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 albums ever, I certainly think it's by far the most overrated and as a whole, it commits one of the worst crimes a metal band can commit, which is being boring.
For those of you who frequently go on Metal-Archives.com, you're probably familiar with an infamous review of “Master of Puppets” posted by a member named UltraBoris, in which he gave a large, meticulously-detailed review explaining why he felt MOP destroyed the heavy metal genre, and therefore, labeled it as the worst album to ever happen to heavy metal. While I probably wouldn't go as far as to say it killed heavy metal and is the worst thing that ever happened to the genre, I'll say that this album really shows Metallica falling apart and even though I don't really think Metallica was brilliant to begin with (I'll say they were decent at the start), this really shows the band rapidly declining in terms of quality.
The musicianship on this album is a mixed bag. I say that because while James Hetfield and co. are clearly capable of dishing out some competent thrash songs, they decide to indulge in poorly-executed ballads and progressive rock, while sacrificing a large part of the thrash element in most of their songs. Now I wouldn't mind the incorporation of different elements in the thrash formula, but I don't like the fact that the songs dominated by such elements are played with virtually no spark or energy.
James Hetfield's rhythm guitar is decent when he's putting his heart into it, but alas, since a lot of the songs aren't headbanging thrash anthems, I can almost sense the boredom flowing out of his guitar. While Hetfield's vocals aren't terrible, I've heard much better, and they just lack the insanity and aggression that benefit the thrash genre as a whole.
Kirk Hammett can dish out some good thrash riffs when he's pressed to do so, and while he can make some good-sounding guitar solos, his skills are largely wasted on this album for tepid material.
Cliff Burton can come up with some good basslines, though I think his case can be best said with the fact that his skill on the bass guitar can't overcome the fact that most of the songs are just boring.
Lars Ulrich's drumming isn't anything special, other than a few exciting thrash-beats he's able to dish out on the album's more intense songs. Like many a devout metalhead, I think Ulrich is a horribly-overrated drummer who doesn't have 1% the skill of such skin-bashers like Gene Hoglan or Pete Sandoval.
First, I'll cover the good songs on here. “Disposable Heroes” is really the only song on this album I'd say is a powerful, good song. This is what the whole album should have sounded like. “Disposable Heroes” is a rather exceptional piece of work since it exceeds the 8 minute mark and has some good progression throughout, all while not sacrificing any of that thrashing spark that all thrash metal bands should strive for in their material. The guitar solos on this one are some of the best I've heard Metallica ever dish out. “Damage, Inc.,” while not as good as “Disposable Heroes,” is a competent thrasher that with a little more adjustment, could have been an excellent counterpart to “Disposable Heroes.” Thankfully, “Damage, Inc.” closes the album on a higher note, given that most of the album is plodding, dull material.
Now I'm going to cover the lukewarm songs. Despite the fact that “Battery” and “Master of Puppets” are supposed to be the other “thrash” songs on here, they feel like they're being played at half the energy “Disposable Heroes” and “Damage, Inc.” are being played at. Because of this lack of energy in the songs, I just found myself gently nodding my head while I was listening to them, when I should have felt like getting up and furiously banging my head. “Leper Messiah” is more or less the same as “Battery” and “Master of Puppets.”
Now I'm going to talk about the bad songs, and these “experimental” songs are the death-kneel of this album. “The Thing That Should Not Be” and “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” are prime examples of how NOT to write metal songs. These two songs are unbelievably dull and totally lack the metal spirit. There's very little variation in “The Thing That Should Not Be,” and this made it feel like the song just kept going on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on. Okay, you get the picture. “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” totally lacks the metal spirit for the fact that feels too slow and soft, and it doesn't help that Hetfield sounds like a whiny kid bleating out “Leave me be” and “Leave me alone.” “Orion,” despite its inclusion of some flashing instrumental noodling, is a really lukewarm, drawn-out instrumental song. Going back to the technical skills of the musicians, they can't save a song that's fundamentally dull.
This album feels like it has decent production values since all the instruments and vocals are all well-mixed and don't seem to overpower each other, though good production values won't save music that's poorly-written.
If you're a fair-weather metal fan or someone who's more into hard rock, then you'll probably love “Master of Puppets.”
However, if you're a guy like me who's usually craving thrash metal that pushes the boundaries of intensity, then this album probably won't be in your collection that long, as you'll probably find yourself looking for thrash albums loaded with the heavy metal spirit. For those who fall in this category, I prescribe the following as a remedy for your pains (if you don't have these in your collection already).
The Unholy Trinity of 1986:
Slayer-Reign in Blood
Kreator-Pleasure to Kill
Dark Angel-Darkness Descends
If you're looking for some thrash that's more in line with technical and progressive metal, I strongly suggest you give Coroner's “RIP” and Watchtower's “Control and Resistance” a shot.
What did you think of this review?