Review Summary: Is that it?
8 tracks long, and spanning a little under 55 minutes, Master Of Puppets is one of the sacred cows of thrash metal. Nearly universally agreed to be flawless, this album recieved critical acclaim and has sold nearly five millions copies. It is considered to be the opus of not only Metallica, but also one of the finest thrash releases of all time. So what on Earth could this album possibly have done to only justify a 3.5/5 score from myself?
Well, the answer is simple-it is not original, in any way, shape or form. Is it ground breaking? No. Does it have the most riffs? No. Does it have the finest vocals? No. Instead, what Master Of Puppets does is take the winning formula established on 1984's Ride The Lightning, and stretch out the songs even longer, without half of what made that album such a special release. The tracklists are strikingly similar, with a thrashing opener on both albums, a ballad at spot four on both albums, an overly long instrumental in both releases, and another no punches pulled thrash song towards the end of the album (Damage Inc on here, Creeping Death on RTL).
The songs themselves on this album are, for the most part, as tight as can be. Leper Messiah is an often overlooked gem in the Metallica catalogue, being a rarely mentioned song, despite containing some bone crushing riffs, a singalong friendly James Hetfield chorus, and some fantastic lyrics. This is a song that gets hated on when it comes to this album, and is considered a filler song, despite the fact it is one of the best songs off the album, in my opinion. What made this song so good was the way the chorus leads into an absolutely brutal riff that really does make your neck start thrashing. It manages to be mid-tempo, without boring as many mid-paced Metallica songs do.
The title track needs no introductions, as it is one of the Metallica classics. This song is really made by its beautiful interlude in the centre, which adds so much emotion to the song it is unreal. Kicking off with a fantastic thrashing intro, this song is one of the most riff-happy songs on the album, as well as containing a pair of fantastic solos from Kirk Hammet and the rare James Hetfield solo. This is one of the few "classic Metallica songs" that really does deserve that status. It speaks so much in its entire 8.36 running length, without becoming boring.
It is a shame the same could not be said for Disposable Heroes. Disposable Heroes lacks enough riffs to truly be considered a great song. It is heavy as hell, and a pure thrash fest, but it is just overly long. At over eight minutes, Disposable Heroes really does defy belief, being a snoozefest. The first three or four minutes would be fine, but it is repetetive as all Hell. The riffs themselves are incredibly tightly constructed, but their are just not enough riffs to fuel a song this length, nor is there anything schocking or remarkable about this song, as there was in Master Of Puppets.
Both the opener and the closer, Battery and Damage Inc, are great songs, being the fastest songs on the album, and possibly the most bone shattering songs in the bands catalogue. They are lightning paced, and serve as the perfect way to open and close the album. Damage Inc has some of the best lyrics on the album, and James delivers them with utter venom, as opposed the garbage he would drawl out on later albums, such as Reload. Battery just has some of the best riffs the band has ever written, and remains an absolute favourite of mine.
The ballad is an interesting song. (Welcome Home) Sanitarium has a similar structure to Fade To Black, going from being soft to heavy to heavier. However, whereas Fade To Black was incredibly soothing and mood driven, Sanitarium manages to sound angry start to finish. The lyrics may be dull, and about as unpoetic as it gets, but they get the point across. The concept of somebody escaping from an asylum may be a little odd for a ballad, but in my opinion the band pulls it off, albeit not as well as Fade To Black was realised.
Unfortunately, The Thing That Should Not Be and Orion both suffer from being far too long. Orion may have some of the tightest music on the album, it just feels unfinished. This is a song that feels as though it needed lyrics to complete it, instead of being an 8 and a half minute long instrumental, and, whilst what they wrote is good, it could have been so much better. The Thing That Should Not Be, in my opinion, is one of the worst songs the band ever put out. It is very slow, in a doom metal vein, and it does not suit Metallica. Sure, it is heavy as a tonne of bricks, but it misses the point of being a slow song. It should be progressive, with some form of movement throughout the song, but it just plods along and bores me to tears.
The musicianship on this album is incredibly tight. This was, of course, the last album before the tragic bus accident that claimed the life of bassist Clifford Burton, but it was a fitting final album for him. The bass is not as prominent in the mix as it was in Ride The Lightning, but he does have an ego-boosting solo on Orion, and it is still audible and tight throughout. The riffs are, for the most part, excellent, proving wrong the claims that Dave Mustaine made Metallica. The intro to Master Of Puppets, and the main riff to Disposable Heroes are the first that spring to mind, but the moments of brilliance are scattered throughout. Drum wise, this was one of Lars Ulrich's best, but that really is not saying a great deal. He is just there.
On this album, James Hetfield does not have the incredible higher shriek he used predominantly on Kill Em All, but continued to use on RTL, which is rather annoying, as he sings in a monotone throughout most of this album. However, it suits the music, with a gruff low voice, and the lyrics are passable. The best lyrics on the album would be Damage Inc, despite the abundance of a certain four letter word.
This album is a sacred cow that needed to be slaughtered. It is NOT the be-all, end-all album of thrash metal that it is percieved to be, primarily due to the fact that it is far too long. If the band had cut out maybe ten minutes of the album, then it would be flawless. Remove The Thing That Should Not Be, add vocals to Orion, and knock down some of Disposable Heroes, and this would be one of the best albums ever recorded, because where it works it is perfect. It just is not consistent, and refuses to break away from Ride The Lightning. 3.5/5