An amazing sophomore effort, Metallica showed they could not only top the debut album “Kill ‘em All” but produce a record that perhaps replaced some of the raw edge the first album had with more polished track listing. Don’t misunderstand me, if anything these songs showed that the band was improving in their technical structure and overall approach at delivering harsh, hard hitting songs that were dark in theme and spectacular in guitar work.
Released in 1984, RTL is an album with 8 tracks and featured founding members James Hetfield on vocals, Lars Ulrich at drums, Kirk Hammet on lead guitar and Cliff Burton on Bass. Burton was replaced years later after getting killed from an accident in Sweden when the tour bus flipped on an icy road.
It’s Heavy, its fast and its furious. The track starts off with an almost oriental sounding guitar piece that quickly launches into the song “Fight Fire with Fire”. Fire is a thrash masterpiece and amidst the flurry of guitars is the thunder of drums, as well as Hetfield’s almost demonic delivering of choppy vocals, which emphasizes power in each word as much as possible. There is some great guitar work just on this song alone, and amidst the speed parts there are nice changeups that offer difference within the tone and overall feel of the song, which in turn gives it more diversity and builds up for a superb ending. Then you get the monster intro for the title track, which is another gem all its own. “Ride the Lightning has a great opening riff by Hammet that is heard off and on throughout the song. The songwriting on this album is superb as we can clearly hear the story of the electric chair’s recipient being played out before us. The gothic “For Whom the Bell Tolls” is stoic as it gongs an old church bell at the beginning of the song, which quickly leads into a wide range of guitar work. A stomping, marching beat is installed as well, and the power riffs on this one are some of the best on the album. This song features more melodic, doomy guitar parts as well that hit some great high notes as they escalate into an anxiety type mood that finally drops into the main part of the track.
Oh yes, track four is “Fade to Black” and one of those songs you can’t miss! They slow it down into a mournful slow song that has beautiful guitar parts that are layered well. My review of this melodic and dire track won’t do it justice. It’s not all melody and swooning however, as it assaults into some frenzied guitar pieces that are very heavy, and also a song that I feel you can appreciate the bass of Cliff Burton a little more.
“Trapped under Ice” is just a regular and great thrashing tune that never slows down and yes, has a story to it that is pretty grim. The guitars on here are extremely fast, and as Hammet goes 100mph on six strings, Hetfield belts out the lyrics “No release from my cryonic state/What is this? I’ve been stricken by fate/Wrapped up tight, cannot move, can’t break free/Hand of doom has a tight grip on me”.
“Escape” tones down the high angered vocals a tad, as it is a song that rolls along before getting to one of the best chorus parts I have heard. The tones and sound when they start into the chorus:
“Out of my own, out to be free
One with my mind, they just can’t see
No need to hear things that they say
Life is for my own to live my own way”
The ends of each sentence are carried out farther and are done with a great style that really made this chorus and this song yes, another gem. At the end it breaks off into a final goodbye of riffs as a siren (like one of those POW Camp type) starts going off in the distance. Overall, it is a song I still enjoy hearing to this day.
“Creeping Death” is another thrash gem, which features Hammet in full force at lead guitar. It is a haunting and powerful track that also has a lot of diversity in chorus and overall structure. The album rounds out with a song based on the Lovecraft mythos in the famous “The Call of Ktulu”. You will see the spelling of Ktulu vary from Metallica’s to Lovecraft’s and other sources as well. This track starts out with a melodic guitar peice that dances along a doom laden soundscape before revving up into an aggressive assault of guitars that progresses further on with the original intro’s riffs. Louder and louder it climbs and eventually you are hearing a masterful instrumental track that clocks in at over eight minutes long. This was also the first instrumental in which all the members played together, giving it that much more power. Overall a five star album that is sometimes under appreciated by many fans as it sometimes sank between the lines between the debut smash hit “Kill ‘em All” and the masterpiece that was “Master of Puppets”.