" more with the Damage, Inc. solo, but burns up the fretboard with the Battery solo. Unfortunately, Cliff Burton is almost non-existent. This is a shame as you can tell how great of an asset he was to Metallica as far as writing goes and in the bad mix, because his bass parts in live bootlegs are incredible. In the mix of the album, he plays more of a "thickening" role, as bass isn't too out front. Though not as clear as some other albums like David Ellefson's parts on Megadeth's Countdown to Extinction [not to compare bands, but rather mixes of said albums], he's definitely there unlike Newsted on AJFA, and if you really focus your ears on his parts, you can make them out, so they aren't totally buried, muddy, or non-existent. Lars for the most part does his best playing here. This was his peak and wasn't ever quite as good or focused. Some will argue that his parts on AJFA were better and that maybe so in some songs, but his drum sound isn't quite as good.
In closing, definitely a classic, even if it is flawed in regards to Cliff's space being overpowered and the track order. It's required listening for any metalhead and if you claim to be a metalhead, but don't have this album or have at least listened to it numerous times, you might want to stop posing. Get it.
Master of Puppets
To be fair, Metallica was already disappointing some fans, what with a slow song on Ride the Lightning (get the hell over it), and those of you who pretend you actually heard the Metallica demos with Dave Mustaine and were blown away, then were pissed when Kill ‘em All was released because of the replacement of Dave by Kirk Hammet. Yeah, I’m sure there‘s a possibility that this happened, but to what, like five people maximum? Let’s face it, most of the people who say Metallica was better with Mustaine are just Megadeth fans. Because God knows, if two bands don’t like each other, sides must be taken. Good thing there’s no God.
Anyway, as with just about any given point in Metalllica’s career, this album led a many people to board the Metallica train and a handful switch to the Hate Train at the station. Well, first of all, I tend to dismiss those who say they hated Metallica after Mustaine left (implying they loved the demos and hated Kill ‘em All) as asshats, and secondly, the people who liked Kill ‘em All but not Ride the Lightning aren’t quite so numerous as those who fell off the Metallica bandwagon at any other point. So around the release of Master of Puppets seems to be where the whole “Metallica Sucks Now” thing starts for a lot of people.
This is the album where Metallica really began to become the band we know them as today. James’ voice deepens, we get more of that growly voice, and his screeches are going away. Lars’ drumming, while never incredible, starts to get a little lazier. There’s more wah on Kirk’s guitar and Cliff…is Cliff. A great bassist, maybe a little overrated. I had a friend who once said he was a good bassist who clearly wished he was a guitarist because he plays like a guitarist, and there’s truth to that.
The first criticism a fan of the band's past work may notice is that this album lacks the band really just letting the thrash loose. Battery and Damage Inc. are great thrashers, but they have incredibly pointless, and in the case of Damage Inc., overlong intros. I don’t know why Metallica decided to recycle the “acoustic intro, then thrash” idea that opened Ride the Lightning, but while I always felt that a sort of unassuming atmosphere which to then shock the listener with a thrash onslaught the first time, this is just sort of like telling a joke, then telling the same joke again with a slight alteration. “What’s worse than 100 dead babies in a dumpster? One dead baby in 100 dumpsters. What’s worse than 100 dead babies nailed to a tree? 1 dead baby nailed to 100 trees.” There. That’s how inane this idea was. Additionally, the title track is also ALMOST a good thrash song, but then it hits that slow middle section. Why? To sound progressive? To add emotion? I don’t know. I like this song, but I never got that part. It didn’t really fit the attitude at that moment. The “where’s the dreams that I’ve been after”-part is cool, and then it picks back up and finishes well enough, but the quiet solo...I don’t know, I never got it. It felt like a padding or filler moment and sort of kills the flow of the song for me. Disposable Heroes may be the only true thrash song on the album, and it’s a pretty damn good one, however probably not as good as the opener and closer would be if they dropped their intros.
Most of the album doesn’t really even try to thrash. Leper Messiah is more of a mid-paced song and it’s one of the ones that usually come up when people talk about least favorite tracks on the album, but it’s ok, they’re allowed to be wrong, and it’s a good song. As the song nears a little past the midway point it becomes something of a thrash assault. The Thing That Should Not Be...well, maybe it shouldn’t have been. This is a more doomy song and I believe the band at some point did say it was sort of a tribute to Black Sabbath, and I’m sure that Sabbath was highly displeased, except Ozzy, who was too fucked up to know who he was. Not that this song is offensively bad, it’s just sort of boring sometimes. But if Sabbath knew anything, it was how to keep a song interesting. I will say that the solo to the song is a very cool solo, though.
The song is based on the Cthulhu mythos, much like Call Of Ktulu on the last album, and the solo as well as some of the background guitar noise has a very interesting vibe to it that almost comes off as a soundtrack to slipping into insanity . Some of it reminds me of the noises made in the film Evil Dead when we see the first person camera demons stalking the woods, and the solo almost sounds like maniacal laughter or something in some places. However, the biggest problem is that maybe the whole song does work as a soundtrack to insanity in a negative way as well. Maybe insanity is playing the same riff over and over again and expecting to keep my attention. So I guess this is more of a ‘sometimes-song’ than an outright bad song, but I certainly have to be in the mood for it, and even so I usually go for the orchestrated S&M version.
Keeping in something of a formula that would apply to the previous and next album, the fourth track is Welcome Home (Sanitarium), which is that it’s one of the Metallica ballads, which may be its biggest problem. Its formula is very similar to One and Fade to Black and let’s face it, when you compare it to those other songs, it doesn’t hold up as well as either of them. It’s the weak link of the three. This is not necessarily a bad song, however, and at one point was one of my favorites from the album. Let’s pretend for a second that someone has never heard those songs though and say it starts off slow and melodic and becomes a thrasher near the end.
The main problem for me on the album is Orion. I don’t get it. So many people love this song and I really don’t get it. Why? Because Cliff’s bass is audible and it was one of his last compositions? The part that starts it off, the rocking part, is pretty mediocre. Honestly, I liked it better once it slowed down and got a little progressive, but hell, there are moments of that part that bring Load/Reload to mind for me, so if those are so hated, why is this so praised. Hell, it has moments that make me go “Pink Floyd?” Then it has a sort of quicker part, not really thrash, but just comparatively fast, before sort of farting out unimpressively. There is literally nothing in this song that makes me understand why so many people I know like it.
This albums reputation precedes it and it really has made and impact on the landscape of metal. It was one of my first metal albums (third?) and I still enjoy it, but it just doesn’t live up to the ‘bible of heavy metal’ that some people think it is. It’s not even the bible of Metallica. It’s a decent album that for some reason everyone latched onto. I don’t need to recommend this to anyone. If you’re interested in metal, you should have heard it, if not memorized it, but it stands mostly on ceremony. It’s not bad, but it’s not the greatest ever. It’s kind of overrated as fuck.
On the other hand, it’s still a decent album, and while it may have popularized some of the more annoying ideas of progressive metal, it didn’t kill Metallica. This is three otherwise good songs with pointless sections, two great songs, two mediocre songs, and one failure. That’s not mindblowing, but it’s really not the worst track record.
And also, Reign in Blood came out the same year and you’re all wrong, this is better than that album.
Another original thrash metal album that deserves praise from Metallica, but not as much as it's two predecessors. The atmosphere is much less dark than on their previous release entitled "Ride the Lightning". The music is still intense and quite unique. The riff structures are somewhat technical, especially if you're a guitarist like me and you look at it from that perspective. The songs are pretty basic featuring an acoustic part on "Battery", clean guitar pieces on the title track and "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)". The rest of the album consists of chunky crunch tone guitars that are quite admirable. They are also innovative and intriguing, quite memorable also.
All of the tracks display an array of various different tempos. I would say that they're filled mostly heavy thrash parts accompanied by James Hetfield's yelling that rightfully suits the music. He sings in a clean fashion on "Welcome Home (Sanitarium), but for the most part he's pretty effective in orchestrating outputs which are very dark, just not as dark than on their previous album. I'd conclude that he's still angry dishing out these lyrics that are rightfully hateful and destructive. The song structures are pretty basic, but still fast and tough to keep up with them.
There is an instrumental entitled "Orion" that's quite lengthy and features a pause with just a bass lick about halfway through the song. On this recording, it's a little bit easy to hear Cliff Burton's efforts via bass guitar than on their previous release. It's not as distorted as on their debut album, but it still meshed well with music. His talent is unprecedented and it's tragic about his death in a tour bus accident. If he was still with the band, I think they would have never changed their style of music. The real reason why they changed I think was to appease their fans and sell out. The first 5 Metallica albums are good and the rest are just terrible.
Kirk Hammett's solos are still fast and furious, just not as technical as on their first few releases. However, I do believe that his efforts are very well constructed and blues guitar based like on their first two albums. He uses that wah pedal a lot, which is especially noticeable on "Disposable Heroes" and "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)". As a guitarist, it's tough to emulate his solos because they are quite amazing and very much tremolo picked throughout this album. Just not as technical like I mentioned. Even James Hetfield plays a lead on the title track during the clean tone guitar part.
My personal favorite tracks are "Battery", the title track and "Damage, Inc." All of the songs are good though and the band doesn't compromise. The production is decent with each track well mixed. The drums by Lars Ulrich mesh well with the guitar riffs and his efforts are quite unparalleled. Overall, he doesn't let up on putting in some great work that is in constant unison with the music. Everything in the production/mixing department went well, but you have to really crank up the volume because it's a little bit low which is the only beef that I have with the production.
Metallica put forth a strong follow up album here, though it's less dark, but still considered to be thrash metal. Each song is captivating and noteworthy. The guitars are blended well in both in rhythm and lead segments. The music is catchy and sticks in your head, especially on the chorus parts. Every band member contributed a great deal to the metal community and it deserves praise like it's predecessors. If you don't own it and you're a thrash metal lover, YouTube the songs that I mentioned and hear for yourself what the songs sound like. Own it now!
Metallica's legendary "Master Of Puppets" is without the glimpse of a doubt a record any true metal maniac should sooner or later have in his or her collection. Without questioning the great status of this record, I must though admit that the record has always been a little bit flawed by the fact that it is a weaker copy of the groundbreaking previous "Ride The Lightning" album. Still, the quality of this copy has a standard of the grandest kind but this is the reason why this record is only very good but not excellent to me.
The song structures, the way the track list is composed and even some topics are comparable on both records and each one has some advantages and disadvantages. As both albums are very similar, I think that a direct comparison makes a good sense for this special and exceptional occasion.
Let's start with the positive facts first. The title track "Master Of Puppets" is better than the great thrash metal anthem "Ride The Lightning" because of its more progressive structure, its well developed details and its epic length. Still, both tracks are close to perfection in their unique ways and essential moments of thrash metal. The great and often underrated epic thrash monster with interesting lyrics called "Disposable Heroes" easily beats its direct concurrent from the "Ride Of Lightning" record which is "Trapped Under Ice". A third definite highlight of "Master Of Puppets" is the very diversified and addicting instrumental track "Orion" that never bores for a second and surpasses the very solid but not outstanding "The Call Of Ktulu" from Metallica's second strike.
On the other side, I think that the mad thrashing head bang monster "Battery" lacks of some kind of fond atmosphere which "Fight Fire With Fire" had on the previous record. It's the same thing as one compares the great "The Thing That Should Not Be" with the even greater and more atmospheric doom thrasher "For Whom The Bell Tolls". It's a very tough decision to choose between the hypnotizing and slightly psychedelic "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" and the beautiful half ballad with acoustic parts which was "Fade To Black" but the latter one has the certain plus of magic and experimental courage for that time which the other doesn't have. Another tough decision is the duel between "Leeper Messiah" and the underrated and often criticized "Escape" that sounds maybe too commercial and chorus orientated for some thrash metal hardliners. It's not because of pure opposition that I would go for the latter one but because I think that the song is simply different, more unique and more addicting. Finally, I think that "Damage, Inc.", a solid but not outstanding track overall, is beaten by one of Metallica's classics to me which is "Creeping Death".
In the end, "Ride The Lightning" wins my direct comparison with five to three points after all but it's really a close ride and both albums are exceptional. On the other side, for the first and only time, Metallica didn't try out something new between two albums and stagnated on a very high level after all. That's why I think that "Ride The Lightning" should inherit the status of a cult classic in a fair world and not the slightly overrated "Master Of Puppets". Nevertheless, both albums are milestones I don't want to miss that rotate quite often in my sound system when I need a good dose of some classic but already quite complex, elaborated and maybe even progressive thrash metal. Let's also add that the authentic production and the great vintage cover artworks are the best Metallica have ever done to date and add a little supplementary bonus to the powerful spirit of the music.
Every so often, you hear praises being showered endlessly upon "Master of Puppets". The year was 1986, Metallica's stepping stone to international superstardom was very well received by the critics, who to this very day still regard this album as the greatest hour in the history of Heavy Metal. That is however, just one side of the spectrum, on the other side are metalheads who loathe the very existence of this album and the band responsible for this 'abomination'.
Let me make an attempt to draw the line here and give a fair judgment. This album isn't perfect, nothing from this era is. The best bands from this era never quite reached the level of perfection achieved by bands such as Black Sabbath or Judas Priest. As in the case of most thrash metal albums, there is a heavy emphasis on skill and athleticism being shown and sometimes they tend to overdo it and lose the 'feel' for the music, which the great rock bands from the 60's and 70's had. Metallica and a few other band tried to keep the 'feel' alive rather than focusing on playing excessively fast or overly technical music.
Metallica aren't a bad influence on Heavy Metal but they became a victim of their own fame. A lot of groove metal and metalcore bands adopted the sound of Metallica and Slayer and bastardized it with their lack of ideas and pressure of adhering to simple minded, mainstream music fans.
A common complaint is repetition, Let me tell you this is no more repetitive than any other great album. The quality of the songwriting is such that they successfully manage to strike the right balance between the long choruses and the limited riff-set. Apart from a few lapses on tracks such as "Disposable Heroes" and "The thing that should not be", both of which tend to drag on for just a little too long, The song lengths themselves are fine and have more than enough variety in them to make them memorable. The title track "Master of Puppets" is perhaps the best example of this, the song has a wonderful, lengthy melodic instrumental section which brings everything to a standstill, almost. The melodies themselves are complex and very 'spacey', specially Hetfield's solo work, which are found less often but tends to overshadow Hammett's contributions in terms of quality. Not to mention the main riff of "Master of Puppets" is one of the greatest riffs ever written.
The album's mainstay is Hetfield's intense rhythm guitar playing which forms the foundation on which the band explore all their ideas. "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" is perhaps Metallica's best ballad. Continuing in the footsteps of "Fade to Black", the band explores very depressing themes in the lyrics, this time, a feeling of being powerless and trapped in an asylum and in the end breaking out of it.
Got some death to do
Mirror stares back hard
Kill, it's such a friendly word
Seems the only way
For reaching out again
The lyrics aren't subtle, not pretty but they're effective. The song starts off with a minimal riff followed by some classy intro solos by Kirk Hammett which paints a bleak, sad outlook from the beginning. The vocals get harsher and the riffs become heavier with heavy use of downpicking as the song progresses. Overall, It's not as heavy as "Fade to Black" or "One" with a lot more hard rock influences than being straight forward thrash. Perhaps, It's songs like these which deal with personal struggles that gave rise to grunge and other assorted genres later.
