Review Summary: This album is defnitly not a starter's album. It's better to start listening to Metallica with Black Album or Master of Puppets.
Fist, I would like to start out by pointing out some similarites that this album shares with St. Anger, a recent Metallica that was met with a huge disappointment.
-Both albums have songs that are rather long. (and boring)
-Both albums are meant to be 'show-offs' (I'll comment on this later on)
-Both albums are recorded after Cliff died
-Bass is almost inaudible/unimportant in both albums
-Both albums are produced in a rather unusual way
There are another similarities but I'll end here.
What I meant to say through this comparision is that these albums, although these albums may seem very different in first glance, is that these albums are actually very similar to each other in many ways. Both of these albums feature songs that are very long and boring. (...AJFA's And Justice For All clocks at insane 9:45 while St. Anger's Invisible Kid comes close at 8:30) And what makes these songs so boring? Well, it's partly because of the length of these songs, but the main reason for this is actually uninteresting riffs and pointless lyrics, coupled with insane repetition. If you look at songs like Disposable Heroes or Master of Puppets ,although they are also one of the Metallica's longer song, they are certainly more interesting to listen to than the songs in either of these albums. The strange production, which weakens the sound of rythm guitar and Drums in ...AJFA and allows Tin can sound to take over the whole album in St. Anger does not help with the songs being boring. Gone are the chugging riffs of James (replaced with weak buzzing sound in ...AJFA) , which drove their previous two albums, and gone are the Sharp, edgy sound they had on Black Album (to be replaced by repetive. strange guitar sounds in St. Anger.)
And all this is very interesting becuase these two albums are actually 'show-off' albums, meant to show people that band can do this and that. ...AJFA was supposed to show that the band could continue with Cliff gone, and St. Anger was supposed to show that they can still rock hard like they used to. It's ironic to see that both albums fails to to what they were meant to do. With Cliff, the one behind the creative and organized sound of the previous two albums, gone, the band stumbles badly thorughout the whole album. However, the fact that they actually try to do well in ...AJFA makes this a better album than St. Anger, allowing people to say that this is one of the Metallica's best albums, along with Master of Puppets and Ride the Lightning.
Now onto the overall album sound; the whole band actually tries to show that they are still the best. And fortunatly, this shows thoughout the album.
: even with the changed weak rythm guitar sound, still tries hardest to sound angry and rough, and with tight rythm sections, he succeeds in making the album sound very tight. He does sound very angry in vocal, but they fail to do anything.
: Speaking of playing tight, Lars's drumming thoughout the whole album adds to the sound, as he tries different fills and rolls here and there. I was definitly pleased with Lars's playing, especially since he did more than keeping a beat, though I didn't see anything wrong with his drumming with previous two albums. After learning to drum, I really enjoyed drumming to these songs. Too bad his drumming fails to keep the songs more interesting; I prefer to blame the production.
: Kirk is the only one who wasn't affected that badly by increasingly boring tone of this album. He still rips, as shown in melodic/wah-wah solos in songs like One and Dyers Eve. Kirk's playing is actually the only thing I actually 'enjoyed' in the whole album besides ingenious Intro of Blackened.
: Nothing much to say here, and you all know why. Not only is the bass inaudible, it's actually very unimportant to the overall sound of the album. He does show that he can play well in To Live is To Die
, though. (Still, he's no Cliff Burton.)
Overall, although the album itself is good musically, the album sounds ineffective and weak. I would choose MoP or RtL over this any day, but it's still quite great if you can take time to listen through the whole song.
Now on to the track-by-track review:
: After rather interesting intro, rythm guitar and drums come in, an unfortunaly, after playing the main theme for a while, falls back to insanly boring chorus. I hate how this song slows down when it needs more power. There's somewhat interesting bridge and then Kirk's solo, which, as usual, is quite good. After returing to main theme, the song continues, getting even more boring, and then all of a sudden comes to a stop. Aside from the intro and Solo, not really one of the most interesting songs of Metallica. 3.5/5
2. And Justice For All
: Just like Blackened, I love the intro of this song. It's quite ingenious that they did something like that using clean guitar and Drums. However, as with Blackened, after a drum roll, this song slows down and falls back into several minutes of boredom. Granted that some people actually kept listening despite the boringness (A word that I just made up) they are rewarded with Kirk's quite excellent solos, which fits quite well to the song while still being interesting. After that, as in other title tracks of Metallica, everything comes back to the start, only this time (at 6:21 mark) with amazing distorted sound. Despite how boring this song is, like other tracks, this one was actually very well arranged. 4/5
3.Eye of the Beholder
: One of the only songs on the album that feels like it's actually going somewhere. (although it does get boring at times) Lar's drumming is quite enjoyable throughout the song, as he tries to vary the drum fills for the repeating rythm parts. Once again, nice solo from Kirk, and return to the beginning. This song is fortunatly saved from being boring by drum parts. RECOMMENDED 4/5
: Thankfully, this song is not boring. The beginning part of this song, before the vocals come in, is the highlight of this song, because it is very well written. It sounds like something that was done while Cliff was alive. Another notable point is Lars's 'machine gun' drumming, which was quite creative. But the real good part of this song is Kirk's solo, which was one of Kirk's best ever. It fits the song perfectly, and it keeps the end of the song alive as well. The song ends strongly with a drum roll, and not with the repetition of the main theme, like the others do. One of the best Metallica songs RECOMMENDED 5/5
5.The Shortest Straw
: For some reason, this song doesn't sound like something Metallica had done to me. Only noticable aspects were Drumming, but it was largely ineffective. Not much to mention here, as this song follows typical ...AJFA song formula. (Good Intro+Boring drag-on+Good Solo+Break up and return to boredom) 3/5
6.Harvester of Sorrow
: In my opinion, the Intro to Harvester of Sorrow is the best
Intro Metallica had written. Despite the production, which weakened everything, it manages to sound very strong. (and also very evil) Lars's Pounding toms (which makes a triumphant return in Enter Sandman
) and alternating double bass really helps build up a tension. This intro made me think that there was really something coming, but in the 1:16 mark, the song totally ingnores the tension and decides to fall back into slow, weak-sounding main theme that is repeated over and over until you forget why you're listening to this song for. After a solo, just more "Harvester of Sorrow!" from James and the song ends. RECOMMENDED 4/5
7.Frayed Ends of Sanity
: One of the worse songs on the album, there isn't much to say about this track. It's just amazing how they managed to drag this thing on for near 8 minutes. 3/5
8.To Live Is To Die
: This song gives some air to breathe with acoustic intro, for a change, but falls back to repetition like other songs. This is not as bad though, because at 4:30 a new hope starts and at 5:00 Jason comes to rescue with bass line by Cliff, supported by Violins (?) Then the song is quite good for a while. Still, Orion or Call of Ktulu is better than this song. Don't listen to the whole song. [b]RECOMMENDED 4/5 [b]
: Metallica has never disappointed with the final track (with exception of All Within My Hands, which is whole another story) and Dyers Eve is not an exception.
Turn the volume up in your iPod a little, then Dyers Eve alone comes back to full force in a rather dull album. Unforgiving guitar riffs from James and Insanely Fast Double Bass from Lars (My feet often gets tired doing this song) challenges Damage Inc.
Just like in that song, Kirks shreds his strings, and it's all good. The song ends abruptly, giving a strong finish to a album that badly needed one. [b]RECOMMENDED 5/5[b]