Epic. This is the line of demarcation… The toe in the dirt scrawling out the line bewteen fans of the old-school thrash Metallica and their more pop-conscious fans of the new. It’s also my favorite Metallica CD, I find it to be their most consistently BADASS. Epic riffs, sprawling density; the songs are allowed to take up as much time and aural texture as is needed (“…And Justice For All” and “To Live Is To Die,” both clock in at just under 10 minutes).
This one: Exceptionally well-paced, a tad thinly recorded, brutal sonic delivery. Killer legendary tracks. Thematically unified, this would be Metallica’s most socially-driven release as most, if not all, of the tracks seem to deal (in some way) with ostracism, petty-tribal-hates, the plight of those passed-over, those forgotten, those stepped on or kicked out of the way… James’s vitriol is unleashed in full! No sleepers, no skippers.
Something I don’t see noted in here much: the drums! Lars really pounds the living soul out of himself on this one. There’s more variety and interesting bass-drum fill work on this one than previous (and following) releases. It almost sounds like a different drummer at times. Early Metallica skin-work always comes off as a tad marginal… That’s probably because I don’t know anything about drums beyond digging double-bass-kicks. This one brings them aplenty.
…From the melodic building electric drone of the first track “Blackened,” (which infectiously sets the tone for the what is to come), to the take-no-prisoners thrash mayhem of “Dyers Eve,” a blistering and acerbic closer.
Some high points: The parts in “Eye Of The Beholder” When James starts howling “Independence, Liberty! FREEEEEDOM!” he comes off like a metal Braveheart, Plus it has one of all-time fave screechy “wong-wong–wong-WONG-WAAAAAHHH!!!!! blast-off” solos.
The chorus of “…And Justice…” is just killer. “Justice is rrraped, justice is DONE!” Recalling, “Master of Puppets” with its “pulling your strings, justice is done,” line… Loss of Power/Control being an oft-recurrent major theme in the Metallica corpus.
I’m not gonna gush on and on about how slick the transistions are in “One,” from the softer melodic poignance to all out thrash-insanity, seeing as how everybody knows the tune in question. But it does never seem to get old, at least to these ears.
The instrumental “To Live is to Die,” is better than prior instrumental tracks (yes, there I said it- someone had to); the snakey blues-metal solo is sick, and then there’s the dynamic shifting in the song…
Love the “Oh-EEE-OH,” chorus opening off “Frayed Ends of Sanity,” that could’ve sounded kitschy and dumb but the guys pull it off making it the only time anyone has referenced “The Wizard of Oz,” in an ominous manner.
Nitpicking: As many other reviewers have noted- You can’t hear the bass. As in: at all. It’s just not there. These tunes are bassless accusations, mwah-hah-hah… Given how awful James, Lars and Kirk treated Jason for something like the first 4 years he was with them; maybe this is but one more sign of that… Still, as I think Jason is an interesting metal bassman (a rare breed) I wish there were more low-end theory on this classic… Maybe when it gets the remaster in however many years, they’ll crank up the BOOM… Which remindeth me, O my brothers- completely off the topic at hand: AVOID AT ALL COSTS THE NEW MEGADETH REMASTERS; the vocals are unbelievably bad. I know, I listened. I suffered so that you don’t have to: we all know Mustaine was never an able crooner to begin with (not that his chosen mode of expression demands that) but… wow. They’re just plain awful, the new vox. You want to tell yourslef, “Hey it ain’t that bad, but that tiny part of your soul that knows spit from spinola just keeps nudging you saying, “Dude… Umm… Dude… Just turn it off.”
Back to Metallica: This one catches some flak from most fans I think, despite the fact that those who dig on this one dig the holy hell out of it.
Oh… This is perhaps the best weight-lifting CD ever. The tracks ably segue into each other so well… Great for maintaining consistent anger and power output for multiple sets of squats and deadlifts.