"The thing that should not be" was a new approach to the band. In all it's downtuned fury, the main riff is abused a few too many times for it's own good and the song's novelty starts dying pretty fast. The lyrics do save it though. The Chtulhu mythos make for interesting listening, The chorus itself is undeniably catchy.
"Disposable Heroes" drags on for too long, just a tad too long. The album's second 8 minute epic of this album delivers but falls short of being the principle winner in the lot. The band's first attempt at exploring war-themed topics is a hit-and-miss citing the lyrics, which are often found to be too predictable. The instrumental work itself is quite brilliant, however. Possibly the most complex song off this album. The song maintains a high tempo after it's relatively slow introduction with Hetfield and Hammett both working in tandem, showing off their brilliant chemistry with some very aggressive, fast tempo-ed riffs and lightning fast solos.
"Leper Messiah" is an often overlooked song, It's a good indication of where the band wanted to go in the near future. It's a heavier, slower song with heavy emphasis on chorus and the lyrics. Certainly one of Metallica's most underrated efforts.
"Battery" and "Damage, Inc" are two visceral, face-shredding thashers, The likes of both are considered thrash metal classics. 'Battery' starts off with a simple, Spanish flavored guitar intro but don't be fooled as it breaks into a minimalistic, in-your-face main riff that is hard to resist. "Battery" also has one of the most massive thrash breaks in the history of metal, occurring twice, guaranteed to make a mosh pit go insane. "Damage, Inc" simply exists to smash your face in. The sheer aggression and attitude will flatten anything in it's way like a freight-train. The two songs deliver the perfect one-two knockout punch. One at the beginning and the other at the end.
That leaves one behind, "Orion". Metallica's second instrumental is simply amazing. It's a song for the Metallica fans to remember Cliff Burton by. It takes exceptional songwriters with vision, intelligence, grace and taste to compose something like this. The song is best remembered for it's timeless and beautiful solo work by Burton first and then Hetfield. Metallica had a knack of creating melodies that was far beyond their peers. It's works like these that really set them apart.
Make of it what you will but to this day, more than a decade after hearing this album the first time, "Master of Puppets" still stands tall and towers above most albums. Very few albums can stand the test of time like this album does. People have a very biased opinion on Metallica but let's forget all that. This was before the St. Anger abomination and well before they sued Napster or headlined lollapalooza and toured with Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park. This was Metallica, the young band who were hungry and produced a truly remarkable, timeless album for generations to come.
Call me nostalgic all you want, but I will never forget this album. It was the effort that catapulted Metallica into the public consciousness as the new torch bearers of metal, their crowning glory in their storied career, their massive raised middle finger to the establishment who called them "noise"...their triumph. Ozzy Osbourne knew this and took them out on tour with him to give them the shot they deserved, and they fired a hell of a bazooka shell into the world's ears with this album.
Where "RTL" began with more epic and dynamic song structures, "MOP" takes that new approach and runs with it like a prize quarterback. The thrashing madness is still very much there, as evidenced by bruising opener "Battery", the face-ripping "Disposable Heroes", and closer "Damage, Inc." (one of my favorite song titles), but the more melodic and moody side they showed on "RTL" raises its head in a more refined and honed manner as well. "Orion" is the apex of this approach, with its classical feel and dreamy middle part with solos from James, Kirk, and Cliff--as I stated in my review of "RTL", I strongly feel that Metallica died when he did and have failed to admit it or acknowledge it since then.
"The Thing That Should Not Be" brings the downtuned creepy-crawl with massive damage being caused in its wake--and how can you not like a song about H.P Lovecraft's Elder God Cthulhu? Metallica were so much more than simply a thrash band, they were a metal phenomenon in their prime, and their willingness to do more than thrash away at 100mph made this apparent. "Leper Messiah" is a another slower number, but brings plenty of crunch and aggression to the table to show Metallica had far from gone soft, accompanied by scathing lyrics denouncing televangelists--James had discovered CNN by this time and his lyrics were becoming deeper and more intelligent. Far from Shakespeare, but compared the lyrics on "Kill 'Em All", they were a quantum leap ahead for him.
"Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" was the anthem of practically every "hip" teenager in my high school, but only those of us true fans really understood its sentiments, as headbangers united against a world that mocked us, looked down upon us, and inspired us to snarl in defiance at their degrading us so. It may be the most mellow song on this album, but it still has an angry edge to it long before the tempo picks up and the riffs kick in. Metallica had a way of making songs like this work in that they incorporated that edge into even their softest moments, the building tension that would lead to explosive release, and they made it work in wonderfully brutal fashion.
Flemming Rasmussen's production was even better this time around as well, bringing a much cleaner, more spacious sound to the proceedings. You could still hear Cliff pretty well and the guitars roared with a new clarity, as well as the drums sounding bigger and more damaging. The bass had its own niche in the mix as well, and Cliff's Godzilla low end rumble was reproduced in more detail on this album. Still not quite done justice, but it was there.
In short, this was Metallica's "one shining moment" to quote "Camelot", where they were poised to utterly destroy all in their path and they could've done it. But with Cliff Burton's untimely death, it all fell apart after this, and it's possibly metal's greatest tragedy. I remember a guy saying he was going to build a shrine in his bedroom to metal's greatest unsung bass hero when we received the news in my high school. What might have been..."Master of Puppets" is still the greatest moment in 80s metal, for me and always will be.
If we’re all totally honest, on a purely musical level ‘Master Of Puppets’ is a decidedly unremarkable and unexceptional piece of work.
Many a band before and since have surpassed it on all manner of counts. They’ve surpassed it in the technicality, speed and force of the riffs, and achieved far superior production values and sound quality. They’ve learnt the benefit of being concise and brief rather than long-winded, developed similar lyrical themes in a more mature fashion, and of course, outdone the record for drumming proficiency – which, if we are again frank, is not that much of an accomplishment by any standards.
On such a level, Metallica’s third record has no business being treated as the landmark it is so often celebrated as. So why IS it celebrated as such?
Well, perhaps it is because ‘Master Of Puppets’ offers what so few records in the wide world of music can offer. To wit; absolute transcendence.
In the most concrete terms, Metallica achieved with ‘Master Of Puppets’ an expansion upon the sound showcased on ‘Ride The Lightning’, a sound rather clumsily overstretched with ‘...And Justice For All.’ Each song averages between 5 and 8 minutes, with the band’s patented buzz-saw thrashing takes on a significantly more expansive turn, with a hundred times more thought given to song-writing and its effect rather than relentless speed.
To say that it is a far more emotionally charging record is to undersell it – the work here is anthemic to an astounding degree, and this feat is made all the more impressive by the fact that for all the brazen, soaring and wonderfully handled melodicism, the band’s more violent tendencies are never lost amongst the slew of newer ideas.
The epic song structures meld with gritty thrashing aggression fantastically cohesively, with the band bashing the living hell out of their instruments to capture a sound that is stunningly forthright as well as considered and introspective. The level of musical balance exhibited here between these two aspects is the band’s true triumph – they valiantly negotiate between the pitfall of simply putting their heads down and thrashing out for the hell of it, and the pitfall of flogging their more high-minded ideas to death.
For those who care for albums that simply provide a rocking good time, ‘Master Of Puppets’ hardly disappoints on that front either. The likes of ‘Damage Inc.’ and the infamous title track bulldoze their way through the dry, Flemming Rasmussen-supplied production in a barrage of shredding, maniacal riffs, whilst ‘Leper Messiah’ brings things down a stomping march.
The oft-derided ‘Welcome Home (Sanitarium)’ displays a phenomenal grasp of dynamics by segueing seamlessly from a raw and pensive ‘power ballad’ into a furious thrasher of a track – though it ‘Disposable Heroes’ that amazes the most, being undoubtedly the single most aggressive and downright vicious track Metallica may have ever put their name to, not to mention their most savagely coherent attack upon the supposed expendability of fallen war heroes.
In their own way, Metallica seemed to have unlocked a sublime combination of many of the elements that make heavy metal such an extraordinary and enduring genre, and this lent the music herein an unforgettably potent quality, elevating it above and beyond the status of ‘excellent’ to sheer bloody mind-blowing. Few albums have achieved this classic status – Black Sabbath’s eponymous debut, Dio’s ‘Holy Diver’, Iron Maiden’s ‘Number Of The Beast’, Judas Priest’s ‘Painkiller’ amongst them – and as such, ‘Master Of Puppets’ is in good company.
Listening to this album for the first time, and every single time after that, feels like partaking in some kind of communal occasion of the most emotionally gratifying and uplifting sort. It is a sound where, for once, all the minutiae flaws attached to its creators are pushed entirely out of the consciousness and a special kind of magic takes hold over the listener.
And for that remarkable achievement, ‘Master Of Puppets’ is fully deserving of its iconic status as a TRUE METAL CLASSIC.
"What's this? Oh, it's just another MoP review. Giving it a low score no less. My my, do people still have time to write this? Surely they have better things to do than criticize an album with 21 reviews (at time of starting)!" You might say. I seriously can't blame you if you don't want to read this, I'm sure you can read UltraBoris's review again or maybe Napero's. After all why care about another review? Those two reviews sum the album up pretty nicely don't you think?
Truth is, I'm not even sure why I'm doing this. Maybe it's that last review (NecroFile’s was the last one when I started this,) that got me knickers in a twist. Maybe it's just time for me to say what I have to say about Master of Puppets. Maybe I'm bored and I'm writing this at 10 o'clock just for the hell of it. Point is, I don't really care why I'm writing this and neither should you. All that matters is that I'm giving an honest opinion on this album and it's your prerogative to read it, or not as the case may be.
When people first got into metal, or are trying to get into metal, they will always hear of Metallica. Be it from friends, the media, or family (in some rare cases,) people will most certainly recommend you this band and will most likely recommend this as essential listening or the only album everyone should own from them.
Now let me tell you my story for a moment. I am fairly new to metal; I have only been a fan for about two years as per the date of this review. I used to believe that the mainstream metal media was absolute gospel for the first two months of my tenure as a metalhead and I used to immerse myself in whatever the media recommended me. A key turning point in my life was when I bought an issue of Guitar World. That issue had the "Top 100 Guitar Albums," which was very intriguing to a young guitarist such as myself. While reading that issue, I read about Master of Puppets and ...And Justice For All. I read them very carefully to decide which would be my major gateway to true metaldom (I had, by that point, bought Cowboys from Hell by Pantera but that didn't make me a true fan.) So after poring over the entries again and again, I decided to just go to the record store and listen to the albums to hear which one was better. Once there, I asked the guy to put on ...And Justice For All and I was blown away. I then asked him to put on this album, mere seconds into the album I was turned off by the acoustic intro. I basically said that "This is not what I expected from a band like Metallica! I mean where's the metal?" and got ...And Justice For All.
There you have it, a young metalhead who decided to not listen to all the hype and just tried to listen to those albums objectively. If it was the greatest metal album of all time, surely I would be worshiping it, wouldn't I? If it was the be-all, end-all of thrash (as some misguidedly claim it to be,) would I not buy it? So what made me so repulsed by it, that I had put off buying for about a year? Sure, this album is not horrible in the most absolute sense of the word but neither is it the culmination of about 16 years (counting from Black Sabbath's debut, of course,) of metal progression. This album is, at best, average and at worst is horrible. For one, this album is merely a much worse retread of Ride the Lightning; lacking the riffs and a rather worse production.
I'll try and breakdown this album.
Let's take a look at the most obvious element: the songs. For a thrash album, Master of Puppets has a disturbing lack of thrash. From the eight songs present, I can only consider three of them to be thrash (and if I'm being really picky, only two and a half.) Let me say that again: only three out of eight songs are what I consider to be thrash. That's awful for an album that is often considered to be the greatest thrash album. Those three songs are the opener "Battery," the title track and the closer "Damage Inc." Of those three, two of them are dangerously flawed: the title is overly long and contains a useless melodic interlude; and "Damage Inc." has a pointlessly long intro in what would otherwise be a great song.
Let's start with the good. "Battery" is an effective opener and it's a great thrasher. When I first listened to it I was turned off by the acoustic intro, in retrospect I should have listened longer and then I would buy this album and write a completely different review. Regardless, the acoustic intro ended up as a perfect build to one of the albums best songs. "Battery" has all the elements of a great thrasher. It has the riffs and the solos. The riffs in this song are somewhat catchy, but they still have the thrash bite to them that make them headbangable. In particular, I like the riff after the second solo. That one was pretty much the climax of the entire song; I'm disappointed that Metallica did not make more riffs like that one. The solos are also quite good. Let's face it; Kirk Hammet is not what many people claim him to be. He is not a guitar god or even an adequate replacement for Mustaine. But in this song he actually manages to outdo himself in the soloing department. Sure, he can only solo using the pentatonic scale and related scales and modes but his playing is actually rather good.
"Master of Puppets" has the potential to be a great song, instead Metallica chose to drag it on way too long and add a pointless melodic interlude. The good parts of this song make it tolerable, though, so it's worth a listen. The opening riff is probably the most recognizable riff in metal, for better or worse. It's not bad but I don't see what's so great about it. It doesn't make me bang my head as forcefully as the verse riff of "Fight Fire with Fire" or the riffs of the other two good songs on this album it lacks a certain 'power' to it that Metallica had used previously. After a few times the problem immediately comes to the fore, it's too long. They repeated the opening riff too many times and then followed it with a less than capable verse riff. Why is it less than capable? One, it seems rather forced and Two, is not as fast as the previous riffs. The chorus riff is quite nice but then the song completely loses coherency after the second chorus. Now I don't know what happened in the recording studio or in the writing process, but somehow Metallica decided that it was a good thing to just stop the thrashiness altogether and then play some melodic thing. Melody is not the problem, there are many thrash bands that are melodic like Anthrax or Flotsam and Jetsam. It's the fact that they just stop being thrashy in order to be melodic. Then comes that irritating solo where Hetfield shows his stuff by playing something my neophyte guitarist cousin could play with little effort. After that comes the crowdchant-worthy "MASTER! MASTER!" part. It gets kind of grating after the first few listens, you can't imagine how annoying it is when your friends put this part on repeat (well, maybe you can.) I'm pretty sure I have some sort of facial tic whenever I hear this part. Well, it's not THAT bad but sure as hell tries to be. The riff under it is completely forgettable but the following solo is quite good and then they follow it with another verse and chorus. After that last chorus Metallica again made the song drag on too long by extending the already half-assed riff to something even less effective. Now I have no problem with long thrashers, Heathen, Flotsam and Jetsam, and Dark Angel (specifically TDNH) are all regulars on my playlist. But long thrashers are not long simply on a whim, they must have a logical reason why they are long. “Master of Puppets” does not have enough variety or have compelling enough riffs to make it interesting enough for me. Honestly, the song would be better off without the melodic interlude, the long intro and that outro.
