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Get it? Because the album is called Ride the Lightning and there's an electric chair? Aah nevermind...
This is the band's second studio effort and I believe the last one to have any writing contributions from former guitarist and Megadeth mastermind Dave Mustaine. It shows the band writing more complex but equally fast material to Kill Em All. The band sacrifice none of the heaviness yet also expand their sound, with some acoustic guitars that are used very well. Listeners will no doubt be in for a treat.
The acoustic guitars are heard primarily in "Fight Fire With Fire" (the opening track, AND right at the start. Metallica be trollin'), "Fade To Black" and instrumental "The Call of Ktulu". However, these are still heavy songs, so at no point does it feel as though the thrash element of Metallica is lacking on this album (it's the later albums listeners want to be worried about. Ha!), and in fact, I consider "Fade to Black" to be one of my favourite Metallica songs. The subject matter is very dark, and concerns a man giving up and ending his life. It was very gutsy of the band to tackle such a topic so early on in their career, but nearly 30 years later, the world is glad that they did.
The lyrics on Ride the Lightning also deal with deathly and apocalyptic themes. "Fight Fire With Fire" concerns nuclear weaponary and how it destroys hundreds of innocent lives (the bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, for example) and the title track poses the question of whether death is a suitable punishment regardless of the crime, and is told from the viewpoint of a man awaiting his death sentence in the electric chair. The subject matter is consistently powerful and shows that Metallica were certainly not to be underestimated. This was a young band with something to say.
Other classics on the album include the epic "For Whom the Bell Tolls", "Trapped Under Ice" and "Creeping Death". "For Whom the Bell Tolls" especially is up there with Metallica's greatest songs. The bass effects as well as the evil sounding guitar riffs make it an absolute treat to listen to. "Trapped Under Ice" is one of the faster paced songs on the album and is standard thrash fare with a small sprinkling of melody and a sing/shout-along chorus ("Escape" has the same ingredients though it is slower).
Ride the Lightning contains many of Metallica's greatest moments, and should be cherished by any fan of the band. The band play like their lives depend on it. This album establishes them as a rising force, and, although many of their later albums have divided fans and critics, they will always be a popular touring entity no matter what. Why, you ask? Well, it's because fans want to hear songs from early albums like Ride the Lightning regardless of what they think of Load, ReLoad, St. Anger or Lulu. It's an album that everyone can agree on. That alone should prove the album's legacy. If you consider yourself a metal fan and you've yet to hear Ride the Lightning, then do it! Preferably sometime before you die.
Metallica need no introduction, so i won't do one. Basically, when i first got into metal Metallica were one of the main bands i was into along with Iron Maiden. Probably the same for most people. Sometimes we grow out of music from our youth, not the case with this album. The album everyone goes on about is Master of Puppets, but i've always felt that Ride the Lightning blows MoP away on almost every level. It is not only a genre defining classic of thrash, but of metal in general. On a side note i also think it's a cool album just because it came out the year i was born! This was also the last album to feature songwriting contributions from Dave Mustaine and his input is definitely of a high standard for the 2 tracks he co-wrote.
'Fight Fire With Fire' starts things off with a gentle acoustic intro, a trick the band would use to introduce 'Battery' on the next album. Nice thrashy track, even has some fast double bass drum pounding from Lars (in those days he was actually a shit hot drummer). Next we have the title track (just like on Master of Puppets). The solo on this track is lengthy and amazing, and the track has some fantastic riffs. 'For Whom the Bell Tolls' follows and is an absolute classic, featuring THAT bass intro! great song, not really thrash but instantly memorable. 'Fade to Black', the first Metallica ballad, is also a classic despite what the purists may say. Kirk's solos are dazzling, the only thing wrong with this track is the shitty production. Listen to a live version and Lars is hammering the bass drums at the end, but barely audible on the album version, shame.
The second half of the album starts with 2 slightly lesser tracks, both are still very good though. 'Trapped Under Ice' is pure thrash, while 'Escape' is more mid-paced. At the end we have the mighty 'Creeping Death' (still a live favourite) and the instrumental epic closer 'The Call of Ktulu'. The first of these is just a brilliant thrash track, while the latter shows off the band members' sublime instrumental abilities. Not a weak track among the 8 on this album.
Now i kept comparing this to Master of Puppets. I've always felt MoP just followed the same blueprint as RtL, even the style of the respective tracks from 1-8 is the same with the exception of the last 2 being reversed (i.e 'Orion' and 'Call...' being instrumentals). This album is simply more original and also stronger overall and will always be my favourite Metallica album. The only downside is the slightly poor production which i think would be improved by a full remix/remastering, preferably not by Rick Rubin or one of his minions! It's mainly the drums that need brightening up on a few tracks, no problems with the guitars or bass. If only Hetfield could still sing like this too! His best set of lyrics are perfect for his youthful, raspy bark. None of that singing or yodelling nonsense here!
In summary, a classic. The absolute best this band would ever do, yet sort of overlooked in their back catalogue. Amazing riffs, great solos, powerful drumming, awesome bass, cool vocals, thoughtful lyrics and above all else, amazing songwriting! if you don't own this you don't deserve the power of hearing!!!
Recommended: Every track, just buy the damn album
When writing Ride the Lightning, Metallica had to make a crucial decision: go the safe route and continue motorbreathing and hitting the lights, or to become the true four horsemen of metal. Simplified: become a goofy novelty act or establish themselves as a serious band. Not to badmouth Kill Em All (it is my favourite Metallica album after all), but if the band carried on in that direction they would have gotten stale pretty quickly, and any later change of tone would have been unconvincing to the metal scene. Metallica chose the correct choice: the way of progression. This direction is helped by the inclusion of 'The Four Horsemen' and 'Phantom Lord' on Kill Em All, which proved to fans that the band could do 'serious' fantasy themes and do it very well. So why not do a whole album with a serious face? Enter, Ride...
And the first three notes are 'Blackbird' by The Beatles? I kid, but it is cool to think that three very recognisable notes can lead to two very different songs. After a short and pretty acoustic intro 'Fight Fire With Fire' bursts forth with venom. The album strikes a nice balance between reverb and actual body, which is the bane of many thrash metal album. Too little reverb and it can seem dull and unexciting, too much and you lose the energy. But nay, Metallica's new production feels huge, adding much dimension to the sound as required by the increasing dimensions of the music. My favourite, 'Fade To Black' is the song that most benefits from this. The natural reverb of the acoustic sections give it an almost live feeling, making it easier to get caught in the emotion of Hetfield's vocal performance, and the emotion of the entire track. As for the song itself, it is the epic Metallica have never quite matched. Maybe 'The Unforgiven' comes close, but 'Fade...' sends shivers down the spine, especially at the final section leading to the solo, when the guitars lead all the instruments back in with that riff, that galloping B-G-A-F# section... They are four of the most beautiful, most perfect notes ever played on guitar.
How Hetfield's voice has improved! It still isn't as commanding or as tender as it later becomes, but 'Fade To Black' is sung convincingly and successfully portrays the feelings behind the lyrics. Lars drums his heart out once again, this time at much faster tempos, and even with considerable amounts of complexity: the confusingly awesome upbeat snare of 'Fight Fire...' and the double bass pedalling towards the end of the song. Okay, so using the double bass is child's play if you're talking Lombardo or Menza or Benante, but damn it sounds good with Metallica, and it's probably the one thing they lack most of the time. It's nice to hear it. Hammett's pentatonic solos don't quite fit with the tone of the music, although I've never had too much of a problem with them when ignoring the just-plain-wrong solo in 'Damage, Inc.'. The solo intro 'Trapped Under Ice' is very 'No Remorse', but thankfully the rest of the song goes in enough of a different direction to give it a pass. Famously, the introduction to 'For Whom The Bell Tolls' features that heavily distorted and wah-pedalled chromatic passage that Burton convinced listeners was the work of a lead guitar, rather than his bass. Overall, it is the hellish tone of the bass ('The Call of Ktulu' is a prime example), Burton's technique and his contribution to the songwriting that stands out the most.
The album does feel, to me, like it stagnates creatively towards the end. I like 'Escape', 'Creeping Death' and 'The Call of Ktulu', but I have an issue with each one that prevents me from fully enjoying them. 'Escape' is weak and too simplistic in the verses, and the guitar riff matching the vocal melody in the choruses winds up feeling flat and cheesy, like Iron Maiden. Yes 'Creeping Death' does have a memorable, head clattering intro and a jerky verse riff, but I've never felt it has had much else going for it (and I know I am in the wrong, it is constantly topping 'Best Metallica Songs' lists everywhere, and people go nuts for it live), and it is generally popular opinion that even excellent musicianship can't prevent 'The Call of Ktulu' from being too long.
Ride the Lightning is definately a classic of the genre. It may, to me, be a little less than astonishing towards the end, but in its entirety it is essential. Metallica at this point had not yet done wrong.
While Metallica was a little premature on their previous album, Kill 'Em All, they are much more precise here. Fight Fire with Fire is pretty fast and a lot more vicious than most of what is on Kill 'Em All, yet songs like For Whom the Bell Tolls and Fade to Black are much more intimate. Most songs here hit the mark, though one, Escape, is a tad questionable.
Overall, everything is better. The mixing and production is much more on the mark and the band is much more in their own and sounding like themselves and is just an improvement all around.
James' right hand is insane here as are his vocals. While not quite as gruff as they'd become, they are a better representation of his voice than the previous album that seemed to swim in reverb. His lyrics are also better, some of which cover war, nuclear weapons, false prosecution, and cryogenics, though I personally think it's possibly a metaphor for being addicted to drugs [in this case, meth] and a foreshadowing of the title track to the follow-up album. I'm not entirely sure if James had been using meth or other amphetamines, but that's what I've always interpreted the song as being about. Cryogenics doesn't allow you to move at all, so how would you be screaming to trying to talk to people? The guitar tones here are much better as far as rhythm guitars go and James' thrashy riffs are much better.
It's arguable whether Kirk's tone is better here or on Kill 'Em All, but what is better is that his personality shines through much more than before. Fade to Black has an epic solo that is probably the best, most perfect solo he's ever done. His solos on Creeping Death, Ride the Lightning, and Trapped Under Ice are also quite representative of his style. Overall, his tone seems to have more body, though it is more of a scream rather than a treble-laden tone and his melodies are more mature and "catchy" in that you'll hear it in your head after listening to the album or hum it.
Cliff's a lot more upfront, which is good because he definitely adds something intangible on the first three albums. His playing on the For Whom the Bell Tolls intro really sets it over the top and makes the riff after that extremely heavy. If you've ever heard the live version of this song when Cliff was still alive, his playing is even more intense, doing cool little fills and almost playing like a "lead bassist". He does quite well throughout the album and again is the MVP, however everyone else steps up their games to compete.
I still hate Lars and think his playing has never really been up to par for a band of Metallica's magnitude, but he at least manages not to fuck things up by playing tastelessly. Lars sorta seems to do "Lars" and that's about it. While the cymbal work on Kill 'Em All was kind of annoying, it's better here as he's not constantly playing the same cymbal pattern and instead changes it up to make the songs more diverse. However long Metallica toured between Kill 'Em All and Ride the Lightning really did wonders for Lars as his playing is much more solid. Nothing really stands out, but considering how Lars "stands out" on a few of the later albums, this is a good thing.
Mixing and production this time are much better. Everything sounds stronger and meaner with more body and nothing to weaken the vocals or guitars. While the bass could use a better tone or even better, a little louder in the mix, overall it's quite good and beats the nonexistent bass of AJFA. Oh, and the songs seem well-written and arranged.
Ride the Lightning is one of my favorite albums from the Big 4 and probably #2 from Metallica. James, Kirk, and Cliff do great jobs on this album and while I don't think Lars is a great drummer, he doesn't do anything to distract from the performance of the rest of the group. It just sucks that Cliff only had one more album after this. I suggest anyone who is a fan of the Big 4 or just Metallica to get this album as it's great.
Fight Fire with Fire
For Whom the Bell Tolls
Fade to Black
To be honest though, it's hard to recommend tracks when the entire album is perfect from start to finish.
