Review Summary: Metallica was at the top of their game on Ride the Lightning, they have created the single most varied and greatest album in thrash metal history.
Metallica- Ride the Lightning
So this is my 9th review, and I have decided to mix it up a bit: I’m going to do a concept track-by-track review. This is definitely my first time ever attempting anything other than average by the book reviews, so it may not be perfect, but I’m definitely putting a lot of time into this one, so it becomes my best review thus far.
Well here’s a brief and quick history on Metallica: They began with their EP “Metal Up Your Ass,” which is strangely long for an EP. There is a reason for this though, apparently that was supposed to be the original title of the band’s so-called first album, “Kill ‘Em All.” But this was too excessive and “foul” for the general public, so the record company forced Metallica to change the name, otherwise they wouldn’t fund it. After releasing the semi-successful “Kill ‘Em All,” the band then proceeded to release their sophomore effort “Ride the Lightning,” which got them quite a bit of attention in the metal world. “Ride the Lightning” is what got Metallica recognized and, in my opinion, is their best album to date. This album was an incredible step up from “Kill ‘Em All.”
Ok so here’s the actual review, tell me what you guys think of the format and what not.
Concept Track-By-Track Review
“Fight Fire with Fire”: Vocals and Lyrics- Let me first start off by saying that Hetfield has greatly improved both lyrically and vocally since “Kill ‘Em All;” he just, simply put, completely blew me away when I first listened to “Ride the Lightning.” I’d definitely say the highlight of this song is the final chorus, where James repeats “Fight fire with fire” eight times, each time building up from yelling to screaming. Then at the very end he just screams extremely loud into the mic, “Fight!” The song then ends, this is not to say nothing other than the end is impressive vocally or lyrically, just that’s the best part. The verses are definitely well written, as they all relate to the fear of a nuclear war during the cold war time periods. Here’s an example of the relationship between the cold war and the lyrics, “Time is like a fuse, short and burning fast/ Armageddon is here, like said in the past,” it then goes onto the chorus again. Also throughout the entire song Hetfield presents both excellent clean and harsh vocals, making for a very vocally well-done song.
Guitars- This song begins with an acoustic passage, which is unlike anything Metallica has written previously. These acoustics also include a nice bonus: a harp plays in the background, and is played well, but don’t ask me who’s playing it though. So I know every Metallica fan out there was first listening to this thinking, “What the hell is this?” Well after the acoustic intro the song breaks into lightning fast riffing, which is reminiscent of Slayer’s guitar work. In conclusion to the Metallica fans reference, Metallica had returned with a vengeance. So the extremely fast riffing continues, that is until the chorus, which it then gets even faster! That’s right faster! The song then continues with this pattern once more, but the chorus is then followed by a magnificent, but short guitar solo (short compared to the other solos). The solo starts mildly slow in low tempo, but then speeds up towards the end entering a higher tempo, with the solo becoming more melodic. The song then enters the fast riffing again followed by the chorus, and then is ended with a perfect ending riff that makes the hair on my neck stand up every time. From what I can hear of the bass, it keeps up with everything else, but I wouldn’t say it’s anything groundbreaking though. Kirk Hammet and Cliff Burton have outdone themselves this time around.
Drums- So we all know that Lars Ulrich is despised, hated, and disliked by a lot of people, I think his drum work on “Ride the Lightning” is actually well done and fun to listen to. Now when the song starts he doesn’t really do anything impressive, but when we hit the chorus, he does such creative drum fills, it surprises me that it’s actually Lars Ulrich. So he continues with the decent drum work to good drum work pattern until the guitar solo; this is where he really steps it up speed and talent wise. Right after the first part solo ends he does an incredibly fast Lars Ulrich double bass beat that lasts about maybe, five to ten seconds. The second part of the solo then breaks into the speakers, after that ends Ulrich breaks into double bass a second time, but this time it lasts about ten to fifteen seconds. Oh and the guitars quiet down for that amount of time to give Lars some time to shine (if possible). In fact it is possible, because he moves as fast as, dare I say it, Dave Lombardo. Actually, I thought the drum breakdown in this song was VERY reminiscent of “Angel of Death’s” breakdown, by Slayer. So the song continues with more decent drumming, but then enters the closing riff which pounds into your ear drums, and Ulrich once again puts in some nice clever drum fillings. Lars Ulrich was definitely better back in the “Ride the Lightning” and “Master of Puppet” days.