The last good song is incidentally the last song on the album. “Damage Inc.” may just be the best song on this album. The riffs in this one are some of the finest pre …And Justice For All Metallica riffs. Listen to the pre-verse riff; that one is just vicious, it almost makes it worthwhile waiting for that damned intro to finish, almost but not nearly enough. Thankfully the following riff (and the rest of the song,) is just…well pure, unadulterated thrash riffage. The bridge riff is even more thrash than the last, if I were to pick one moment that the album can actually stake a claim at being the best thrash album ever, it would be this riff. However one riff alone does not make for a fantastic thrash album, it requires consistently great riff after riff and as I have outlined before, there are only few great riffs in this album. The solo in this song may just be Kirk’s most inspired, if his solos were this good all the time, then he might just be the guitar god everyone thinks he is. I mean seriously, listen to it again. The technique may not be as flashy as Lee Altus or Mustaine, but this kid’s got heart when he plays this solo and it really is disappointing that he could only shine at two instances in this album. By the end of the song you just feel that something’s lacking. It could have been a so much better song but Metallica refused to let it be amazing. In order to experience the full potential of this song, I urge you to check Dream Theater’s version with Barney of Napalm Death. Go on, I’m still going to be here. You’re back? Good. What you just saw was what “Damage Inc.” should have been. The drums were made better with Portnoy’s double bass, the riffs were given an extra layer of badass and the solo was definitely improved by Petrucci’s mastery of his instrument, not to mention Barney’s vox which are much, much, much better than Hetfield’s monotone delivery. In the end, the version on this album is not bad, great even.
So what does this mean for the bad songs then? They all suffer from being plodding, boring and general lack of focus. The most obvious criticism I can give Metallica is the fact that this album has slow parts for the sake of having slow parts. Metallica does not write the slow and/or melodic parts to be an extension of what has been written before, the slow parts just come. No reason, no explanation, they just suddenly take over the thrash.
Let’s take a look at “The Thing That Should Not Be,” an apparent tribute to bassist Cliff Burton’s Lovecraftian fandom. The listener will notice that this song is slow and it’s not as in ‘slow thrash’ where the music goes along at least at 100 bpm. No, the slow I’m talking about is ‘Sabbath slow.’ Now I don’t know where they get the idea but ‘Sabbath slow’ is not the direction that thrash went, had gone, or should go. I find the whole idea to be appalling and contradict with the very essence of thrash. Thrash, as a genre, will bring to mind such phrases as “fast,” “breakneck pace,” “speed,” etc. When I think of thrash I certainly don’t think of “The Thing That Should Not Be.” The riffs by itself are alright but again, not thrash. No wonder thrash slipped into a coma in the mid-90s, people got the idea that it’s perfectly fine to go along at half-speed and still be called thrash. “Hey, Metallica’s ’86 album was filled with slow songs and that’s called thrash! Why don’t we do the same thing?” I’m sure many proto-groove bands were thinking along these lines. Now let’s go back to the song again. To be quite honest I felt that this song could’ve been better if it only went half as long, a third even. I guess it’s just plodding and Kirk’s little Egyptian solo was barely interesting enough to keep me awake. Also, the lyrics in this song show only a shallow understanding of the Lovecraftian mythos. I don’t usually rag on lyrics too much because most of the time metal lyrics are awful. This one needs pointing out because Burton said that he was a big fan of Lovecraft yet the lyrics look like something that even non-readers of Lovecraft would know. I suppose a whole song filled with themes, creatures and the occult paraphernalia of the mythos wouldn’t go well with the band’s image, but this makes me wonder why they even wrote the song in the first place.
“Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” follows suit and it just gets worse. They try to make this one ballad-y and all that claptrap. Honestly I don’t remember that much about this song, I’m certain that I had a less-than-pleased face when I was listening to it though. The softer parts are half-decent (Judas Priest would later rip it off as “Cathedral Spires,”) but I just think that guitars are underused and drums just meander in the background while Cliffy does nothing. Hetfield’s gruff/croaks are grating at best, he should be anywhere near a ballad let alone write one. The overall impression I get from the riffs, drums, vox and the odd solo there is just blah. Not necessarily the worst thing on the album, but not at all thrash metal. Thumbs down.
“Disposable Heroes” suffers from toofuckinglong-itis, the main riff is alright but Heathen does it way better. The chorus gets special mention fro being annoying as hell. “You will do!/What I say!/ When I tell you to go/ BACK TO THE FRONT!” Why it goes on for 8 (EIGHT!!) excruciating minutes is beyond me. Nothing notable goes on; the solo didn’t do much for me either. NEXT!!
“Leper Messiah” well well, this is semi-passable. Could’ve been a highlight but they had to do the awful and rather plodding intro and outro. The best part of the song is the middle and the okay-ish solo from Kirk. The main riff is rather dull, the vox is okay and drums are sub-standard, business as usual for Metallica.
And now we have come to the most agonizing part of the album. It is the so-called ‘visionary instrumental’ “Orion.” Why Lord? WHY!? This is just about the worst thing they did because it DIRECTLY led to their future aural excrement. St. Anger was nothing compared to this! Sure the song lengths are about the same and “Orion” has slightly better production (very slightly,) but Drop C tuning is a blessing compared to this arrant nonsense. “Why is ‘Orion’ worse?” You ask? For one, it is nothing but a collection of malformed riffs that don’t even fit together very well. Second, the solos don’t fit the context at all, especially Cliff’s little exercise in ego-feeding. Third, there should be no logical reason why this track (I refuse to call this a song,) drags on for so long. No reason at all. Hell it even fades out at the end! The intro is remarkably overlong, they were confused about what ‘epic’ entails and song length is not a criteria. Towards the end it slightly picks up from the mediocrity but Christ on the Cross!
Onwards to the second part of the review, the production. While it is pretty standard thrash production, Cliffy gets seriously neutered here. I rarely hear the bass and I’m listening to this on a CD player with Sennheiser headphones! The drums lack power for the most part, even AJFA with its notoriously clicky bass drums have more power than this! The guitar tone is pretty consistent with Metallica’s past efforts and I enjoyed “No Life ‘Til Leather” and “Ride the Lightning.” The vocals are mixed fairly silently but I suppose it’s just because Metallica didn’t eve bother to re-master this thing after twenty years. I actually think the production is better than certain songs on this album.
The last part of my review is in defense of it. Yes I am willing to defend MoP, not as a fantastic album or even a thrash album, rather for being a metal album. At the end of the day, this album can still be called an average metal album with occasional thrash elements. This just has too much fluff to be thrash, too mellow and too artificially lengthened. If I looked at it as a heavy metal album only then this would have gotten a higher score (60-65%,) but I chose to look at it as a thrash album because that’s what many people claim it to be thus, the low score. Point is, I don’t think that this is the worst album of all time; I still listen to the worthwhile tracks every few months and while the horrible parts are horrible, they are only overwhelmingly so when you look at it as a thrash album.
Well, that’s all I have to say. If you’ll excuse me I’ll go and look for my copy of …And Justice For All and listen to the only album Metallica has worthy of 90 or higher.
For the most part, Master of Puppets is deserving of the critical acclaim it has garnered. Aside from ‘The Thing That Should Not Be”, which implodes upon itself after a couple of minutes, the album has no bad songs and is frequently brilliant. The record is not Metallica’s best record nor is it their best-known, but there is no denying that it is the band’s greatest record and that it is the landmark by which the rest of their discography must be measured.
The lyrics here are the best James Hetfield has ever written. Every song on the album, except for the aforementioned “The Thing That Should Not Be”, deals with man’s struggle for power. Throughout the record Hetfield makes reference to politics, family, society and religion, tapping into his soul and touching on the themes that dominate him. These themes resonate not only within the words of the album, but also in the sounds of the album. Master of Puppets sounds and feels like a struggle in the same way Porcupine Tree’s Lightbulb Sun sounds and feels like a battle with depression or Alice in Chains’ Dirt sounds and feels like a drug-trip.
And how does one discuss Master of Puppets without mentioning Cliff Burton? Burton was, during his all-too-short tenure with the band, Metallica’s heart and soul. He gave the group a singular rawness and honesty that helped shape their early sound, elements that were mostly absent by the time the 1990s rolled in. It goes without saying that without Burton, Metallica would not have been as successful as they were in their hey-day nor would KEA, RTL or MOP been of the same towering quality. His death was a substantial loss and one that, I would argue, the band has yet to fully recover from.
Burton’s most celebrated contribution to Master of Puppets is “Orion”. The eight and a half minute instrumental sports all of the traits that Burton was best-known for, from his classically influenced bass-licks to his otherworldly soloing abilities. The song is, for my money, the best instrumental Metallica ever wrote by a wide margin, dwarfing its closest competitor “The Call of Ktulu” and leaving both “Pulling Teeth” and “To Live Is to Die” in the dust.
I am of the firm belief that Master of Puppets is Metallica’s most heralded album because it excels on every level: It can be appreciated song-by-song, tracks like “Battery”, “Sanitarium” and “Damage, Inc.” shining brightest by themselves, or it can be appreciated as an entire 55 minute experience, the one-two punch of “Disposable Heroes” and “Leper Messiah” benefiting most from a shared stage.
The album’s title track marks Metallica’s creative apex. It finds a way to tread a thin line separating all-out thrash from watershed progressive metal, and does so in a way that the band was unable to replicate even on their progressive thrash masterwork ...And Justice for All. It’s an exercise in songwriting to be appreciated by both the ignorant and the knowledgeable, the thrash metal fan or the fan of music far removed.
Judged by itself or in comparison to other heavy metal albums by other heavy metal bands, Master of Puppets is a colossal achievement. Nearly every song is a killer, the type of composition most bands would give their careers just to write one of. The fact that it has now been around for over 20 years and continues to find new ways to dazzle is astonishing -- almost as astonishing as its overall quality and as its individual performances.
© Kevin Martell (TheOutlawXanadu)
What does one call this album except "legendary"? Released in 1986, Master of Puppets was a underground smash hit, being certified gold within a few months with almost no radio/TV exposure. It is responsible for countless kids getting into thrash, and I don't think there's a metalhead reading this who doesn't own this album (or at least, has heard one or two of the songs from it). From Dream Theater to Trivium to Evile to Machine Head, everyone and their brother today is ripping off Master of Puppets, and you'd better believe there's a reason for that.
The album continues the prog-thrash found in Metallica's previous album (anyone who bashes MOP while praising RTL is retarded. Stylistically there's no damned difference between the two albums, except MOP has longer songs) but with one major improvement, the production is good. Kill and Ride are great albums, but they do sound very muddy and 80sish. Here, Ulrich' snare sounds crystal clear, and Hammett's guitar packs a delicious punch. The scary thing is, even though it came out in 1986 this still the second or third best produced Metallica album, when you consider the twin botches of And Justice for All and St Anger.
Each song on Master of Puppets is an epic. One of my grips with Ride was you had these wacky half-formed songs like "Escape" and "For Whom the Bell Tolls" that didn't fit in with the rest of the album, but there's none of that problem here. From beginning to end, Master of Puppets like 100% of an album. There's nothing you could add or take away without upsetting the balance. From the savage lockstep thrash of "Leper Messiah", to the cruisy basslines of "Orion", everything feels complete.
There are endless catchy riffs (Hetfield cranks them out like an industrial hotdog shooter), and some amazingly complex song structures. Indeed, as you can see on the longer songs, the album was not only an influence on thrash, but on progressive metal, too. Cliff Burton's bass playing is quite groundbreaking. At times he uses his bass like a keyboard or synth to provide instrumental backing (see "Orion" and "Damage Inc") and at other times he cranks the distortion way up and plays actual guitar riffs (again, see "Orion"). He was a truly amazing musician, and it was a great loss to the band when he was tragically killed while touring this album.
There are a few minor nits and nats I will address shortly (most of which plagued the band from the beginning), but by and large Master of Puppets is one of the most satisfying, value-packed albums I've ever heard. There's lengthy, complex epics, fast thrashers that blow anything on Kill and Ride out of the water (just about every song here has a speed metal section, including the ballad!), and the greatest instrumental of the band's career.
The album drops the hammer on you with "Battery", a hybrid power/thrash song that starts off with a clean guitar intro before cutting into a fast 192bpm thrash assault. The song's riffing is minimalistic and perfectly showcases Hammett's "venting" style of playing. A criticism raised by several reviewers is that the intro is out of place. I can see where they are coming from, but can't agree. The song is essentially a power metal song in thrash clothing, and it in no way dilutes the power of the song to have a clean intro. Many thrash bands (Meliah Rage, Metal Church, Dark Angel, and Anthrax, to name a few) have introduced similar ideas to their songs. All in all, "Battery" is classic speed metal and the greatest opening to a Metallica album ever...and yet it is only an appetiser to the Master of Puppet's main course.
Words like "amazing" and "genius" do not even begin to describe track number 2. "Master of Puppets" is a heavy metal classic to rival Sabbath's "Paranoid", and for me the greatest recording of the band's career. There is not one, not two, but THREE classic riffs in the intro alone (as well as some insanely fast rhythm downpicking), before a highly memorable verse/chorus section, and a melodic dual solo between Hammett and Hetfield. Then there is a crunchy riff-driven build-up which segues into second, harder solo by Hammett, and a final verse and chorus. It's amazing how many emotions and themes can be communicated in 8.5 minutes and a dozen riffs...Loneliness, rage, frustration, helplessness. Everything about this song is amazing. If I could re-write it, I would not change a thing.
The rest of the album can't help but fall short of "Master of Puppets", but there's still lots of great stuff here, as well as some more experimental metal that fucks with your preconceptions. The song that usually gets kicked around the most by the album's critics is "The Thing that Should not Be," and if I may I will offer some words in the song's defense. It's a song about atmosphere, not catchy riffs and singalong choruses. And it succeeds damn well, with slow, crushing riffage and a chaotic, Kerry King-style solo that utterly rips you to shreds. Hetfield's vocals are downright evil on this song. It is also one of the few Metallica songs to employ audio samples (notice the eerie screaming in the song's bridge), turning it into something of a mood piece. It's far from being the best song on the album, but I think I can see where the band was going with it.
Track 4 is a ballad, and although I'm not wild about Metallica's ballads, "Sanitarium" is far better than "Fade to Black." For one thing, it is more aggressive and hard. For another, Hetfield sings in a somewhat masculine voice, rather than sounding like he has an estrogen IV stuck in his arm. The second half is sheer genius, with a chug-chug single-note mosh part and a riff that slowly swells and evolves into a crescendo of melody. Take THIS, all you people who say Metallica doesn't know how to develop their riff ideas!
"Disposable Heroes" ratchets the tempo back up and presents an explosive, balls-forward thrash-out session. This song grinds you into the ground with riffs. "Damage Inc" is equally fast, but has a sort of spacey, atmospheric vibe to it, mostly propelled by Hammett's minimalistic riffing and Cliff Burton's basslines. This song is triple-A certified headbanger material, and a worthy closer for the record.
There are, inevitably, a few small points where the album could be improved. Kirk Hammett's solos don't always hit the spot. Half the time it seems like he's throwing in brief noodles because hell, metal songs are supposed to have solos, aren't they? As always, Lars Ulrich is a nonentity. He keeps up a steady beat, but his drumming comes nowhere near to capturing the speed and presence that Hoglan, Bostaph, et al have as a matter of course. And what does he have against double-bass? I can't hear any of it except in "Leper Messiah."
