Review Summary: Still, kudos. They developed their niche, and while there was nothing truly original about any of it, they've made one hell of a career of it. That said, the opinion of this one mere mortal probably means very little to the band, and i blame them not in t
When you consider that this LP is credited with broadening the musical scope of thrash metal, in reaility it is far from the truth. So many other band innovated much more.What is meant by broadening the scope of thrash, is in this context that battering ram guitars are occasionally augmented by solo passages of a more "progressive" nature and sound effects that beg the question why? And just when you've tired of these violent oscillations of blitzing, "progression" and claps of thunder or bells-a-ringing, you get an almost tolkienesque acoustic passage that - wonder of wonders - makes you wish they'd get back to all that donner und blitzen.
What I find astonishing about this LP - and quite possibly about Metallica as a band - is how they can tick so many boxes in so thoroughly unsympathetic a manner. Everything about Ride the Lightning screams contrivance to me. These men are like little boys who are not content to prove that they are the thrashingest band around, but need also prove themselves thrash virtuosos, in addition to being the doomiest band around: "My belief that we're all going to hell in a handbasket is bigger than your belief that we're all going to hell in a handbasket, so there!"
LĂ*ke so many before and after, Metallica have a knack of making all of their signifiers ultimately appear as empty gestures. Perhaps no other part of the sound exemplifies this better than James Hetfield's vocals. He understands perfectly that the conventions of the genre dictate that his gruff enunciations come across like a bad case of halitosis, but it's pure theatre, and moreover bad theatre that outstays its welcome quicker than a stale joke.
But what is he actually spouting? I have no desire to engage in a scientific investigation into this album's lyrics, but here's a taster: "death - kill - dying - plague - blood - die - kill - all gonna die - death - blood - don't wanna live by society's rules" (I'm paraphrasing here, you understand). For a band that apparently wants to be free (don't they all?), Metallica seems curiously unwilling to free itself from the lyrical conventions of the genre.
But of course this is to be expected. Readers of a certain age will recall that newspapers of yore occasionally carried cartoons featuring wizened old crazies bearing signs stating: "The End Is Nigh". Take ten wizened old crazies, subtract their medication, multiply by Al Gore, and you have the pompous doggerelese that is the lyric sheet for this LP.
Except of course that there were no crazies in the band, just very astute busĂ*nessmen in the making, who by luck or by design stumbled across a formula with Ride the Lightning that with minor (commercial) tweaks would allow them to translate doom into dollars.