Top of the heap-Metallica
For this week's Top Of The Heap Mark suggested we go with Metallica. Now I have been very vocal here, there and everywhere with how sorry this band has become and could easily use this column as another opportunity to further state that opinion. Fear not though as this one is all about their best work. With that in mind this was really only a three album contest for me. Metallica's first three albums are near masterpieces to these ears. I love all of them although Kill 'Em All is the one that I listen to more than the others. So, with that logic would dictate it is their best album right? If only it was that simple and with me things are never simple. Released in 1986 Master Of Puppets would be the last album to feature bassist Cliff Burton, who sadly died in a bus accident while touring to promote the album. Since there are likely millions of reviews for this album (and considering just how influential it would be on future bands) I don't feel the need to dissect the album track by track. Simply put every track is simply stunning, crafted in such a way that the album would forever change heavy metal's landscape. This album for me is reserved for moments when I can be alone to truly absorb it's technical wizardry and beautiful take on brutal thrash. I look at it like I look at Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi. Truly each movie is a classic and Star Wars always seems to be the one movie I see most often. Yet with that Empire is still my favorite. Such is the case with Metallica's early works as well then. As a metal community we have all likely at one time or another discussed what would have happened to the band if Cliff Burton hadn't died before his time. What would the band be like today? With Cliff's wide range of tastes (he was into everything from The Misfits to classical music after all) it does seem likely that Metallica could have still developed a more commercial sound. We don't know for sure, but they were evolving album to album and they could still have pulled the rug out from under die hard fans and surprised everyone. I tend to think though it would have been better arranged and that albums like the awful St. Anger wouldn't have happened. It is what it is though and with that in mind for me at least Master Of Puppets was Metallica's peak. One could argue that it is the best heavy metal album of all time. Without radio play the album reached #29 on the U.S. Billboard 200 album chart. That in itself is pretty amazing but consider the fact that it would be the band's first gold record for sales of over 500,000 copies in a time when pop rock still ruled the dial. It has gone on to be become one of the band's most covered albums and even saw Kerrang! magazine offering a track by track tribute album in 2006 to celebrate the album's 20th anniversary. Now off hand other than AC/DC I know of few heavy metal bands who have gotten that kind of royal treatment. In fact to get something like that just shows such appreciation for the impact the album has had. Despite future missteps the praise is warranted.
Metal Mark says-
Remember back when Metallica were considered the cutting edge of metal? Yes that does seem like a long time ago and indeed it is. In 1988 And justice for all marked the end of Metallica's string of fantastic releases. Before that they were leaders in the scene. "Kill 'em all" was one of the best early thrash albums of it's time. Then the band obviously spent a lot more time practicing and probably took some lessons because the next two albums showed a huge improvement in their playing and their writing. They took chances, stretched the songs out and added in some slower parts. All of that lead to that lead to them being a great band at least for a few years. I have always thought that "Ride the lightning" and "Master of puppets" were very similar in style. You could even draw lines between songs from each album as to which song has a counterpart on the other album. Yet for me "Ride the lightning" is a little better and stand's as Metallica's finest hour. "Fight fire with fire" was the first Metallica song I ever heard. It was a local radio show called Friday night metal that was on in 1985. I was floored by "Fight fire with fire". Before that the heaviest stuff I had heard was like Maiden and Priest. That same radio show also played "For whom the bell tolls", "Fade to black" and "Trapped under ice" during that summer. So I had heard half the album that summer and would hear the rest of the album a few months later when I bought it. Each song on the album had it's personality. Unlike "Kill 'em all" it wasn't about speed and force although tracks like the title track, "Fight with fire" and "Creeping Death" all deliver on that level. Metallica were quickly defining themselves as a band who could mix thrash bits with heavy pounding parts and slower bits and still have it come out sounding almost perfect. I wore this one out cassette before the end of the 80's and it's still the album of theirs that I listen to the most.
***What is your favorite Metallica album?