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Metallica - ... And Justice For All CD (album) cover

... AND JUSTICE FOR ALL

Metallica

 

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3.94 | 600 ratings

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AndyJ
3 stars Metallica's 'And Justice For All' is my favourite album by the infamous thrash metal band, and not least of all because in my eyes its their most progressive release. I'll start by saying that I've never been a particularly big Metallica fan. When I was growing up as a teenager my music of choice was Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Black Sabbath. But I had friends through school who were absolute Metallica obsessives, including one guy who even bought a James Hetfield signature ESP Explorer and proceeded to learn almost the entire back-catalogue of songs from their first four albums. Some pretty serious dedication on show right there!

But for whatever reason I've never really loved this band, with the exception of this album right here. What I love about 'And Justice For All' is the song structure - you could almost call this "progressive thrash". There are some very clever song progressions on show in this album, no more so than in the title track of the record. Instead of taking a formulaic approach to song writing Metallica weren't afraid to experiment and write much longer compositions for 'Justice'. I remember reading an interview once with Lars Ulrich, the Metallica drummer, and he was talking about this record and how much the band hated playing it live due to how complicated and drawn-out the long songs were. Sounds like perfect prog then!

Now it wouldn't be a Metallica review without talking a bit about two things - the vocals and the drums... I'll start with the vocals - I've never really liked James Hetfield's voice. There isn't much variation in his vocal style, most of the time he just barks the lyrics at you in a gruff, uncompromising way. There are moments on this album where he sings a little bit more, and its not bad, but he'll never win an award for his vocal style.

Which brings us to the drumming of Lars Ulrich. This guy gets a lot of stick from reviewers and music experts, and I think with good cause. Just compare his drumming technique with that of Nicko McBrain (Iron Maiden), Neil Peart (Rush) or Mike Portnoy (ex-Dream Theater) and you'll see what I mean. His fills are largely just playing fast snare drum breaks. What doesn't help his case is the God awful drum production on this album. There is hardly any reverb from the drum strikes, it sounds way too sterile. Of course, it's no where near as bad as the infamous "pie-tin" production from their 2003 album 'St. Anger', but its still pretty bad, at least to my ears!

At this point I would talk about the bass guitar, but it doesn't appear to exist on this album. This has always been one of the biggest complaints about this album. Hetfield has gone on record to say that mixing the bass out was one of the ways they hazed the new boy, Jason Newstead, who joined Metallica after the tragic death of Cliff Burton.

But I said in my opening remarks that this was my favourite Metallica album and all I've done is bemoan Hetfield's vocals and Ulrich's drumming! So, some positives, and there are loads on this record. Hetfields rhythm guitar playing is brilliant here, very precise, crunchy and a great tone. The guitar solos when they come are drop dead gorgeous, no doubt about it Kirk Hammett is one of the best lead guitarists ever. The song structures are wonderful, as I said before, "progressive thrash". The lyrics are powerful, no more so than in their famous song 'One'. The songs are long and varied, and aren't just a wall-of-metal like you would have expected, far from it.

The real highlight of the album comes near the end, with the wonderful 10-minute instrumental piece 'To Live Is To Die', which continued the tradition Metallica had of including long instrumental songs on their first few albums. I think progressive metal fans would get a kick out of this album if they hadn't already heard it, but I'd be hard pushed to recommend this to the wider prog community. I'll give it 3.5 stars but round it down to 3-stars for the official rating.

AndyJ | 3/5 |

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