Thursday, September 23, 2010

Metallica ...And Justice For All

aka "Master of Puppets Extended, Then Beaten to Death"

As I wrote in the title, ...And Justice For All is Master of Puppets extended, and beaten to death. So many of the same keys, chugg-chugga "melodies", vocal patterns, and composition structures are pounded into the ground. Even worse, the compositions themselves are rarely inspiring; the sludgey tempos and easy-to-make-fun-of dour atmosphere predominate throughout, making it hard to finish listening to most of the individual tracks. Perhaps Metallica recycled all of these patterns thinking that their more preachy lyrics would stand out more, there being little more to distinguish the tracks musically from "...Puppets". Either way, alot of time here just goes by without any sort of lift from the frowning "duh" of the vocal delivery.

One of the most significant (hold on, I'm holding my stomach laughing over the idea of the word "significant" applied to any part of this album) differences betweeen this and "Master of Puppets" is the near-complete lack of any worthwhile guitar leads. Hetfield was the only contributor of anything really non-shred (tranlated "memorable") guitar leads on Master of Puppets, but even he fails to deliver much to chew on here. This leaves the blame to rest on the thin shoulders of Mr. Kirk Hammett. There's not a single lick or trick (emphasis on the latter) on this release that Hammet didn't use on the three albums preceeding this one. What's really a bummer for other guitar players (the same ones whom, like me, really loved and looked up to his leads on the title track of "Ride the Lightning" and "Fade to Black") is hearing time and again his total disregard for crafting memorable, or even particularly musical, leads from the chords Metallica plays behind him. Try humming the solo to "One"...hah! After awhile any guitar player (you know, the kind whom grew out of the "look, Mom, I'm playing so faaaassst!" frame of mind) will become either disillusioned or facetious hearing so many oppurtunities wasted. I mean, considering how admittedly terrific and nicely composed his above mentioned Ride the Lightning solos were, we can forgive Hammett for a little redundancy. But after hearing him rely on the same crutches over and over (the wah and/or tapping whenever he runs out of ideas), it's safe to say that even Yngwie had a longer run from compositional perspective. At least he lasted more than two songs.

This album does have a couple of very memorable riffs and chorus/pre-choruses. But overall, there really isn't even one second here that comes anywhere near the invigorating power of,say, Disposable Heroes, or For Whom the Bell Tolls. Points I give for at least attempting to "stay Metal" and sounding sui generis, a distinction which for Metallica in 1988 was worth three stars alone.

They were great, they were the undoubtedly one of the best...until after Cliff Burton died. Do yourself a favor and grab the still awe-inspiring Ride the Lightning, and the only-slightly-less-inspiring Master of Puppets first for your collection. ESPECIALLY if you're a guitar player.