Comparing Ride The Lightning to Kill 'Em All is like comparing apples to oranges. Kill 'Em All, Metallica's debut, had a large underground following and was a fast-paced pure thrash record with a raw sound. Is there anything wrong with that? Of course not, but what fans of Metallica in 1984 were expecting wasn't what they got. The fans were expecting Kill 'Em All 2. What they got was something with fewer tracks, longer songs, but it was an excellent album that showed that Metallica was capable of progressing. Ride The Lightning is a classic album, and after recently purchasing the album after not hearing it for years, I was greatly impressed, and I found it almost as enjoyable as Master Of Puppets.
The introduction to the beginning track, Fight Fire With Fire, is misleading. Imagine a Metallica fan in 1984. He's thinking "What is this garbage?" But then this acoustic guitar intro(with a harp as well)ends, and this track turns out to be one of Metallica's finest and heaviest songs. The guitar is insanely fast and the drums go along with the guitar very well. The bass, of course, is there, but it doesn't stand out like it does in other songs on this album. James Hetfield's vocals and very evil-sounding and devilish, and the chorus is memorable as well. The title track is next, and this song is pretty much as great as Fight Fire With Fire. The guitar intro is very well-played by Kirk, and then the main riff kicks in. The lyrics are nothing short of brilliant, being about a man who was wrongly accused of murder and is doomed to death by electrocution on the chair. This is a classic track, and the only downside is the fact that Hetfield's vocals can be slightly annoying in the beginning, but this is not a very big problem, and other then that, this track is flawless.
For Whom The Bell Tolls is quite possibly one of the greatest metal songs of all-time. Two ringings by a bell come, similar to AC/DC's classic track Hells Bells, and then an excellent bass intro comes in, courtesy of the late Cliff Burton, and this may sound like an electric guitar, but, it is a bass. The intro to the song is fantastic, providing different riffs and sounds every thirty seconds or so. Then, the vocals come and Hetfield begins to sing about five men dying. Most of the songs on the album have something to do with death, because that is the theme of the album. This song is one of Metallica's finest moments, and possibly the finest moment on Ride The Lightning. The ballad Fade To Black comes next, and if you were a fan of Metallica in 1984 who had just gotten through the previous three tracks, you probably would have hated this song, but this really is a very good song. Its lyrics are about considering suicide. The song has heavy parts, and it also has some very good acoustic parts as well. Many consider this the finest moments on Ride The Lightning, and I disagree, but this is a very good song.
Trapped Under Ice is next, and this is one of my favorite Metallica tracks. It sounds like a Kill 'Em All leftover almost, but that does not stop it from being fast and excellent. The lyrics, as usual, concern death, but this time it is about being, well, trapped under ice and dying. The guitar is wild and all over the place, and the chorus is superb. The song has high energy, and overall is one of the best tracks on the album. Escape is next, and this is a decent song, but certainly the worst. There's nothing much wrong with the song except for the chorus. It's catchy and melodic, yet it doesn't fit. It's very light, not poppy, but light.
Luckily, the greatness picks right back up with the song Creeping Death. The lyrics are magnificent, being about the Jews being enslaved in Egypt. This has one of the most powerful and catchy choruses on the whole album. The guitar and musicianship is excellent, and the lyrics are great as well. The length is good too, because this track does not drag on too long or anything.
What comes next is my favorite Metallica instrumental, and the perfect closer for a classic album such as Ride The Lighting, and it is known as The Call Of Ktulu. The intro is acoustic, and after a while, the heaviness and thrashiness kicks in and this is, musically, one of the greatest instrumentals of all-time. It is the perfect length as well, even though the track clocks in at eight minutes and fifty-two seconds, only about a minute short of exceeding the ten minute mark. The guitar-playing is superb throughout the track, from the captivating acoustic intro to the slow and fading end of the song. The drums are decent as well, and of course, the bass is good, but the guitar really shines. This is also a very dark song with a doom-ish mood and feel to it. It is currently my favorite Metallica instrumental, with Master Of Puppet's Orion being a classic as well, but coming in second place.
So there you go. Metallica's sophomore release, Ride The Lightning, is a classic thrash album, a classic metal album, and just a regular old classic album in general. It is almost as good as its brother, Master Of Puppets. The guitar on the album is superb, with some of these riffs being some of Kirk's most memorable. The bass, particularly in For Whom The Bell Tolls, is remarkable, and just another reason why Cliff is worshipped by a large portion of Metallica fans. You need to buy this album if you have not yet heard it. It's a classic, and that's only one of the many words I could use to describe it.