Review Summary: Undoubtedly a classic, but I'll stick with Ride the Lightning.Master Of Puppets
. Rightfully considered one of the defining records of thrash metal, it somewhat more undeservedly overshadows its predecessor, the damn-near-perfect Ride The Lightning
. It was also the album that propelled Metallica to international fame and fortune, and remains to this day one of the most divisive albums in the history of music, with as many detractors considering it an overhyped slab of mediocrity as worshippers considering it the best album ever made. Me? I sit in the middle. There’s no denying Master Of Puppets
as a classic, but personally, I’ll still stick with Ride The Lightning
. And considering some of the lists I’ve been seeing around Sputnik, I know I am not alone.
It’s hard, however, to pinpoint just why
I prefer the 1984 album. After all, there are more similarities than differences between Master
and Ride The Lightning
. The musical style is about the same - melodic thrash metal peppered with traditional and prog influences – the musicianship is equally tight, if not superior, and the songs are about as strong. Maybe, then, my preference has to do with my dislike for longer songs, of which this has a much bigger number than Ride
In fact, Master
was the album where Metallica assumed their liking for prog music, a tendency which would be exacerbated in the paradigm-shifting …And Justice For All
, two years later. Where Ride
only had a couple of songs go beyond the seven-minute mark, and only one assumedly long song, at least half of Master
is made up of eight-minute epics. Despite the more straightforward thrash blasts bookending the album, songs like the title track, Disposable Heroes
tend to sprawl, incorporating several different sections and tempo changes, as well as a higher acoustic input. When the song itself is strong, as in the aforementioned cases, this ends up not mattering; however, it can at times contribute to the album dragging somewhat.
Don’t get me wrong, though: most of the songs here are either deserved classic (Battery, Master Of Puppets, (Welcome Home) Sanitarium
) or fan-favorite lost gems (the crushing Disposable Heroes, Orion, The Thing That Should Not Be
). Thrash riffs and headbanging hooks abound, the guitar work is appealing and the bass is unbelievable – it is said that this was Cliff Burton’s defining work, and listening to his work on some of the songs here, it’s not hard to see why. Much like Steve Harris, Burton helped push the boundaries of what could be done with a bass, and listening to his performance here only makes his untimely demise – only months later – that much more tragic. The rest of the instrumentation is serviceable, with Kirk Hammett delivering his usual amount of shredding and Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield keeping time with little fuss. Hetfield’s voice also retains its personalized edge, sitting somewhere between a yelp and a metal croon, if that is conceivable.
Why, then, does Master
not appeal to me the way Ride The Lightning
did? Well, like I said, maybe it has to do with my low tolerance for long songs. Or maybe it’s the fact that there’s a little more filler than on the previous album. Ride The Lightning
ultimately had one song I didn’t like, instrumental The Call Of Ktulu
; on Master
, the percentage isn’t that much higher, but the fact is there are a few less inspired songs, particularly towards the end. Leper Messiah
gets by on some good lyrics and a nice breakdown near the beginning (with Burton’s bass getting some catchy fills in edgewise); however, Damage Inc.
is a very pedestrian song, which does little but recycle some of the ideas presented on opener Battery
. These two tracks are offset by thrash epics like the title track and moments of beauty such as Orion
; however, they also leave a nagging feeling which never goes away.
In the end, then, Master Of Puppets
can be described thus: while a definite classic, it comes in a little behind its predecessor in the Metallica marathon. However, it is still a mandatory buy for every self-respecting metalhead, and deserves its place in the pantheon of the genre. Pity Metallica’s career would begin a steady, irrevocable descent from this point on….
Master Of Puppets
(Welcome Home) Sanitarium