“Ride the Lightning”: Vocals and Lyrics- Well the lyrics on this song have definitely been toned down a bit; they’re just not as good as the previous song. Probably the only time I really enjoyed the lyrics in this song is right after the solo, but before the end of the song. It goes like this, “Time moving slow/ The minutes seem like hours/ The final curtain call I see/ How true is this/ Just get it over with/ If this is true, just let it be,” then my favorite lyrical and vocal part of the song kicks in when Hetfield screams his loudest thus far, “Wakened by a horrid scream/ Freed from this frightening dream!” It’s poetic and harsh at the same time, simply put ingenious. While the lyrics have significantly gotten worse on this song, the vocals from Hetfield have gotten significantly better (minus the first verse of the song). His range is better shown in this song; well his harsh vocals range is better shown anyways, especially in the part I mentioned earlier. His transition from harsh to screaming vocals impresses me quite a bit in certain parts of the song.
Guitars- This song starts out with one of the most memorable intro riffs on the album, and it’s got some of my favorite riffs present throughout. The speed of this song is a definite downer, but hey I don’t think Metallica was going for speed on this one, because almost every riff on this song is perfect. Possibly my favorite part is when the solo begins: Hetfield and Hammet do such a perfect riff it still amazes me to this day. It goes something like this (haha my attempt at making riff noises), dun duh duh dun duh duh dun duh duh dun duh duh dun dun dunnnnn. Well if you listen to the riff while reading that, you’ll understand; anyways the riff then speeds up and gets more complex as the solo starts. This song’s solo is actually quite opposite to “Fight Fire with Fire’s,” as it starts out more melodic and slow, and then speeds up and almost turns into a shred guitar solo. All I really have to say about this solo is it’s one of the best Metallica has ever done, in fact this is my second favorite song ever created by them. The song then continues with the solo as it slows down a bit, and turns more melodic again. It stays melodic for awhile and then the solo end, followed by some more riffing, and then the chorus breaking in again. Another great thing about this song is that the bass is more audible, especially after that third chorus, as Cliff Burton gets some time to show some of his skills that are obviously present. The song then enters its main riff again, and then enters the final verse before entering the chorus once again. When the song enters its outro the riffing starts to speed up, and it starts up the intro melody again. This songs ending fell short of good, as it just rehashed the beginning of the song, and this disappointed me, because I know Metallica can do much better.
Drums- So the drums start out kind of simple on this one, but overall their definitely better than the last song. It eventually enter a one two fill after the intro and then follows through with this most of the song. Towards the chorus it enters a phase in which the bass drums is pounded twice, followed by the snare being tapped twice; this process continues the rest of the chorus and then goes back to the one two beat in the verses. When the solo begins Lars goes crazy with the drum fills, almost every ten seconds of the solo he does a different and varied fill. Towards the second part of the solo he starts to do breakdowns, which actually surprised me when I really listened to them, because they were very complex (to a certain extent). Although the downside to this whole ordeal is that towards the end of the solo the drumming actually gets very boring, and then heads back to the chorus drum beat. Although it does get boring for awhile, it kicks up again towards the lat chorus, followed by creative drum fills in the end of the song. Overall very creative drum work is present here.
“For Whom the Bell Tolls”: Vocals and Lyrics- This song has some of the best lyrics I have ever heard in my life: every line and verse is clever, complex, and metaphorical. But the bad thing is that James isn’t exactly amazing on this song, he just kind of does what he has to just to fit his voice with the music. An example of the great lyrics can be found in the following verse, “Take a look to the sky just before you die/ It is the last time you will/ Blackened roar massive roar fills the crumbling sky/ Shattered goal fills his soul with a ruthless cry/ Stranger now, are his eyes, to this mystery/ He hears the silence so loud/ Crack of Dawn, all is gone except the will to be/ Now they will see what will be, blinded eyes to see.” From what I gather, this song is about a soldier going insane on the battlefield. It kind of reminds me of the civil war, but I’m not going to say that’s what it’s about, because I’m not sure. In my personal opinion, if this song had bad lyrics, it would be the worst song the whole album, as it has now guitar solo present at all.
