Yes, yes, I know. What we have here is “””Master of Puppets”””,definitely Metallica's most praised album (by it's true, longtime fans that is), and almost everyone says this is the best metal album of all time, that it's a classic, and that everything about this album is perfect. Well, uhhh... no, not exactly. The intense, furious, raging glorification for this album and band is understandable though, as 'Puppets is by far the best out of the four 80s Metallica albums, it’s the most influential album of all time, it’s the main reason why Metallica became as famous as they are, and there is a whole lot of goodness and magic in it. However despite that, it must be made clear that Master of Puppets is definitely nowhere near as "classic" as everyone claims it is, and it is now safe to say that this album is a little “overrated”, as there definitely are some major flaws and annoyances that keep this album from being perfect. It’s not bad; it’s far from it, but based on what the metal scene looks like, and based on what people have been saying, I along with probably some other metal fans, am quite surprised about the horrifying reality that no other metal album in existence, has been able to surpass this, even in 2009, yet there are many other bands that appear much more interesting. Now with that being said, with no more ranting, I will keep this review straight and to the point.
Well, finding out where to begin with Master of Puppets is difficult, but I guess I’ll begin with what makes this album so special and so popular. Well, as an introduction, heavy metal music is like food, in a way. There are many different bands with many different styles and each band represents a food you can add to your musical plate. What was different about Master of Puppets though, was that the album was the entire plate of food all ready to go. In other words, it had all the elements that metal fans had craved, combined with the fully developed Metallica flavor, and those elements were all packed together in one single piece of work. As we all know, this is the most influential album of all time, and shortly after its release came a whole new slew of bands that tried to build upon what they thought Metallica were trying to achieve. Each band tackled a different aspect of what made this album great, as musical formulas and the metal genre had advanced, with some bands capturing the speed and complexity, other bands capturing melody, and other bands capturing the thickness and muscle of it. One of the reasons why this album hasn’t been surpassed yet even today, is that other metal bands still have not been able to put all those elements together in one album.
On top of that, there have been countless failed attempts to re-create this album, with the most notorious including “The Crusade” by Trivium and even a failed attempt by Metallica themselves- “Death Magnetic”. So as you can see, with the metal genre constantly changing and evolving, it would take one heck of a true masterpiece in order to surpass this. That true update has not been made yet, but I still have hope that it eventually will be, and now I will discuss the elements themselves.
The first thing that makes this album unmatched is the structure of it. There are only 8 songs, but they are each really long, and they each have a different special theme to them, and overall, the album was designed so that each track gives off a really epic feel, and the style of it has not been touched upon since. Songs in today’s metal albums will never have that same structure, and that same creativity and brilliance to it; for example there will never ever be another “Orion”, nor will there ever be another instrumental epic that comes close to it. The second major element is the thickness, and the catchy riffs. Metallica has always been known for their thick, muscular sound, and their catchy, beefy riffs that always “get stuck in people’s heads”, and this is the Metallica album on which this element shines the very brightest. This is the album on which Metallica’s unique style was fully developed, especially in epic tracks like “Disposable Heroes”.
Overall, those two elements are both really important for creating an update to this album, however, next I will explain the 3 most important elements that truly make this album feel special. And those are the tone, melody, and vibe. Many people who listened to this have said there’s just something about this that feels awesome, but they don’t know what it is. Well, it’s the 3 elements just mentioned. When Metallica created this album, they had skillfully given it a magical, ethereal, outer spacey, dream-like feel to it, and the listener immediately picks up on this subconsciously, before even listening to it, simply by looking at the album cover and the way they did the colors on it. And then there’s the wonderful intro to “Battery”, which makes the album feel extremely warm and optimistic, even though at the same time, the music is angry. The magic carries on, as the harmonies and melodic solos were really well thought out, and really emotional, and the sound tone solidifies this element even more, as there were parts throughout this album where many people including me, thought the guitar sounded un-real. The best examples of these were the wonderful solos and melodies on “Sanitarium”, “Disposable Heroes”, “Leper Messiah”, and of course, “Orion”.
As you can see, there are many good parts and no other Metallica album has included this much magic in it. Ironically, it’s "Battery", "Master of Puppets", "The Thing That Should Not Be", and "Damage Inc" that are the weaker tracks, while "Sanitarium", "Disposable Heroes", "Leper Messiah", and "Orion" are the highlights as they do the very most to showcase Metallica’s talent. With that being said, the time has now come to discuss the flaws, as there are definitely some annoying parts to this album that compromise the listening ability, and keep the music from being worthy of the praise it gets.
As you all know, this album is very, very old, but that is not a flaw. The 80s is my favorite decade of all time, and there is plenty of old music that is just as good today as it was back then. However the same cannot be said about Master of Puppets. As I explained earlier, the fans are right to some extent- this album is still unmatched, but especially today, with a whole new slew of bands, more technology, better production and sound quality, and more sophisticated musical formulas, this album has figuratively “collected dust”, and in general compared to metal of today, it now feels somewhat sluggish, stale, dated, and much harder to get into and appreciate.