Speaking of "Leper Messiah", this song is something of a weak note. Not because it's bad, but because it's merely a very good song on an album full of amazing ones. The riffs are groovy and slow (although there are some kickass arpeggios in the chorus) and the whole thing sounds repetitive and dry. But hang in there, because the song does improve in the bridge and turns into a nice fast-tempo thrasher. You have to wade through 3-4 minutes of so-so material to get there, though.
It's scary that, in order to build a case that Master of Puppets sucks, you must resort to such insignificant nitpicks. Some of Master of Puppet's songs aren't as good as they could be, but they are all songs, and (although some are better than others) they are all written to the same level of quality. Can any other thrash album make that claim? The majority of Megadeth's Rust in Peace will forever languish under the shadow of "Holy Wars" and "Hangar 18", and the same applies to Slayer's Reign in Blood, where there are only two or three songs that even warrant attention. But each song on Master of Puppets can be discussed and analysed at many levels. Something that doesn't seem to occur to most of this album's critics, is that if you can spend 3000 words lecturing on why something is unimportant, perhaps it isn't unimportant after all.
This album deserves all the praise that has been heaped upon it. It is one of heavy metal's great classics. True perfection will always be unattainable, but Master of Puppets at least has a decent rip at it. If I had to recommend one Metallica album, it would be this. Hail, Master of Puppets...the one and only!
I admit that I am loth to submit another review of Master of Puppets - has everything that needs to be said already been said? - but I think, looking down at what has already been written, most of the opinions have ranged from ridiculous flaming to nostalgic reminiscence - via various comments about 'arse kickery' and whatnot - and my opinion on Metallica's greatest work lies somewhere else entirely. People have said that the riffs here aren't particularly complex, that the structures hardly break new grounds of complexity, and therefore that this is not remarkable, but I entirely disagree. I believe Master of Puppets is a superlative example of exactly how to make a genre of extreme metal intelligent, accessible, catchy, literate and focussed. No, it doesn't contain fifty billion riffs, or go at nine thousand and twenty beats per second; nor does it push the boundaries of extremity in any way. These are not the only criteria that matter, and 'Master of Puppets' proves it.
The playing and production here are perfectly synchronised to produce the maximum possible impact. The whole band - even the much maligned Lars Ulrich - stays tighter than a motherfucking gnat's arse at all times, driving the record with their locked-in thrashing. So focussed are they, that you could swear that the arms of James Hetfield and Kirk Hammet were rigged up to computers. Lars pounds away, making up for what he lacks in technique with the weight he puts behind every single skin attack; he really sounds like he is smacking those drums about, and his fills crash around the listener's ears like meteorites. Cliff Burton's unconventional bass shredding lurks below the surface, twisting beneath the songs like a growling shadow of menace. Hetfield's vocals are laden with fury and force, and he gives a performance light years ahead of all his previous attempts. Everything is beautifully mixed, proffessional and slick as can be; this was a new way of recording extreme metal, a way which showed it didn't have to all be raw and raucous to be effective.
Second, the songwriting is perfect. Each riff is maintained for precisely the right time before moving on; normal cyclical song structuring is enlivened by perfectly placed riff progressions. This is not 'one riff per section' song writing, but is thought-through and purposeful complexity that remains accessible at all times - quite a feat. Every solo that Kirk Hammet busts out on this album is perfectly suited to the song which it is in, and each one is both similar enough to be clearly Kirk and different enough to be able to tell immediately which song it was from within about half a second. That's what you call class. Equally, Metallica reinforce the point that they were more than just thrashing machines, with delicate acoustic guitar interludes showcasing their sublime melodic and harmonic sensibilities - a facet of their collective personality further reinforced by the various guitar-duelling harmonies present within, which can only be described as immense. Everything is just so perfectly placed; there is nothing throwaway or slapdash at all about this album, and you can tell by listening to it.
Next, the fantastic lyrics. Metal started out with thoughtful, atmospheric, unconventional and intelligent lyrics (though you wouldn't think it nowadays), and Metallica with their previous album had begun to introduce carefully crafted metaphors; metaphors that brilliantly used heavy metal cliches to introduce social commentary and philosophising without sounding out of place. Here, this experimentation reaches its apex of creativity, in an album themed entirely around various facets of control, power and its abuses; the surface themes of domination, agression and fantasy perfectly characterise the underlying meaning behind the words - drug abuse, authoritariansim, religion, unchecked corporate greed and more are explored in an unconventional and brillilant way.
If people want to hate this album, then I guess they can; they would be the only ones missing out on a truly enlightening experience. Back when I first got my ears around this, I thought all heavy metal was obsolete and useless, but 'Master of Puppets' showed me that this is not necessarily the case, and that any genre of music - no matter how maligned by idiotic music journalists - can have an artistic relevance which no other can encapsulate. Truly, 'Master of Puppets' was Metallica's masterwork, a piece of ferociously headbanging thrash which also had a brain and something to say to the world. I highly recommend it.
Up until that fateful September day, 1986 would have been a great year to be a member of Metallica. You were one of the biggest up and coming acts in the metal scene. You were spearheading the thrash metal movement in America. You had released two very well received albums, Kill Em All and Ride the Lightning. 1986 would be the year you'd release your 3rd full length album, Master of Puppets. Little did you know, Master of Puppets would become one of metal's most heralded albums of all time. Yeah, to say that they were in a good position would be an understatement. The metal world looked on to see how Metallica would handle their situation, would they pass with flying colours? Or would they crumble underneath all the pressure? Well, in short, the album was an incredible success. One of the most influential records of the genre, Master of Puppets is quite a fun album to listen to.
Master of Puppets is quite similar to Metallica's previous album, Ride the Lightning. The band again makes use of the thrash style it helped pioneer. Needless to say, the band's style is very effective. Despite the addition of melody to their thrashy formula, Metallica does not lose any of the aggression that made their older material so appealing. Songs such as Damage Inc and Battery both feature the heavy riffage that the band had carried with them from the beginning. However, the highlight of the Master of Puppets comes from tracks two and four. Both the song Master of Puppets and Welcome Home (Sanitarium) feature long melodic sections which are undoubtedly the most interesting moments of the album. These melodic interludes help change things up, particularly in the eight and a half minute long epic title track, a song driven by aggressive riffs. In a way it reminds me of Iron Maiden's epic Powerslave. Both songs start and end in a heavy manner, but effective leads and harmonies calm the aggressive moods implied by both tracks. It's quite infectious really, and easily my favourite part of the album.
Yeah so Ride the Lightning is my favourite Metallica album. However, saying that, there is one aspect of Master of Puppets that I prefer over its predecessor. This lies in the vocals of James Hetfield. I thought he did a good job with Ride the Lightning, especially for a thrash vocalist. But his efforts here are oh so much superior to the previous album. One song that displays this improvement is Welcome Home (Sanitarium). James' voice compliments the haunting clean guitar riff very well and invokes the pain of someone serving at an asylum. His singing is very emotional and fits the mood that the song attempts to imply. Along with the likes of Fade to Black, Ride the Lightning, and perhaps One, his efforts on Welcome Home Sanitarium may very well be the best vocal performance of his career. Battery is perhaps a better representation of what is in store for listeners when they hear Hetfield's performance on Metallica's third album. His technique has a definite aggressive edge to it, and he shines during the choruses. Aside from the son Welcome Home (Sanitarium), my favourite moment from James would be during the chorus of Disposable Heroes. His mocking of a commander ordering his soldiers to fight, kill, and die for his country has a powerful message which is depicted exceedingly well.
To this very day, Metallica's Master of Puppets is regarded as one of heavy metal's greatest all time albums. Released in 1986, one of metal's most productive years, it stands along side Iron Maiden's Somewhere in Time, Megadeth's Peace Sells…But Who's Buying, Slayer's Reign in Blood, and Dark Angel's Darkness Descends as some of the years best albums, and is certainly no slouch. Tracks like Battery, Master of Puppets, and Orion have become favourites of metal fans all over the world, and have helped influence entire generations of new metal bands. Though I don't feel that Master of Puppets is Metallica's best album, it is definitely a record that every metalhead should own. Pick it up if you haven't already.
(Originally written for Sputnikmusic)
“Master of Puppets”, words that divide the metal community, to some it’s a landmark achievement, to others it’s the point at which it all went horribly wrong. This is plainly evident if you read any review of this album. But how does a single album divide the metal community so much? Might it actually be not this album itself, but the events that followed this album? Many questions can be asked, and it’s doubtful anyone will ever find a definite answer to any of them.
But one element of “Master of Puppets” always seems to be overlooked: the music. “Master of Puppets” provides us with some of the best music Metallica made. However there is one main problem: it is nearly the exact same album as “Ride the Lightning”. From the acoustic intro, to the similar track-listing, and similar lyrical themes, this is the fraternal twin of its predecessor. Seeing as “Ride the Lightning” was so good, it wouldn’t be that hard to imagine that an album that follows the same blueprint would at least equal it. That is where “Master of Puppets” falters, it almost matches, and moreover fails to exceed its predecessor.
But why does “Master of Puppets” falter? Or better yet, where does it falter? Well, one reason why may be that there isn’t anymore ideas they can use the Dave Mustaine left with them. And while there is no single point at which this album falters, but there are just moments that don’t live up. Take, for instance, “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)”, which wants to be “Fade to Black”, but it just isn’t, so in that case, this album doesn’t equal “Ride the Lightning”.
Another problem is that this album is so hailed that sometimes when listened to, it disappoints. However that doesn’t mean this is a horrid disappointment, but it just doesn’t live up to the title of “greatest metal album ever”.
What about the material on “Master of Puppets”? Well, there are some really good songs, and some middle of the road songs, and some not so good songs. Some that dwell in the good songs category are: the mammoth title track, “Master of Puppets” and the classy instrumental “Orion”. Some of the middle of the road songs are: the opener “Battery”, the doomy “The Thing That Should Not Be”, and the thrashy closer “Damage Inc.”. And then we have the not so good songs: “(Welcome Home) Sanitarium”, “Disposable Heroes”, and “Leper Messiah”. The main problem with the last three songs is that each wants to be another song, “(Welcome Home) Sanitarium” wants to be “Fade to Black”, “Disposable Heroes” wants to be “For Whom The Bell Tolls” and “Leper Messiah” wants to be “Creeping Death”. But remember all these songs are rated in context to the rest of the songs on the album, so even the not so good songs are better than some of the best songs on other albums (both by Metallica, and other bands).
Another problem that is becoming evident is that the solos have a tendency to become tedious and boring. Most evident is the solo on “(Welcome Home) Sanitarium”. Kirk Hammett’s best solos are the fast, skilled and full of feeling, there is instances where he lacks all three of these elements on this album, for the most part. This trend would become more evident as the years went by.
On the other hand we have vocalist and rhythm guitarist, of course, James Hetfield. On “Master of Puppets” his vocals seem to have matured some, along with his rhythm guitar-work being one of the albums driving force. There is nothing wrong with his performance, but at times his vocals sound tired, aside from that it is flawless.
Next is drummer/future talking head, Lars Ulrich, who again improves on the drums, the last time he would do so on an album. The drums sound perfect on this album, production wise, there are no rattles or clicks, just solid thunderous beats.
And of course there’s legendary bassist Cliff Burton, who alongside Ulrich and Hetfield, provide one incredibly intense rhythm section. Of course this wound up being his last record, and that does make “Master of Puppets” special in a sense, but not only for that reason alone. His death often gets in the way of his performance, which when listened to will remind you why he is so hailed. A lot of people have made music and then passed away, but he is remembered for the caliber of music he made, which of course, is overwhelmingly excellent.
So, that’s it. That’s Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” with all its faults and all its achievements. It’s not the best metal album ever made, it’s a pretty damn good one, but there are better. But “Master of Puppets” stands on its own as a very enigmatic, dividing, and controversial album. For the range of opinions of this album, it is best taken in for ones self.
San Francisco based Metallica would turn a lot of heads with 1984’s crushing thrash manifesto, “Ride The Lightning”, but it would be with the release of “Master Of Puppets” that the group would set their sights directly on world domination. Unpretentious, furious and most certainly heavier than hell, this record was a deafening roar in the face of an unsuspecting metal audience, many of whom were at the time unprepared for a hammering onslaught such as “Battery.” One smoking stereo system later, the band dives head on into the muscular title cut. This song would prove to be one of metal’s all-time classic tracks, bringing the spotlight directly on thrash metal during the group’s subsequent tour with wasted metal madman Ozzy Osbourne.
This record established Flemming Rasmussen as a top-notch heavy metal producer, as the expert knob-twister pulled every bit of heaviness out of the band while giving them a full yet slick overall sound that would become the benchmark for many metal albums to follow. Providing an amply spooky atmosphere, the colossal, massively detuned “The Thing That Should Not Be” possesses one of the preeminent doom-laden riffs that a metal band has undertaken to date. James Hetfield’s singing on this track cannot be underestimated in any fashion. In retrospect, his voice here is as cool sounding and awe-inspiring as it ever has been. Metallica, by this point, have gelled into a cohesive unit with a common goal of complete musical destruction at whatever tempo.
A track that would easily make the top ten Metallica songs of all time, “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” mashes a forlorn, melodic verse with a weighty, commanding chorus. On “Master Of Puppets”, the group had gotten much better at combining melody with pure heaviness. This is plainly noticeable on the brooding plea entitled “Welcome Home”, which displays intentional, intricate harmonic subtlety as well as Metallica’s patented, overpowering forcefulness. Both “Disposable Heroes” as well as “Leper Messiah” resonate songwriting strength and substantial thickness and bass guitarist Cliff Burton’s amazing instrumental “Orion” offers the listener a devastating array of riffing and sharp metal licks, showing that Burton had a tremendous impact on the intricacy of the band’s songwriting overall.
Enter “Damage Inc.”, the album’s closer. Doubtlessly, this track is the most severe thrashing that many a metal fan had ever encountered, with a blistering pace that made it the most extreme thing going in 1986. Lars Ulrich shows here why he deserves to be the drummer for the world’s largest heavy metal band, his sharp attention to detail surpassed only by his precise bashing. Having just created a metal masterpiece, the group would unfortunately be stricken by tragedy before they had even finished properly promoting the album.
Timeless, boundary-obliterating and brimming with a furious energy, “Master Of Puppets” is a cornerstone in the kingdom of heavy metal.
In recent years, after the plunge of this band into being a complete caricature of what is wrong with music today, everyone began to wonder what went wrong, why did this band turn into a walking satire. I myself had my own theories about it as I penned reviews for the substandard Load albums and began a rather painful listening session of “St. Anger”. I happened upon some rather scathing reviews of this album as being the death of metal/a corruption in the fabric that resulted in the death of thrash. On top of this, I’ve read some rather nostalgic, yet somewhat apologetic and weak defenses of this album.