Guitar- Probably the only thing that saves this song from being total mediocre crap is its constant supply of memorable and great riffs. The riffs in this song surely are nowhere near as fast as “Fight Fire with Fire,” but it doesn’t matter, because their just so damn good. Also this song is the most well known song off this album, don’t ask me why, but it just is. The opening riff is probably the greatest thing since salsa and chips, and the melody that plays right after it is so addicting you’ll be humming it for days. That’s probably the key to liking this song: addiction. Metallica made this song so addictive so that you wouldn’t care if there was no solo, because you’ll just be banging your head and singing along the whole time.
Drums- So this song kind of reminds me of a rap song drum wise: it plays the same beat the entire song, and rarely changes. The main and pretty much the only beat that is played this entire song is simpler than anything on the Black album. It goes bass drum plus symbol followed by double snare plus symbol, and it repeats that pattern the whole entire song. But that doesn’t really matter because the point of this song is to make you head bang to the riffs combined with the simple drum beat. So the drums on this song don’t really do much for me, but they definitely get the job done.
“Fade to Black”: Vocals and Lyrics- This is my personal favorite song by Metallica, it’s so well structured, well done, and good I can always listen to it. This song also shows that James Hetfield actually can sing, not just those normal thrash vocals you normally hear from him (well back when this album first came out). Also the lyrics are some of the best on the album, as they delve into a man’s mind who is losing control and has no more energy left to live. This song is emotional and depressing in every way and shows a different side from Metallica. Possibly the best lines from the song are, “Emptiness is filling me/ To the point of agony/ growing darkness taking dawn/ I was me, but now he’s gone.” I actually think I saw somewhere that over a hundred people have committed suicide to this song, and its obvious why. This song is just perfect in every way, go listen to it now.
Guitar- The intro to this song is godly: Metallica uses a combination of acoustic and regular guitars to create a masterful beginning to a song. The acoustic guitar plays a soothing riff while the guitar plays a nice little melody in the background. The intro goes on for about a minute and then enters a fully fledged acoustic barrage before entering the first verse of the song. When the first verse finishes the heavy guitars kick with a beastly riff just then to return to the serene acoustics. The second verse then continues with the acoustic guitars, only to once again pound you in the face with more heavy riffs. The “chorus” then follows with faster riffs starting to kick in; these quicker guitars go on for about another minute and then the song enters the guitar solo. This starts out slow in low tempo, but with very much melody. As it goes on it speeds up and just gets better and better, like a staircase leading to creamy delights (haha Dane Cook reference). Probably the only downside to this song is that the solo just keeps going, but the song does not. See its one of the “fade out” songs where the volume just starts to dissipate towards the outro of the song. This just makes me mad because the solo is so damn good and they just cut it off!
Drums- This song is slow so naturally a person would assume they wouldn’t be that great, but once you hit that heavy riff I mentioned earlier, you’ll see the drums here are nothing near mediocre. There are some nice and creative drum fills here and there before the heavy riff, but nothing groundbreaking. During that riff though Lars not only speeds up, he also gets imaginative, creating more of a fun listen. It then slows down again to a one two beat at the solo, but when the solo quickens, so does the drums. Ulrich starts to pound those double bass drums, creating for a great overall effect for the song.
“Trapped Under Ice”: Vocals and Lyrics- So apparently a lot of people do not like this song, and truthfully this really puzzles me. Everything about the song is generally very good, and some people bash on it as being the worst song on here, and it’s definitely not. Well anyways, these lyrics were possibly the hardest lyrics on this album for me to figure out. The whole song is a giant metaphor: it’s all about Hetfield saying he is trapped in a coffin alive, and cannot get out. At least this is what I gather from it, and it makes perfect sense. Probably the most obvious part to recognize this metaphor is probably the third verse, “No release from my cryonic state/ What is this? I’ve been stricken by fate/ Wrapped up tight, cannot move, can’t break free/ Hand of doom has a tight grip on me.” I mean it’s completely obvious: “Wrapped up tight,” ahem right there is where I figured it out. So overall I love the vocals, especially after the second chorus just right before the solo, it just sound awesome when he starts screaming, “Scream from my soul/ Fate, mystified/ Hell, forever more.” Overall this song has the best harsh vocals if you ask me.
