This is when Metallica starts to experiment with their sound and expand upon their original sound. I say they do a heck of a good job with it, making their old approach far more musical and varied. They fix all the apparent problems on Kill 'em All : lyrics mature, as do vocals and the song structure varies with each song.
The first song starts with a classical intro that may have turned old Metallica fans off at first listen. But patience is a virtue(Well, if you consider listening to Metallica a pleasurable thing, anyway.), and after thirty seconds you are introduced to a face-melting riff courtesy of James Hetfield. This song isn't like the thrash on Kill 'em All- it's not as Motorhead influenced and definitely darker, with James using a deeper shout than usual and a staccato vocal style. ("Time- is- like a fuse- short- and- burning fast!") This sound won't last for the entire album, though, and as the song ends we are introduced to the harmonized guitar intro of Ride the Lightning. This song features James' higher screaming vocal like his older material, but it's played over a slower and less speed metal riff than before. Then there's For Whom the Bell Tolls, which is VERY different for a band that spewed guitar solos left and right before. This song has none, but it does have an extended instrumental beginning that lasts for about two minutes before the vocals kick in that is very excellent and definitely not boring.
After this we have Fade to Black, the first of Metallica's three famous (or some might say infamous) track four "power ballads". This is a very emotional song with lyrics describing a person who is contemplating suicide. The song slowly but surely escalates into a great solo by Kirk (From a casual listener's standpoint; I'm no guitar expert! ) that fades into black itself as the song ends. Clever little artistic move there.
The rest of the songs also have to do with death, except for the odd little number Escape. This one almost sounds like it was written as filler, and interrupts the flow of an otherwise great album. The last standouts are Creeping Death and to a lesser extent Call of Ktulu. Creeping Death is a song about the biblical Exodus. The main riff is insanely catchy, as is the bridge. ("DIE! DIE!") Now for the Call of Ktulu. I know I'm gonna get flamed for this, but I really don't find it all that interesting. Some parts of it are awesome, like the beginning acoustic part that crescendo's into the main riff, but the rest is a bit bland for me. Too much of the main riff and too little variation. Luckily, Metallica gets a bit better at writing instrumentals later on, but it's pretty clear that that type of song is not their strong-suit.
- Far more varied song structures
- A good show of maturity throughout the album in all aspects
- Less dependancy on the guitar solo (Unfortunately, this is a very short lived phase. No offense, Kirk!)
- Interesting lyrical topics; morbid but at times unique. (Creeping Death, for instance.)
- Escape is sub-par for the band, the vocals on it bend flat more often than not, and seems out of place.
- Call of Ktulu is a somewhat bland instrumental and is very repetitive.
PS- The band worked on the guitar solo-ness on St. Anger and took my advice a little TOO well... oops.