Review Summary: The art of stagnancy done properly
Following the release of their critically acclaimed masterpiece of a sophomore album Ride The Lighting, Bay Area thrash band decided to make possibly the largest U-Turn in musical history.
On Ride The Lightning, Metallica hit what is generally considered to be the peak of their creativity, and Master Of Puppets does little to disprove this. The album was released in 1986, at what could be seen as the pinnacle of the expansion of thrash metal. Many bands released their finest albums in this year such as Reign In Blood from Slayer and Bonded By Blood from Exodus, whilst other bands put out some more incredibly strong works that they would later top such as Megadeth with Peace Sells. And here were James and the boys with Master Of Puppets.
What Master could essentially be seen is is the way to milk Ride The Lightning to the point of stagnancy. This follows pretty much the same formula of Ride The Lightning except that the songs are far too drawn out. Disposable Heroes and The Thing That Should Not be in particular both drag on into Dream Theater song lengths without ever really doing anything to keep the listener's interest. The former of the two has a few nice thrashy riffs but the thing is that they are repeated far too many times. The latter of the two is a slower, more doom metal-sounding song that plods along for eight minutes without ever really doing anything to maintain any sense of purpose. It is not really the song lengths themselves that are the problem here, however, but it is the sense of stagnancy that occurs around halfway through these tracks. For instance, Ride The Lightning had a couple of rather long songs but these tracks were not boring like the songs on Master are. The title track of this album in particular grates on me for the simple fact that it has a drawn out clean middle section that honestly could not be more out of place if it tried. The band also found a way of incorporating another instrumental track here as with Ride the Lightning, but unlike the cleverly conducted build-ups to Call Of Ktulu, Orion feels needlessly long despite the excellent bass work from Clifford Burton.
Whilst on the subject of the individual performances, do not let the score take away from each member's ability. James lays down some solid enough riffs such as in the introduction to the title track, and Kirk's solos are often the saving grace of these tracks (Sanitarium in particular). Lars pounds away incessantly on his drum kit on the faster cuts but his slower beats are often devoid of power and have no ability to hold the listener's interest so he is clearly the weak point.
James barks away monotonously here but it is sure a lot better than his childish shrieks on Kill Em All. His vocals are at least a bit more suited to the music despite the fact he adds to the boredom here.
The actual styles here clash too much as well. Whilst there are some thrashy numbers such as the lightning fast closer Damage Inc and the first section of the title tracks, there are a lot of deviations here and pointless time wasters. Leper Messiah just feels like a groove metal track due to the same three riffs pounding away at your skull, boring you. Doom metal is introduced on the third track, whereas both the opener and the closer have pointlessly long introductions. Not one of these songs refrains from crossing the five minute boundary, which is absolutely needless here as Damage Inc in particular shows off with its introduction.
Think of a load of senseless wah noises left to ring out. That is the introduction to Damage Inc.
Metallica really let down the progress they had made with their debut album on Master Of Puppets. This is painfully average and just does not really go anywhere despite its ridiculous running length and the clear musical ability of each of the members on board for this release.