Guitars- This song could have been off of “Kill ‘Em All,” as it maintains high speeds (once again like Slayer) the whole song, and is short but sweet. The song begins with a single riff and then breaks into a slowly building up riff. The song then enters “hyper” mode (yes corny I know), as a mini guitar solo kicks in and the shred riffing begins. In fact the whole song, during verses, Kirk plays randomly placed short guitar solos, which make for an overall great experience. After about the second verse, the song goes into this kind of boring riff, only to then speed up into the shred riffing again. This is then followed by the “main” solo, which lasts about ten seconds, but its ten seconds of squeaky goodness. After the solo the song then enters the third verse and we once again go back to the Slayer-like speed riffing, only then to enter the third chorus. When the chorus ends the song simply just ends with the speed riffing that’s been playing the whole song, so kind of a boring and unimaginative ending here.
Drums- The drums on this song may be fast (not double bass), but they’re still pretty boring. There’s an interesting drum fill here and there, mostly towards the introduction to the solo. During the solo there is also some decent drum work present, but if you’re a drummer looking for an incredibly show, look elsewhere.
“Escape”: Vocals and Lyrics- Easily the worst song on the album, that’s not to say it’s bad, it just doesn’t live up to the standards of the other songs. One bad thing you could point out right away is that the lyrics are very generic and boring: “Rape my mind and destroy my feelings/ Don’t tell me what to do.” I mean come on; those are on the same level as Korn lyrics. This is just another song about a child who is being tortured at school by other kids; this is just a big step down for this album. Although the lyrics are horrible, the vocals are definitely a lot better, as they are projected by Hetfield very emotionally. Also he sings the chorus very well, which makes up for the horrible lyrics. This song is basically a combination of the Black album and “Kill ‘Em All.” So bad lyrics, good vocals: definitely could have done better here James.
Guitars- This is probably the worst part of the song, the guitars are pretty much dull and boring compared to the rest of the album. Although I do like the main riff a lot, it still doesn’t make up for the fact that it doesn’t require much skill or talent to play. Also the riff during the chorus is just pure crap, it’s obvious from “For Whom the Bell Tolls” that Metallica can write much better slow riffs, but instead they decided to write boring uninspired Black Album-like riffs. Probably the best part is right before the intro to the solo, where a deep, heavy riff pounds your ears with pure metal. That riff is probably why I don’t completely despise the song, because the solo isn’t that great either. The best part of the solo is at the end of it, where Hammet plucks the strings like his life depends on it. But besides that this is a pretty bad song for Metallica standards. The song then ends with the “fade out” technique I mentioned earlier, so also a very boring ending. I suggest anyone who wants this album stray away from this song as a first listen.
Drums- Despite everything else being pretty bad, this is possibly the best song on the album drum wise. Lars is constantly, and I mean constantly doing great drum fills and double snare blast beats. While these blast beats aren’t on Cryptopsy level, their definitely fast for Lars Ulrich. He gets a little slower at the solo, but doesn’t stay like that long, as he enters into a four bass drum to double snare beat. He continues this the rest of the song, that is until the end, where he goes back to a simple bass to snare beat. Pretty good drums on this one, drummers who like to focus on rhythm and creativity should check this one out.
“Creeping Death”: Vocals and Lyrics- The lyrics of this song are just great, their very metaphorical and imaginative; almost imaginative on the level of a child (I mean that in a good way). I mean I have never seen lyrics this, vivid and presented a storytelling manner. This song literally tells a story: it’s about an assassin who is being sent to kill a pharaoh that is bringing oppression upon the land that he is ruling. The lyrics make for an interesting and strange listen the whole way through. Now the vocals aren’t that great, actually if the vocals were good I would consider this song the second best on the album, but sadly the vocals are just average. Probably the only good part vocally is the last verse in the song, after the chorus, where Hetfield puts a little more energy into his yelling. Also the chorus isn’t bad, but it’s just that his voice is pushed to higher range than he can achieve. In the end this song has amazing lyrics, but sadly it only has decent vocals.
