Kill 'Em All
Metallica's debut album, which would have been titled "Metal Up Your Ass" until the record company said they couldn't use it, is the typical raw-sounding first album. Although the lyrics are a bit simple and the songwriting is mediocre, the album's energy is really what makes it a good, listenable album. You can hear the attitude in just about every song, and even when you don't the hear attitude, you feel it. Surprisingly, if you compare the general songwriting of certain songs you'll realize that the songs Dave Mustaine had a hand in, are more complex, both lyric-wise and in terms of song structure. Dave Mustaine, being the composer of many of the solos (which I have to admit are fantastic), was unfortunately fired and replaced before the release of the album. So, although the solos are written by him, they are in fact being played by ex-Exodus guitarist, Kirk Hammett. The only tracks that were a bit blah were Jump in the Fire, and Metal Militia. The album doesn't lose direction or become unenjoyable much or at all, so after you grab Master of Puppets and Ride the Lightning, I'd highly reccomend you check this one out.
Best Songs: Phantom Lord, Seek and Destroy, Hit the Lights
Ride the Lightning
After Kill 'Em All, Metallica stepped up to the plate and holy crap did they deliver! What some fans would call their best effort to date Ride the Lightning was a monster of a record. Probably one of the heaviest album of its time the album starts of with Fight Fire With Fire, which has a slow acoustic intro and then explodes into a furious rampage of guitars, pounding drums, and shouted warnings of apocolypse. Not the best song off the album but it definitely gets your head banging. From there on, your senses are assualted with blistering solos and thumping riffs. Cliff Burton's impact on the bands songwriting is very apparent in this record. They have a more clean and intelligent sound while retaining their energy and badass image which is very benefical to the overall feel of this album. Although Cliff was in the band for the release of Kill 'Em All he joined after most of the songs were written, so his only contribution was Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth), a bass solo that he wrote himself. Yet again, the album features two tracks co-written by Dave Mustaine; Ride the Lightning and The Call of Ktulu. Shockingly (all sarcasm intended [holy crap thats a pun too. Killed two birds with one stone that time]), these two songs are riddled with fancy guitar work and solos, which yet again are played by Kirk Hammett. Not only has the composing gotten better but Lars Ulrich's drumming has developed greatly, and so has James Hetfield's singing and guitar playing. Within one album Metallica had transformed from an amateur band of teenagers to potential rock (or thrash)-stars.
Best Songs: Creeping Death, Ride the Lightning, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Escape
Master of Puppets
Just after you thought it couldn't get any better... I actually held off getting this album for awhile (mostly because I'm a cheapskate) but as soon as I listened to it I was blown away. Although I tend to exaggerate sometimes I seriously consider this album the best in my collection. Like Ride the Lightning, the album kicks off with a song, in this case Battery, that happens to have a acoustic intro. Unlike Fight Fire With Fire this song builds up at the beginning and then smacks you in the face with a mind blowing riff that gives into a faster drum beat and screaming vocals. After the songs abrupt end you get thrown right into Metallica's most recognizable and arguably their best song, Master of Puppets. The thundering guitars, angry yells of James Hetfield, and fast paced drums gives you the instant need to headbang and about halfway through it melts into a slow ballad-like guitar solo courtesy of Kirk Hammett. At the conclusion of the solo the song goes back to its original tempo where Kirk gives us another solo although this time its a brief face melting solo. After that the song plods along and then ends. The heaviest song off the album, The Thing That Should Not Be, is also one of the slower ones but in this song you can really feel the bass as well as hear. The eerie guitar work about 3 and a half minutes in adds to the song so that its actually evil sounding. The next piece, Welcome Home (Sanitarium), was my favorite of the album for a while. It starts off very slow and melodic and gradually builds up to be a hell of a song featuring a blaring solo towards its end. Although its not the usual Metallica fan's favorite song, I think Disposable Heroes is one of their best. It's very unique and doesn't fit one's perception of the usual anti-war song and other than that I think its pretty catchy too. The sixth song off the album, Leper Messiah, isn't anything incredibly special (in comparasion to the rest of the album), although I think Lars does a great job drumming on this song. Orion, on other hand, is actually a masterpiece. This shows you that Metallica isn't afraid of cranking out the occasional instrumental, and doing a pretty damn good job at it too. Damage Inc., the album's closer, wraps up the whole package quite nicely and leaves you with a great impression of the album and high expectations for the next.
