Review Summary: A great collection of tracks for anyone who wants their thrash with a little more soul and substance; Metallica prove they are as capable at defining the thrash metal genre as they are comfortable with breaking its conventions.
Having already given metal a much needed (steel-capped) boot up the backside with their debut album 'Kill 'Em All', the Bay-Area thrash legends fire on all cylinders with their 1984 follow-up, adding another dimension of quality musicianship to their sound, although this new-found sense of maturity does nothing to negate the album's primal aggression.
It's evident from the acoustic guitar and harpsichord studded intro of opener 'Fight Fire with Fire' that Metallica have evolved since the garage days of their debut, although any questioning of the bands testicular fortitude are quickly usurped as soon as the distorted guitars kick in, and one feels pressured to turn it up to 11 to feel the raw uncompromising thrash assault fully. Gone is the adolescent NWOBHM influenced punk-metal of their debut album, and Metallica now stand fully formed, equal parts power and precision as head-banging sections sit side-by-side with harmonised melodies and balls-to-the-wall drum attacks. The title track follows quickly, giving the listener little time to recover, and whilst the lyrics are rather sub-par and chock full of heavy metal cliche, the slick musicality of this number is unquestionable, especially when it comes to Kirk Hammett's impassioned soloing.
Whilst he's hardly metal's finest lyricist, Hetfield's vocal delivery works perfectly, and it's his embittered tone that makes 'For Whom the Bell Tolls' such a masterpiece, angrily barking over a score of some of metal's most memorable riffs. This track positively screams epic, and it's numbers such as this that have helped craft Metallica into the arena metal monsters they'd soon become. Whilst it's evident thus far in to the album that Metallica have grown-up beyond expectation, this is most explicitly apparent in 'Fade to Black', a dare I say…ballad-like track replete with acoustic guitars and Hetfield adopting a more sensitive, yet none-the-less powerful approach to singing before the distorted guitars kick in to let one know that they've not strayed too far form their metal roots. Lyrically 'Fade to Black' is written from the perspective of a man contemplating suicide, and the track builds up to a riveting crescendo as it progresses, seemingly mirroring the protagonist's thought process.
A through-and-through thrasher, 'Trapped Under Ice' follows, every second screaming energy and testosterone, whilst 'Escape' exists in more mid-tempo territory with an added dose of Iron Maiden-esque melody. Following is another classic track from a classic album; 'Creeping Death' does well to mix epic melodic sensibility with pure thrash metal adrenaline, and it's no wonder why it's become such a crowd favourite. Close to nine minutes long, instrumental closer 'Call of Ktulu' truly showcases Metallica's instrumental aptitude, demonstrating to the world that Metallica are anything but a one-trick pony.
A great collection of tracks for anyone who wants their thrash with a little more soul and substance; Metallica prove they are as capable at defining the thrash metal genre as they are comfortable with breaking its conventions.