Guitars- Possibly the most well known opening riff in history; every metal fan knows what song this is, it’s just that famous. The opening riff is just a pure jaw-dropper, and then it enters an even better riff that is much faster. The chorus has very clean, crisp, and clear riffs that make me softly bang my head all the time. The song then continues the post-opening riff leading once again into the chorus. The song then goes into the solo, which is absolutely, ridiculously amazing. It’s like a giant slab of greatness (lol fanboyism). Well the solo starts out incredibly fast and stays that way for about thirty seconds, it then enters a slower but more melodic phase. This melody is so addicting, it almost reminds me of the end of the “Blackened” solo. So then the song goes into this heavy and Slayer-like slow riff that’s also very addicting. This is then followed by the last verse which then leads into the chorus again, same old guitars included. After the last chorus the song then enters kind of a closing melody, with a variation of the main riff in the background. A solo then kicks in for the last ten seconds of the outro, followed by the main riff again. This riff is then elongated with yet another melody in the background, with an epic closing riff.
Drums- Another great performance from Lars, as he begins the song pounding on his bass drums, snare drums, and symbols all at the same time. This all adds up to make a great introduction to the song. This song uses the one two beat mentioned earlier in the review, and then does crazy variations the whole song, which makes for a good close listen. The only real interesting thing Lars does at the chorus is do one or two snare blast beat, and I don’t stress blast beat. So the song pretty much gets boring from here, that is until the end (evil snicker insert here). At the very end of the song Lars does this crazy “smash everything like on Sanitarium breakdown.” This makes for the best ending on the entire album.
“The Call of Ktulu”: Vocals and Lyrics- So there are no vocals and lyrics on this one guys, so Metallica FAILS!!!!! Haha, just kidding!
Guitars- This song stars out with a beautiful acoustic intro which makes me softly sway my head every time. The intro also greatly reminds me of Opeth, even when it enter the heavy guitars. So the acoustics last about a minute and thirty seconds and then lead into these fully fledged guitars. A lot of plucking here guys, and I mean a lot of plucking. Also you might have noticed I haven’t been mentioning the bass guitar the past few songs, that’s because I couldn’t hear it. So in this song the bass amazes me and is by the best of the album, Burton has done a great job here. At about three minutes and twenty seconds into the song the guitars start to get a lot heavier sounding, and a solo starts to break through the bass of your speakers. The solo is very repetitive at first, as its following the melody of the other guitars, but then it really starts to speed up. This guitar solo can only be called sinister. It just sounds so dark and demonic; once again this greatly reminds me of Opeth. At about five minutes and twenty seconds into the song the guitars start to speed up a lot, and then the song enters the main melody again. Then all of a sudden the guitars do a long and crisp riff, and it seems the song is almost over, but you as the listener, are so wrong. As the riffs start to get heavier and slower, and another guitar solo/ melody breaks through the loudness, adding this kind of epic ending feel to the song. After the solo finishes the song then goes back to its roots: the main melody from the intro. Then at the end of the song the melody slowly transitions from being played normal speed, to being played very slow. Then ten great riffs slam through your stereo, blow the walls down, and make your head explode. The band then riffs so fast your ear bleeds from the pure noise. The song is finished with one final, epic riff that is probably the loudest on the album. This song is pure awesomeness in its truest form.
Drums- The drums are very varied and well thought out on this song, but they take a while to get really good. Although Lars is constantly doing fills this whole song, he doesn’t do anything amazing until about six minutes and forty seconds through the song. This is where he starts to pound on the bass, symbols, and snare really hard all at the same time. This continues for about a minute, and then he stops for about thirty second so that the guitarists and play their acoustics. Lars then blasts back in with a vengeance as he pounds the snares and double bass into oblivion with his sticks and pedals. It’s amazing the building around him didn’t collapse when they recorded this song, it’s just so loud and epic, you could put it as the background music when first showing Narnia. Once again this song has the most epic ending of all Metallica songs by far, simply breath taking.
So this is the best album by Metallica, no questions asked, it’s just amazing from beginning to end. It’s basically a rollercoaster ride to your heart stopping, I recommend this album to anyone, metal lover or not. It’s just that good.
In Conclusion: 5/5