As some may have gleaned, I am a guitar player who is currently co-fronting a power metal band with some symphonic influences, but what is not mentioned there is that my first introduction into heavy metal was in the realm of thrash, particularly MegaDeth’s “Peace Sells” album. I was 13 years old at the time and I was just starting to learn guitar with Nirvana as my primary influence, but my brother was liquidating his own stock of old audio cassettes and I ended up with a mountain of 80s metal albums, the two main ones were Metallica’s “And Justice for All” and MegaDeth’s “Peace Sells”. The latter received the most attention from me, although the former was very well received. Fairly soon after, Kurt Cobain shot himself, I realized that his music was an artistic dead-end and I began learning how to actually play my instrument.
I had never thought of reviewing this album because truth be told, I have not listened to it in years. I bought this album in 1994 because everyone in my high school guitar class told me it was Metallica’s masterpiece, so I went to the store and picked it up on CD. "Kill Em’ All", "Ride The Lightning", and "And Justice For All" all receive regular play in my stereo, and occasionally I do listen to the self-titled album. But for some reason, though I didn’t chalk it up to not liking the album at the time, I just had other things to listen to, so I just didn't see it as that important musically. On an intuition, I picked it up again and after listening to this album 10 times through, over a course of 4 days during some long commutes, I figured out where the dissent I had encountered was coming from.
One of the things I did during these listening sessions was re-learn all of the lead riffs and the solos, which are not all that technically or musically intricate actually. Kirk Hammet’s best solos on this album are the ones on “Disposable Heroes” and “Battery”, and they are good primarily because they are geared towards what Kirk has always been good at, venting anger through fast and repetitive pentatonic licks and scale runs. His more melodic solos on “Sanitarium” are extremely anti-climactic, as was the case with his lead work on “To Live Is To Die”, and sound more forced than anything else. All of the rest of his material is highly forgettable, because they are too long winded and localized to one spot. Kirk’s solos are best when split up into smaller doses and spread out through out the song in short bursts. When they are long-winded and done over a constantly repeated drone, it sounds like some shred kid doing basic pentatonic calisthenics rather than something musical. It is also important to note that this album is where Kirk is beginning to use the wah pedal as a crutch rather than an effect to complement some of his solos, and the result is his current overuse of it.
The main riffs of these songs are highly memorable, too memorable in fact, and this is where an accusation is raised about this album being a bunch of fluff and fodder for public consumption stems from. One of the reasons for this is that the riffs are played over and over ad nauseum. This can be readily observed in the intros to “Battery”, the title track, “The Thing That Should Not Be”, “Sanitarium”, as well as the main riffs of “Leper Messiah” and “Damage Inc.” There are a good number of differing riffs and parts in each track, but all of them are repeated far too much and not developed at all. The "Black Album" at least attempted to vary the rhythm riffs, here there is absolutely no attempt being made. Back during the war in Afghanistan it was rumored that the Allied military was using Metallica’s music to extract information from prisoners, I wouldn’t be surprised if they used some of this album, because parts of it turn into sheer torture on the ears during repeated listens, to the point of it becoming musical propaganda. It screams “these are great riffs, and you will hear them over and over until you agree with me!!!”.
The intros of all the mainstream friendly songs, minus perhaps “Orion”, are all geared towards one purpose, hiding the true nature of what Metallica is, a thrash band. None of the intros in the more thrashing songs that have them are brought back, making it sound like your listening to 2 completely different songs. There is something to be said for the idea that these intros are meant to suck in non-metal fans and boost album sales, but there is a deeper musical emotion at work than the pretense of greed, and that is shame. It is not a question of having soft intros to loud songs, many great bands do this effectively and “Fight Fire with Fire” is an example of Metallica doing it right, but it’s a matter of having intros for the sake of having them, with no other purpose than to act as window dressing to make what comes after not seem as heavy, as aggressive, as fucking metal.
Metallica has truly taken the road of self-parody, and this is readily observable in the structure of these songs. A good analogy, if anyone here is a novel buff, is the practice in architecture of setting up ornamentation and figurehead statues to hide the actual structure itself in Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead”. The result is the articulation of shame over the goodness of your work, and ultimately the death of the art save the individuals whom rebel against the trend. This is exactly what happened in the early 90s in Metal, and the result was the worst possible band taking over the reins of heavy music, Nirvana. If you haven’t read “The Fountainhead”, I recommend reading it because it explains exactly how not only in architecture, but in every art it is guilt over your own greatness that destroys it.
I’m going to personally take a moment to single out “The Thing That Should Not Be” because quite frankly this is one of the worst attempts to re-capture the slower doom sound of Sabbath that I’ve ever heard. The intro riff is gloomy and dark sounding enough, but the rest of the song is so slow, over-long, redundant and boring that you almost want to yank the CD out of the player and crush it inside your own fist. If it wasn’t for the fact that this album has the old punch sound in the guitar that Metallica used to exhibit regularly, this song would almost sound like a slightly more organized version of “The Outlaw Torn”.
The lyrics of this album are a perfect reflection of the propaganda like nature of the musical structure, be it the tired "just say no to drugs" theme in the title track, the weak willed words against televangelism in “Leper Messiah”, the collectivist spirit of “Sanitarium”, or the cliché post 60s anti-war rehash of “Disposable Heroes”. But the important aspect of these songs is not the politics, but the underlying principle that causes one to take up these various pet causes and to turn your music into a slave of established and self-contradictory political ideologies, and that is the desire to have your music seem important for the sake of being important to others. Music is an art that is independent of the listener, the listener is drawn to it because of it’s nature, not because it panders to what the listeners may or may not agree with. This is where the line is drawn between true art and propaganda disguised as art, and the lion’s share of this album is the latter, not the former which could describe the works before this.
If there is any saving grace to this album, it is the things that I did not mention. Despite being overlong and essentially being an idea stolen from Dave Mustaine’s past work in Metallica, “Disposable Heroes” is a decent song and can be extracted from the rest of the mediocrity on this album. “Orion” is actually a good instrumental and highlights the strength of Cliff Burton’s post-Sabbath influence on the band, one that was sadly lost after his death. “Damage Inc.“ is a good song, even though the structure is thrown off a bit by the intro. And if you ignore the redundant and flat sounding acoustic intro to “Battery”, you have a song very similar to “Blackened”, but if you can’t do this, just listening to the opening track to “And Justice for All” will suffice.
As far as what the socio-cultural impact of this album was on the greater metal scene, I would like to add a few things as to how this album succeeded in doing what it did, and why it’s impact was delayed. In 1986 thrash was still alive and kicking. Nuclear Assault had just hit the scene, Anthrax would be poised to release a set of decent albums, and MegaDeth was still pumping out classic albums. As far as the death of thrash goes, MegaDeth’s “Peace Sells” was the primary delay in it’s demise. As far as the death of the entire metal movement in the early 90s, this was caused in part by the acceptance of this corrupt form of thrash by most of the metal faithful, but it was helped by a lot of other circumstances, and also delayed by some stellar releases.
Judas Priest had probably their least heavy release in 1986, but in 1988 their classic speed and shred based “Ram it Down” provided a NWOBHM alternative to the disease that was slowly festering in the Thrash scene, and this was followed by the even more fast and fierce “Painkiller”. Also, Iron Maiden released their greatest album in “Somewhere in Time” the same year as this album was released, and followed it up by an ingenious concept album in “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son”. Unfortunately, the self-destruction of these bands due to conflicts between the front men and the others left a vacuum to be filled by the first person with an ounce of angst in him, and that is how we ended up with Kurt Cobain, who basically filled a complete artistic vacuum with a nihilistic/anarchistic punk rock sound that was so self-parodying, even compared to this album, that it’s seemingly premature demise was inevitable.
Also note, Yngwie was still cranking out classics even after the death of metal in America and keeping others outside the states interested, despite being labeled as has been and being ridiculed by these closeted sausage hounds in the 90s thrash scene. If anything, Yngwie has as much of a brief against this album as all in the Thrash community, because his image and style of playing was what came under direct assault in the early 90s as a result of it. The darker metal that was influenced by Merciful Fate and others pioneering the occult side of metal were always underground, and they did well to survive this disease and are still going with their integrity intact.
No my friends, Metallica did not kill metal with this album, but they made it so sick and decrepit that it had to disappear in order to heal from the wounds inflicted on it by this virus. What this album did to metal, however, is not the reason for the low score. The reason is that this is a sub-standard and mediocre release that came from a band that was far more capable than this, and the only danger threatened by it is accepting it as being better than what it actually is. I personally am not interested in dwelling upon the past of metal, I am more interested in it’s future, and it does not lie with this album, nothing great is influenced by anything mediocre. To those of you aspiring metal bands out there who want to do something great, steer clear of this release. I had a long talk with all the members of my band and we have all agreed that this album is one that will not impact our music in any way, shape or form.
Later submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on August 20, 2008.
Master of Puppets truly is an exceptional album. As a musical piece of art it hardly sets any superior standards never seen before, neither does it really exceed the standards set by its contemporaries. Moreover, the teeth of time have not been too kind to it. But it holds a special place in metal history for its commercial success and fame. Yes, an album can become legendary simply because it becomes legendary. At some point on the path to fame, a positive feedback sets in, and the album turns from a new favourite into a phenomenon. It's relatively rare in metal, but it happened to MoP. It isn't necessarily the album's own fault.
Somehow, for some people, it has become a fashion of sorts to attack Master of Puppets and claim it's a commercial sell-out, a bad album, undeserving of its fame, or even, amusingly, the death of heavy metal. If a single album can kill a genre, the genre was too weak to live in the first place. It may be that Master of Puppets is not the creative apex in the history of metal, nor the apex of Metallica themselves. I certainly don't consider it the best album ever. That questionable honour goes to, you guessed it, The Sane Asylum. But MoP sure isn't an inherently bad album, and probably its main faults lie in its relatively easy accessibility, in the way it gave a million metal laymen something a bit stringy but tantalizingly delicious to chew on in the mid 80's, and in its subsequent commercial success. I don't generally like the attacks on Puppets, unless the attack is based on solid reasoning. Just the fact that it sold millions of copies doesn't turn MoP into an album by Europe, and much more thought and arguments are needed before I can silently accept the downplaying of its importance. Neither is the fact that its ideas, song structures and sound have been imitated by gazillions of garage bands a reason to say it blows. On the contrary.
Everybody has heard the album. Or, more like it, everybody should have heard the album, there may be a minority of 6 to 8 percent here so far without the experience. There's no need to describe the sound, it is the definitive 80's metal sound. It must suffice to say that as certainly as the riffing became the model for many a guitarist in his garage, the Metallica sound became an equally revered goal for the producers. The effect of MoP can be easily heard in the production of mainstream metal until the mid 90's.
The songs are familiar to almost everybody, at least the songs Master of Puppets, Orion and Sanitarium, the three musketeers of overplayed metal. Master of Puppets is a work of truly monolithic stature, and I bet only a few works by Iron Maiden can challenge it's familiarity, as far as complete albums go, to such a a large portion of the users of the Archives. The Master riff alone is instantly recognizable, and Damage Inc is quite probably the fastest thing on any rock or metal album ever to sell over five million copies.
Maybe one of the most important things that turned the album into such a hit were the mellow parts. The whole Sanitarium actually becomes quite hard for the late 80's consumers of Def Leppard and Wet Wet Wet before it ends, but does it with stealth; many Madonna and Miami Vice fans didn't realize the gradual transition to metal, and would not have accepted Sanitarium as a nice song if they had only heard the end. The slower parts in Master of Puppets itself and Orion were, for some reason, often considered the album's real feats of musicianship by people who think becoming a metal artist equals trying to cover the lack of musical talent with excessive noise. Oh, the irony! Hetfield plays half an hour with his fingers bleeding, and Joe Sixpack thinks he was at his best during those moments that must have saved Ulrich from several looming heart attacks on live gigs. The mellowness turned the MoP into an effective gateway drug; there, on a thrash album, were parts that were easy and peaceful enough to be enjoyed by the guy from the street, slow and beautiful, but still ominous enough to tempt a dark-minded minority deeper into the album. MoP moulded millions from standard pulp into metalheads, and it did that by offering some sugar-coated bits, still attached to music that held within the essence and barbed hooks of metal, and reeled them in after the prey swallowed the lure.
I can't remember where I was when I heard about the Kennedy assassination. It must have something to do with the fact that my father was about fifteen years old at the time, and I was not to be born for another eight years. I was probably eating in a local McDonalds when I heard of the September 11th attacks, but I'm not 100% sure; a friend of mine says it's correct, though. What I am sure of is that I was sitting on a bus on a smaller road parallel to the road currently bearing the number 25 in Finland, right next to the Koverhar steel plant, on my way home from school when I heard Metallica for the first time. The song was Master of Puppets itself, and it was an exhilarating, confusing sonic blast. The bus driver, probably something like thirty or forty years old, and as far from a metalhead as anyone without a walker can be, had the radio on, and there it was, in the middle of the easy-listen radio show, a ruthless piece of thrash. I had some Deep Purple, Rainbow, Dio and Twisted Sister on crappy copied tapes, and I was a 15-year old nerd trying to find my place on the field of music, mostly leaning towards hard rock and metal already, but still soft and very impressionable. Metallica was truly something new, and it hit me like a ton of feathers, not necessarily knocking me out, but overwhelming and obscuring the rest of the world for a while. And that, people, was the magic of Metallica. It was mainstream enough to be heard by virtually everybody, yet aggressive and different enough to lure malleable young souls like me into the world of metal. Master of Puppets was the favourite gateway drug of the 80's metal, and it sold furiously.
It took a few days more before I heard Battery, and within a couple of weeks my friend had the Master of Puppets on vinyl. It was a curiosity, an album to be approached with extreme caution, and didn't really stick on my skin until a few months later. But it was different and, at the time, merciless. That year was probably the best metal year of the whole 1980's, and no matter what Metallica's current street value is, Master of Puppets was an essential part of that very year. Two years later I was a handsome, long-haired thrash Hercules with a beutifully matured and muscularly symmetric body, and MoP had played an important part in the incredible transformation from a tapeworm-colored 70-pound nerd into the beautiful (and largely fictional) mosh-Jesus.
All right, I admit, the music is what it is, and all of it hasn't aged well. The thrash parts -Battery, Master of Puppets, Disposable Heroes and Damage Inc- do not sound nearly as furious anymore as they did back then. Sanitarium's melodic progression from half-acoustic mellowness to mellow thrashiness had already been seen on Ride the Lightning in the form of Fade to Black, and would be seen again as One on the next album. The Thing That Should Not Be has never really worked for me, except for the lyrical content, and Leper Messiah is a curious attempt at doing something else. Orion, unfortunately, is the specific song on the album that crosses the line and becomes too accessible in its prolonged repetitiveness, and ends up being the only metal intrumental known by approximately 68 million people with otherwise minimal knowledge of metal outside Aerosmith and Van Halen. Yes, you know what I mean, and yes, I know Aerosmith and Van Halen are not metal, but They don't. Also, the aforementioned production has suffered an immense drop in respect, just because it was copied by everybody for a decade and sounds aged for that sole reason alone. But look back at the times when MoP was young, try to remember where you were, and conjure an image of the effect it had. 1986 was the year of Chernobyl, the Olof Palme murder and the Challenger explosion. Do those ring any bells?