Best Songs: Orion, Welcome Home (Sanitarium), Disposable Heroes, Master of Puppets
...and Justice for All
Bashed by some and adored by other who say its Metallica's last "true" thrash album, ...and Justice for All falls towards the top of the list for me. Although it could use some more bass, just about everything else makes up for it. After the tragic death of Cliff Burton, who I think was most responsible for really shaping Metallica's sound, the band released...and Justice for All. You can feel the anger in every note of that entire album and even James' vocals, which are usual furious, seem to get louder and more demanding. Lars' drumming in that album is the best work he's done to date, and Kirk's frequent shredding makes every song worth the listen. Another thing about this album that is unique is the duration of the songs, which, in this album, are about 7 to 8 minutes on average. The album again kicks off with yet another ass-kicking, fast opener. The rest of the album is generally the same (not in a bad way though), each song with its unique characteristics here and there, but similar structures and feel. One song that I have to at least mention is One. Although I might seem to be very unoriginal for liking that composition I think its fucking awesome anyway. The guitar solo and the whole sound of the song just flows very well and the subject matter is very interesting too. Now lets take a big leap to the final two songs of the album. To Live Is to Die is the last song Cliff wrote for Metallica. To Live is to Die was a phrase Cliff liked a lot and was made of Cliff's last collection of riffs. And here we reach the end of ...and Justice for All with Dyers Eve, which happens to be one of the few songs under six minutes on the album. Not the best song of the album but it ties up the loose ends and contains the general emotion of the album. Cliff's absence on the record is obvious and the lack of bass doesn't help much but the album pulls through anyway and leaves you satisfied.
Best Songs: ...and Justice for All, One, The Frayed Ends of Sanity, Eye of the Beholder
Metallica's most successful commercial expedition so far is Metallica (also refered to as the Black album), and if you've listened to it before you would know why. The album shoots right off with its highest charting single, Enter Sandman. This track, although considered overrated, has more thought out lyrics than Metallica's previous efforts, and basically no low-points. Plus the chorus is extremely addicting, as is the killer solo, although the song itself bears a striking resemblance to the Megadeth song, Go To Hell. Sad But True, a slow but powerful song, driven by a beast of a riff. Following the trend of Enter Sandman, the track has some decent lyrics and James' voice sounds more like a deep roaring than the barking he did on ...and Justice for All. The third selection in the album, Holier Than Thou, is the most hatred-spewing song in the album, in which James sings about those who think more highly of themselves than they really should. Believe it or not, in a documentary I saw about the making of the Black Album, Lars was the only one who thought Enter Sandman would be the highlight or best received song off the album. The rest of the band [and Bob Rock] thought that Holier Than Thou was going to be a big hit with the crowds but, as we already know, Lars was right (shows you he's actually a pretty smart guy). Then we get around to The Unforgiven, one of Metallica's most well known tunes, which is also one of their more depressing songs. The song in general is great but receives some heavy hits from critics who say its overrated, along with the rest of the Black album. It is also one of those rare successful songs that the band made sequels to, both of which I consider decent (although, The Unforgiven III is superior to The Unforgiven II). One of the songs more prevalent features is the guitar solo (which seems to be the case a lot through out this album). Middle-Eastern tinged Wherever I May Roam was one of my favorite songs on this album, because it's meaningful, has some of Metallica's better lyrics and is just overall pretty damn good. I especially like the bass because of it's unique sound in this song. Another underrated Metallica song Don't Tread on Me, features a very catchy chorus, pummeling drums and last but not least, yet another treat from Kirk Hammett. The last few songs on this milestone album (minus Nothing Else Matters) are another heap of underrated Metallica tunes that no one seems to appreciate but me. Since I can't resist but to comment, I have to say, although many people claim it over-hyped and overrated, The Black Album delivers. It's got heavy songs, faster songs, slightly depressing songs, and even a ballad. Just because they made a few music videos doesn't make them sell-outs.
Best Songs: Nothing Else Matters, The Unforgiven, Enter Sandmany, Of Wolf and Man