Metallica
Master of Puppets


4.5
superb

Review

by Brendan Schroer USER (194 Reviews)
July 7th, 2014 | 1045 replies


Release Date: 1986 | Tracklist

Review Summary: It may not be one of heavy metal's all-time greatest albums, but it certainly comes close in many respects.

Whether or not you believe that Metallica have completely sold out and crafted wave after wave of shitty albums in recent times (and, barring Death Magnetic, I'd probably agree with you), there should be no denying that Metallica were the force behind some of the most legendary records in metal history. While many of their 80s thrash metal peers were concerned with being as fast and aggressive as possible and cutting the musical "fat," Metallica were bent on retaining their more progressive roots stemming from the likes of Queen and Rush. Coupled with the virtuosity of the late bassist Cliff Burton's playing and slightly slower (sometimes drastically slower) tempos than your standard thrash act, this was a band who preferred longer and more complex arrangements. That's obviously not to say they weren't a full-fledged thrash band, however - songs like "Battery," "Trapped Under Ice," and almost all of Kill 'Em All certainly solidified the band's presence with the Big 4 of Thrash alongside Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax. And despite Kill 'Em All and Ride the Lightning being 80s metal masterpieces in their own rights, Master of Puppets might just be the pinnacle of the band's work.

In many ways, Master of Puppets seems to be a refined retread of Ride the Lightning. Right down to the nature of the track placements and similar song structures, the latter seems rife with nods to the former; however, a numerous key elements ensure that both can be separated and judged on their own individual merits. First off, James Hetfield's voice is simply better and sounds more confident on this thing. His softer voice sounds more emotional and sensitive here than his singing on "Fade to Black" and his harsher offerings fit the high-intensity riffs - right from the beginning verses he spits in "Battery" to the ominous whisper that concludes the speedy closer "Damage Inc." But, as usual, the music is what it's all about - and Master of Puppets' variety is what really makes it stand out above their other records. There's no question about Ride the Lightning being the more thrash-oriented record when comparing both albums, but the slight lack of thrash in Master of Puppets actually works in it favor. The classical guitar introduction that precedes the crazy riff-fest known as "Battery" offers a wonderful buildup that flows perfectly into the song at hand by ratcheting up the intensity by increments before exploding into its speedy tempo. "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" and "Orion" operate in a similar way, but much more gradually. Both could be considered the most progressive songs on the album, and weave through multiple intricate guitar arrangements before revealing their big payoffs.

However, it's more than just that. It's not just the variety in the music that impresses, but the variety in every aspect of the record. The production is varied, being brash and loud for the faster tunes while laying low and giving off an ominous atmosphere for other songs such as "Welcome Home" or "The Thing that Should Not Be." Likewise, the atmosphere and overall mood of the experience is very diverse; "Orion" feels epic and climactic, "Battery" and "Damage Inc." are destructive and harsh, "Master of Puppets" and "Disposable Heroes" feel more like cautionary tales (and, considering their subject matter, pretty much are), and so on. This feels like a thematically "complete" record; there are barely any loose ends musically, and the entire thing just feels pieced together meticulously. The only thing dragging the album down is, funny enough, the feeling that some of the compositions drag a bit. "Orion" and "The Thing that Should Not Be," while great songs, tend to be the worst offenders when considering how long it takes to trudge through to each song's peak. It's nice to hear such drastic tempo changes to switch things up, but not if it hurts the pace of the album. Regardless, it's a small blemish in an otherwise amazing overall product.

Critics may be stretching their points pretty far when considering Master of Puppets one of the best metal albums all time; hell, many have gone on to consider it THE best metal album ever made. Seeing as there's such a vast well of amazing metal music out below the popular surface that's just waiting to be heard and enjoyed, it's tough to make a case for Master of Puppets being the be-all-end-all album for the genre. With that said, one should at least respect the hell out of the record for what it's done to influence rock music as a whole, as well as for its bevy of amazing thrash compositions. It ain't perfect, but it's a real damn force to be reckoned with. If you love thrash and/or love heavy metal in general, this is essential listening.



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user ratings (6624)
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other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Necrotica
July 7th 2014


10584 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I was gonna do Presto by Rush, but I was really wanting to finally give this a staff review... I can't believe it never got one :P

lostforwords
July 7th 2014


447 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Oh well, I don't know, I think that, by now, the dispute for the greatest heavy metal album of all times is settled.

Yep, that's Master of Puppets (seriously, I don't think there are any doubts about that anymore-it stood the test of time better than any other metal album in history)

TalonsOfFire
July 7th 2014


13290 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

sooo much nostalgia



great review, pretty much agree on everything you said

Digging: Foals - What Went Down

InFlamesWeThrash666
July 7th 2014


2627 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

''Orion's dragging'' will cause a shitstorm



Nice review though

Digging: Iron Maiden - The Book of Souls

Judio!
Contributing Reviewer
July 7th 2014


7685 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Awesome, finally a staff review of this! Agree with most of your points, although this album has a good amount of nostalgia for me so I don't see myself un-5ing it.

Digging: Volcanic Queen - Photography Shield

ZilbelPing
July 7th 2014


6235 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

"It may not be one of heavy metal's all-time greatest albums"



woah dude, check your privilege

Friday13th
July 7th 2014


3954 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

You forgot to mention the t/t is one of the best metal songs ever, but other than that good job at covering the bases. I agree Thing drags a bit but Orion? Nah it rules.

Digging: Cluster - Zuckerzeit

BMDrummer
July 7th 2014


12973 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yay, a staff review for this after so long. Album rules, but RTL takes the place for best Metallica imo

Judio!
Contributing Reviewer
July 7th 2014


7685 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

"I agree Thing drags a bit but Orion? Nah it rules."



agreed hard. Thing has always been the one track here I'm not crazy about, but it's not enough for me to bump down my rating. And Orion doesn't drag for a second, it just keeps getting better and better as it goes along. If we were talking about Call of Ktulu now, I would agree.

BigPleb
July 7th 2014


42226 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

BATT-ER-Y!!!!

manosg
Contributing Reviewer
July 7th 2014


8240 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Glad to see a staffer covering classic albums. Keep up the good work man.



Album is one of the hardest 5s for me.

Digging: Iron Maiden - The Book of Souls

KILL
July 7th 2014


74378 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

It may not be one of heavy metal's all-time greatest albums


bollocks!

facupm
July 7th 2014


10043 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

its one of thrash best albums tho

KILL
July 7th 2014


74378 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

one of the best albums in general

BigPleb
July 7th 2014


42226 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Seeing Sanitarium last night live was a life affirming moment, for sure.

Friday13th
July 7th 2014


3954 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

let's see dem 5's

Friday13th
July 7th 2014


3954 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

oh and BigPleb I am so jealous that shows sounds amazing

BigPleb
July 7th 2014


42226 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Oh man it was cool, Hetfield is still so fucking tight and that dude can vibrato holy shiiit.

Friday13th
July 7th 2014


3954 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

good to hear cause he definitely went through a sucky phase

vonseux
July 7th 2014


66 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

meh... I was too busy listening to Mercyful Fate



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