Thursday, March 3, 2011

Pulling the Strings: Metallica's Master of Puppets is 25

 Metallica - Master of Puppets
Master of Puppets
Rating: **** or **** 1/2

It was 1986. Heavy metal music was very popular but in different forms. On one side, you had the glam metal bands. These bands liked to dress feminine and put on a hell of a show. For the other side, dressing up like a chick didn't mater. Their attitude: go on stage in your street clothes and play ass kicking metal. This would probably best describe Metallica, a metal band who were just making it. In 1986, the band released their third album entitled Master of Puppets. Today, the album is regarded as one of the greatest metal albums ever made. Now 25 years after its release, a majority of fans regard the album as Metallica's finest album. 

By 1986, Metallica were in their third line-up. This line-up had been together since 1983. Metallica consisted of guitarists James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett, bassist Cliff Burton, and drummer Lars Ulrich. The band already had two albums out by that time: Kill 'Em All in 1983 and Ride The Lightning in 1984. When it came to recording Master of Puppets, the band recorded the album at Sweet Silence Studios in Copenhagen, Denmark. This was where the band had also recorded Ride The Lightning a few years back. Lightning's producer Flemming Rasmussen was producing again. The album was recorded in four months from September till December of 1985. 

"Battery" opens the album with some beautiful acoustic guitar work. According to one source, there are four acoustic guitars in that opening of the song. This lasts for a while until the bass and drums join in creating a heavy melodic sound. Then in a little over a minute, it's time to get down to business: the song suddenly morphs into a thrash metal song. The lyrics in the song deal with anger, aggression, and violence. With lyrics like "Smashing through the boundaries" and "Pounding out aggression", "Battery" is an instant Metallica classic. The self-titled track is, without a doubt, one of the band's best known songs. Also, it's probably the strongest song off the album. The lyrics are wonderfully written and who cannot like the calls of "Master! Master!"? Also, Kirk Hammett plays a wonderful solo. According to James Hetfield in 2008, the song is about drugs and how they end up controlling you. "The Thing That Should Not Be" is an interesting song musically. The music goes back and forth in sections. When James sings, Lars the only one playing but soon enough the music gets heavy. The lyrics revolve around mythology and evil. The lyric of "In madness you dwell" is almost poetic. "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" is another great song. According to Hetfield, the song was inspired by the 1975 movie One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. The lyrics are being told to the listener by a person in a mental asylum. The song's deep sound gives the listener the feeling that this is being told from an asylum.

The next song, "Disposable Heroes", might be one of the band's most underrated songs. The song is amazingly heavy as are the lyrics, which deal with war itself. Hetfield sings the truth: "Soldier boy made of clay/Now an empty shell/Twenty one only son/But he's served us well/Bred  to kill not to care/Do just as we say...". Wow, that's deep and could probably be considered relevant to today. The calls of "Back to the front" are probably of a careless war dog. Once again, Hammett shines in the solo. "Leper Messiah" is probably the weakest song off the album but still, it's a great song. Burton's bass playing on this is a little hard to hear but with a song like this, he must've been playing away (as he does on the whole album). The lyrics in this song, once again, are strong. "Orion" is a wonderful, maybe too long, guitar instrumental. Hammett gets to show off a lot on this one. The album's closer, "Damage Inc.", is one of the most brutal songs ever made by the band. The lyrics are violent but the message is for the listener to decide. The song may have to do with corporations and how they suck the life out of things. "We chew and spit you out": that's heavy! Blood will follow blood...

Master of Puppets did a lot for the guys in Metallica and allowed them to continue making music. However on September 27, 1986, tragedy struck the band: While the band was on tour in Sweden, the tour bus they were on had flipped and crashed on the side. Everybody survived...except Cliff Burton. Burton had been crushed to death and died instantly at the age of 24. The driver may've been drunk but the driver insisted there was black ice on the road (which there wasn't). The band continued with Jason Newsted. With Newstead, the band were able to continue and enjoy their success. As of now, the band has bassist Robert Trujillo who joined in 2003 to replace Newstead. Metallica still perform today and are planning to record a new album.

As of now, Master of Puppets is at #64 on my list of favorite albums. It's a wonderful album and definitely worth listening to. 

1 comment:

  1. dude, you realize that the lyrics for "The Thing That Should Not Be" comes from H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulu Mythos. Look it up, it's fascinating. their obsessed with it, "Call of Kthulu" and "All Nightmare Long" follow the same themes.