Post By: Alan
Metallica is the greatest heavy metal band that ever existed. They certainly weren't the first, and they won't be the last, but their influence is everywhere. In a career that has now spanned 30 (!) years, Metallica has released 9 major albums with new material, as well as several other albums featuring covers and live recordings. Let's break it down.
#5: Death Magnetic
The most recent Metallica album was a long-awaited and much celebrated return-to-form after a string of experimental and disappointing albums. After Metallica's 'experimental' phase, the band was ready to get back to what made them famous: killer guitar grooves, epic solos, fast rhythms and a fat sound. Death Magnetic features all of these elements times 10. Death Magnetic reminds me of ...And Justice For All because it cycles between raw aggression and slower parts, adding extra suspense to the music. It features some of the heaviest, yet focused music Metallica has ever played. What separates Death Magnetic from other Metallica albums is a maturity and tightness that only experience can bring. With so many things done so well, Death Magnetic stands out as one of Metallica's greatest albums.
Standout track: Suicide and Redemption
Metallica's latest album features many of the things that people have loved about Metallica since they got their start nearly 30 years earlier, but the track that really pushes it to the limit is the instrumental "Suicide and Redemption". Suicide and Redemption starts off sounding like a metal jam session, but slows down for a guitar part that sounds exactly like you would expect from Kirk Hammett. Also rare for a Metallica song (Since Kill 'Em All's Anesthesia), bassist Robert Trujillo gets a chance to show off his funk-influenced bass skills. The song picks back up with some guitar dueling and harmonizing, and marches on in a similar way to Orion from Master of Puppets. There is a high degree of complexity in this song, with tempos and grooves changing over time. The song doesn't start and end in the same place, but takes you on a journey. It's good to hear Metallica doing instrumentals again, because they have always done them well.
Released in 1988, ...And Justice For All was the first studio album released with Jason Newsted on bass. And Justice for All was released during a pissed off time in Metallica's career. With Cliff Burton's death and legacy hanging over the band, and ..., And Justice for All was a massively aggressive album, pushing the band's sound farther than it has ever gone before. Many consider it Metallica's greatest musical achievement. In addition to the aggressive guitar playing that Metallica is famous for, the songs on the album have a certain tension and spasticity to them. They go back and forth from fast to slow, but in a brilliant and interesting way. The songs are also long--well longer than the standard 5-minute Metallica song, and way longer than the average radio-friendly pop song. Don't let the lengths of the tracks fool you though. And Justice for All stands out as the most interesting yet raw album in Metallica's history.
Standout track: One
One is such a killer track. It features everything that everyone loves about Metallica--killer solos, fast rhythms, Lars' double bass...you know, the works. What sets it apart from the other tracks on the album though is how well it goes back and forth between a ballad and hard-core aggression. The song is loosely based on Dalton Trumbo's novel "Johnny Got His Gun" a story of a soldier who loses most of his senses, yet retains his mind, leaving him a prisoner in his own body. While the story told in the song is pretty badass, it's the music that steals the show. The song starts slow, with a nice guitar groove, yet an underlying tension builds in the rhythm. The song really gets going during a solo in the middle of the song, and reaches its climax during the 'darkness...imprisoning me...all that I see...absolute horror...I cannot live...I cannot die...Trapped in myself...Body my holding cell' part. The song plays out with nearly 3 minutes of epic guitar soloing and harmonizing. One is easily one of Metallica's greatest songs.
#3: Kill 'Em All
Metallica's debut album remains one of the most important albums in rock history, and definitely in the history of metal. Kill 'Em All is widely considered one of the first thrash metal albums ever released. It features fast guitar playing and Kirk Hammett's signature (young, raw, and less refined, yet still very much Kirk Hammett) guitar soloing. This album also features Cliff Burton's unique bass playing style, which is really shown off on the Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth) track. The first song on the album is important because not only does it introduce the album, it introduces Metallica for the first time. Some may say it's cheesy, but it's also firmly states Metallica's intentions--To play loud, fast, aggressive music that kicks your ass. They may have strayed from that for a bit, but every time they return to those roots, Metallica kills it. Kill 'Em All is interesting because it's a bit less dark than later Metallica albums, but definitely more raw. It's less about being reflective and innovative, but more about kicking ass, and that alone makes Kill 'Em All a winner in my book.
