After 1986's critically acclaimed Master of Puppets, it was quite obvious that it would be incredibly tough for Metallica to release a record which could top the album which many perceive to be the band's maximum opus. This would be a difficult task for most bands to accomplish. However, most bands do not lose dear friends and band mates in tour bus accidents. The death of bassist Cliff Burton was definitely a blow to Metallica, and likely affected the writing process of their next album. But they survived the ordeal and in 1988, looked to release …And Justice for All. Predictably, the album had nothing on their previous works. Though by no means a terrible offering, Metallica's fourth album is quite unlike both Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets, as it is a difficult album to both get into and enjoy.
Like its predecessors, …And Justice for All is rooted in the thrash metal genre. The opening track, Blackened definitely shows listeners this. Yet something is definitely different this time. The riffy elements of songs like Ride the Lightning or Master of Puppets were one of the reasons I enjoyed each respective song and album so much. Metallica definitely has not forsaken the almighty guitar riff, but if I told you that the riffs and solos off this album were a treat to listen to, I'd be lying to you. In the past, the metallic sound that Metallica had once incorporated into their music has disappeared, for the most part. Often times the riffing sounds tasteless and dull. Something I'm not accustomed to when listening to early Metallica. Hetfield's rhythm work sounds weak, muffled and isn't exactly the most pleasing thing to listen to, especially when Lars Ulrich's drumming seemingly overpower them. In laymen's terms, the production is atrocious, and negatively affects the album in a rather large way. On the positive side, the solos of lead guitarist Kirk Hammet are not affected as much as the riffs, but a significant point makes this moot. Kirk Hammet is obviously not soloing for the entire record. What does this mean? The listless riff work is far more prominent, partly due to the extremely long track times. Because of the uninteresting song structure and the monotone rhythm guitar tones, I sometimes find myself completely ignoring Hammet's soloing. I guess soloing over white noise seems to be rendered ineffective. Musically, …And Justice for All is a very disappointing album.
But the negativity does not stop there, unfortunately. For …And Justice for All contains another irritating aspect, and again, this revolves around a rather important part of the album. This is the extremely long length of the album. Long run times aren't always a problem for me. But they are in this case, as Metallica only records two songs that are shorter than 6 minutes. So, how is this a problem, you ask? As a result of James' lacklustre riffs, the album plods along at a snail pace. Songs like the title track and To Live is to Die are both nearly 10 minutes in length and both tracks are adequate examples of what went wrong with Metallica in 1988. Nearly every song drags on for much longer than they should, and are rather boring to listen to. Due to the insipidly slow mood and atmosphere that many of the songs create, …And Justice for All feels a lot (lots of stress here) longer than it really is. I don't like that in my music. This was a major turn off for me, as Metallica's fourth album is very difficult to listen to, to begin with, and the incredibly long lengths of the tracks don’t help at all.
Though definitely not on the level of Master of Puppets, …And Justice for All was still a successful album and helped cement Metallica's legacy. Saying that, I can't see why the album gets so much praise at all. The band's fourth full length offering is a very dull album which often fails to maintain any interest what so ever. Quite difficult to listen to, it offers little in the field of enjoyment, and does not capitalize on the momentum that might have been gained from classic tracks like Blackened and One. …And Justice for All is definitely the weakest Metallica album of the 80's and is definitely not worth the $20 it costs. Avoid this whenever possible.
This is hardly a bad record, in my opinion. I also have some disputes with your review. You say Hetfield's tone is low in the mix but the guitar and drums constitute most of what you're hearing (especially considering that Newsted's bass was intentionally muted in the mix), and I've never really heard a Metallica album where James isn't at the very front of everything until the s/t was released. He IS the guy setting the rhythm, even Lars said he follows James' rhythm (which is why he kinda sucks). As for the album, it had the best drumming Lars ever did (which isn't much to begin with, I admit), some of the best lyrics they've written, James' voice improved dramatically, complex, almost prog-like song structures, the most even mix of slow and fast they've had yet, not to mention that "One", "Blackened", "Dyers Eve", and the title track are some of the best songs in their catalogue. Plus they learned how to groove like they did so much on the Black album. It's not their strongest album by any means (MOP and RTL whup it) but it's better than everything else. 4/5
I found this incredibly hard to get into. But when I finally did, it garnered many rotations in my player. I think Kirk's solos are the best he's ever done on this. Some could even be considered original! :eek:
The production's rubbish, however. But it is very heavy and kinda cute :lol:
This is my favorite metallica album along with Master of Puppets. to me they hold together in a high place. I dunno, when I first heard this entire album again and again i just couldn't skip any song. the are all just so damn fucking cool. favorite track is dyer's eve and one. to live is to die is sweet, but I prefer the first two i mentioned to the latter.
Great review. This is one of the metallica albums i don't have. I didn't really like RTL so after that I kinda gave up on Metallica. MOP will forever be the only metallica album that I think is very good.