Follow up release from "Kill 'Em All", Metallica's effort here features 8 tracks of the very most admirable thrash metal to the core. The quality in production isn't the greatest, but it may have to do with the band's financial situation at the time. So, in effect not all of the instruments are heard to a great extent unless you blare the album. Mainly the bass could've been turned up a little bit more because it's barely audible. Nevertheless, Metallica managed to concoct another original thrash metal release. Pure innovation here. Another great one by pretty much the founder of thrash metal genre itself.
The guitar riffs are wholly impressive, fast paced for the most part, and entirely filled with songwriting genius. The crunch tone of the guitar is very likeable if thrash metal is your favorite genre or even if it isn't. Songs like the title track,"Fade to Black", and "Creeping Death" are favorites of mine, but all of them are noteworthy and unique. The bands' acoustic guitar use on "Fade to Black" has one of the most unbelievably well constructed main guitar melody. No Metallica ballad can surpass that acoustic guitar riff ever. It is impeccable and a pure exoneration of their songwriting advancement.
These songs aren't very technical guitar wise, but "Fight Fire with Fire" is a very fast paced track with riffs unimaginable and very intense. Solos by Kirk Hammett are fast and furious plus very well constructed and consist of wah pedal licks with amazing mixtures of blues influenced technicality. Just about every solo on here is wholly fast and well confounded. All of the tracks have unique song structures that stick in your memory and could never be played out. This goes for the first 5 Metallica releases, then degeneration into pure destruction that was tragic to see such talent go to waste.
James Hetfield's vocal outputs are intense with less screaming than their predecessor, but still feature the hate fueled lyrics that are mixed with hoarse throat. He sings with a clean voice on the acoustic parts of "Fade to Black". However, as the song progresses, a heavier vocal output is exhibited on the crunchy tone guitar. For every song, he is quite angry and intense. The vocals mesh well with the guitar riffs. A moderate use of back up screams are exhibited on here. Overall, every single track has worthiness and some more so than others, which is typical for an album.
The drums by Lars Ulrich exhibit a great pound into your skull with even some double bass kicks that are featured on "Fight Fire with Fire". His executions on each track are well played out and rehearsed to suit the music. Not a track on here lags in this department as Lars has very good skills and mechanics which are well mixed into the production sound. His abilities are far well embraced and utilized on every song. The production/mixing as was previously mentioned wasn't the greatest, but still very worthy of value. Again, I just had a hard time hearing the bass guitar. It's audible only if you crank the volume.
To reiterate this point, Metallica was pretty much the founder of the thrash metal genre itself. "Ride the Lightning" is a very dark and intense album in this genre and shows how well this band matured from their first full-length release. The production quality again is the weakest, but even that is debatable. This album remains to be my favorite release by the band because of its originality and desolate atmosphere. YouTube some of the songs that I mentioned to see what I mean in terms of quality thrash metal galore. If you're a fan of thrash metal and don't have this yet, get it now!
Personal note: (Disclaimer)
For me this was the first real metal album I listened to and was what made me fall in love with this genre of music. It is for me personally the most important album I ever listened to so my review may or may not be written with rose tinted glasses. I leave that to your own judgement......
Now for the review:
Anyone that is aware of the history of Metallica will know that their music has changed over the years in some cases with drastic and horrifying consequences. This album is however in my opinion their greatest ever release and one they will never again equal. After the raw and speed metal sound release that was Kill 'em All Metallica released a much more mature release where everything imaginable was better. Ride the Lightning was more refined and as a result more interesting.
Compared to their first release which lyrically was quite childish this time round they deal with more adult issues and social problems: suicide, capital punishment, war etc. There are also references to literature in there as well Cthulhu by H.P Lovecraft just to vary it up a bit.
The production of the album is good, obviously after 25 years it sounds limp compared to modern releases but the actual song writting and strutures still sound great. The cover art is nice although the booklet is crap. It has the song lyrics and a few pictures but no cool artwork (not a real issue to most people but I like that sort of thing)
James Hetfield shrieks his heart out on tracks like Trapped Under Ice but also shows his softer side on the albums ballad Fade To Black. This is the best he ever sounded on an EP and the youthful energy he has here makes you think that the modern vocalist of Metallica must be an imposter. His riffs are very good, something that can be heard throughout the entire album especially on Creeping death
Kirk Hammett gets alot of flack from various fans who seem unable to accept Dave Mustaines ejection from the band. To anyone in doubt as to Hammett's talents this album shows why he is a great guitarist. His tone is beautiful and his variation over the course of the 8 songs demostrates his credentials. His solo in Fade To Black is arguably his greatest moment in his career. It isn't the fastest or most technical thing he ever played but it was and still is the most emotional thing he ever played. The Call of Ktulu is another shining example of the mans talents and as an istrumental at nearly nine minutes to remain interesting the music has to be perfect, because with no vocals to hide behind any poor playing is highlighted even more than it otherwise would have been.
Cliff Burton is to me and many other people what you would decribe as the soul of Metallica. I say this because many fans are of the belief (myself included) that after his death Metallica's music started to nose dive. It is important to note that Cliff had an interest in classical music and that to my ears at least had an influence on the way the songs were structured. As a whole the music is put together very well and this is to me what Hans Zimmer would write if he were a metal composer. His bass sounds great and gives the band a solid backbone and his intro to For Whom The Bell Tolls is brilliant.
Lars Ulrich has always been somewhat annoying to me as his playing comes of as lazy. There are times when he is good but others when he seems to put in less than everyone else. His playing seems to always give what is needed but not anything that highlights his performance. His dums sound here is good I just wish there was more of them.
Choice cuts: (Although all are great)
Fade To Black - About suicide it perfectly captures the feelings of someone in the act of commiting the act. I would suggest the subject of the song is killing themseleves through an overdose as that would explain why they are fading away as opposed to just instant blackness which would be assossiated with someone if they shot themselves in the head for example. The atmosphere starts out soft a beautiful guitar melody open the songs all for that get steadily more frantic as the song progresses. The songs fade at the very end s the subject finally sucumbs to his suicide wish
Creeping Death - Is written about the 10 commandments in the bible and has a very egyptian sound to the riff... especially the breakdown about half way through the song which is one of my personal favourite riffs ever. The riff was however taken from a demo song called Die By His Hand by Exodus, that band Kirk was wih before he joined Metallica.... so they didn't nick the riff as it was Kirks riff in the first place. The solo is great and the lyrics fun.
For Whom The Bell Tolls - An anti war song about the senselessness of war. It is based on the book of the same name. The men of five the song refers to is a direct link to the book, the men make their last stand on a hill against overwhelming numbers.
Escape - Is he one song I have never really been into, it's not crap but it certainly isn't great when listened to at the same time as other songs on the album
In comparison to the innovating but ultimately rather closed minded debut record, Metallica's Ride The Lightning is a big step forward for the band. In only one year, the band explored new terrain without abandoning its roots and went further than any other band of the genre at the same time. This album is a milestone and has not even lost a glimpse of its charm nowadays. Anybody that contests this is simply a disappointed hater that didn't like the direction this band would later take.
The classic introduction to the perfect opener "Fight Fire With Fire" is the first surprise and a very good idea to contrast the aggressive and powerful head banger. The band also developed its technical skills as the brilliant guitar solos in the title track "Ride The Lightning" easily prove. The legend goes even further with the atmospheric doom thrasher "For Whom The Bell Tolls" that sounds very inspiring to me. The half ballad "Fade To Black" proves for the first time that the band can write very emotional, insightful and calm songs and are not only a great thrash metal band. Each of the first four songs is completely unique, adds something new to the sound of the band and justifies the great reception and high rating of this milestone.
The second half of the record is only slightly weaker. "Trapped Under Ice" is a powerful but rather generic thrasher. "Escape" is a little bit slower and is rather a melodic heavy metal track with some thrash roots that sounds as if it was heavily inspired by the more melodic New Wave Of British Heavy Metal movement. The song is catchy and less heavy than the other ones and could have been a great single output. "Creeping Death" has the high quality of the first half of the record and is another memorable moment of the thrash metal history and an unforgettable live classic. This song has a lot of power and emotion and convinces with its juvenile charm. "The Call Of Ktulu" proves that there are some great and often still underrated musicians in the band but the song has not the high class of the later instrumentals or the stunning uniqueness of Burton's memorable bass solo from the first output. It's still a pretty decent and diversified track that could please to fans of thrash, heavy and maybe even progressive metal without the glimpse of a doubt.
In the end, this great record deserves the legendary status it has today and is one of the biggest milestones of pure thrash metal. On this album, we can already detect that the band would go on a more diversified and experimental path in a few years and try out something new from time to time. This record unites the energy of the juvenile first years and the more complex experiments of the following records in a perfect way and should please to any Metallica fan as it is also easily in my top three albums of this band.
Metallica will always have a special place in my heart as the band that got me into metal. The Black Album was it for me until I decided to do some digging. And found out that, WOAH, Metallica was one of the founders of a genre called thrash metal. Unfamiliar at the time when I was around 12 years old, I decided I would take a listen and I am forever changed because of it.
“Ride the Lightning” displays excellent song writing but doesn’t leave out the thrash Metallica was so good at making. “Kill Em’ All” was pretty much straight alcoholic thrash metal. While the alcoholism was still there, “Ride the Lightning” shows more maturity in their writing styles. While their debut is still my favorite, their second album is still godly among the beginnings of thrash metal.
Starting with the production, it’s probably a little better than the debut. The production on RTL is still very raw but it is a step up. The guitars are still crunchy and heavy. The drums sound pretty amazing; except for the fact that the bass drum doesn’t exist except for when he hits a crash but it’s not a big deal. The bass is audible but could be a bit louder. James’ vocals are amazing. I don’t see how anyone could not like his early vocals. They are not as high as “Kill Em’ All” but still maintain that angry James Hetfield that I love.
As far as speed goes, this album still delivers. It’s not as fast as their debut but it still gets the job done. “Fight Fire with Fire” is arguably their fastest song. The riffs are extremely fast. “Ride the Lightning” is a pretty mid-paced song that turns into pure thrash during the solo. “Trapped Under Ice” is another full speed thrasher from beginning to end that has some awesome gang vocals. The other speedy song on here is “Creeping Death”. Now it’s not “Fight Fire with Fire” speed but it is still pretty fast.
Song writing has stepped up tremendously on this album. Kirk seemed to write his solos more carefully instead of shredding thrash solos on the debut. The riff in “Creeping Death” is great example of how their writing has improved. “The Call of Ktulu” is the longest song on here and is an amazing instrumental. The beginning is very creepy and the song is easily as good as or maybe even better than “Orion”. Cliff really shines on this song as well as “For Whom the Bell Tolls”.
This album is killer thrash and is essential to own if you like thrash metal.
Best tracks – “Fight Fire with Fire”, “Trapped Under Ice”, and “Creeping Death”
This was the first album I heard of these audacious Californians', and it made a massive dent in my ears from the start. In high school, a buddy of mine at the time made a cassette copy of this album for me, and from the first opening moments of "Fight Fire With Fire" and its delicate classical guitar plucking I knew I was in for something massive with the tension it built, and when the electric guitars came rising up and that first merciless RIFF blazed out of my speakers it was over. At that time, it was the fastest song I'd ever heard until I was exposed to Slayer's "Hell Awaits", and it took my breath away with its fury and intensity. Thus went my introduction to Metallica and it began a long love affair that has, like many affairs stagnated and fallen by the wayside as Metallica changed into mainstream suckage as opposed to the masterful mayhem on display here.
Flemming Rasmussen's production was for the time clear and pretty well-defined, and you could hear Cliff Burton's vigorous bass approach rather well despite the raging wall of guitars generated by James Hetfield on this album. The drums are not overproduced, but sound good enough so that they don't override everything else. They actually sound rather natural, a good thing in this era of overtriggered typewriter drums that lack oomph and warmth. Kirk Hammett even weighs in with some nicely executed lead guitar parts that justify his reputation (ill-deserved these days) as a rather good player--and this comes from someone who always thought that he was the band's weak link. James' approach in the studio was changing drastically as well; not just content to bash out furious speed metal riffs, he took a whole new angle on their compositions with clean and acoustic guitar parts galore as well as slower, more epic riffs to go with the frenzy, and it was and still is awe-inspiring.