I think most of the people who say they dislike MoP were still building sandcastles or learning not to wet their beds in 1986. And honestly, I don't really blame them. I've had a lot of trouble in learning to appreciate the music from the ancient times before I turned 10. Black Sabbath is a prime example of this: I recognize a dozen or so songs, but find none of them really worth my time. Iron Man gives me a rash and makes me restless and irritated, and that drunken, off-key feminine "Öy Yeeh!" in the beginning of that one song is stupid enough make me blush for Ozzy. But I still won't deny the band's influence or value. We would all be listening to elevator muzak pan flute synth versions of The Beatles if it weren't for them. Yup, Alphaville would have claimed a two-inch space on YOUR CD shelf without Black Sabbath. And the songs aren't bad, they are just... old, and they've been remade ten thousand times since. And that's the problem with younger people's ideas about Master of Puppets; everything on the album has been done again three thousand times since. But, remember, only a few times before it. And those few times were witnessed by just a tiny handful of people, before the albums gradually became recognized long after Master of Puppets had sold a million copies.
Master of Puppets taught an important lesson to the mindless masses of the mainstream hard rock and heavy metal crowd of the time. The lesson was simple: appreciate the Riff. That was the odd blast I had when I first heart the title track: the main riff, no matter if and from whom it was originally stolen, was something new, and the basic construction, the very essence of thrash, would be repeated many times over on the album itself. There were riffs before. Many bands certainly made equally or even more riff based metal already before Ride the Lightning. I'm not saying anything to the effect that Metallica invented riffs, or thrash riffs (or even their own riffs, for that matter). But Master of Puppets was the first riff-driven thrash metal album ever heard by the ignorant masses. That in itself is the defining achievement of the album, its claim to fame. Everybody knows it: you, me, the metalhead next door, the 30 years old nicely C-cupped secretary in your dad's office and that pale skinny guy handing you the fries on the drive-through (or, alternatively, receiving them from you). Try to explain something about Artillery's Fear of Tomorrow or Dark Angel's Darkness Descends to those people, and you get the same "get out of here, you untidy weirdo" look you'd give a flaming indie movie buff trying to tell you about the newest art movie with sexual minority cowboys eating quiche; it isn't familiar, so it's bound to be less interesting. And if the same movie freak at the same time makes the mistake of saying that The Last Boyscout is worthless mainstream junk of questionable entertainment value, you'd certainly punch the dweeb, right? Connoisseurs can have their opinions, but the great public knows and -surprisingly- tolerates MoP quite well. It is the defining habit of the snob to say that the things loved by normal people are crap. I've tried to avoid that at all costs: I like cooking and well-made food, imported ales and occasionally prefer certain european movies to their US counterparts. But I've also told my friends to bitch-slap me hard and repeatedly if I ever say no to a case of finnish lager, an ice hockey game and three bags of potato chips with chicken wings attached.
One of the stupid ideas certain types of people seem to love is trying their damnest to find hidden meanings and deeper ideas in mainstream works. Usually this overanalyzing takes place after everything really relevant has already been said. A while ago Master of Puppets was still included in the Wikipedia's list of concept albums; it seems to have been deleted now, and rightly so. The album's own entry used to contain the goofy interpretation. This is supposed to be a concept album exploring the idea of control, an esoteric and multifaceted puppet master, and even Orion is an alleged study on the use of power, because Orion in the ancient legends did some stupid stuff. Bollocks, I say. I will leave proving this amusing hypothesis wrong as an excercise to the reader. An inductive proof can probably be found simply by writing two dozen words on little pieces of paper. Use big blanketing words like "power", "corruption", "progression", "chaos" and "control". Be creative. Then blindfold yourself, draw one of the words out of the pile and an album from your collection at random, and spent fifteen minutes composing an essay to prove the chosen album is a concept album exploring the Big Word in question. Like, say, the word "religion" and the album Here Comes Trouble by Scatterbrain. It can be done, and in a convincing manner, just believe me if you can't be bothered to try.
Erm... Okay, I'll admit, it cannot be done with "religion" and Here Comes Trouble. But you get the idea. This piece of work is roughly equal in its concept album quotient to every single album released in 1986.
It seems that we have a young, eager generation of metalheads that have been brought up with the idea that Ulrich's first name is actually supposed be spelled Lar$. All right, maybe his bright-eyed and childishly idealistic opposition to Napster and other actions, not to mention the sub-par releases after Justice for All, all selling in the millions nonetheless, have lent some credibility to the joke, but anyone claiming that Master of Puppets was made with the single idea of cashing in is worthy of being pelted to death with Cradle of Filth CDs. Metallica, in 1986, was not yet a rich'n'bloated guy's milking cow. No, it still was an ambitious young group that, despite for the most parts just copying their previous work, still had their own idea. None of the money they gained from Master of Puppets in the end was by any means automatically there to be cashed in. Had it been, someone else would have grabbed it. Granted, the album idea was already formatted well enough to be franchised, a fact that can be verified simply by observing that the slow melodic pieces, i.e. Fade to Black, Sanitarium and One, are all placed on the same spot on the respective albums, and that the "progressive" instrumentals (Call of Ktulu, Orion, To Live Is to Die) hold an equally fixed position in the track listings. There is an underlying template at work here. But it was their own format, and if they managed to pull it off well enough to reap the rich harvest, it should be OK for anyone who claims to support capitalism. If it isn't, well, then the underground übertr00 black metal penguins with their obscure demo tapes (limited to 13 official copies and the six special top secret "goat blood" editions for the closest circle of friends and the artists' mothers) have already won. If getting a million dollars has something inherently bad in it, then stop trying to get a recording contract and simply shove your music to MySpace and Audiostreet, or better yet, shut yourself into the grimness of your step-dad's basement and play your music to no one. Don't be surprised if you get beaten up by the jocks sometimes, though. I know there are hundreds of bands that follow the ideology, but for every one of those, there's a hundred more striving to get signed. Commercial success does not always mean the album sucks. Most often it does, I'll admit, but not quite always. If there is an overriding, unavoidable need for chart music to exist, I'll take any song from any Metallica album (save St Anger) over any spanish/german/swedish/finnish brainless pop song and play it from here to eternity with glee. And I don't care if Ulrich can get better than average Westfalen air-dried ham onto his danish sandwiches as a result. That's the spirit of capitalism, and claiming it's wrong equals being a communist. The guys came up with a succesful formula, milked it, people bought the milk, and they got rich. Right?
So, I'd just like to point out that it took more than four years after the album's release before I heard anyone even remotely resembling a metalhead calling MoP overrated for the first time. Never, I repeat NEVER, during the 80's did anyone say that. And it took half a decade after the Black Album before Metallica-bashing became part of the metalhead trueness-olympics pentathlon (the second sport right after "I've met the guys from Beherit in a sauna" boasting contest, and before the much more rigorous field excercise of making the demo with the lowest number of released official copies, negative digits win). Curiously, a high crest in the wave of MoP-hating coincided with Ulrich's Napster goofiness, and the smell of a bitter revenge by the metal masses hangs heavy in the air. Repent, you fools. And don't come back until you've redeemed yourselves. It wasn't the fault of Master of Puppets itself, it was the amusing drummer guy who lost his hold on the controls of his intellectual moped after finding out that he had been robbed of his 123rd million.
I know it's too much to ask to tell people not to hate Master of Puppets because they only see it as just a thrash album among other thrash albums; it was a magnificient blueprint to be photocopied by thousands of others during the next decade, and cannot be judged among its own spawn, but in the end, it's just an album, and cannot be objectively elevated above the others of its kind, except for nostalgic reasons. But it simply cannot be too much to ask people to stop hating it just because they don't like Lar$ and hate St Anger and the Loads. This album has proven itself worthy of the attention it gets, and doesn't deserve to be treated rudely because of the things that happened after it was released. It has set a standard to measure other things with. And it isn't a bad album, honestly. You may hate it, but don't turn that hate into a public circus act, unless you already hated it in the 80's, in which case you are better entitled to your opinion than I am and I humbly bow and retreat in front of the tr00ness of the Great Old One.
I spent quite a while thinking about the rating. Finally I realized that my own rating guidelines in my profile give me an undisputable answer. I've written that a 90+ means the album will stay on my playlist for years. Master of Puppets has been on my "once-monthly" playlist for over 19 years already, and thus I guess it has proven its value many times over.
It takes some DAMN GOOD reasoning to give this album such a low rating. The zero implies the absolute nadir of musicality, a level that can only be dreamt of by mere mortals as Fred Durst and your blender. What in Satan's name could this album have done to deserve such a low rating?? It pretty much singlehandedly ENDED heavy metal, that's what. Now, on a strictly musical level, I would give this album a 62 or so. It's not bad. It really isn't. It's certainly not as bad as Saint Anger, proud owner of a former record-low "3%" rating. It's not even as bad as the album that would follow it, And Justice for All, and when all is said and done, it pretty much sums up the averageness of the thrash movement perfectly.
First off, it is where shit really starts to fall apart for Metallica as a band. At this point, you can see the impending death - not just bodily, but creative as well. They are out of Mustaine riffs, and Hetfield isn't exactly the smartest, cleverest cookie in the box, and he's forced to scramble and improvise, so out comes one bashing thrasher, a few more assorted riffs here and there, and then all kinds of half-assed and half-baked ideas that pretty much do not belong in Heavy Metal, the land of the free, the home of the brave... unfortunately, the world caught on to THIS album, this expression of vapidity, and decided that THIS was the way to go.
This album is the Nirvana "Smells like Teen Spirit" of heavy metal. It brought heavy metal to its knees, and castrated it mightily. It is, then, by definition, the most damaging, counterproductive, and overrated LP ever to be released. Even standing it up on its own, and not letting it poison the minds of those that came after it, I wouldn't even put it in the top 10 most influential thrash releases of 1986... it's easily killed by the unholy trinity of Darkness Descends, Reign in Blood, and Pleasure to Kill, which pushed the envelope of metal in three different, related directions. It's not anywhere nearly as enjoyable as expatriate Mustaine's Peace Sells, which was technically brilliant and a whole barrel of fun too, or as dark as Possessed's sophomore effort, or Sepultura and Sodom's full-length debuts. It's not nearly as punk-as-fun as Nuclear Assault's first. Then I could throw in fifteen, if not fifty, other backwash thrash LPs that did nothing for the genre as far as influence goes, but are still a whole fuckload more enjoyable than this one.
So... the songs. There is some ownage here. Battery, for example, is fucking heavy, and works brilliantly well, as a destroyer of worlds. The title track is a bit more calculated, with its main riff gronked from one of the Metal Church demos (also "Over My Dead Body"), and but it dies for a bit in that little Hetfield noodle section in the middle. Say what you will, that part is dumb, and a harbringer of what is to come. Not just because it is dumb, but because it is hailed as visionary - not just on the album, but with this band, and with metal in general. This album didn't do ANYTHING make metal a better, more viable genre... hell, by 1986, everything that was good about metal was pretty much established, it was just a matter of time before all the stupid ideas reared their ugly fucking heads and turned the scene into self-parody. From the inane mindless riff-ennui of Jon Schaffer and Iced Earth, to the stupid dynamic mismanagement of a million bands, ranging from misplaced melodicism of the Gothenburg scene to the awful monotony of Opeth... all of these can be traced back to the vast commercial success of this album. Being "less than thrash" was viewed as a Good Thing. Less than over-the-top, less than expanding the genre, less than creative, less than heavy fucking metal. And of course, as is the human tendency to accept mediocrity, because excellence requires actual EFFORT... people jumped right on this very fucking album. They saw that they did not have to put out an all-out Bonded by Blood thrashfucking mindfuck, or even the complex harmonic beauty of stuff like Peace Sells, with its shredding solos and powerful interludes. If they just put in a obligatory Slow Solo Section, a la Suck Hetfield, they would be accepted as correct by their metal brethren. Rah, rah, put up the horns, thank you for being bland. A thousand Nevermores were spawned by THIS album.
Third song... this probably is the parodic equivalent of Black Sabbath here. Because Black Sabbath were midpaced, creative, and heavy. This is midpaced, boring, and plodding. There is nothing to this song, and of course, it would be viewed as a fucking staple of the "groove-thrash" movement. Robbb Flynnn, he whose contributions to excess are merely putting extra letters on the end of his first name, probably ejaculated twice as hard when he heard this song - and realised he could play shitty and get away with it - than in ANY other time of his life, and that includes his entire career in Vio-lence. This very well may be the song that spawned Machine Head, and of course when Hetfield, through the wall-of-saliva incident, corrupted Diamond Darrell into being a groove monkey, spawned modern Pantera too.
Next up, a cheesy ballad, Sanitarium, which again contains soft sections for the sake of having soft sections. Of course, proper use of dynamics had been completely, TOTALLY invented by about 1976... if Sabotage didn't have it, then Sad Wings certainly did, and anyone claiming to add something new to the idea was pretty much full of hot air. Maybe Rainbow's "Stargazer" can lay a small claim to things, a small claim to have added SOMETHING. And Sanitarum adds nothing. That said, it does not even play the standard cards correctly - there are tons of songs that start off soft and then build up to a frenzied crescendo, and most of them are far more effective than this. See Helstar's "Winds of War" for a perfect example, or even the previous LP's "Fade to Black" for one that works decently well. But of course, there is "Megalomania". And then there is this crap. And that's what this is - unmitigated crap, masquerading as thrash, but being plodding, boring, modern bullshit. This song has absolutely no balls whatsoever. And heavy metal is about BALLS. It's about riffs, it's about smashing a spike through the brains of the listener, making him/her/it perk up and die hard. It's about the slow, twisting zombie passages of Triumph of Death. It's about the flash and the colour and the violence of Chainsaw Charlie. It's about the constant multidirectional bludgeon of From the Past Comes the Storms. It's CERTAINLY NOT about Hetfield moaning "leave me be..." like a thousand other assrape victims to come. But, unfortunately, this is what the world caught onto. This is the illusion that destroyed reality, the feeble cry of patheticness in the night, that virally castrated a powerful genre. Because as Possessed and D.F.A. and up-and-coming bands like Death and Nocturnus were constantly playing loud, proud, and heavy and expanding the genre... and as a thousand other bands like Iron Maiden and Helloween were consistently waving the banner of Judas Fucking Priest... as all of those bands demonstrated vibrancy and life, here was THIS virus, this awful plague of self-mocking stupidity, that slowly corrupted the whole thing from within. And people wonder what happened to metal? People wonder why years like 1993 came along, and why horrendous, backwards bands like Lamb of God and Damage Plan are now on the forefront of the scene? People WONDER - no, it was inevitable, that the mediocrity would rise and destroy everything in its path. All it took was for the metal scene to be inundated with this backwash crap, this horrendous assault that seems so soothing, so relaxing... so "it's OKAY if you suck, junior", so Kurt Cobain before Kurt Cobain himself. Look, this band sucks too, and look at the instant popularity they have. Gresham's Law is a harsh mistress.
