Review Summary: Despite its shortcomings ( inaudible bass, bad production value, long songs ) this album overcomes them by hitting you with iconic song after iconic song; A timeless progressive thrash classic, that is the acme of this band's career.
First, let me begin by saying that this is my first review on Sputnik. I'm no English major, so my reviews aren't going to win awards, but I'll make sure they're legible and sensible. I'm aware that there are tons of other reviews on this album but it's by far my favorite album of all time, so you'll have to excuse me! Now onto the review itself! I'll start off by giving a little background info on the band at the time as well as the lineup. Metallica was:
James Hetfield ( Rhythm guitar, vocalist )
Lars Ulrich ( Drums )
Kirk Hammett ( Lead Guitar )
Jason Newstead ( Bass guitar )
By now, if you're remotely intersted in Metallica, you'll know that all but one of these members are still apart of the band. Jason Newstead ( I hope I'm spelling his last name right ) left Metallica quite sometime after the Justice album, due to interest in starting a side project called Echobrain. Hetfield and Ulrich had problems with that idea, fearing that it would steal Jason's best creative energies away from Metallica, which is quite a contradiction because they never fully embraced him as a bassist anyway. My main gripe with this album is that his bass is non-existent, flushed away by the multiple layers of guitar work that James and Kirk had put into the final master of this album. That has a positive side to it though, as the guitar work here is IMHO the best you'll find on any thrash/heavy metal album of it's decade. Also, this was Metallica's first album recorded without their good friend and musical mastermind Cliff Burton, who shaped and formed their career from behind the scenes with his vast knowledge of music. AJFA was in part dedicated to Cliff, and the emotion shows.
Now I'll try my best to describe this albums musicianship to you, however, you won't find song by song descriptions here because I just don't believe sonic expression translates to words effectively. You'll have to listen to the album yourself... I promise it's worth it though. On AJFA you'll find that the guitar-ship is by far Hammet's and Hetfield's most inspired, creative and epic composition. From the opening track " Blackened " to the closer " Dyer's Eve ", no rhythm section or sweep arpeggio is the same. Lars Ulrich wishes he could play drums half as well as he did on this record nowadays, he should be ashamed of himself how badly he has regressed as a drummer. Blackened is an iconic guitar riff that has no equal, as far as my ears are concerned, which punches you in the face after it's reverse engineered intro. Newstead had the intro to this song fade in, instead out fade out, which was a very integral part to the feel of this song. It was also the only song he was allowed to co-write on this album, and it shows. Hetfield's voice is no doubt covered with a layer of distortion to make his croak or bark or whatever you want to call it , that much more intense. If you listen to the band live during this two to three year period ( '88 - '91 ) you'll be able to fully appreciate Hetfield's voice, which was at its strongest and regarded by many as the best metal voice of all time. The atmosphere and presence that he provided was unmatched, and remains unmatched. It was deep, a perfect mix of rasp and melody, and ear candy quite frankly. Youtube it.
Now, this album does have it's negatives. For one, the songs are long, which is a lot of people's main problem. If you'Re in agreement with them, you may find that the average 6-7 minute song length is a bit of an endeavor, with the title track clocking in at a staggering 10 minutes. However, as I stated above, these are epic compositions that look long, but don't feel long! The dual guitar melodies, perfectly placed percussion rhythm sections, and the overall ability of James to riff your face off will keep you entertained throughout; Hamett's leads will have you playing air guitar, they'll blow your mind. And last but not least, Ulrich will entertain you with his catchy bass kicking, tom rolls, and fills. The point is, nothing on Justice is boring. That's Death Magnetic. Justice is the arguable epitome of Metallica's career, and it shows ( although some say that Ride the Lightning was their best as well. ) Like I said, if you've never heard anything besides the ballad " One " on this album, you're missing out. Oh, the other negatives... no audible bass and the production value found here is bad, but it was 1988 so what f*** can you exect? Right? Wrong. Listen to Rust in Peace by Megadeth, which came out roughly a couple years after and you'll know what I mean: clear and pristine production. It sounds like this album was recorded in a garage.
With this I conclude. Do yourself a favor and listen to this great piece of metal. As far as comparing this album to other bands' work, the first album that comes to mind is Rust in Peace by Megadeth, which is the only true comparison that I can give you. It's the only other album that approaches AJFA's sheer technicality, progression and weight, albeit with a bit more brevity. Hope you enjoy!