Overall, the band comes off as a eager young bunch of thugs who had discovered dynamics and how to better play their instruments, and it shows, with the extensive touring behind "Kill 'Em All" benefiting their tightness and skills. The songwriting was already moving ahead and improving, with more depth and willingness to try new things, as the ending instrumental, "Call of Ktulu", evidences with its seething wall of sound anchored by Cliff's signature fuzz-wah gurgles on the bass--really, when he died, the band died with him, in my opinion. "Fade To Black" was something new for Metallica, too, a more subdued and subtle approach, with James' first attempts at melodic singing faring surprisingly well and the rideout being one of their most stirring and dramatic endings with Kirk's emotional soloing and the mournful harmony guitars underneath like a funeral procession. In fact, I prefer his clean singing on this song over most anytihng in that vein he's done since!
This to me was the first sign that Metallica were preparing to take the world by storm, with improvement across the board and eagerness to spare. Their take no prisoners approach being tempered by newfound maturity (musical, anyway) was already taking shape into the monolithic sound that would inspire legions of bands across the world, never mind America. This is one of my two favorite albums of theirs for a reason, and it still has a high position of esteem in my memories, my collection.
Second in the series of four classic thrash albums released by Metallica, Ride the Lightning is often elevated as the best of the bunch. Significant in that it is the first Metallica album to display the band’s mature musicianship and more ambitious arrangements, Ride the Lightning nevertheless gets a bit more praise than it deserves as it highlights songwriting over pure speed and bloodlust, foundations upon which thrash was founded. Musicianship and melody are important tools, of course, but Metallica are at their best when they pull no punches and just hammer riffs down yer throat track after track (see: Kill ‘Em All), which is something that they unfortunately do not do here.
But from some of these songs, you’d hardly know that it’s overrated. “Fight Fire with Fire” is a fucking masterpiece, preceded by an unassuming classical acoustic bit that serves as a very dramatic counterpoint to the devastation that follows it. It’s a trick they probably picked up from fellows Mercyful Fate (“Into the Coven”), but it’s employed here to even greater effect. The song proper is a prime example of how much better Metallica got after Kill ‘Em All. James Hetfield’s nasty vocals, drums like explosives, the amazing lead harmonies: it started here folks. The title track and “Creeping Death” embody the forceful mid-paced spirit of the band (the latter has a nice Iron Maiden touch). It’s here that you really get a feel for how good everything sounds on Ride the Lightning. The guitars and bass have definition, but it’s still a very raw sound. James’ vocals are also the best they’d ever be right here, where he balances melody and aggression without sacrificing the shrieky quality of his Kill ‘Em All voice. The last of the true thrashers on the album is “Trapped Under Ice,” which shares a riff or two with Exodus’ “Impaler” (both of which were co-written by Kirk Hammett). Another speed-fest with a memorable bridge section, it begs the question why all the album’s tracks weren’t this brutal.
Now before I continue, do not let it be said that I dislike this album. Ride the Lightning is a pivotal album in Metallica’s career and one of the 80’s many, many essential heavy metal albums. But with Metallica being considered the greatest thrash metal band of all time and this album usually considered their finest hour I have to disagree. Because if you look at it honestly, the album is not homogenous enough to really be considered a thrash album. A good thrash album should have a ratio of up-tempo songs to slower/experimental terrority of roughly 2:1. Here it’s more like 1:3, with a lot of songs that stray towards the traditional metal sound. This is the kind of thing they’d exhibit on Master of Puppets to even greater success and it’s also why I’ve scored it a bit lower than one might expect from my abundant praise in the preceding paragraphs. But on to those songs.
Firstly, there’s a pair of crunchy 80’s metal tracks. “For Whom the Bell Tolls” is the classic of the two. From the ominous sounding bells, Cliff’s distorted bass lick, Kirk’s repeated lead lick, and the heavy-as-fuck chords (and that’s just the intro), it’s an indisputable metal anthem coupled with one of Metallica’s most poignant lyrical ventures. But with a pace that never dares exceed a solemn march, it’s not exactly thrash now. The other track is “Escape,” which stands out on the album due to its optimistic lyrics and more traditional metal riffs. Another great song, another track that isn’t thrash. Hardcore Metallica fans will fight to the death defending these two straightforward, traditional metal songs as legitimate Metallica thrashers, but when Metallica releases an entire album of songs like these (the black album), they disregard them as commercial swill. The irony here is so palpable that on a cool summer day you can actually taste it.
For the album’s remainder, we have the two epic numbers. “Fade to Black” could be likened to a power ballad, if the lyrics weren’t so morose and the guitars didn’t sound so fierce. With some of Hammett’s most well thought out solos and a chilling pair of clean riffs for the intro and verses, it’s one of my favorite Metallica tracks. It also begins a precedent of mellow-starting, heavy-ending “ballads” that would continue to appear on the band’s albums (and with the exception of St. Anger, they all appear as track 4 on their respective releases). “The Call of Ktulu” is the album closer and it begins the precedent of having a really long instrumental piece near the album’s end. This one begins with an awesome clean riff set (alleged Mustaine riffs) that builds anticipation before becoming much heavier. Cliff returns to some of his “Anesthesia” tomfoolery while Hammett shreds and Lars is everywhere. But aside from the furious climaxes, this one long outlives its welcome, just as future Metallica instrumentals would inevitably do (more on this later, perhaps).
And there you have it. “The Greatest Thrash Metal Album of All Time. Ever.” An album that, like Master of Puppets after it, achieves this status in the eyes of fans not by being the best damn thrash album it can be, but by utilizing musical ideas foreign to the genre to such an extent that many of its songs are no longer a part of it. In short, it’s considered a great thrash album because much of it isn’t thrash. Somebody explain that one to me, because I just don’t get it. No one is a more ardent supporter of variety in thrash metal than I am, and even I feel that the core of this album is not rooted enough in the essence of the genre to be one of its cornerstone albums.
Of course, how “thrash” it is will probably have little bearing on most listeners’ opinions. It is a great album and a mandatory purchase for metal enthusiasts. But if you’re one of those that think that this is the greatest thing the genre has to offer, you’ve got a lot to learn, friend.
Notable Tracks: “Fight Fire With Fire,” “Fade to Black,” “Ride the Lightning”
One guaranteed way to get a reaction from a thrash fan is to mention the word "Metallica". Best take cover after mentioning that word, though, because it won't be long before you're covered in spittle from said fan furiously explaining that a) Metallica were only good when Mustaine was around (which is completely false, no one knows which riffs he wrote, and besides AJFA slayed) b) Metallica ripped riffs off other people, or the most perplexing option- c) that Metallica were never any good anyway.
Yep, the final group is pretty freakin' hard to understand. I have no problem with people disliking Metallica over Napster and St.Anger, and if Megadeth fans want to show their solidarity with Dave by making the "Mustaine was Metallica" claim then that's OK with me. But to deny the life affirming beauty that are the first four albums of this great/once great (circle whichever you think applies) band is frankly bizarre and quite masochistic, somewhat akin to those monks who eat only bread and water in an attempt at increased piety.
The simple question, really, is why eat bread and water when you can feast on the glory that is this album? I have absolutely no hesitation in saying that this is an amazing thrash album, easily the best ever, and those who prefer Darkness Descends, Rust in Peace, Pleasure to Kill or even Reign in Blood are somewhat misguided. They dourly eat the gruel when there is a banquet to be had. They drink their vinegar when there is fine red wine.
Sure, Ride the Lightning isn't the fastest, or the heaviest, or the most aggressive. It doesn't have the most riffs, and it's not the most technical thrash out there. It certainly doesn't have the best drumming. However, none of those factors matter that much; Ride The Lightning is more then the sum of it's parts, and what it lacks in those perhaps more objective fields it makes up for in it's sheer songwriting excellence and epic arrangements.
Yep, every song is gold. It's pretty hard to pick a single song and go "That is the best one on this album" because they're all fucking excellent; you've got the steamrolling thrash that is "Fight Fire with Fire" (which possesses possibly the finest twin guitar lead ever written), the boner inducing, F# riding, insanely fun to play speedy excellence that's "Trapped Under Ice", and the super melodic, almost radio-friendly strains that is "Escape". Every song here has been written with the poise and skill of a surgeon- certainly Metallica let no filler pass them by at this time in their career, an attitude that I wish they had kept.
Still, while the songs mentioned above are pretty hard to beat, they're not the best songs on this album. Perhaps it was all the Jagermeister they were drinking, or god/satan/scientific method came down and touched Hetfield's picking hand, but everything else in this album is just something else entirely. Ride the Lightning is a beast of a thrasher, and I guess I should credit where credit is due and point that Mustaine must’ve written some of it. It’s a bit more opaque and perhaps a bit less catchy then most of the album, but it still kills and I think everyone wishes Hetfield could still do that scream in the bridge. Hammett shows his skills with the quite excellent ballad that’s Fade to Black, with Hammett’s licks on this one probably the best thing Mr.Kirk ever recorded- head and shoulders above anything else he’s done. It’s a fantastic ballad that to this day still sends shivers down my spine. You’ve then got another thing that Metallica would not quite achieve again- the instrumental that’s solid for the whole nine minutes. No boring melodic stuff like Orion, no terrible doom riffing like To Live is To Die, just ominous, powerful mid paced riffs that build brilliantly until its’ huge ending comes along and shits on your chest.
Then we get to the song (well, we're not going by track listing, but I digress..) that proves just how deserving this album is of the title I bestowed it. It's hard to discuss the sprawling, epic thrash that's Creeping Death without resorting to page after page of superlatives and excited, breathless swearing, but the fact of the matter is that this one song- this one single song- is absolute musical perfection. There's the pounding, awe inspiring intro riff that makes parting the red sea seem fairly dull in comparison, the chorus can only be described as "fucking woo man, shit woooah", and that's all before an epic solo leads into something that could almost be described as a 'breakdown' comes in at the bridge, with some rather tasty chanting (I've noticed that this is the Metallica album with the most samples- name another Metallica album with an evil god laughing, a thunderclap, bells, synths and sirens) and just general crushing-ness. It will remove your limbs.
And I guess the good thing about said limb removal is that it’s just so freaking memorable. When I came to write this review I hadn’t really listened to RTL for maybe 3 years. However, the instant I put on Fight Fire With Fire every single riff came flooding back. Heck, even the drum lines are catchy- I’d be hard pressed to find another album that I could air drum in its entirety. There just really wasn’t any other thrash band that made things just so damn catchy without sacrificing any semblance of heaviness. This is still a heavy beast of an album- still brutal and unfriendly to many a mainstream listener today- but it’s got more hooks then a hook making factory. I have spent weeks before repeating the Creeping Death chorus over and over in my head; I can’t say I’ve ever done that too, say, Megadeth’s “Polaris”.
Now, I’m aware that saying an album is ‘catchy’ or ‘memorable’ doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the best thing ever. Linkin Park are ‘catchy’. Sean Paul is ‘catchy’ (typing this actually got his “Right Temperature” song stuck in my head again.) However, Metallica back up this catchiness with genuinely excellent, amazing material. I’m happy that this is a record full of varied, supremely excellent thrash; if I also end up humming it when I’m in the shower that’s a bonus as far as I’m concerned.
To conclude, then. There’s not really anything I can say that’s bad about this album. “Escape” is possibly the weak point but it’s still an excellent song. Overall, this is a life changing beast of an album that everyone needs to hear more then once.
Is it the heaviest? No. Does it have the most riffs? No. Is it the best? YES.
Nowdays when people discover that they like Metal music Metallica is usually one of the first bands they check out, it was the same for me back in 2002 / '03. The first Metallica album I ever heard was the "Black Album" but one day at school when my friend / bandmate gave me his mp3 player to let me hear "For Whom The Bell Tolls" I was taken away. It was one of the greatest things I've ever heard & from that point I have been a big fan of Metallica from time to time. A very great introduction for such a great album like this one...