So yes, maybe I was mistaken. Maybe this is the album that should be lauded as the avant-garde of the metal scene of 1986. Forget Dark Angel's 286 beats per minute of ultimate heaviness, throw away Reign in Blood's chaotic assault on the senses, and certainly avoid thinking about Pleasure to Kill's death-metal tendencies. Oh no no, none of THOSE albums did jack shit for the metal genre, because the metal genre is OF COURSE about technological backwardsism, insipidity, and playing turned to "4", because only losers like Motorhead play, eat, drink, fuck, sleep, etc... on "11". Save the aggression for the Jager sessions, right Hetfield? The actual music needs to be a complete fucking lullaby. Horror of horrors - though mathematically inevitable of course - the metal genre ate this bullshit up. Again, look at the top bands in pop metal today... the uninspired Iced Earth, who have not had a good idea since 1994, of course proudly declare that early Metallica is their foremost influence. The godawful Machine Head, as mentioned before - groove-monkeys to the core. The lame Testament, who were, other than their lead guitarist, a few screw turns loose in the creativity department - their The New Order (a "thrash classic", my ass) is pretty much a fourth-rate Master of Puppets ripoff, and their latest stuff takes ideas that were more heavily present on this LP, and less so on others.
Fifth up is Disposable Heroes, eight minutes of thrash, showing that, if pressed, the band could still deliver the goods. This, along with Battery, is the highlight of the album. It's competent thrash a la 1984 or 1985, except maybe a bit overlong. That said, if you think this has crushing riffage, you have not heard Exodus's Piranha. Again, if the album were all like this, then it would be an average thrasher, not unlike a thousand others that came out in this year. See Death Angel's "The Ultraviolence" for a quick example. Following Disposable Heroes is the clearly Mustaine-written - at least, in the interesting parts, anyway - Leper Messiah. That middle break is so completely Killing/Peace Sells that the fact that Hetfield could even barely begin to claim that he and Ulrich wrote the song is promptly ludicrous, and more so a flat out fucking lie. I can see Hetfield writing the plodding, Should Not Be-esque beginning and end of the song, but that middle section has the Mark of Dave. I have no idea how this band managed to assign songwriting credits, but the idea of Ulrich coming up with songs is laughable. It is this little fucking troll that can personally be shown to be the anti-metal figure. No, not just because of Napster. Not because of the black album, and Bob Rock, and a thousand other crimes against humanity in the 1990s. He had a hand on THIS album too. Hetfield, by himself, would probably been happy penning silly odes to bludgeonry, a thousand Batteries, each with a slightly lower voltage than the last, and the band would have died its appropriate death by mediocrity. Kublai Khan, anyone? No one's heard of Kublai Khan, and no one should have ever heard of Metallica after 1984 or so. They just got incredibly lucky that Ulrich got kicked out of Metal Church in 1980, and had nothing to do with the east coast scene, where Overkill was busy declaring that they just didn't give a fuck. They just wanted to play live, and repeatedly they compromised their good business sense to continue doing so. Quite a sad thing, that Overkill shot themselves in the face with their selling of their demo to Azra Records for booze money, but when all is said and done, THAT attitude is BY FAR more The Metal Way than anything Metallica could have done. Overkill didn't give a fuck, and just played cranked to 11, finishing their set with Tyrant, and recognising Joey Ramone and Lemmy Kilmister as the twin gods of excess and everything that is right and "fuck yeah!" about the world. Then, there was Megadeth, with Mustaine, who instantly, at the very moment the band was founded, or maybe even before then... when Mustaine was sent back to San Francisco on that four-day bus trip, THAT is when Megadeth became a better band than Metallica would ever be, because Mustaine was right pissed off, and he would outdo, outgun, and outriff the band that had jilted him, because that is the metal way, to be over-the-top and full of dashing creative energy.
Metallica had none of this. Maybe, at the beginning, they had whatever they could steal from their Venom and Diamond Head LPs. Unfortunately, Hetfield probably had his heart in the right place, but he was a complete fucking pussy. He felt the need to declare between songs in 1985 that he would not be saying the words "ooh baby" and wearing lipstick. Paul Baloff took the battle to the other side, issuing an ultimatum to anyone in the crowd wearing a RATT shirt. Bobby Blitz just didn't even mention it, letting the songs do the talking. He was "leaving the poseurs behind". Hetfield just stood on the stage and sulked, because Ulrich was busy cutting his heart out. Ulrich, who had not a whit of songwriting sense to him... he was kicked out of Metal Church in '80 because his drumming was nonexistent at best. He of course had the spark of marketing, where he landed himself a deal on a compilation without a band, or anything other than flyers of Saxon at the Whiskey. And he knew, that the way to make it to the top was not the way of Possessed, because Possessed were too heavy and too rough to be anything but a cult band. He knew that the way to the top was to scheme and to cover one's self in a heavy dose of bullshit. Then, he got lucky, because he had a pal named Hetfield, that really wanted to kill all the record label executives, and combine Hetfield's true extravagance with Ulrich's poseurism, and what you got was a band that appeared to be rebellious. Throw in Cliff Burton's hippie tendencies, and Kirk Hammett's irrelevance, and the image was complete. And at the beginning, the band did have the metal madness, when they wrote silly odes to Weapon like Hit the Lights - empty of social relevance, but completely heavy FUCKING metal. Thanks, Hetfield and Tanner. It's not hard to be a metal kid, and at the beginning, Hetfield was a metal kid. Then Ulrich slowly but surely turned him into a puppet. The album title can be viewed as a proud declaration of Ulrich's conquest of Hetfield, of Metallica, and eventually of the entire scene. The little troll infused mediocrity, and slowly burned the world from the inside out. Hetfield became a raging alcoholic, hanging on to whatever riffs he could remember stealing from Mustaine. Burton's hippie-rock, which was fine for what it is, but had no place in metal whatsoever, soon became the overriding creative force in the band, and of course had to be recognised, because Ulrich knew that if he approved another Hell Awaits, the scene would bury him fast. And of course, it would be ludicrous to imply that he was one-ten-thousandth the drummer the Lombardo was.
So along came Master of Puppets. Random hippie crap, combined with a few random recycled Mustaine moments, all held together by the glue of Hetfield's average riff constructions - perfectly suitable for an average, mediocre, fifth-rate garage thrash ensemble. And Ulrich's megalomania, that realised that this steaming pile of directionless garbage was THE universal solution to bringing him fame. Not that it was any good - precisely because it WASN'T. Because it was mediocre, any idiot with an axe could be like Hetfield now, and if Ride the Lightning sold a whole fuckload of copies, then Master of Puppets, on inertia alone, would sell a whole fuckload more, and thus the seed was set. And that, my friends, is why Lars Ulrich is the worst thing ever to happen to heavy fucking metal.
After the obligatory Mustaine composition comes the long section of hippie crap, that is not only the worst song on the album, but THE final stake through the heart of heavy metal. I hear Orion, and I hear Opeth. I hear a heap of shit that is labelled "progressive" and "visionary", but is really a space-filler. A throwback to the 1960s and the 1970s - stuff that Black Sabbath quickly moved away from, and used only in small amounts. Progressive rock was dangerous stuff, to be used in form only, not in actual substance. Careful with it, and get brilliant stuff like The Writ. Too much results in Fluff. And Iommi was smart to recognise this, but Cliff Burton was not. And he continued to write songs full of this dreck. Ask Hetfield to throw on a few random metal riffs, and what you get is something claimed as "amazing" by all the losers that would also claim In Flames as a masterwork of a band. Of course, this anthem to loserhood has no heart whatsoever, no spirit, no emotional content. Nothing. Thunderhead, this is not. Stargazer? Fuck no. Certainly not anything out of the Diamond Head catalogue. Not Am I Evil, To the Devil His Due, or even Ishmael. Diamond Head got it right, and despite the endless stream of pointers from Lars to their general direction, Metallica did not. But of course, it is easier to derive inspiration from the half-baked. Easy to look at what did not get it right, and claim that to be the best thing ever, simply so that when you make something similar, you can pat yourself on the back and be proud. Thus, Dark Tranquillity, be proud. You sound like complete shit, and have the intensity of zero point zero Iommis, and you are hailed as an excellent modern band. Because you took the Orion approach to things. So, Dark Tranquillity, make sure to send Lars a Christmas card once a year, because you owe your entire career to him. So many bands nowadays do. So many bands would never have gotten off the ground, if "getting off the ground" were not so kindly redefined as "flopping right over and accomplishing nothing" a la Orion.
Then, the last song. Damage Incorporated is the last of Hetfield's contributions to the album... fast and completely insipid. This is not, in any way, shape, or form, to be mistaken for The Burning of Sodom. This is James Hetfield's dying cry as Lars Ulrich finishes him off. In fact, if you look carefully, you can see the exact frame where his heart rips in two. Desperation breeds stupidity, and here is the final desperate act of a man driven to Jagermeister, not because of the grueling tribulations of the road, or of having one's equipment stolen, or because he had to send an ex-guitarist back to the west coast in a box on wheels. It's the final death of a man that thinks he is on top of the world, being the frontman of the most famous heavy metal band in existence... but slowly, subconsciously, realising he is not at all in control, and knowing that he's going to have to put on a smiling bullshit face for however many years, because he certainly can't QUIT the band, but the only way to stay in is to submit to Lars Ulrich, despite all of their public assurances that they are partners in crime. Hetfield is weak, and resorts to over-the-top boasting. Most thrash bands would, of course, do something like this, but somehow none of the Overkill catalogue comes off nearly this pathetic, this fake, this... incorporated. Overkill are rotten to the core in the best sense of the word... Metallica in the worst, most corporate. And at the head of this machine is the midget himself, Lars Ulrich. He holds the world in his hands... his band, his "music", his scene.
Best not to listen, kids. If you have any decency, any individuality, any self-respect. THIS is why I gave the album a zero, because it is the album that will slowly draw you in and destroy you too. Let this be your warning.
"Master of puppets, I'm pulling your strings..."
Master of Puppets is one of the greatest albums ever made, and that big 100% up there is all about the quality of the album. Master is certainly important, but most everything here is on Ride the Lightning. Where RTL’s genius is inevitably mixed into my visceral feelings towards the materials, Master is more coloured and shaped by the tremendous regard so many people have for it. For millions of metal heads, this album is it.
"Battery" gives us a nice "Fight Fire With Fire" flashback, and it's really a toss up as to which is more skull-crushing. "Battery" has the advantage of better production though. Anyway, everybody is on their game here. A lot of shredders are kind of same-y, but the "Battery" solo is unforgettable, and the vocal performance on "Battery" is amongst James's most unhinged yet, and would remain so through song after song until perhaps "All Within My Hands" from St. Anger, a song that isn’t anywhere near this level of quality anyway..
Next comes the perennial candidate for greatest metal song ever, usually in a dead heat with "Paranoid", we have "Master of Puppets". This song is just iconic. When you hear the name of this song, you don't ask who did it. You just know. Some of James's most poetic lyrics being barked out over one of their greatest riffs, with performances that could scarce be bettered by any level of technical insanity that would come along since it’s release. A plethora of amazing solos, one by Hetfield, the others by Hammett, the lead axeman giving us some of his best (great "Fade to Black"-alike and the shredder to end all shredders). This song is like a modern "Four Horsemen", grasping those unwieldy tempo changes of "Kill 'Em All" and beating them into shape, forging their (occasionally charming) unpredictability into a cold, logical forge. Metallica made great multi-part epics palatable and sensible, a deed that metallers world-wide should be eternally grateful for. Also worth noting, in head to head battle with the similarly structured "Ride the Lightning" album, most matches are draws. But in the title track war, it's a blow out.
"The Thing That Should Not Be" is a mean bruiser that lumbers about for 6 minutes and miraculously refrains from collapsing in on itself. Hetfield returns to his Lovecraftian interests on this one, with an eerie, eerie vocal performance (esp. live where you can see a certain wildness and paranoia in his eyes) that claws at your head like one of ol' H.P's stories. Brilliant and strange solo from Kirk, and crushing basslines from the immortal Cliff.
"Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" matches "Fade to Black" in beauty, and manages to trump it in 'rawkage', with a true thrash section that feels even heavier because of the massive build-up. The song also features another fucking amazing performance by Hetfield. "The mirror stands back on/natives getting restless now/mutiny in the air/got some death to do". I stand in awe of this man. Bow down. Also a very smart move by the band to make this melodic number stand out more by separating it from the "Master" interlude with the heavier-than-thou "Thing" and following it with the most brutal thrash-fest on the album.
"Disposable Heroes" is often left out in discussions of classic Metallica song, which is a damn shame. This is Lars Ulrich's absolute best performance, propelling that stacatto riff and rhythmic snarl for a good 8 minutes. Another strange (and beautiful) lead break near the opening of this one, before we get to the lyrics. This song is like a panzer assault. It just rolls right the fuck over you, and after listening to this one it all blends together into one big sonic punch in the teeth. And I always feel like taking it again, the only standard that really matters when one comes to plumbing the depths of extreme metal.
After "Disposable Heroes", the righteously heavy "Leper Messiah" always feels like a respite. I'm not sure if they started the trend (and I really doubt it), but Metallica certainly put their stamp on the now classic "rant-at-bad-preachers" concept ("Holy Smoke", "In the Name of God", "Miracle Man"). Another pounding Ulrich performance, and one of the tougher vocal melodies on the album(took me some time to get that chorus down). A shorter number, and an oddly dissonant one, but it's just as classic as the rest, despite rumours that Mustaine wrote it. It’s not very Dave-like anyway.
"Orion". As if you don't know it already, Metallica can write beautiful music ("Four Horsemen" interlude, "Fade to Black", "Master" interlude, "Sanitarium"). But this one is so pure and spaced out that it's practically heart-wrenching. It's fun to listen to this in the black and think of the cosmos as Burton shines through for once, his warped Thin Lizzy-ish solo's elevating this instrumental to new levels. Also look for another fine Hetfield solo, and Kirk Hammet's best homage to his former teacher Joe Satriani. Oh, and the uptempo bit rocks pretty nicely too. It’s gotta be said that Metallica is key in bringing the classic prog sound back into metal, the psychedelic fringing that would give birth to acts like Voivod and Amorphis, one of the Black Sabbath traits that few bands had dared to co-opt into their own sound.
And last, but not least, Metallica's "Kill 'Em All" throwback "Damage Inc.". Elsewhere we've seen insightful lyrics and beautiful streamlined music...well, that stopped one song back buddy. After the beautiful Burton intro (damn those icy roads!), Metallica goes shred crazy, James vomiting forth propaganda like a good Metal Militiaman. Gotta love that whispered chorus amongst the sonic chaos, the hushed and frantic quality of it simply adding to the high-tension wire freak-out feel of this apocalyptic closer.. The whole band is operating at 11, with James's most forceful performance yet and some dizzying tempo's(plus, Lars is going so fast it even tired out Mike Portnoy performing it live!). Harkens back to a simpler time really, and an interesting way to close an album full of drama and scale, keeping the fans happy with the uber-thrash that brought them into the building.
The third home run in a streak of 5 total classics in a row, something only perhaps Black Sabbath was able to match.