Standout Track: The Four Horsemen
This track is actually a Dave Mustaine song (Originally called "Mechanix"), and is featured on the Megadeth album "Killing is My Business...and Business is Good". Doesn't matter though...it's still a Metallica song on this album. Telling the story of the Four Horsemen of the Apocolypse from the book of Revelation, The Four Horsemen is an epic tale perfectly fit for Metallica. Stretching out over 7 minutes long, The Four Horsemen is one of Metallica's first truly epic songs. The song starts in a way that Metallica would use in many more songs: guitars come crashing in, while the song alternates between solo and dueling guitar work. Another interesting part is the drumming, which is reminiscent of the sound horse hooves hitting the ground, providing a sense of doom to the song. Kirk Hammett also has a chance to shine during the guitar solo, showing off his talent.
The Black Album is easily Metallica' most successful album, selling over 40 Million copies, and placing Metallica amongst some of the greatest recording artists of the 20th century. Released in 1991, it came out while metal was really popular with people. Many of the songs on the album were supported by massive radio airplay and had videos playing all the time on MTV. Most Metallica fans became Metallica fans because of the Black Album. The album starts out solidly with the famous track 'Enter Sandman', and builds with the second and third tracks. The fourth track, The Unforgiven, continues Metallica's tradition of writing ballads, and is revisited in two of their later albums. Another unique track (that while may not be their most popular) is a love song, "Nothing Else Matters". The Black Album is so successful because it is so well done. It is polished and slick, yet still aggressive and Metallica-like. It successfully balances many moods, and leaves the listener satisfied.
Standout Track: Enter Sandman
Don't get me wrong--The Black Album is a solid album with many good songs to choose from, but Enter Sandman is the one. From the iconic introductory guitar part to Lars' bassy drum intro, Enter Sandman starts out with a special kind of tension promising an awesome listening experience. When the guitars come crashing in, you know this is a Metallica song, but more polished than they have ever sounded. It is an awesome intro track that successfully draws you in to the album. Like many Metallica songs, it has a recognizable guitar hook that continues for most of the song, but also features intense guitar soloing and a section of spoken word where James Hetfield recites an old bedtime prayer. After the prayer section, the song climaxes, and ends. Enter Sandman is easily one of Metallica's most famous songs, and also one of their most popular music videos.
Master of Puppets is probably the greatest heavy metal album ever recorded, and stands out as one of Metallica's greatest achievements. Master of Puppets is similar to Ride the Lightning, but much more polished. The album contains some killer tracks, but also shows a more reflective side with songs such as Sanitarium and Orion. What sets Metallica apart from so many other metal bands at the time was the fact that they were willing to experiment with instrumentals and ballads, which are both featured better than ever on Master of Puppets. Like all of the great Metallica albums, Master of Puppets features fast and aggressive guitar playing, amazing solo and harmony work by Hammett and Hetfield, intense percussion, and lyric themes that are dark without being laughable. Any person who appreciates heavy metal music, or hard rock in general needs a copy of Master of Puppets...no exception.
Standout Track: Battery
A tribute to a club located on San Francisco's Battery street, Battery stands out as one of the most epic opening tracks in rock history. No seriously. The acoustic intro might throw you for a loop (Uhh, I thought this was a Metallica album!), but the little melody has a tension that builds up to the moment when the distorted guitars come crashing in. What follows is 5 minutes of pure guitar shredding bliss. Both James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett turn in speedy guitar riffs, epic soloing, while Lars Ulrich pounds away mercilessly on that double bass drum. Cliff Burton's legendary bass adds a thickness to the sound that every metal player aspires to. Battery is a track that introduces Metallica's most legendary album in the most legendary of ways.
..And so now you know! If you're a Metallica fan, you should already have all of these albums. If you don't, uhhhh, what are you waiting for? If you're new to Metallica, you can't go wrong with any of these albums. Pick a few up, turn 'em up, and enjoy the music.
Join the Conversation: Post a Comment!