Classic Album Review

Album of the Week: Metallica – Master of Puppets


The third studio album by the (now) legendary Metallica, Master of Puppets is so important to the history of music generally, and the evolution of it specifically that in 2015 The United States Library of Congress preserved the recording in the National Recording Registry; the first heavy metal recording to do so. It was recorded September 1 – December 27, 1985 at Sweet Silence Studios in Copenhagen, Denmark. It was released on March 3, 1986 by Elektra Records.

Whereas Kill ‘em All (the band’s first studio release) is straight-forward, in your face thrash metal, and Ride the Lightening (their 2nd release) evolved further into unchartered Metal waters (both of these records were heavily influenced by original lead guitarist, Dave Mustaine – Megadeth), Master is a full-blown leap off the map! The album is nearly universally praised as the best heavy metal album of all time, both inside and outside of the metal community. The record peaked at #29 on The Billboard Top 200, and was the first “Thrash Metal" album to be certified Platinum. It was certified 6X Platinum by RIAA in 2003.

Metallica was formed in Las Angeles, CA in 1981 (San Francisco has been the band’s base) by guitarist/vocalist James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich. Dave Mustaine (Megadeth) was the original lead guitarist, but was fired just before the recording of Kill ‘em All. Cliff Burton was the original bassist until 1986 when, during their European tour, the band’s bus crashed in Sweden killing Burton. Kirk Hammett (Exodus) was tapped to replace Mustaine and has been a constant ever since. Jason Newsted (Flotsam and Jetsam) replaced Burton (R.I.P.), until January 2001. Robert Trujillo (Suicidal Tendencies; Infectious Grooves; Black Label Society) stepped-up in 2003 and has been a solid member on the bass to the present day.

Master stretched Metallica’s previous “thrash metal" sound, and invented a new one! A heavier, darker feel than any offering of it’s time. Hetfield’s vocals are deeper and chunkier and all guitars are drop tuned. The overarching theme of the record concerns control and the abuse of power (notice the cover art), as the title track suggests; as well as Battery, The Thing That Should Not Be, and Leper Messiah (directed toward the televangelists of the 80’s). Welcome Home (Sanitarium) expresses a result of such abuse. Disposable Heroes addresses the subject from the point of view of soldiers sent to endless wars on behalf of the elites. And Orion is a beautiful instrumental, composed by Cliff Burton, putting on full display his classical training. Don’t let my “beautiful” description fool you, though, this song is a beating; while Battery is the fastest, and The Thing That Should Not Be is the heaviest.

The “O.G. Metalhead" (a.k.a., my dad!) saw Metallica (with Cliff on bass) in 1986, in Binghamton, NY during the band’s first arena/stadium tour supporting Ozzy. “We had never heard of them. Upon seeing them perform, we had never seen or heard anything like it before! The rest is history!” I finally got to see them in Atlanta in 2018, and again right here in Raleighwood, January of this year (2019).

Favorite songs: Master of Puppets (duh!); The Thing That Should Not Be

Rating: 10/10!!

Stay Metal,