After the raw & not too good debut album "Kill 'Em All" Metallica would make their probably best album ever. The first track starts off with a somewhat bad guitar intro that immediatley leads my minds to a word with 3 letters & it's spelled "Gay" but, after the intro is done all the heavy, raw & furious guitars goes off & it's a thrash classic you hear. Track 2 is the title track, a song co-written by the former lead guitarist & now Megadeth-master Dave Mustaine & you can hear it since the riff is awesome. It also has a great guitar solo which probably is one of Kirk's finest. The next 2 tracks is the stone heavy "For Whom The Bell Tolls" which just isn't my introduction to this album but also my all time Metallica favorite & it's followed by the thrash-ballad "Fade To Black", a heavy & emotional thrash masterpiece. The second half is awesome just like the first but it's still somewhat weaker, although it has the classic thrasher "Creeping Death".
The production is the one I like most from a Metallica album. The guitars cuts through year head ear to ear like a razor blade, sharp, heavy & raw. The bass is awesome & it sometimes sounds like it's a guitar thing, one of Cliff's old specialties. I've also always thought that Lars' drums was recorded perfectly, you hear everything clearly & it's all on the same level although "Master Of Puppets" probably got a better sound on the drums than "Ride The Lightning" but that's also the only thing.
The cast does a great job & I don't really know why everyone's picking on Lars for being a bad drummer, I think he's good. Kirk & James are performing on top with their guitars & James' vocals are a lot better than on "Kill 'Em All" even though he would become better on "Master Of Puppets". The most awesome performance hear though is done by Cliff Burton. He was way before his time & like all the best musicians he was cursed to be killed tragicly in 1986. Cliff is easily the biggest loss of bassists ever...
So let's go for my final notes. This is either the best or the 2nd best Metallica album, the only one that possibly can beat this is "Master Of Puppets" but I think I like this like 1-2 % more. It's an excellent piece of Metal aswell as music history overall. It's a album that everyone should have, especially headbangers. It's not perfect but a great band like Metallica doesn't get better & so don't many other bands either.
The best cuts are my favorite "For Whom...", "Ride The Lightning" & "Fade To Black" although every track is awesome.
In memory of Cliff Burton, R.I.P. We won't forget you!
Metallica continue to keep their reputation as one of the top thrash metal of 80s, and this album is proof of that. This is just as awesome, if not, better than their debut, Kill ‘Em All. The riffs are faster, heavier, and the overall atmosphere of this album is dark and evil. Not only that, but it also manages to have more intelligent lyrics. Metallica were certainly at their peak in 1984 with this album. A lot of the material here, as in the last album, was written by Mustaine, but he had less of an impact on this album.
Fight Fire With Fire starts out with a nice acoustic session which sets up the atmosphere of this album, before kicking your ass with awesome, thrashy, and fast guitar riffs. Ride The Lightning and For Whom The Bell Tolls have some pretty heavy riffs. Their both pretty catchy as well.
Fade To Black is, surprisingly for a thrash metal album, a ballad. Now, I’m not really one for ballads, but for a ballad, this song rules! This song is pretty depressing and dark, but not in a bad way. It also has some pretty good riffs. Sure the lyrics are pretty angst driven, but there are times where I can tolerate angst driven lyrics, and this is one of those times. This is probably one of my favorite ballads, as it sets a nice dark and depressing atmosphere. The next song,
Trapped Under Ice is defiantly my favorite song on this album, as well as the thrashiest on here. It reminds me of No Remorse, only more heavy and dark. It builds up, then kicks your ass with an onslaught of fast and heavy riffs and drumming along with a solo that kills. This is one of my favorite Metallica songs. Escape is much slower than the last song, but almost just as heavy. Creeping Death is another fast paced song with awesome riffs, and another awesome solo.
The Call Of Ktulu is an instrumental song. It’s not my favorite instrumental song by Metallica (Orion takes the prize), but it’s still an awesome song nonetheless. I think it’s necessary that they closed the album off with an instrumental, especially one like this.
This is, in my opinion, Metallica’s best album. It has thrashy riffs, solos that rule, and an overall dark atmosphere I na majority of the songs. This would eventually lead to Master Of Puppets which, in my opinon, is pretty overrated. If you don’t have Ride The Lightning yet, then get it as soon as possible. You haven’t really heard Metallica until you’ve heard this album.
Highlights: Fight Fire With Fire, Fade To Black, Trapped Under Ice, and Creeping Death.
... even though they didn't write half of it. But that's another rant.
Ride The Lightning is far superior to Master of Puppets for many reasons. The main reason being that it's still thrash for the most part. Whereas Master loses itse;f in a sea of pretentiousness after track 2, Ride the Lightning keeps going... and going... and going. There are uncountable good riffs on this album. Which leads me to my next point...
A lot of the awesome riffs on this album are written by other people or in colaboration with Metallica. Dave Mustaine wrote at least 2 songs on this album, as did Exodus. It pisses me off that people always see Metallica as the be-all and end-all of metal and overlook the said musicians as just hanging on to their coattails, when they wrote most of their best album. But hey, that's another rant. On to the album:
Fight Fire with Fire is an easy one to miss. It has an acoustic intro, similar to Battery from Master, but kicks into a Godlike riff. It's about as aggressive as Metallica get, and it's a kickass thrash number. Probably about on par with Battery actually, in terms of thrashiness.
The title track, Ride the Lightning, chugs along for 6 and a half minutes, and really wouldn't be out of plave on ...And Justice For All, but they do a good job of carrying off all the riffs in the tune. It's hard to be bored, even though it's quite progressive in nature. The solo section is really impressive. There's few Metallica (Or even thrash songs) that have a passage as good as this. A top quality track.
Following from this, there is a somewhat change of pace. For Whom the Bell Tolls could be compared to The Thing That Should Not Be from Master of Puppets, but it's infinitely superior. It has a catchy riff, cool lyrics and an awesomely simple bass intro. The only problem is that it feels it should be 2 or 3 minutes longer. Even so, it's still an absolute classic. It's a mini-epic about the rigours of Word War I, and having seen and studied the Battlefields myself, I can say it fits remarkably. And then from a mini-epic into a proper epic...
Yes, it may have posbly the gayest subject matter ever, and yes, Metallica have always managed to somehow blow when it comes to ballads, but you can't help but enjoy the last 3 or so minutes of this song. Once you get past Hetfield weeping over the theft of his guitar during the first 3 minutes of Fade to Black, you're treated to an outtro of epic proprtions. The final 3 minutes are simply 3 of the best minutes of Metallica's career... if only the first 3 didn't make me want to turn off...
The next track is a proper balls out thrasher. Trapped Under Ice. This riff is stolen from Exodus, quite clearly, (as anyone who's heard their early demos will testify), but the riff works well. Although I still prefer Impaler... which is from where the riff was taken.
Anyway, it's still an impressive track, and if Hammett did write this riff (which I doubt a fucking lot) then kudos. It's from the same school as Battery and the opening track from this album, Fight Fire with Fire, and hits pretty hard for a Metallica track. Stay and bang for this one boys, it's a good one.
Escape is slightly different, but still has the riffs to hold it's own. Slightly NWOBHM (as someone previously mentioned...) but this just adds to the album's appeal as a quality thrash/speed album.
On the whole, you'll be noticing by now that Ride the Lightning is far more aggressive and balls out metal than other Metallica releases (save maybe Kill 'em All, but all the leather references make it gay as hell), and it lends itsef to a quality and varied album. Onto the rest of the album...
Creeping Death is another good thrasher. This run in the middle of the album is why Ride the Lightning dicks over all their other releases... there's 4 or 5 awesome tracks in a row as opposed to a good track here and there and some throwaway bullshit. Master of Puppets has Battery and Master of Puppets that hand some serious ass out to the bastards, then goes into sleep mode for 2 tracks, and then manages to ruin what should be an awesome track in Disposable Heroes by being overlong. The album Ride the Lightning avoids this by being thrash and to the point. The way it should be. Awesome. Creeping Death makes you want bang, bang and bang some more.
Give me riffs, me me catchy chorus lines, give me aggression. Why did you pussy out Metallica?
Call of Ktulu is a pretty good instrumental track to close. I dunno, but I prefer Orion. It's still really fucking good as far instrumentals go, but Orion has bass solo to die for and some badass riffs... Even so, the main lick in Ktulu is pretty good.
All in all, this owns all other Metallica releases like Jack Bauer in a nunnery. Get it, listen to it, cherish it.
Also, make sure you get Bonded by Blood by Exodus if you haven't already. That's what thrash REALLY is. They make Metallica look like Britney Spears. And they wrote some stuff on this album... that's the relevance of this little piece.
To many, Master of Puppets is a bona-fide classic. The quintessential Metallica album. The quintessential thrash album. The quintessential Metal album. Perhaps it is one of thrash's finest albums. But I don't quite agree. Ever since hearing both albums, I've always preferred Ride the Lightening, an album under the shadow of the mighty Master of Puppets. To me, the actual song Ride the Lightning is superior to Master of Puppets. Fade to Black is superior to Welcome Home (Sanitarium). Call of Ktulu is superior to Orion. Well, this is just my opinion anyways. Ride the Lightning was Metallica's sophomore effort. But there would be no sophomore jinx here. Recorded in 1984, the album continues to develop the band's thrashy sound farther.
As I just mentioned, with Ride the Lightning, Metallica employs a very convincing thrash metal sound. The heavy riffs found in songs like the title track and Trapped Under Ice hit you hard and hit you often. Riff-master James Hetfield has a very good showing, as he constructs some of thrash metal's finest songs with this release. Former bandmate, Dave Mustaine also has writing credits on the album as well. The Megadeth mainman only has credits on two of the songs, Ride the Lightning and Call of Ktulu, but on the flipside, they are two of the albums best tracks. They are very lengthy, but neither of the tracks loses their momentum at any point, as each moment is vital to the track. But long lengths aren't limited to Dave Mustaine's songs. Two of the other tracks, Fade to Black and Creeping Death also exceed the 6 minute mark (with Fade to Black approaching 7 minutes). But not to worry, the remaining tracks are four to five minutes in length. These tracks are just as aggressive as their longer counterparts, and definitely do not lose out in intensity. The energy found on Creeping Death and Fight Fire With Fire alike is superb and adds to the enjoyment of the album. Also notable is the lead guitar work of Kirk Hammet. While he has been criticized for not experimenting enough in his solos, what can be found on Metallica's sophomore album will show you why. His variety of shredding is very well done and very fun to listen to. His solo in Fade to Black is definitely one of my favourites in the thrash metal genre, as it remains melodic and emotional while technical at the same time. Musically is where Metallica shines, he this may be the best musical effort of their career, thus far.
Vocalist James Hetfield will never be remembered as one of metal's greatest vocalists. But this album does mark a large improvement over his Kill Em All effort. Indeed, though his singing is not perfect he has several excellent performances in songs like Fade to Black and Ride the Lightning. The former is a very emotional track and James does a very good job setting the sombre mood with his passionate vocal delivery. In the latter comes a vocal delivery which is a better representation of Hetfield's efforts of the album. He has a rough voice similar to many in the thrash genre, a vocal technique he makes use of for much of the album. His vocal style fits the music very well, feeding off the energetic tracks. Again, James Hetfield may not be the most technical singer in metal, but he still has a very solid showing, especially in the title track.
One of the major things that brought Kill Em All down, at least for me, was the production. With Ride the Lightning, the messy sound quality found on the band's debut album has improved significantly. The guitar sound in particular is much, much better than it was on Kill Em All. The guitars are still heavy and still retain that thrashy metallic sound, but what they do loose is that annoying fuzzy sound that came in their previous releases. The quality of Hetfield's vocals is also much better, as I mentioned earlier. Where in the past, a once annoying shout/growl mixed in with the music, it has been replaced by a clearer voice that stands out much more adequately. Yes, the production could be better, but for an album recorded by a smaller band in 1984, it isn't all that bad.
As long as the genre is around, Metallica will leave a long lasting legacy over metal. Their first four releases are heralded as some of the genre's finest works and it isn't hard to see why. Though 1986's Master of Puppets is generally regarded as the band's best, I'd have to disagree. Ride the Lightning is Metallica's best album. Every aspect that made Metallica such a great band can be found on this album. Hell, many of the elements that made thrash such an interesting genre can be found here. Ride the Lightning is a fine album, and I recommend it to everybody.
