Review Summary: A fantastic farewell to thrash for Metallica
As the band that spear-headed the thrash metal movement as well as producing one of its finest albums, Metallica sure have had an up and down career. Their debut album was flawed but a solid listen and its follow-up was a classic of the genre, but on Master Of Puppets the band did a 180. What would the future hold for the band?
Well, Metallica decided to take the drawn-out nature of Master Of Puppets, draw it out even more but write a far superior record. The album was a highly influential technical thrash metal album by the name of And Justice For All, and is genuinely considered to be the last "classic" from the band. But how does it fare?
The answer is that Justice is a massive step up from Master Of Puppets although it does not quite touch the heights reached by their sophomore album. However, this is a fantastic thrash metal album that shows why Metallica are seen by many as being among the best the genre has ever produced, and showed that they still had what it takes to put out a fantastic album despite the change in style to incorporate more of a progressive, technical element into their music. The most amazing thing about this album is how well they make it work in the length of time many of the songs take up. Tracks like the title track, One and Blackened are very long but they make fantastic use of this time with some of the best riffs the band has ever written and Lars' finest drumming to date. The latter of those three tracks kicks the album off in thrashing fashion with an ever-changing sound that jumps between fast double-bass drumming and a staccato riff to chords left to ring out in the corner and one of the best bridge sections ever in which you just want to get out of your seat, headbang to the riffs and then roar along with James Hetfield as he shrieks "see your mother put to death... see your mother die". The title track opens with an acoustic guitar in the vein of a couple of Metallica songs in the past such as Fade To Black and then shifts into one of the hardest hitting songs on this album with some very thought-provoking lyrics. Meanwhile, the ballad side of the band is made up of One on this album and it is by far their strongest ballad to date and one of the best songs they have written. It goes through a number of miniature clean solos and awesome clean notes in the first few minutes as James sings, shifting into distorted guitars for the chorus. However, when the distortion comes in again for the solo and the last lyrical sections, this really hits home with a section that sounds just like a machine gun to accompany the war-themed lyrical content here
Unfortunately this is also quite an inconsistent album as the instrumental song To Live Is To Die shows off. Whilst the longer tracks here work for the most part, this one does not. Despite being the last writing credit of Clifford Burton, this track really doesn't succeed in its nearly ten minute length.
Eye Of the Beholder and the Shortest Straw are two other songs that aren't so good. I couldn't get into the riffs on these songs as much as on, say, Blackened - which may well be the best opening song on a thrash album of all time except maybe Holy Wars.
Metallica's fourth studio album was a magnificent release but marked the death of the thrash-era Metallica that many people love. However, it was a nice farewell to this style of music and made up for its stinkers with some stellar tracks.