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Master of Puppets

An album by Metallica

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A milestone.

  • Jul 17, 2001
Master of Puppets illustrates why Metallica was one of the most important metal bands ever.

After giving birth to thrash with Kill 'Em All, Metallica began refining their innovations with Ride the Lightning, which added a bit more maturity and compositional quality. Master of Puppets is a much larger step in the same direction, and had the band incorporating more progressive elements into their music. It'd be hard to count the metal bands doing half the pioneering things Metallica was doing.

The acoustic, quiet introduction to "Battery" explodes under an aggressive onslaught of hyperkinetic, muscular riffs and thick, heavy arrangements that characterize the entire album. That's not to say it's redundant, though. All eight songs are excellent, featuring enough variation of tempo and texture to ensure that they never get boring, which is crucial when some songs extend for eight minutes ("Master of Puppets," "Disposable Heroes," "Orion"). Cripes, you could dissect the riffery of the title track and probably create half a dozen normal metal songs. That"s part of Metallica's appeal: they cram a ton of ideas into their music, but all songs are perfectly crafted without the slightest sense of disjointed songwriting.

Speaking of the title track, it in particular sports a dynamic composition, where its middle section diminishes into a quieter, evocative guitar solo (one of the few played by Hetfield) before taking off all over again. "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" mirrors "Fade to Black" in its progression of intensity. It starts with haunting melodies, turning up the crunch for the chorus, then kicks into high gear with a weighty, fast riff and a glistening lead that carries the song to its vengeful apogee. Hetfield isn't quite a master lyricist, but for the first time in Metallica's career, the lyrics were insightful with effective diction. Note the telling and vitriolic "Disposable Heroes" or "Leper Messiah." Hetfield was never a great singer, but he was a good metal vocalist. Although his ferocity was tempered by youthful pipes, he still managed to convey the viciousness required of music so heavy, so furious.

And even when the band eschewed words and singing, they could impress. "Orion" is a marvel of metal songwriting, being an eight minute instrumental with precise, articulate solos (including a short-but-sweet one from the late bassist Cliff Burton) and big, chugging riffs. Most metal bands wrote instrumentals that were three or four minutes long...never eight. But Metallica did it, and they did it well enough to make songs like "Orion" and "To Live Is To Die" (from ...And Justice) among my favorite metal instrumentals.

Add my voice to the many, many fans who have rated this album five stars (about 362 at the time of this writing). If Master of Puppets isn't the best metal album ever, it's very very close.

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More Master of Puppets reviews
review by . May 14, 2012
posted in Music Matters
Since this is my first review about anything relating to Metallica, I'll be honest here and say that even in my early days of being a metalhead, I never found much appeal behind them. Sure, their first two albums “Kill Em' All” and “Ride the Lightning” had some good moments of worthwhile thrash voltage, but a lot of what they made after 1984 lacks the metal spark that's so vital to any metal band. While I don't think this is one of the absolute worst metal …
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Clayton Reeder ()
Ranked #434
Rogue capitalist in search of all that is interesting, weird, or beautiful.      Collected here are my hundreds of reviews from Amazon.com, covering mostly music that is offensive … more
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One of the defining albums of thrash metal,Master of Puppetsis arguably Metallica's best album (as well as their last with bassist Cliff Burton). Focusing on the concept of power and abuses thereof, this is a collection of complex, intelligent music, played at about a hundred miles an hour. Not that these are short songs; this eight-song album clocks in at over an hour, which makes it all the more impressive that not one moment on this recording is boring. In tackling various approaches to their subject, Metallica is insightful lyrically as well as musically: "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" is from the point of view of an institutionalized inmate and "Disposable Heroes" is the perspective of a soldier. If all you've heard of Metallica is what's been on the radio recently, check this one out. You're in for a surprise.--Genevieve Williams
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Label: Elektra, Wea
Artist: Metallica
Release Date: October 25, 1990

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