One of the first things that came to mind, and probably the thing that annoyed me the most was the vocals. To say the least, Master of Puppets has some of the worst vocals in a Metallica album. They are just flat-out terrible and obnoxious, and really start to annoy and irritate the listener after a few seconds. On top of that James puts a lot of snide in his voice, so that combination results in vocals that make you just want to beat the s*%t out of James. He really had improved his singing years later, but for this album, the vocals were the main annoyance. The second thing that is also ironic is that even though this album is their very best musically, it also points out some of Metallica’s major weaknesses as a band. I said earlier that the riffs and solos are both fantastic, but sadly this is not the case throughout the whole album. For one, Metallica sounds the same in a lot of their songs, and Metallica’s standard riffing style is so generic and so repetitive that it gets to the point of being annoying. My original thoughts were, “why am I checking out more Metallica when I already have Enter Sandman?”. Of course I know now that Enter Sandman was definitely not what Metallica is about, but I have always wondered to myself, “why oh why is every single song down tuned in E Minor!!!!!” Seriously though, I mean my god, why? Apparently we’ll never know.
This ties into the fact that variety is sorely lacking in this album. Yes there are fast thrashers, slow epics, and a wonderful instrumental, but since every single song is in E Minor for some unknown reason, the songs sound relatively similar. Another major flaw is, this album proves very clearly that Metallica have been relying on speed and brute force, to hide their musical weaknesses, which brings to mind the statement- “just because it’s fast and heavy, doesn’t mean it’s good.” Some evidence of this appears in "Battery" and "Damage Inc", where Metallica screams that they are playing fast just to play fast, and in "The Thing That Should Not Be", which is so plain and boring, it’s not even worth getting into. Also, I would like to point out, many fans say to the complainers that there are only 8 songs because there is no filler. Well, actually, there is filler. Unfortunately, half the album is filler, but since the other half of the album is so great, I gave it a higher rating.
I don’t usually like discussing the individual tracks themselves, but in this case, it is necessary. As mentioned, the opener "Battery" and the closer "Damage Inc" were both incredibly weak, and did very little to showcase Metallica’s strengths, with Battery being the worst of the two. As I mentioned the repetitive riffing style, both these songs start off with really interesting melodic openers and you think to yourself, maybe- just maybe, there might be something a little different. But alas, the power chords kick in and you are disappointed once again. On top of playing fast for the sake of playing fast, the vocals are the very worst in these two tracks, and they have an incredible amount of annoying snide in them, and the singing melodies themselves are terribly thought out and terribly executed. "Battery" in particular is almost un-listenable, because it has that standard fast, thrashy da-DA-da-DA-da-DA-da-DA sort of rhythm, but it is virtually impossible to keep up with it, and half the time you don’t even know what riff is being played. If there was another riff I was supposed to pick up on, then it was some of the worst execution I’ve ever heard.
Next, we have the ever-so-popular title track. While it has a killer solo, it is painfully sluggish, and the riffs are nothing special. It drags on for way too long, and the lyrics are a little cheesy, while sounding very theatric. And also, it is very annoying when James yells “Master! Master! Obey your master!” It’s really confusing that this is the song everyone thinks of when they think of this album. Then again, it isn’t too surprising since the Ride the Lightning title track was weak too, but this one plods and feels like a long epic for the sake of a long epic. And the last weak track is "The Thing That Should Not Be". It’s extremely shocking that a song like this is included in “The Greatest Album Of All Time”, as it is the most boring and plain song on here, with cringe-able singing, droning riffs, and a terrible solo that abuses effects.
Well anyway, those are the main good and bad parts of Master of Puppets, and while Master of Puppets is definitely overrated and flawed, and even though the flaws have been discussed a little more, the good definitely outweighs the bad, and there still will never be any other album like this, as far as we know. I assume fans of this genre have already heard this album a lot, but if you haven’t, I’d still recommend checking it out, and especially if you are new to Metallica, this would be the ideal place to start. It probably would be a good idea downloading it for free, or buying “Sanitarium”, “Disposable Heroes”, “Leper Messiah”, and “Orion”. Overall, I’d say that it is worth listening to, and you probably will like it if you want a taste of old-school 80s thrash, and if you want a heavy album that is emotional, dreamy, and thought-provoking. Not bad, Metallica, not bad.
-Structure makes the album very epic
-Thick, heavy riffs; catchy in some tracks
-Wonderful, melodic solos
-Magical, etherial, dreamy tone and feel
-Terrible vocals throughout
-All the songs are in E Minor
-Sluggish in some spots
-Harder to get into nowadays
-Speed for the sake of speed
-Bad execution in some areas