Friday, November 03, 2006

Metallica-Master of Puppets, 1986

Background- Metallica had released their debut Kill 'em all back in 1983 and immediately got quite a bit of notice on underground circles. So much so that they signed a major label deal with Elektra. This resulted in their second effort Ride the lightning which saw a much more masterful approach to the band's writing. They had developed an even greater following including some mainstream fans and they were starting to get mentioned in the big metal magazines. So by early 1986 there were murmurs in some circles that the new album was going to be good. So let's see if it was.

1)Battery-An acoustic intro comes on and then the opener slams into gear. The riffs are tight, fairly heavy and semi-fast overall. What sets this song apart isn't just the speed, but the bands ability to change pace and slow down and pick back up without losing any steam.

2)Master of puppets-I love the opening riff and you can tell the band knows it good one and they use it to it's fullest. The song moves along nicely with all the instruments chiming in and Hetfield's barking vocals carrying it along as well. Even more so than Battery, the band show how easy they switch pace and then jump back to the fast part. They did this with ease and it's one of the main things that set them apart from other speed metal bands of the time.

3)The thing that should not be-Comes on at a medium-slow pace. I like the lyrics about an ancient evil, but for me this song just doesn't do enough. It's decent at best and it might largely be that it has to follow two great songs. I did hear a live recording of it once and the band improved it be making it a bit heavier.

4)Welcome home/Sanitarium- Comes on slow and has a slower part and medium paced part. Might be one of if not the best example of Metallica making a song heavy. It's simple in some ways, but so effective and the vocals are all that they should be and more for this song. The riffs flow and are all in the perfect spots.

5)Disposable heroes-Oh, yes this is a killer indeed. A fast song that flies on but makes an impact. Again the band pulls everything out of every little note, word and drum beat. This album isn't just content with tossing out a quick fast song and fleeing the scene. They were able to longer songs without losing any power because the song structure on almost every song was just so incredible.

6)Leper Messiah-This track emerges at a medium slow pace and is very deliberate. It's more interesting than "The Thing that should not be", but not one of the best tracks on the album. It just seems a bit one dimensional compared to most of the album. The biggest plus might be the vocals which are both biting and extremely to the point.

7)Orion-The instrumental comes on with a nice fade-in. It's never really complicated, but the whole have a real handle on the tones and the pace. Just a nice song that gets the most out of every note.

8)Damage Inc.-Straight ahead fast thrasher that just comes on and moves along nicely. Used to be my favorite of the fast songs, but I probably prefer Disposable heroes and Battery now. Still a good song and a nice closer because it reminds me you of how heavy and real this album can be.

Verdict/Final word-This was a huge album for the band and instantly a huge album for the whole metal scene. The album reached number 29 on the billboard charts and that's without the benefit of a video or much radio play. Getting the opening spot for Ozzy was a huge boost though. This album brought speed metal (at least a few songs) to the mainstream and people saw it could be a good thing as Metallica were coherant rather than noisy. The band was also overall brilliant in both their writing and execution of the music. The rough chugging of their debut Kill 'em all seemed ages away at this point as the band sounded both smooth and powerful at the same point. They were truly doing something that was at least partially new at the time and they were doing it very well. They were one the bands that helped start the speed metal scene and now they were spreading it and building on it. Sadly bass player Cliff Burton died in a bus accident in the fall while the band was on the final leg of their tour. To me this was the last great album the band did as they went on in other directions, some decent and some not. I do indeed think that this album is just as great as it was twenty years ago because everything about it works. Probably one of the best and most important metal recordings of the decade although I think Ride the lightning is just a hair better.

***Next month's 20 year old album review will WASP's Inside the electric circus.


Blogger David Amulet said...

Well written. This album showed so much evolution from Kill 'Em All, and it will stand as a classic for a long, long time. One of the best of the year, if not the decade.

-- david

5:56 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Great review Mark. Personally I think that this album is a little better than Ride the Lightening, but only slightly. It is my favorite Metallica album (and the title track is my favorite Metallica track). I agree that they took a different direction after Puppets, but also feel that Justice is a great album, but different from any other one they released. The "black album" is when it started going down hill for me.

8:20 AM  
Blogger Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

yeah, well done, man...I won't ever forget borrowing your tape and then literally jogging up to Curry's Music to get my own copy. We laughed at Curry when he said that band would rule the world one day...pretty ironic since he tended to sell us on absolute shit a lot of the time

2:56 PM  
Blogger OnMyWatch said...

I didn't get into them until the Monsters festival...they were great! Later, once I got promoted to master sergeant, that was my personal theme song. ;)

3:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Mark, I am so glad your wife has a blog - she's awesome! Just wanted to say that since I am not well versed enough on Metal to make a comment here often - but I do read you!

9:23 PM  
Blogger :P fuzzbox said...

I liked Master and Sanitarium has to be my fave of the album. It will always stand the test of time.

9:05 PM  
Anonymous Rhodeislandrock said...

My favorite Metallica album. Probably in the Top 3 of 1986 and definitely Top 10 of the 80s.

For me, this is Metallica's peak. Even though I still like ...AND JUSTICE FOR ALL and the Black album, I believe that the band was at that perfect blend of still being underground/pushing new territory/becoming one of the top Metal bands.

Once the released the 'One' video, they lost some credibility in my Metal circles.

12:06 PM  
Anonymous Term Papers said...

Metallica had released their debut Kill 'em all back in 1983 and immediately got quite a bit of notice on underground circles,but why he quite?

3:38 AM  

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