(Originally written for Sputnikmusic)
Three things took place in 1984 that stick in my mind; the Detroit Tigers winning the World Series, George Orwell’s book “Nineteen Eighty-Four” was plotted in 1984, and Metallica released their marvelous second album, “Ride the Lightning”
“Ride the Lightning” has always been my favorite Metallica album since the day I got into them. It bridged the gap from pure thrash on “Kill ‘Em All”, to more complicated symphonic pieces in both “Master of Puppets” and “…And Justice for All”. This balance of both styles makes it so that those who are partial to the thrash can listen to songs such as “Fight Fire with Fire”, and “Trapped under Ice” and those who like the more progressive material can rejoice with songs like the mammoth title track “Ride the Lightning” and “The Call of Ktulu”.
Two main things stand out besides the shift to some progressive songs, those being the refined songwriting and bolstered production. The songwriting is more matured and deals with bigger and deeper issues, (more personal, and more socially conscious), than anything contained on “Kill ‘Em All”. Some lyrical themes are the dominating feeling of impending doom, anger, and high-strung intensity. The production is a major step up; the guitars are crisp and provide a lush sound scape. The bass is thick and pounding, and the drums are a driving force. The only real problem is how the vocals sometimes sound, they are much improved over “Kill ‘Em All”, but sound muffled at times.
As far as each individual members work on the album, it feels more cohesive and concerted effort. It more than likely is because by this point Kirk Hammett had probably become “one of the guys”, and wasn’t just viewed as Dave Mustaine’s replacement.
This brings me to the performance of Kirk Hammett, in which he establishes more of his style of guitar work. There is still Mustaine-esque cues, even on the songs not containing Mustaine writing credits. Hammett’s solos contain a variety of influences; I could hear distinct neoclassical and NWOBHM inspiration. “Ride the Lightning” contains some of Kirk Hammett’s most intense and motivated work.
The rhythm section of Hetfield, Burton, and Ulrich, are so focused on this album it seems that nothing could stop them. James provides an amazing, as usual for all of his 80’s work, driving rhythm guitar. He also provides strong, but not great, vocal performance which is highlighted on the title track and “Fade to Black”.
Cliff Burton is, as usual, musical brainstorm, providing much of the more complex musical structures. His bass work is not quite as complex as some of the material contained on “Master of Puppets” but are footsteps to them, but is again another great performance by Cliff.
The execution of the drum work by Lars Ulrich, is a MASSIVE step-up from “Kill ‘Em All”. The drums are still developing into the tour-de-force they became on “Master of Puppets”, “…And Justice for All”, and “Metallica”, but are still very strong and more complete.
“Ride the Lightning” opens with the powerhouse thrasher, “Fight Fire with Fire”, which starts with a misleading acoustic intro before kicked into a thrashy riff. Some of the lyrics seem a bit awkward during the verses, but the chorus has a hook to it and contains a really aw-inspiring solo.
The title track, “Ride the Lightning”, is the epitome of classic Metallica: thrashy, yet progressive, with lyrics delving into the darkness of the human psyche. This is the jewel of the album and provides a bit of a pattern for other songs, on this release and latter albums.
“For Whom the Bell Tolls” is where the matured songwriting really hits you. The lyrics talk about sacrifice on the battlefield which would become a recurring theme on subsequent albums (“Disposable Heroes”, “One”). Also the production of the vocals are superb and is one of the few songs where they don’t seem muffled. And yes, this does start off sounding an awful lot like AC/DC’s “Hells Bells”, the bells used are clearly different, though.
“Fade to Black” is simply one of the greatest songs ever made, and is another gem. James Hetfield provides an emotionally provoking vocal performance, which can conjure a multitude of feelings from the deepest parts of your brain. One of Hetfield’s vocal gems that would solidify him as more just the “guitarist who sings too”.
“Trapped under Ice” is another one of the pure thrash songs of “Ride the Lightning”, but even this contains some good lyrics and is more mature than just about anything on “Kill ‘Em All”
Following “Trapped under Ice” is the clearly NWOBHM inspired “Escape”. “Escape” has a groove and rhythm that may conjure feelings of Iron Maiden, while the vocals reminded me of classic Rob Halford. It also contains a brief doom metal bridge, which is interesting.
The biblical epic “Creeping Death” is the best example of maturing lyrical themes. They accurately, and fairly intriguingly, pull the story of “The Plagues of Egypt” and mold it into one of their most instantly recognizable songs, and one of their best written. Also the bridge with the chants of “DIE!”, provides a great opposition to the main rhythm of the music, which could be a metaphor to the anarchy of the story, and also provided a way for Metallica to milk a concert for a few minutes by having fans chant it.
Wrapping up this album is the stunning instrumental “The Call of Ktulu” which is more complex and sounds more symphonic than their other great instrumental “Orion”. This is how more instrumentals should sound like, basically songs with no words. There is no egotistical 5 minute shred solos, not to say it doesn’t have solos that aren’t majestically awe-inspiring.
Basically, in a nutshell, Metallica sounded like they could do anything.
Overall, “Ride the Lightning” is a spraling and ambitious second album from Metallica, and better yet this is only a groundwork for something greater. I recommend this to anyone who wants to who just wants to hear some great music. No true collection is complete without “Ride the Lightning”.
This was Metallica’s finest hour both in terms of production and song writing. Unlike the debut, which basically cooked the whole way through, this album has a good deal more variety from track to track and shows a good deal more musicality. The influence of Dave Mustaine is still dominating a lot of the more ambitious tracks, but here we see the four west coast thrashers doing a bit of their own work, and the results are nothing short of stellar.
This album was not received well by some core thrash fans because of a larger keyboard presence and a good deal of acoustic guitar work. It says something about the ears that these people possess as “Phantom Lord” off the demo also had a synthesizer in the intro, as well as an acoustic interlude. Suffice to say, the intros to “Fight Fire with Fire” and “Call of Ktulu” have musical functions that don’t involve compromising the genre of thrash. The former functions well as a deceptive device, is so divorced musically from the rest of the song that it’s function is clear, and is developed a hell of a lot more than the redundant intro of “Battery”. The latter’s intro is present throughout the song, functioning as it’s primary theme.
The guitar work on here is nothing short of phenomenal. The intro riff of the title track, the various lead sections in “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, and the intro riff to “Creeping Death” are highlights of this album. Kirk’s solo on “Call of Ktulu” is one of the most insane technical display’s I’ve heard out of him, although it’s outshined musically by his short yet riveting bursts on “Trapped under Ice” and his hauntingly ominous shred work on the title track. Kirk’s melodic intro lead to “Fade to Black” functions much better than any other slower work he’s done since, and the acoustic lines represent a classic progression that essentially became synonymous with the Metallica ballad, and unfortunately was milked for all it was worth too many times on future releases.
Cliff Burton has an equal amount of display time on this album as he did on the previous release. His role as a support player dominates most of the faster songs on here, but he is given a great amount of time in the front during “For whom the bell tolls”, particularly at the beginning. But his biggest and most ambitious work is observed during “Call of Ktulu”, where he shreds nearly as much as he did on “Anesthesia”, only now he has the full band behind him. There is also a good amount of character to his playing, as his wah pedal work almost sounds like the screams of an angry deity.
However, despite all of the amazing moments mentioned before, the highlight of this album is “Trapped under ice”. This is about as thrash as it gets, between Kirk’s short solo bursts and James’ driving riffs, this is a song that could get you so worked up you’ll start your own mosh pit. This one would pass as one of the faster tracks on the debut album, yet has the exceptional production of this one. There isn’t a dull moment from start to finish, and when it’s over, you’ll be tempted to go back for another go.
If there is one weak link on this album, it’s “Escape”, but it really isn’t much of one. All in all, a good song with a somewhat NWOBHM feel to it. A lot of melodic material at work, and it’s placement in the track order gives us a brief rest after the thrash cooker “Trapped under ice” and an almost equally faster and furious “Creeping Death”. If the guitars were a bit less aggressive sounding and the vocals were a bit more operatic, this could pass for an early Dickinson era Maiden track. It’s a tiny bit out of place with Metallica, but still a good song.
In conclusion, if you are not a Metallica fan, this album is still highly recommended because it is one of the finest moments the thrash genre ever had. It’s a bit more accessible than the debut for those of you whom are not fully inclined towards the thrash genre, but like melodic music with a fast pace. This album is a pinnacle of early 80s metal, and is a standard by which any thrash band should be measured against. Listening to it from start to finish is an experience comparable to the title, so get yourself to the local store, and be prepared to Ride the Lightning.
Metallica refined their hard, fast attack on this one, and took their musical direction in more places. Some experiments such as slower tempos, more changes in musical variation and eerie new melodies are examples of this new refinement. 2 songs from the Mustaine era are included on here, and not suprisingly, are the 2 best songs on the album. Bassist Cliff Burton takes the spotlight a bit more on this one, as he was hardly showcased as an incredible bassist on Kill em All (with the exception of the soulful bass solo of Anesthesia).
Fight Fire With Fire opens the album with a bang and is one of the fastest, most aggressive songs Metallica has ever done. This easily outdoes anything on Kill em All in terms of speed and heaviness. Ride The Lightning follows it up, and it is obviously the best song on the album. The solos are ripping, the riffs demand immediate headbanging, and there are about 4-5 tempo shifts in the whole songs. Creeping Death is noteworthy for its "DIE!" middle section while Fade to Black is an immediate standout, boasting some heartfelt chord patterns and vocal lines, but it doesnt go in as many places as in Ride the Lightning or The Call of Ktulu. The Call of Ktulu is the other standout on the album, boasting some attention to musical detail that would make Bach blush. The solos are wild and it keeps your attention beginning to end. Its one of those songs that are similar to a roller coaster in content.
This is Metallica's second great effort. Sadly, they would never reach the peak they set with the first 4 albums again, but the fact that they are shit nowadays makes this music all the more lovable. Cliff Burton and Dave Mustaine DEFINETELY had some hold over Metallica's progression over the years, whether many agree or disagree.
Essential midpaced thrash.
This album is a classic. That's a fact. But it's nothing special actually - there are many albums which are considered classics (and then there's the constant underrated/overrated blah blah blah all around the globe). It's not the reason I gave it such a high rating. The reason is that by listening to it I can really immediately see why it became a classic. More than some other classic albums. You see - there are some albums which are told to be great and ultra-ifluential clasics, but upon listening to them (nowadays) I can't really see that much (or any) of their stellar greatness, that makes them such mega-classics. I just have to take the people's word for it and think - "yeah, the original release date must have helped in the creation of it's classic status. It must have been something very special when it was released." Some of my examples: KREATOR "Pleasure to Kill"; DARK ANGEL "Darkness Descends"; ANNIHILATOR "Alice in Hell"; BATHORY s/t and "The Return". These are all great albums more or less ("less" refers to BATHORY's first), but they tend to lack something (more on that later). And then there are albums like MERCYFUL FATE "Don't Break the Oath", JUDAS PRIEST "British Steel" or "Painkiller", SLAYER "Hell Awaits" and this one. They just do more justice to their "classic" status. I'm not trying to deny the "classic" status of "Darkness Descends" or "Pleasure to Kill", I'm just trying to explain that albums like "Don't Break the Oath", "British Steel" or "Ride the Lightning" really make me see WHY they are considered classics.
So now, let's take a look at METALLICA's second album and just what is it that makes "Ride..." such a great classic and above all - a true listening pleasure even 20 years later. In my opinion, at least.
I guess that it's the songwriting first and foremost. This record was heavy and thrashing enough for it's time, but as the time passes, heaviness and intensity are not the things which last. Eighties was the age of constantly increasing heaviness, brutality and speed. "Ride..." was released at the start of this explosion. All the insane intensity and speed came later. But still - THIS was one of the albums which "survived" (I guess "Ride..." would still be famous nowadays even if METALLICA would have disbanded in 1986 after Cliff's tragic death). As the first-contact-shock of brutality (or other things) never seen before eludes the songwriting is that which lasts. And that is great here. Memorability and power all around. The riffs are great! Just GREAT! Fuck the fact that some of them were written by Dave Mustaine. Why didn't he continue to write riffs this infectious, powerful and great in MEGADETH then? Well he did here and there, but not like this. You still have to use the riff in a song properly, having good riffs is not having a good song. But that has been discussed many times before already.