Stand-Outs: “Master of Puppets”, “Disposable Heroes”, “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)”
As cliche as it sounds, I am going to say it anyway - THIS IS THE BEST METAL ALBUM EVER. It is the standard against which I measure every other album I listen to, and so far nothing has toppled it, and few have even come close. You should already have heard and worshipped this, but just in case you need a bit more convincing, permit me this exercise in over-the-top, effusive praise. After all, I need to set my standard.
Okay, basically, every track on this album fucking rocks. The closest things to filler on here, "Leper Messiah" and "The Thing That Should Not Be," would be top spots on almost any other album–the Mustaine-influenced middle section of "Messiah" shreds, and "Thing" makes up for its plodding tempo with sheer crushing heaviness. But here, they pale in comparision beside the perfectly crafted thrashing madness of "Damage Inc." and "Battery," the madhouse anthem "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)," and the driving epic power of "Orion." And those aren't even the best–that honor goes to the legendary title track, which should require no description, and the EVEN BETTER "Disposable Heroes"–eight and a half minutes of fast-paced, dynamic speed/thrash in easy contention for greatest song ever.
There's not much I can say...the rhythm guitars are razor-edged enough to skin the unwary listener alive. The lead guitar is pure emotional brilliance mixed with just enough shred to keep up the pace. The drums are perfectly done; the thing that made Lars Ulrich a good drummer back in the day was not his admittedly mediocre playing, but his perfect sense of musicality. Every crash, every fill, every tempo change is exactly where it should be, and doesn't detract from the rest of the music. The bass is just this side of a goddamn lead guitar, and the vocals mix melody, power, and anger in one of the best recorded thrash performances.
I will be the first to admit that there are thrash albums that are more complicated, more technical, more riff-heavy. But this, this is craftmanship. Metallica takes reasonably simple (for thrash, anyway) riffs and song structures, and then fucks around with them just enough to keep the music interesting. Things like the double-kick breakdown of "Leper Messiah," the machine gun pre-solo section to "Battery," the post-solo scales in the the title track, and the mulitple time changes of the closing solo to "Sanitarium" are what make this album not just great, but THE GREATEST.
I could go on. I could go on for hours, because the thing about this album is that after three and a half years of owning it, I can still listen to it and go "OH MY FUCKING GOD." It's an example of what happens when you combine really good musicianship (and make no mistake, Metallica were at the top of their game back in 1986) with really good ideas; a triumph of songwriting that sets a standard that has yet to be topped.
Buy Puppets. Listen to Puppets. Bow to Puppets. Thank you and goodnight.
I'd like to start this review out with a praise to Cliff Burton, a bass-virtuoso, showing his finest hour on this very album. After reading an article about the night he died in my own home country, and also reading the very last interview with the bass genius, I felt like listening to this album, and after playing it I realized I gave this much less credit than it deserved. Despite the lack of Dave Mustaine riffs to use, they manage to come up with some bonecrushing monster thrashing (though this was the last album where they did so), and they mix it up perfectly with some emotional mellow pieces all over the album providing great variety and adding more effect to the heaviness. For example, that magnificent slower piece just before the solo of "Battery", brilliant shit.
On here, they had magnificent ideas and crafted them all into well done songs, and it turned out excellent. On the follow-up, they'd go too far with the fucking around, and I blame the death of Cliff Burton. It can't have been a coincidence that they started sucking as soon as he passed away. Drink lots of vodka in hell, Cliff!
I'm gonna have to point out that there's still one song on here that's pure shit - the dreary, mind-numbing piece of shit called "The Thing That Should Not Be". Great atmospheric basslines from our favorite Clifford doesn't help this song at all, cause the riffs are too few, too uninteresting and too flat. And the song is also way, way too long.
But this is the only actual low point on here, the rest ranges from good to fucking awesome. The album sounds great too, thanks to a rather dry and extremely tight-sounding production job by Flemming Rasmmussen, which goes perfect with the album, and also gives extra depth to the bass, which is as I've already said, nothing short of amazing. Cliff chose not to just play along with the guitars like many, many other thrash bassists, but he created his own lines giving the album another musical level and his work in general coming damn close to a lead guitar sometimes.
His bass guitar is of course most prominent on the 8 minute epic instrumental "Orion", a pretty emotional and rather nicely done piece, which on a musical level contains further great atmospheric work by the entire band, the guitar and bass intertwining on many different levels creating lots of beautiful moments in the song, and listening to this song while looking at pictures from Cliff's last photo session (all that stuff I got from an issue of Sweden Rock Magazine, by the way) is rather creepy. Or weird, or whatever you wanna say.
However, the song isn't that great, cause it shares a problem with "The Thing That Should Not Be" - it's damn long, and doesn't seem to get anywhere, so it gets kinda boring after a while. But if you're in the right mood, it can still get to you pretty damn nice.
The entire album has a rather epic feel to it, with all the mood changes and impressive song lengths, and it's for the most part done really well. The first example of that is in the title track, "Master of Puppets". That one first opening riff is fucking legendary beyond human understanding, and after that we're taken on an 8 minute ride of a riff assault with magnificent slower, emotional moments as well, well depicting the haunting lyrics, dealing with cocaine. Yeah, this song does own.
Another mindblowing epic, and the best song on the album, is "Disposable Heroes". I'm gonna have to praise Clifford Lee Burton even more on this one - the way the fast guitars race against his slower, moody bass and Lars Ulrich's drumming chills you to the bone, building up a truly sinister atmosphere before the song kicks in, and it's all just so fucking well done. And this is when lyrics could write better lyrics than "I'm madly in anger with you", oh yes. One of their best songs, definitely.
The remaining four songs are pretty damn amazing as well. The opening and closing tracks definitely stand among my favourites on here - "Battery" and "Damage, Inc" respectively, both lashing out with crushing thrashage fury, ripping apart everything in their way. "Battery" differs itself with the tasteful acoustic intro, perfectly kicking into the riff attack, and also the slow part before the solo. "Damage, Inc" is the one song on here that remains a bonecrushing heaviness all through, and is a monster thrasher at breakneck speed with the most vicious lyrics ever. "Life ain't for you and we're the cure!" Oh fuck yeah. Or the classic (to which Metallica sadly didn't stay true): "Following our instinct not a trend - Go against the grain until the end!" Still inspiring to all those true metalheads out there not to stray into poserdom like Metallica did after the end of their bassist.
Finally, we have the atmospheric "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)", with all it's mesmerizing leadwork and alternating mood and tempos building up to another epic masterpiece, and the slightly weaker "Leper Messiah", still being a damn strong song mostly thanks to the orgasmic melodic section leading up to the magnificent solo. Quality stuff there, and the song also brings in some pretty damn good riffage.
But still, the best on here is "Disposable Heroes", closely followed by "Master of Puppets", "Battery" and "Damage Inc". So yeah, half of the album are total fucking classics, and only one of the remaining four is actually bad. "Master of Puppets" is not quite as good as "Kill 'Em All" or "Ride The Lightning", but any Metallica album with Cliff Burton in the lineup is still absolutely essential in any metalheads collection.
This is the album that started it all for me...Metallica's Master of Puppets! Most people talk about Kill 'em All or Ride the Lightning but, while those are good, Master of Puppets was the first time that they were finally out of all of the material that was written by Dave Mustaine before departing for Megadeth.
From beginning to end, Master of Puppets is a full throttle assault to the ears and body...I say the body because you have no choice but to get up and bang that head that doesn't bang to all of the songs except for one, and I'll get to that one in a minute.
It starts off with Battery! A cool sounding accoustic intro to the song leads us in to one of Metallica's best songs. After the accoustic intro, the song leads us down a downward spiral of intensity only matched by other songs on the album.
Other songs such as the title track, MASTER OF PUPPETS! This song is godly and it owns every other song on the album! Originally only supposed to be three and a half minutes and ending at the part in the song where the word "Master" is repeated to a slower, more deeper voice. They, thankfully, decided to continue the song from there because that's where it gets really intense. Clocking in at over eight minutes long, the song about the power that material things (namely drugs) have over the human mind and body, ends in a barage of maddened laughter conducted by the band no less.
Then it's on to the dreamy and demented (but all together heavy) The Thing That Should Not Be! The H.P. Lovecraft inspired song begins with it's erie opening which continues throughout the entire song except for the choruses! The song is erie with some lyrics that are taken almost directly out of H.P. Lovecraft's stories! The lyrics, "Death May Die!" Classic Lovecraft.
Welcome Home (Sanitarium), a great song fassioned in the same sense as Fade To Black from Metallica's second album, Ride the Lightning. Sanitarium has a sureal beginning intro that expresses feeling and emotion until it's on to telling the story of people in a nuthouse! Classic songwriting.
The only song on Master of Puppets that can rival the title track would have to be track number Five, Disposable Heroes! Another long tune on the album, it's a furocious, eight minute+ banger about war and the human condition; about how they don't just train to survive and kill rather they brainwash the young minds of men whom go off to war to kill for their country! The fury in James Hetfield's vocals sound as if he has experience war and Kirk Hammet's guitar solo is mind bending to say the least.
Leper Messiah, track number six, is definatlely not the best song on the ablum but that's not to say that it is a bad song. The song itself, written during a period in American television when the religious televangelists were taking over (and taking the money of the niaive and gulable), is a direct smack in the face of authority and those who would sell you a god that they deny themselves!
Perhaps the only song on the album that is lighter then the rest, Orion...it is an almost beautiful at times instrumental constructed mainly by the late great Cliff Burton! The song is a glimmer of light in a sea of madness as it carries on for nearly nine minutes and demolishes almost any other instrumental in the history of metal music.
And on to the last song on Master of Puppets...the arena smasher--Damage Inc. With an erie almost sureal intro on the bass guitar, it finally sets in. Sets in are definately the wrong words to use because the song doesn't really 'set in' per se...it crushes you from it's opening chord after the intro and continues to pumble you throughout. It's maddening riffs and barking vocals lead to a quick paced, great solo by Kirk Hammet, and in the chorus, just as it's getting more and more furocious, it slows to a whisper, "Damage Incorporated!" Unbelievable. When the song ends and then fades to silence, you still think that you hear things in your head!
Master of Puppets is nearly a concept album in it's theme as every song deals with madness and control, or the madness of control except for Orion which is just as beautful as it is demented. Master of Puppets is yet to be topped and no one will ever top it; sadly to say that also includes the band themselves as Metallica have become one of the most hated bands in the history of metal! But for now, until either Metallica see the light and begin their long road to recovery in the Heavy Metal scene, or they fade out like everything does eventually and they die off from the media's eyesight, we can have these gems that they released in the early to late eighties! Until something of major difference happens, just enjoy!
1986 was one of the finest years ever for metal. Maiden released “Somewhere In Time”, while Slayer released “Reign In Blood”. Just as important, though, is that Metallica released their third album “Master of Puppets”. It is now regarded as one of the finest metal albums in history, which is no mean feat. “Master of Puppets” is the last album with bass genious Cliff Burton, who would be killed in a bus accident mere months after this album’s release. He died while he was at the top, at least.
Battery starts the album. The same procedure as last album is used here. Accoustic guitars opens the song, in kind of a Spanish flavor, before a galloping riff kicks in. Then the song goes mental. It’s a fast and thrashy killer of a song. Lars is playing ‘shit’ as always, a personal style I like very much, while Hetfield and Hammett rips and shreds all the way. Burton is also there somewhere, although drowned in the drums and guitars. The solo is great, and the song as a whole is one of Metallica’s best. Track two is ‘Master of Puppets’. The legendary ‘Master of Puppets’. The opening riff is Hetfield at his best, a real ripping of the guitar. The song is about narcotics, and how it is to be addicted. There are some very skillful play on words and expressions in this song, making the lyrics quite impressive. The bridge and chorus (or is that chorus and post-bridge?) is so good it brings tears to the eyes. “Come crawling faster! Obey your master!” Great stuff. This goes on for a few minutes, before the song suddenly calms down. This is my favorite part of the song. Hetfield and Hammett plays a beautiful dual guitar solo. Well, on the album Hetfield plays the whole thing. Without doubt his best solo. Then comes the group-shout part of the song (just like in Creeping Death), before Hetfield screams “fix me!” and Hammett plays a frightenly fast and fantastic solo. Then a little more excellent guitar-playing before the song settles into the third verse. There’s much to say about this song, but that should be enough. It’s a perfect song, that much is clear.
‘The Thing That Should Not Be’ is much more slow-paced than the two songs before. It’s based on H.P Lovecraft’s Cthulu mythos. While the song is very good, and features some bottom-heavy rhythm guitar play, it’s a bit slow for its own good. There’s really not anything bad about it, but sometimes, for some reason, it gets a bit boring. One thing I should mention, though, is the twisted guitar solo by Hammett. This is some of his greatest work, and very original. Actually, copming to think of it, this song is better on S&M. Hetfield’s voice on that version is much more twisted, and the added end lead play by Hammett is mystic and wonderful at the same time. ‘Welcome Home (Sanitarium)’ is the ballad. Or rather semi-ballad as it speeds up halfway through. I actually like this one more than the title track. It begins with a wonderful accoustic intro, followed closely by an even more wonderful solo. The intro creates a mystical feel, something the verse also keeps up. There’s a really great feeling in this song. The chorus is more aggressive, but not brutal in any way. The second solo is also great, with some dual harmonies here and there (drool). The fast second half of the song is ripping, and makes you want to bang your head out of its socket (!), especially when the Hammett-solo comes.
The second half of the record starts with ‘Disposable Heroes’, which is about the uselessness of war. A great fast, raw and ripping thrashy song, one great moment after another, BUT…but it’s too long. I seldom say that about a song, but in this case I must. I mean, the riffs are excellent, the chorus is total blackout orgasm, the drums are ‘shit’, but it’s repeated one too many times. It’s over 8 minutes long. 6 minutes would’ve been enough. Well, I guess thrashmaniacs will love it regardless, and I still love it. “Back to the front!” Track number six is ‘Leper Messiah’. I know this is an incredibly popular song, but it’s my least favorite off the album. Still, it’s a good song, just not one I listen to very often. I’ve heard Mustaine made the main riff, so maybe that’s why I’m unable to love the song…The fast section is kickass, though. The best track on the album is actually an instrumental! ‘Orion’ is perhaps the most beautiful song Metallica have made, and Cliff’s finest moment. There are countless different riffs, leads and patterns in this piece of music, it’s incredible, and ALL of them are fucking fantastic! Midway through there’s a moment with only bass, and that’s the section I’ll always remember Burton for. While the first half of the song is perfect, the second half is simply heavenly! I’m almost crying now, listening to it. The nice thing is that it fades out, so in a way it never ends.
Well, enough of this sappy crap. The last song is ‘Damage, INC.’ It begins with strange, brooding guitar noises, and then suddenly, after one and half minute, it reveals itself as a fast thrashy song, much like ‘Battery’. The chorus is excellent; ‘Blood will follow blood!’. Great stuff. Someone think of this song as a filler, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. It stands powerful on its own, with a most excellent guitar solo. Of course, it may seem kind of simple, after complex songs like ‘Orion’ and ‘Disposable Heroes’, but it ends the album in a nice fashion, leaving you wanting for more.
That was the whole album. The production good, but it’s kind of dated, like 80’ish. You shouldn’t have a problem with that, though. Not much more to say, really.