Okay so I expect everyone is thinking that there is very little point in this review; seeing as it is a Metallica review and an abundance of other reviews for the band and this particular album also exist. But I wanted to express my opinion on this album anyway...so here are my thoughts.
...And Justice For All. Released in 1988 on 'Vertigo' Records.
James Hetfield - Vocals, Rhythm Guitar
Kirk Hammett - Lead Guitar
Jason Newsted - Bass
Lars Ulrich - Drums
Since I began learning guitar I have always been a big fan of Metallica. Strangely enough, the first album I purchased by the band was actually St. Anger and I had only heard a few other songs that were always in constant circulation on the music channels. So, I thought St. Anger was alright; until I purchased several other albums, this being one of them. First things first; no Cliff Burton on this album and it is obvious the band miss him terribly. Bass is practically non-existent throughout the album and it is rumoured Newsted's bass lines were edited out of the mix altogether. There is evidence of bass in some of the songs; but for the best part, it goes unheard and unnoticed.
Also, the production of James' vocal work is much improved compared to previous albums, particularly the more 'thrash' albums, 'Kill 'Em All' and 'Ride The Lightning'. Lyrically, the album is fantastic; right from the theme of the apocalypse on the opener 'Blackened' to the personal message conveyed to Hetfield's parents on the closer 'Dyers Eve'. It is very easy to observe that overall the band have matured well lyrically from their debut 'Kill 'Em All' - lyrical themes range from those mentioned above to politics, freedom of speech, war and various other harrowing themes that most metal bands rely on (for some reason; why can't they be happy every once in a while is beyond me).
Hammett is always regarded as one of the best in terms of solos; this album proves it as well. In my opinion, this record boasts his best work, displayed on songs such as 'Blackened', the incredible 'One' and the impeccable 'Dyers Eve'. He keeps things interesting with a combination of speed and well-thought out phrases (check 'One' out). Hetfield supplies some awesome rhythm playing; a lot of people would agree with me when I state he is probably teh greatest rhythm guitarist ever. The rhythm in the title track is incredibly catchy - well, it stays in my head for long stretches of time.
Metallica have never really excelled in terms of impressive drumming. Lars tends to keep things simple and is more of a basis for the band to build upon. You don't often see him flourish technically but his drums sound awesome on this record and he adds in some cool fills on the odd song or two. 'Dyers Eve' (yes it really is quite a good song) is a showcase for some brutally fast double-bass work, as is the heavy breakdown in 'One'.
Now onto a track by track (lots of groans may occur here but I will keep things interesting...I hope). The album opens with 'Blackened'; a speedy track driven by the simple but effective drumming of Lars and the riffs provided by Hetfield. Vocally and lyrically, the song is way above average; Hetfield has more of a natural 'growl' to his voice rather than a proper singing voice and it definitely shows here. The track boasts an incredible solo from Hammett - a combination of slower, catchier parts and an all-out beast of legato-filled shred. Guaranteed to please!
The title track starts out with a nice clean riff which develops into the bulk of the song; simple structure but the vocal work of the song is interesting. The political lyrics are intelligent and very good; the solo is short and fairly memorable but the track drags on for too long. You do get bored eventually.
'Eye Of The Beholder' is Metallica's best song in terms of lyrics. I hold this song in high regard because of the poetic lyrics concerning what I believe is freedom of speech. Again, simple catchy rhythm and a trademark solo from Hammett (nothing to match 'Blackened'...yet).
Track four is undoubtedly the most famous song on this album; and it is probably the best. It was Metallica's first video and it is, without a shadow of a doubt, a beautiful song. Hammett provides some gorgeous melodic solo work and the riffs provided by Hetfield are sumptous. There is even a hint of bass in there! *shocked expressions* The songs lyrics deal with the horrors of war (the music video would have told you that as well). The chorus kind of annoys me for some reason; it is only a few seconds though, so what the hell. An AMAZING breakdown section offers a positevely brutal section in terms of drumming and Hetfield riffs. Hammett provides the superb tapping solo (its great fun to learn on guitar) and there is a Metallica rarity in that there is a harmony section - albeit, it sounds fantastic; so why don't they do it more often"!
'The Shortest Straw' is probably the most bland song on offer; ininteresting in terms of instrumentation and lyrics, its just a showcase for more powerchord-driven rhythm work and yet another solo from Mr. Hammett. However, what follows is a true masterpiece; 'Harvester Of Sorrow' is one of my favourite Metallica songs; the main riff is one of their most memorable and the band are on form. The theme of the song appears to be about someone who...well, harvests everyones sorrow. The lyrics are cool anyway and Hetfield delivers them with his trademark growly vocals. A very good song!
The album never really lets up and this is rpoven with the final three tracks; 'The Frayed Ends Of Sanity' is the standard Metallica affair - good structure, good riffs, typical Hammett solos and vocally/lyrically works well. 'To Live Is To Die' is a very special track; the Cliff Burton tribute. It is mostly instrumental, bar the poem read by Hetfield during the song. The track opens with acoustic guitars and it develops into some fantastic riffage and nice melodic parts; in one word, beautiful and my favourite instrumental; blows Orion and Call Of Ktulu out of the water!
The closing track has already been mentioned plenty of times in the review; put quite simply, if you have any doubts about the ability of Kirk Hammett, listen to the blistering solo he provides. Same applies with Lars; his drumming is marvellous and shows he is fairly adept with his double bass. The lyrics are specifically aimed at Hetfield's parents and how they didn't allow him to spread his wings out (I believe). Well, whatever they are about, they fit the song; the words are full of emotion as they tear themselves out of Hetfield's throat, from your speakers and inhabit your ears. Definitely a highlight.
Overall, the album is an excellent piece of work. There are some flaws which bring it down, such as the practically non-existent bass (the presence of bass would have probably made the album a much heavier affair also) but the powerful rhythm playing and guitar pyrotechnics from Hetfield and Hammett is enough to satisfy my metallers needs. This album is exceptionally close to being a classic; the material itself is flawless but the lack of bass is evident and brings the album down to a 4.5 for me.
Harvester Of Sorrow
To Live Is To Die
Hope this review was worth reading - it has been a while since I posted one up.