METALLICA were really heavy, intense and fast when they felt like doing it. Listen to "Fight Fire with Fire", "Trapped Under Ice", "Creeping Death" or the title track (in parts). But even in their speed they always maintained melody. Some sceptical guy on the forum explained their success by saying that their music was stupid and nothing special just "melodic as hell and easy to remember". And I can't argue with that. It was really melodic and got stuck in peoples heads (forever). Would the opposite be better? Totally unmelodic and not memorable at all sounds better to you? (SUFFOCATION fits this description almost perfectly and I love them VERY much, however)
The vocal melodies are simple, but powerful and effective and never miss the targets as far as my tastes and understanding of music goes. There is some underlying melodicism even in most of the riifs. Hetfield and Hammett (and Mustaine) didn't try to make all the riffs sound like angry hornets buzzing around your head. They didn't try to pack them with notes until they lose the last signs of life. Total destruction and skullkrusssssshhing mayhem were not their main priorities. (And therefore they are enemies :-P)
The soloing is also great (though it would get better after this album). Kirk's style wasn't fully developed back then (and nowadays it's somehow "overdeveloped"). He once said in an interview that he started to play guitar wanting to be good at soloing, and that's just what he is. He's good at soloing - from slow melodic parts to fast shredding. And again - there is always some melodicism in there, even in the fastest shredding. Listen to "Fight Fire...", "Creeping..." or "Trapped Under Ice". Or the title track. "Creeeping Death" has one of my favorite solos. It returns to the main theme (chorus melody) so nicely and transforms it. In some of the other classics I mentioned before, there is no main (melodic) theme to return (and to transform) too often.
Of special notice there is their first semi-ballad "Fade to Black" (having heard Sonata Arctica's awful cover I love this even more now). It stood out then and it still does. There's so much melody in there, so much interesting variation on those melodies. All done with feeling. The ending solo by Kirk is like a dot on the "i".
One more thing is that METALLICA knew how to make their songs sound significant. I mean - well... just listen to the first seconds of the title track. That harmonized opening theme! It's ligtning! The musical picture of it. It grabs your attention RIGHT FROM THE START, something which the title tracks on both "Pleasure to Kill" and "Darkness Descends" fail to do, but the title tracks (or openers) on "British Steel" and "Don't Break the Oath" (for example) succeed at. And there are things like that on EVERY song on "Ride...". Take "Creeping Death" as an example. Or the instrumental "Call of Ktulu". As opposed to "Creeping..." which starts with sort of a "big bang", this begins with a silent clean guitar interlude, but still - it keeps the "groove" (atmosphere) going and the attention focused. "For Whom the Bell Tolls" is one more great exmple. That opening theme is simply crushing! It's very simplistic, I know. but it's not why it's so good. You have to be able to make simple things sound great. Not everybody can.
All in all this album showcases sheer songwriting mastery, which is evident even in 2004 and beyond. The sound is clean and abrasive at the same time. The production is good by any standards. That's why I can not rate it any lower than 96%.
Ride the Lightning. The quintessential thrash album, and for good reason. With a teenage genre of thrash metal out, this record was a little gift to it, hence my review name. Long in the shadows of its little brother, Master of Puppets, this is the true prime cut of the Glorytallica days. With kick-your-ass thrashterpieces, and deep, power epics, Ride has all of it and more. ...And Justice For All is the true showing of technical ability for Metallica, yet this release proves they can play meaningful songs, which alter how you feel just by the (numerous) riffs. Let's go in for a closer look, shall we?
Opening, we get a... GASP! Acoustic guitar intro?! Hey, this isn't half bad. "Fight Fire With Fire"starts off with a melodic, acoustic intro. Sounds almost Celtic, and right as you start enjoying the peacefulness, the bliss. BAM! Right into the gut-wrenching riffs. The maniacal riffing goes on, and I have to admit, James sounds somewhat weak when the lyrics, "Do unto others asthey've done to you..." As the sonic riffing assault continues, the lyrics reveal a story of two powerhouse countries in a nuclear battle frenzy, The Cold War: Gone Bad, if you will. Overall, this song is just a sonic assault thrash number that gives everything you'd come to expect in tip-top condition. My only gripe for this number is the simplistic, barbarous drumming. All I couldexpect from Lars, though.
Oh boy. Oh boy. Oh boy. Time for the best song on the entire record, that's right, the title track, "Ride The Lightning!" This time, there is less breakneck speed, yet more strength. A song about a man who is soon going to be executed (Or so the slumberer thinks,) yet he is going to be electricuted for a crime he did not commit. Somewhat similiar to, "Hallowed Be Thy Name," nevertheless very original. The intro riff (Which has Mustaine written all over it,) is something of epic proportions. Seriously, if someone made a single with just this riff being played in an eighty minute loop, I'd be the first to buy it. Anyway, I can suck the intro
riffs balls all day, let's go into further detail. Going into less metallic, more crunching riffs, this area features some solid drum fills, and James barks out the lyrics. It features a blow-delivering solo, and then a frantic breakdown section, then goes to more more verse, then the chorus again. Excellent song.
The Bells Toll For Thee, Chimey! Metallica's track that's Everyone knows when this song is coming, when you hear the bells ringing enchantingly in the intro, it's just the vibrations in the ground warning you of the 18-wheeler Mac truck coming. Soon after, CHICAPOW! The riffing starts, and it chugs and chugs away, with a very cool lead. The riffs leave you feeling a sense of extreme nervousness, a large build-up of what will come to be. James starts singing the magically crafted lyrics, a track about war. Repeat, and then we enter a slow breakdown, with those lovable bells chiming. And the -- The fuck? It's already over. MAKE IT LONGER!!!
Next up, Fade to Black. Fade to Black, indeed, of my eyes drooping. This song is SO BORING. Sometimes, boring is good, though. This song is about a man who feels he is a nescient, worthless human being and that he is leeching from the world. For him, the expression, "Looks like suicide is your only option." doesn't even begin to cover his angst ridden pain. I have to admit though, the solos are very well done, an admirable job from Kirky, one of his better performances. The solos themselves are excellent, and sometimes even that crazy "B" word, beautiful. While the acoustics are forgettable, the solos are excellently made, yet you have to take into consideration the slow pace. Some pretty good thrash breakdowns, but nothing too special. Another breakdown, this time much larger then all the others, and lasts for the rest of the song. James tries to sing well, and he actually comes out sounding halfway decent! The man can't hold a note, though. The song fades out with a ripping solo, and with that, it's done.
Kirk Hammett killed this song. Trapped Under Ice, killed in its prime of life. Is it still excellent? Yes, definetley some postmortem asskicking going on here. What we have here, is a song that had excellent everything. Excellent drumming, excellent riffage, excellent tempo, excellent rhythm, excellent originality, excellent lyrics, excellent lead . . . - STOP RIGHT THERE. Oh, wait, it was the lead that killed this. Kirk Hammett is an average guitarist, and when he wanks the whammy in between EVERY SINGLE ODIN FORSAKEN VERSE, argh, you just lose respect for it. If it wasn't for the lead, and the obstacle known as Creeping Death, this would have been the number one song. Oh well. Maybe they can do this song over again on a later date.
I think the solo for Escape it like a drug, let the end of Enter Sandman's. The more you hear it, the more you crave it. Anyway, a midpacer with no true meaning to it, but varies with what it sounds like. Riffs that stick to your mind, and verses that do the same, there is not much to say about Escape. This is not thrash, this is not great, this is not bad. This is good.
Oh. My. Fucking. BRM (BRM is God.). Creeping Death. This is my all-time favorite song, tied with HBTN, and for excellent reasoning. Not enough can be said, not enough justice can be delivered for this masterful song. Not beautiful at all, and not out to impress you. This song just keeps on shooting you in the face, with dual .44 magnums. This song is one whole thrashgasm, and easily the best live song I have ever heard and seen. Symphony X could write a three hundred minute ode to this number, and would not capture its essence. Starting out with a biblical, crushing riff, it leads into another biblical sounding riff, which also happens to be my favorite riff of all time. A short drum solo, followed by some more riffing with excellent fills, the infamous pause....and...... Slaves! Hebrews born to serve, to the pharoah! The awesome as fuck lyrics begin, and James starts to polish this song off with a nice coating of, "Ass-raping with a fucking baseball." The lyrics are written to portray the badassery and asskickery that is the latter half of The Ten Commandments, despite it's bible-bonking lyrical themes, it is the most badass song Metallica has made. Repeat another verse, and then Kirk Hammett's second best solo, rounding it off with another slower solo...
So short, yet so sweet. The bridge, which is for me, the best moment ever to be found in a song. With a slow/medium tempo to it, this delivers a powerful, wolvenlike riff to it. This sections hold so much power, it is incredible. The headbanging that it produces, the moshing it creates, and the defining point in all music it has become for me. Just by reading this, most people would know I'm talking about, what it is commonly reffered to as, "THE MOTHERFUCKING DIE BY MY MOTHERFUCKING ASSHOLERAPING HAND!" part. The section lasts around forty-five seconds recorded, but when you are there, attending a concert live, the played out three minutes of this becomes the longest orgasm you've ever had. It's the simple, tribal, warrior like riff that makes this section so unforgettable, and forget it I never will. Oh yeah, and then some crazy chorus with an outro riff and solo. Pfft, who needs it?
Now for what is the greatest instrumental for Metallica, "The Call of Ktulu," I'd just like to personally insult Metallica for a second. You idiots, you imbeciles. How could you place such a badass song after the GREATEST SONG EVER? OK, I'm done. Anyway, to the song, it starts with an atmospheric, melodic intro. Then all of a sudden, you feel yourself liking it, and IT'S A BOMB! The song just starts, out of no where. Not much can be said, seeing as I can't write about something if there are no lyrics, or Hell, I'd be content with the sounds of a constipated man struggling to get a 15 pound shit out. Just great riffs, more simple drumming for Lars, great solos, and a nice way to end the album.
There we go, the best Metallica album. Chances are you've already got this album, or if not, you've pirated it. If not, what are you waiting for, Christmas? Get it you heathen!
Ah, now, you see this is more like the real Metallica. No pretty production here, to make up for real lack of quality, not saying any names (“Master Of Puppets“). Tighter than the rest and by far my favourite Metallica LP. Only the true Metal laymen would say Master is better. The riffs are faster, the music is more beautifully constructed, the LP fits together as one and better still, there are actual fucking great individual songs :-O
“Fight Fire With Fire” has possibly one of the greatest intros. True melodic beauty, that drops into a manic thrash riff, The drumming is still simple as fuck, but suits quite well. The vocals are MUCH more raw and general have more character, even the lyrics are smart and have more meaning than most. The solo mid song is brilliant and to the point, doesn’t drag on at all, stops and starts back up. The tempo to this song is great. This song is simple, but brilliant.
Track two is the great “Ride The Lightning”, the intro is a classic one, metallic as hell. This song’s tempo is slower than the first song. When the vocals drop in, they are almost more high pitched and more raw than the rest of the songs. Some of the lyrics are cheesy, but classic. The solo is truly expert musicianship, long but never drags on, just proves that Hammett can fucking play.
“For Whom The Bell Tolls” has that majestic intro with the bells and the drum fills/rolls. This song is a classic, but not one of my favourites. The drumming to come is really slow and crusty, ha ha, but still goes well. This is a longer, typical Metallica build up to the vocals, and when the vocals come in, it is truly brilliant. As is the chorus. The last minute and outro to this song is fucking brilliant, complete tempo drop and utter moodiness.
