Metallica is by far one of the biggest acts to hit the stage since Led Zeppelin themselves. From their days starting out in L.A. to St. Anger, they have sold out arenas, had albums go platinum, and captivated fans and even people who didn't enjoy the genre with their fusion of hard rock, thrash, and speed metal.
Metallica started in L.A. with singer and rhythm guitarist James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich. When the two met, it was through a friend, and at first they didn't hit it off extremely well, but their taste for good music and their craving to rock out and kick *** was a shared interest for both young head bangers. When the two of them started to mess around with their own home recordings, Hetfield laid down the bass, the guitar parts, and the lyrics while Ulrich was on drums. They recruited lead guitarist (now of Megadeth) Dave Mustaine and moved down to San Francisco, away from the music scene full of glam and pop metal, despised by everyone in the band. Dave Mustaine once said that GLAM stood for gay L.A. metal. While in San Francisco, they were in a club and heard someone break into a solo. At first thinking it was a guitar, they went to the stage to take a closer look and found their to-be bassist Cliff Burton. Metallica's obsession for metal and booze made them notorious in the club scene of Frisco and eventually they were offered a recording contract in New York. Dave Mustaine, according to the remaining Metallica members, had a 'dark side' to him when he was drunk, and he was sent on a bus ride back to Frisco in the middle of the trip. While in NYC they found Kirk Hammett of the band Exodus and headed to make their record. Originally going to be called Metal Up Your ***, Kill 'Em All, their first album, made a sound of thrash and speed metal that no one has seen, and matched only by bands such as Pantera, Anthrax, Megadeth, and Slayer. The album had instant hits such as 'Whiplash', 'Seek and Destroy', and 'Hit the Lights', and copies of the album for a long time featured the covers 'Am I Evil"', and 'Blitzkrieg', now featured on Garage Inc. Ride The Lighning, my all time favorite Metallica album was released in 1984 under Elektra and while creating the same heavy metal sound as Kill 'Em All, it also had innovative sounds for Metallica, and some risks as well, such as, "How would the fans react to a ballad". Metallica still proved to overcome that and make a great rock album.
Fight Fire With Fire- A great song to kick off the album, and keep you guessing. It starts off very strange, making you think it's going to be a ballad. It is just acoustic guitar and a harp playing for about 45-60 seconds. Then the song slightly fades into easily one of Metallica's hardest and thrashiest songs of their whole career. The guitar is insanely fast and the drums keep up extremely well. However, I have to say that one of the high points of this song is James keeping his voice as evil sounding as he did as most points. A song to let you know, "We're Metallica, and we'll kick your ass". Instant head banger anthem.
Ride the Lighning- The title track is one of the best on the album. The guitar in the intro has an extremely interesting sound to it, and the whole entire sound of the song is impressive and gets you almost hooked. The lyrics, about being falsely accused of crime and destined for the electric chair, if nothing else are extremely well done, describing the assumed feelings of someone about to be executed in an interestingly metaphoric way. Easy classic for any metal-head.
For Whom the Bell Tolls- One of my top 5 Metallica songs, 'For Whom' starts off with two tolls of a bell, and leads into an intro that takes up more than half of the song. The intro features an impressive (although not extremely complicated) bass part that sounds almost as if it's done by Kirk or James. There are many change-offs to the actual harmony/melody of the song but its foundations still reamained rooted in the opening riff. The lyrics are deep and well thought out about some sort of battle. The only thing really wrong is the outtro, which is overly-long and drawn out.
Fade To Black- Easily the most famous song on this album, Fade to Black was Metallica's first power ballad. It has an easily identifiable intro, and a solid middle and outtro. The lyrics are very powerful and dark, about having nothing else to live for, feeling as if there is nothing worth it. At the end of the song, it becomes heavier and goes into a slightly repetitive outtro. Still, an extremely well-known and respectible song.
Trapped Under Ice- A song that sounds more like something of of Kill 'Em All, especially 'Whiplash', however it is still a commendable song, slightly better than average. The lyrics are extremely metaphoric, about being trapped in a coffin, dead with no one to hear your screams. Although, I am not a huge fan of this song itself, just for the fact that it sounds like a Kill 'Em All leftover, the lyrics are very well done and it's an overall good song.
Escape- In my opinion, an average song with simple beats, riffs, and lyrics. However, it is catchy and the sound of it is pretty cool. However, it is one that I tend to skip.
Creeping Death- One of the thrashier songs on the album, it has interesting meolodies and for the most part genuinely simple basslines and drum beats. Although I think this song could have been tampered with more. The lyrics are MOST DEFINITELY the strongest point of this song, telling the story of the plagues and the Jew's captivity in Egypt. They are powerful and get the point across well.
Call of Ktulu- An instrumental song which, in my opinion, was slightly drawn out. It starts with a simple lick and builds up more and more throughout the song, with a darker sound to it. In my opinion, however, it was not the greatest way to end the album, although 'Ktulu', is a great song.
Metallica, Ride the Lightning, would turn out to be a good success in the later days when more people would become fans. Metallica went on to realease easily one of the greatest metal albums ever, Master of Puppets, and later, another great album, Metallica (Black Album), with such hits spawning from the mentioned albums including 'Enter Sandman', 'Battery', and 'Master Of Puppets'. Metallica became more commercially famous with Black Album but more well known among the metal community with MOP. Metallica was accused of selling out with the Black Album, but in my eyes, and the eyes of many fans, they were reinventing themselves as they had done many times, and it was a bold step forward that became successful (and the only thing they ever sold out were venues). Metallica is both a metal-kick your ass band and a commercially successful one, and they will go down as one of the biggest metal band of all time.