Review Summary: Absolutely epitomal
А stаccаtо hit, thrее mоrе аccеnts, thеn thе infamous dеscеnding chrоmаtic riff, аll fаstidiоusly dоwnpickеd. This simply stated sequence of events is the opening gestures of the title track to Metallica's Master of Puppets. In the near-three decades since its inception, few, if any metal songs have been made that are able to flood your body with adrenaline the same way. Legends say that, back in '86, upon first hearing this opening riff, people thought their vinyl was skipping, so they had to go back to the store to return it, only to find out that it is supposed to sound that way. The immensity of the song is such that to this day it remains a gold standard, not only in the genre, but in the music industry as a whole, with many people citing it as their entry point to metal.
But who exactly is the insidious master of puppets? Is is the abusive army officer barking orders which you are compelled to obey? Is it the religious establishment? Is it substance addiction or mental illness? Is it the overwhelming cosmos, with its inherent randomness? Is it perhaps fate? This is eventually a question with many answers, some of which are explored in Metallica's magnum opus. Though not exactly a concept album, Master of Puppets revolves around analysing one theme from varying angles. Be it through the sheer eerily melodic force of Sanitarium
or the crushing and unrelenting one-note riffs of Disposable Heroes
, the band successfully drives home the idea of an oppressive, yet invisible puppet master being in control. This notion is further reinforced by the simple, yet gloomy album cover depicting us as subjects to this external force, with death's ominous finality being the one certain thing. These qualities give this album a certain monolithic character, which was something not seen much in metal at the time it was released.
Objectively speaking, this record is not perfect. The meandering The Thing that Should Not Be
is a bit directionless and feels out of context compared to the rest of the songs on here. Meanwhile, Leper Messiah
's plodding groove simply lacks punch, even though the song picks up speed in its second half providing for a satisfactory finish. For all the praise Battery
gains, I do feel the use of the main riff is a bit overemployed, without managing to retain an enduring intensity like the repetition of riffs in Disposable Heroes does. But these are merely minor flaws, as the true classic status of this album is earned not through the merits of its individual components, but rather its monumental significance and influence not only in the metal genre, but the evolution of music as a whole.