“Fade To Black”, well, I could honestly write a whole review on that song alone. FUUUUUCK!! Not a word in the English language to describe how utterly incredible and untouchable that song is and will always be. No matter how many St. Anger’s they may release. The way the song starts, slowly the volume increases on one note. Then a simple melody comes in. After that a beautiful, and at first simple harmony. This song is Hammett and Hetfield at their best. The way the notes go down the fret to lead to the main melodic part on 0:53, then the drum roll, and then the vocals drop in just before 1:30. WOW! This is a true masterpiece. It is like a 30 person performed Beethoven or Mozart composition, through just one Metal band. The first line in this song is immense, “Life it seems to fade away, Drifting farther everyday, Getting lost within myself, Nothing matters no one else, I have lost the will to live, Simply nothing more to give, There is nothing more for me, Need the end to set me free”.. I mean, come on. Soon after the vocals stop, lovely little teasing solo over the top of the melodic part again. Vocals back in, beautifully suiting again. The alternate mood after the vocals finish on 3:22 is a great change. 3:53 being absolute history, the mood change happens once again. Fuck, this is really powerful. The vocals especially. This powerful outburst of power is merely a lead to possibly one of the greatest song outros of all time, and I am not just talking Metal, I am talking Music. This is a construction of master solo work, that is fused with only raw emotion. This outro is well over a minute long of seemingly beautiful chaos. Absolutely impeccable.
Well, I feel sorry for the song “Trapped Under Ice”, having to follow that. For that alone I could never get into this song so much. Strange intro, good solo fill. Vocals start and it’s not bad, but the chorus is great. Good tempo to this song, good solo nearer the end. To be honest, I think the LP would be better if they swapped the places of this song and “For Whom The Bell Tolls”, it would compliment Fade To Black a bit more I reckon.
The intro riff on “Escape” is fucking exceptional. Wow, yeah, so far this whole LP fits like fuck. Fucking masterpiece. The chorus is legendary, great feel to it. The outro is weird.
“Creeping Death” is a fucking classic. The intro is truly emperor like (not the band faggots). The vocals are good and the chorus even better. Solo is immense. 3:40 being one of the most awe inspiring experiences of my life when witnessed live. The mood change is quite superb here. Then on 4:00 the first scream of “DIIIIE!!”, repeated over and over the top of the combined “by my hand, I creep across the land, killing first born man”, process repeated once more. Live (I know it’s not relevant to the CD, but it enhances the meaning of the song), the whole stadium shouting “DIIIE!! DIIIE!! DIIIIEE!!” over and over is truly something I will never forget. The outro is again, the great intro repeated.
The song “The Call Of Ktulu” is a great instrumental outro to this fine CD. The intro a simple melodic part. It doesn’t even build up at all, just keeps going until the great change and drop on about 1:30. Great guitar playing, the tempo is nice. The solo coming up is cool, goes over the top on one part but goes back into amazing mode once again. This is kind of a pointless solo, as it would suit vocals, and instrumental are usually only great when they wouldn’t suit vocals. But, nonetheless a great way to end the CD. Great outro to the song too.
WOW! This is possibly one of the great LP’s ever made, easily the best Metal LP in my opinion.
Metallica are still were not the thrash band people think they were though.
Thank you. Bye.
I'm not really that sure what to make of this album. I have heard it built up very much in recent days in reading the reviews of it and so forth, but in the past years I hadn't even given it much thought and hadn't been curious what album many of the singles from it come from. Since I began to start appreciating real metal and thrash more, I made an oath with myself to obtain all of Metallica's old material, including their debut album Kill Em' All, which I won't be getting any time soon, but still.
When reading the liner notes to this album, it's clear that Dave Mustaine still had an influence on this band, but surprisingly, it's just in the songwriting department. He helps write a few songs on this album, but apparently doesn't play guitar here because he's not listed in the credits anywhere. I knew he was kicked out because of his bad temper and alcohol problems, but I thought it was after this album. With many of the riffs to be found here, however, it's clear that Mustaine had an influence because they are faster and more technically proficient, as well as having a decidedly less thick sound. Unfortunately, his influence is not strong enough here to make this album another Rust in Peace or whatnot, but it's still admirable.
I hate when albums open with shitty songs, and unfortunately, this album falls in that category. Fight Fire With Fire features some of James Hetfield's worst vocal performances ever. I just really get the impression that he's holding back and not singing with the same grit and aggression that he could be singing with. There's also somewhat of an atonal and indecisive quality to the vocals as well that just irritates me. The riffs don't even compensate for this either. It's just a loser of a song.
Ride the Lightning is pretty good, but again the vocals sound subpar. I suppose I could blame this on inferior production, but I'm not going to scale my score of this album just because it was made in an earlier, more primitive time in the recording industry.
Thankfully, after this, the album is collectively better throughout its duration. Following the title track is For Whom the Bell Tolls, and *GASP*, the vocals actually sound normal and not muffled! It appears that James actually got his balls back for this song. This is just damn catchy, classic stuff. I can't easily justify why something is classic, but it just has that special something. That's all.
The same goes for the following track Fade to Black, which is easily one of the coolest song titles and paradoxes ever. This song has a very relaxing tempo to it and some interesting almost latin-flavored riffing.
Trapped Under Ice is 4:30 of balls-out, solid thrash. Everything on this song is great, from the vocals to the riffing, etc. James gives one of his most solid vocal performances here, singing with heaps of feeling.
Escape and Creeping Death are somewhat inferior to Trapped Under Ice, but follow the same basic song pattern and don't disappoint, and then we have the instrumental closer The Call of Ktulu, which is a symphonic masterpiece, arguably much better than Orion on Master of Puppets.
I never would've thought that bands like Metallica would write long instrumentals. At first I thought only doom, power, progressive, and other genres of metal would have the chutzpah to do something like that, but I suppose I was wrong. Thankfully, Metallica keeps this tune and Orion interesting to the listener and don't overburden them with excessive technicality.
Overall, I'd say this is inferior to Master of Puppets and possibly ...And Justice For All because of its crappy production and spotty songwriting, but the feeling and riffing makes up for it.
If you look at the history of metal, there are certain records that have marked paradigm shifts within the genre. Black Sabbath (and equally, Paranoid) was metal ground zero, being metal and metal proper. Along with Purple's In Rock, metal was born. A few years later, Priest took metal to new heights, with their steely progressive/power sound. Never had metal been more technical before, and they began playing songs louder and faster. And then eight years later, Ride the Lightning.
To cop from another source, if Kill 'Em All was the manifesto, Ride the Lightning was the revolution. Thrash metal had been wobbling about for a few years (Motorhead, Anvil, Raven), but the new age of metal was predicted by Kill 'Em All. That record laid down the basic blueprints, with longer, multi-part, technically demanding song-craft that blew the simple speed metal of Anvil and Show No Mercy-era Slayer out the window. But at heart, it was still very much only a proto-type. Ride the Lightning was the electric birth of a new form, the record with more in common with the Bay Area Thrash movement known and loved today.
In short, Ride the Lightning contains all of the fully-formed elements of the greatest acts of the speed metal generation. Specifically, the songs made sense. The Kill 'Em All stuff felt like shit thrown at a wall and sort of loosely recorded. How else do you explain the intro to "Whiplash"? So far as I know, you don't open a metal anthem with what they open it with. No surprise it's been excised from later live shows (enough with the stalling, lets get to the thrashing alright?). In addition, Metallica beat everyone to the punch by actually taking on social issues in their music. No "metal for life" or "Hail Satan"s here. Instead we get a difficult world of teen suicide, the death penalty, nuclear war, and the horrors of battle. And the more fantastical tracks seem to mean a little more, rife with possible allegory and hidden meaning.
"Fight Fire With Fire" is basically the quintessential thrash song. Tight, bolted down aggression that just rolled over you like a fucking panzer assault, even more shocking after the moment of peace (admittedly, lifted from the Accept playbook). Nothing on Kill 'Em All feels like THIS. This became the template for thrash, a higher level of violence that only Slayer would reach for (and lets be honest, meet with "Hell Awaits" and beat with Reign in Blood) until a little band called Death broke onto the scene. Well Death, and Possessed, and Kreator, and Dark Angel, and… you get the point though. It’s very possible none of those bands would have gotten as dense, as ridiculously forceful as they did without FFWF, and none of them managed to do it first. Okay, I got to say it again, this song is so damn tight! This is thrash with an unshakeable foundation, the blistering tempo and serious low-end combining to become both immovable object and unstoppable force. Oh, and that growling inflectionless vocal by James would be a precursor to the trademark death vocal begun on the Seven Churches album. In fact, its very lack of melody in any way shape or form is everywhere in early death. Hell, most late death too.
And onto the title track, another fan favourite and important piece of the metal puzzle. Just consider this from a positioning stand-point, back in 1984. First, you blow the doors off the hinges with the most insane song in the history of the world (circa '84 dammit). Then, you show ‘em that you can also rock their socks off at a mid-tempo speed, the riff being slow but just plain powerful like something Pantera would write six years down the road. Without sacrificing the considerable FFWF momentum, Ride gives the riffs room to breathe and the vox take a place somewhat closer to, but not quite, center stage (don't fuck with the power of the guitars!). And what's this, a rocker without an aggressive vocal? Zuh? James sounds like he's about to piss himself(if you were going to the chair you fuckin' would), and his wails against the injustice of it all come off as A)realistic and B)not at all lacking in serious metal tude.
"For Whom the Bell Tolls" is worshipped, and with good reason. This song is the first Metallica song that was great in a classic metal vein (save "Seek and Destroy", but that albums (non)production killed that chance). I mean, in 1984 you're probably busy learning the lyrics to fuckin' "Round and Round" and then you listen to "Fight Fire". Jesus! What was that? "Ride"? Little more accesible, but those tempo changes are still mystifying. But FWTBT, this is something we can understand. This song is metal with a capital "M", but this isn't quite so alien from the mainstream as the rest. The song doesn't lack for riffs either (in keeping with the album formula), particularly towards the beginning where the band just smushes a bunch of riffs together with a lead break and, a rarity, the most unearthly spidery bass solo in the world. The song chugs along, Lars playing a few fun fills, we get a bunch of leads, and most importantly the song introduces us to Metallica's new ability to convey scope and drama. You can practically feel the misery of the doomed soldiers, the song becoming coldly majestic and more purely cinematic than anything since, maybe uh, "Hallowed Be Thy Name".
"Fade to Black" is the next truly great dirge (ballad just isn't metal enough, ya know?) in the history of metal, following in the iron clad footsteps of "Beyond the Realms of Death" and "Hallowed Be Thy Name". It's also the first/second thrash ballad, neck-and-neck with Metal Church's "Gods of Wrath" for that title. But "Fade" really has more to do with the textbook version of the form with practically everybody in the thrash world doing copies of it. And why not? Most of the copies end up being fucking amazing, just like the blue-print. Metallica proves to be just as adept with the electricity off, crafting some simply heart-breaking acoustic riffs and solos (grown men cry, dammit!) and of course when the electricity comes to the fore it's all the more earthshaking for it. I'm sorry for being so goddamn fawning here, but this is perfect. The lyrics are simple and stunningly effective, James's imperfect, broken performance complement the song like no technically perfect 5-octave ranger could. And the wordless chorus is just purely eloquent, the force and depth of the despair beyond words, but encapsulated by the sweeping guitar.
Ah, better collect myself. Well, "Trapped Under Ice" is a good song to do it with. This is dead simple as the album gets, the other half of the straight up thrash pair on the album. I've never been particularly fond of this one, but it's popular enough. No fancy tempo changes, just thrash. It's the most Kill 'Em All song on the album in fact. And the lyrics are a ball, with James either allegorically talking about isolation again, or simply spinning some NWOBHM demon wax. Very tight too.
And now, the strangest track on the album. "Escape" isn't really hated by anyone, surprisingly, even though this is really not thrash. I've actually heard this described as something Skid Row might write, but it's really more in the line with Screaming-era Priest. Steely twin leads, and Priest-Priest-Priest riffery. Hell, lyrically this is totally British Steel. James is no Rob of course, but this is straight up fun metal like we thought had been left behind on Kill 'Em All.
