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Metallica - Master Of Puppets CD (album) cover




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4.13 | 857 ratings

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5 stars Does the world really need another review of Master of Puppets? Probably not. But it's the album that got me into more extreme forms of metal, and as such has had an immeasurable impact on my musical taste, so I'm going to write one anyway.

To fully appreciate this album in its proper context, one must first be aware of the background: Metallica burst onto the scene in 1983 with Kill 'Em All, which has been called the first full-length thrash metal album ever recorded. This consensus is not universally shared among listeners; some will point to Venom's 1981 effort Welcome to Hell instead (note that Venom also had a substantial influence on the yet-to-be-named style of black metal, which actually takes its name from the band's second album). Regardless, what is a matter of consensus is that Kill 'Em All rewrote the rules of metal. It was faster, louder, and heavier than anything that had been released before, and it did not sacrifice musicianship in the pursuit of these goals.

Metallica, however, were not content to rest on their laurels. They began incorporating substantial progressive rock influence on their next album, Ride the Lightning, and even incorporated an honest-to-god ballad as the fourth track (though, in a form that Metallica would repeat several times throughout their career, it eventually built to metallic sections). The band also incorporated a lengthy instrumental showcasing the skills of bass monster Cliff Burton (named for H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos, no less), and the album also featured one of their signature songs, "Creeping Death".

However, even that monster of an album couldn't have prepared people for what was to come in Master of Puppets. No one had ever done anything like this album before. The song were longer and more complex than ever, the aggression was generally higher than ever, and the quality of the music surpassed Metallica's already high standard. From the opening acoustic notes of the album opener "Battery" to the last thrashy chords of the closer "Damage, Inc.", there is not a single moment here that qualifies as even remotely dull. The band's intense musicianship doesn't let up even once; there is not a single moment on the album where Burton, Hetfield, or Hammett aren't playing something technically fascinating. Indeed, the only respites from the album's frenetic pace after the distorted guitars come in on "Battery" are the lyrical solo on the title track, the opening half of the album's obligatory fourth-track part-ballad "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)", the more subdued moments of the instrumental "Orion", and the opening chords of "Damage, Inc." (It has become a Metallica tradition for the first half of the fourth track to be a ballad and the penultimate track to be an instrumental; they have repeated this with ...And Justice for All and Death Magnetic).

The production on this album is almost perfect. The instrumental clarity is astonishing for a metal recording made in 1986, and the fidelity remains superb whether the band are playing with their amps turned up to 11 or whether they're playing a more subdued clean passage. The album is mixed quite well, with all its dynamics intact. My only complaint with the album is that I'd like the bass to be a little higher in the mix, but at least it's still audible, which can't be said for the band's next album, ...And Justice for All.

Master of Puppets remains Metallica's highest artistic achievement. It's more polished than Ride the Lightning, more unrelenting than Death Magnetic, and doesn't have the fatal production flaws that marred ...And Justice for All (or the original version of Death Magnetic, for that matter). It also doesn't help that the band's virtuoso bassist Cliff Burton tragically perished in a bus crash after this album. His successors Jason Newsted and Robert Trujillo are no slouches on their instrument, either, but no one could truly have match the standards Cliff set. Additionally, it might be a slight exaggeration to say the genre of progressive metal wouldn't even exist without this album, but it certainly would sound a lot different. Every metalhead needs to have this album in their collection, and if you aren't a metalhead yet, it just might make you into one.

CassandraLeo | 5/5 |


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