Well, when you look at the list of Metallica classics, there is one track that is never omitted. Okay, actually there are tons, but "Creeping Death" is one of them. Sorry for the inauspicious intro to one of the best goddamn songs ever written, but my not-so-slick wit often gets away from me. "Creeping Death" isn't quite the iconoclast that the first four are, as most of the innovation here is present on "Four Horsemen", but it's so damn good that that doesn't matter. This song moves briskly, though not shreddingly, an even tempo that is perfect for headbanging. The riff is unforgettable, the lyrics being another Metalli-epic that does the impossible: out-Maidens Maiden. This song is biblical in size, the band rising to the heavenly height of it's subject matter. This is also the most badass Christian-positive song EVER. Not that the religious right would necessarily approve of the delivery, and this is one of the gorier parts in the Good Book, but irregardless...anyway, the "die, die, die" section is one of the most life-affirming moments in metal, unmatched in spine-chilling might, particularly live when you have 18 000 maniacs screaming their lungs out over Burton's throbbing tribal bass line.
So, how in the world do you top "Creeping Death"? Well, Metallica certainly tries, and in the process brings one final innovation on an album chock full of em. The instrumental has been a piece of the metal puzzle since the beginning (Sabbath loved them), but it's never really been an important one. The best Sabbath instrumental, "Fluff", was pretty much what it sounds like. They were pretty much scrap, mostly used to intro or segue songs. Metallica would have none of that. "The Call of Ktulu" is the most important metal instrumental yet, a sky-scraping fucking MOMENT in the history of metal. After hearing "The Call", no metal band worth their salt failed to record an instrumental, least in the 80's. This song is just genius. You can see the monster rising from the waves(even if James can't spell it's name)and howling it's rage through Cliff Burton's mad bass squawks and the twin leads sweeping up, around, everywhere. The song progresses and retreats like a military campaign, guitars climbing and swirling in place of James's shouts, using the ascending riff formula that was such a big part of the Justice record. And it's long too, most instrumentals of the past being maybe four minutes tops.
Ride the Lightning is Metallica's most important record and makes a great claim for being their best. It's certainly more important than glory-hog Master of Puppets, but it's a matter of preference. For me, best Metallica record tends to be the one I happen to be listening to, so I'll make no judgement. I'm sure you own this record already, so I won't recommend you buy it. So I hope you've enjoyed my retrospective of this album, and perhaps appreciate its vast importance in the metal world.
Stand-Outs: Arguably the best album ever and you ask for stand-outs? “Creeping Death”, “Fade to Black”, “The Call of Ktulu”
Starting with an acoustic intro that doesn't do much for me (they got that idea right in their next album), the first song explodes out of the speakers and, boy, isn't this good?? "Fight Fire with Fire" has that fast as fuck main riff that, while it isn't very well constructed, it does the work of driving the listener into complete whiplash! Oh Yeah!! The lyrics take an apocaliptic approach to it. The chorus isn't something so remarkable, mostly ruined by Hetfield's vocals. They just sound too weak, nothing like the way he screamed in anger on the previous album. Well, what the hell? This is the first song, and is not the best on the album. That honour should be held by the title track, now THIS is one of the darkest sounding song Metallica has ever done, IMO. And is complex, too, it goes places pretty much unlike any tune they did on "Kill 'em All". Curiously enough, both this and "Call of Ktulu" are the only in this album that credited Dave Mustaine as a co-writer. They are also the darkest. Makes one think about the talent Mustaine had to write such killer, obscure compositions.
Enough....next song, "For Whom the Bell Tolls" , makes me wonder, as it is one of the most known songs in the album, and also their most overrated. I mean, after listening to the much masterly composed title track, listening to this is kind of....meh. Pretty damn average....next, Fade to Black. Nothing to say here, mediocre soft part with mediocre singing, powerful riff in between the lame acoustic interludes, cool build up when the guitars start loosing the blandness and begin gaining power, excellent solo. Besides that, another overrated song, can't touch the title track either. Next one, things start picking up, oh yes! Then the first solo comes in and the song kinds of fucks up, with that mediocre riff underneat. We have to put up with some more mediocrity until the second chorus ends, then this shit powers up again. "Forever more". It goes excellent so far, then another solo and the song goes mediocre again. Pffff, why they have to do things like that? I bet the only cool riffs in that song were ripped off to another band. "Escape" is cool, i guess, is midpaced, i REALLY dig the chorus, one of this album's greatest moments. The solo is dark sounding too, you can never have too much of it.
Next, Creeping Death, another rip off, what would you know? This time is the middle marching riff ("Die,die...."), they stole it from Exodus. I always thought that riff was one of the most powerful moments on the song, what a dissapointment to know it was nothing more of a stolen guitar part. It reminds more on why Exodus owns Metallica so much. Even with all of that told, i enjoy this song very much. Hetfield just sounds stronger here than on previous songs. Ironically, just when James start picking up, the next song is an instrumental, hahahaha. "The Call of Ktulu" is another track that sounds dark unlike any other in Metallica's catalog. You may guess that they choose to leave one of the better moments for last. Cliff here takes the "lead bass" duties, but is more of a bunch of distorted bass solos overdubs recorded very low in the mix. Lead guitar is great, too.
Bottom line, i give this a 87%. Despite the low points, i happen to find this one of the better Metallica moments.
This is one of the biggest evolutions I ever saw a band make in a period of transition from an album to another. “Kill ‘Em All” was very good, in fact we all know that’s the one that started that thing for the real fast thrash style along with Slayer’s “Show no Mercy”, but Metallica’s “Ride the Lightning” is really much better…Another step that they went through to achieve the perfection obtained on thrash masterpiece “Master of Puppets”.
“Kill ‘Em All” had a rawness of sound that sometimes was noticed by the way the guitars were recorded, with those stupidly obvious overdubs that James and Kirk recorded for some songs (the intros of “Hit the Lights” and “Metal Militia” painfully demonstrated this”), and by the way that James sang sounding like a monkey with his throat being squeezed to death sometimes…
“Jon Zazula” really got lost and then came Flemming Rasmussen that had a capital toll in their sound. “Ride the Lightning” from 84 was a big improvement in the production, with those guitars sharped and heavy as hell, that bass always on the line for those songs and that drum pounding by Lars Dollarich sounding much more technical and aggressive (yes he did used the two bass drums on this record, if you listen well…), showing the progress of a band that shown so much signs of evolution based on their main inspiration for that time: BOOZE!!! (No wonder they were shortly after nicknamed “Alcoholica”!!)
Kirk and Cliff had begun writing some material for Metallica from this point, but the band still wouldn’t get rid of Dave Mustaine’s influence on their past, as this record still featured some stuff written by Megadeth’s frontman… I don’t think they used Mustaine’s material because they didn’t had much of their own at that time, they had to use it…would a band in their perfect senses throwaway some of their best songs ever written just because a guy that had a minor part in the writing of that songs got out of the band in the past?? I don’t think so… just the simple thought of that is ridiculous…
It starts kicking ass with “Fight Fire With Fire”, that featured the first ever introduction of an acoustic guitar melody in the beginning of the record (a idea that a countless number of bands ripped off over the years) followed by the furious thrash riffage of one of their best songs. The solo on that one is perfect…
Next came “Ride the Lightning”, one of their best in this album and also one of the Mustaine era written songs. It’s a long one, but it doesn’t get boring at anytime of it…Good guitar solos, Mustainish solo melodies, great thrash riffing and James angry and polished vocals make this worth the listening.
“For Whom the Bell Tolls” is an epical Metallica song and damn…this really ROCKS…Real heaviness put on those guitars, in a song with a soul of its own, another highlight of this record…
“Fade to Black” is one of my favourite ballads and definitively scores on this one…it was well worth the job of waking up one of their best friends at 3 A.M just to get the perfect acoustic guitar to record the song at that time…If you’ve noticed, this guy appears on the credits of this album as Ken “3 A.M” Jack…This one works out perfectly live and although having those soft sliding butter parts, it cracks hell apart with the heaviness of those rhythm changes…
Well, next come two Metallica songs that I never really appreciated and I think are kind of boring and also the weak point of this record…” Trapped in Ice” and “Escape” do not worth a lot of mention…not bad songs, just not great songs…”Trapped in Ice” might be a little better than “Escape” but nothing really special…
To close this album come the fantastic and epical live favourite “Creeping Death” with that amazing solo and that brutal riffage, and the 8 min long and unforgettable instrumental “The Call of Ktulu”. This last one might be as long as hell but it never gets you bored in anyway. The complexity, the bass solos and the evilness concentrated on this that was the other of Mustaine´s co-written songs, made this one probably the best song on this record (although being an instrumental…I know…) and gave the evidence that Metallica were a band that was progressing in a very interesting and pure way, still far, but very far, far away from the “We are some motherfuckin sellouts that don’t give a fuck about our fans and loooooove MONEY” days.
This is a Metallica classic and one of the four precious stones they ever put out on a record store so if you got it, I’m really proud of you, because you really know something about music, and if you don’t got it, in that case you are a thrasher wanna be, and you should get your ass out of your bed and go buy it first thing in the morning, because this one is really worth it…
After the success with “Kill’em All”, Metallica decided that they wanted to move on to something more interesting. So they created ”Ride the Lightning”. It was released in 1984, and was recognized as an instant classic. It was also one of the most played albums among skaters at the time (don’t ask me how I know that). It was really bassist Cliff Burton that pushed Metallica into exploring new territories, and what they found on this album was stunning. The production is better than on “Kill’em All”, though some people think it’s a bit too much reverb on it. I think it sounds good.
Track one, ‘Fight Fire With Fire’, opens with accoustic guitar-play, before exploding into maybe the angriest and most pissed off song Metallica has ever written. It’s heavyness makes everything on “Kill’em All” seem soft. This accoustic intro/thrashing song combination was to be copied and imitated by countless other bands over the years. It’s a perfect opener for an almost perfect album. Song number two is the title track. A bit slower than ‘Fight…’, but nonetheless angry. Especially the lead guitar play in this is awesome. Also apparent on this song is that Hetfield still has some of the rawness of Kill’em All in his voice. ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ is a perfect (although maybe too short?) song. It starts with a bell chiming, reminiscent of AC/DC’s ‘Hell’s Bells’, and continues with a chugga-chugga doomsday riff. The intro is very long, probably the longest Metallica intro ever. The main riff is so catchy it’s unbelievable, and the lyrics are some of the best Hetfield’s written. Also, this is a perfect live song.
So comes the ‘sell-out’ track ‘Fade to Black’, Metallica’s first ballad. Can you believe some people actually thought this was a sissy song!? For me it’s the best song on the album. It starts off with beautiful accoustic guitars, and one of the very best lead solos from Kirk Hammett. The verses are beautifully realized, and the wicked lead guitar riff that plays when the song speeds up is incredible to listen to. From start to finish, it’s perfect. ‘Trapped under Ice’ is another thrash song, along the lines of Whiplash or Metal Militia. Fast, ripping, raw, and most importantly, great. Too bad not every song on this album is as good, for track number six, ‘Escape’ is one of Metallica’s worst songs ever, and their one and only conscious attempt at writing a radio-friendly song. The song is mid-tempo, with a boring main-riff, and an awful chorus. The bridge nearer the end is the worst of all, though. It’s ok to listen to, but Metallica-wise, this isn’t very good.
Die! Die! Die! Motherfucker! Die! Taken from the live version of ‘Creeping Death’. I believe most people think this is the ultimate song on the record, and I agree that it is killer. Maybe this was where Nile got the idea for their Egyptian-tinged death metal? Anyhow, this is a fast and aggressive song, with plenty of memorable and great riffs, and verses and a chorus to die for. Also, it features the first ‘group-shouting’ from Metallica, you know the Die bye my hand-thing. Ok, one track to go. ‘The Call of Ktulu’ is the first of three fantastic instrumentals Metallica would write. Actually Mustaine helped write this, before he was rightfully kicked out. It’s the most moody track of them all, and features a lenghty accoustic first part. Then the distortion kicks in, leaving everything in its wake dead. That’s how powerful this song is. It’s a fucking metal symphony! No wonder it was featured on S&M, eh? Well, it ends after almost 9 minutes, which is about when you realize you’ve been listening to one of the best records throughout history.
I would’ve given “Ride the Lightning” a perfect score, but because of the less-than-good ‘Escape', and the great, but not quite there title track, I think I’ll settle for…wait, you already know the rating! Remember to buy this album if you don’t have it!