Listening to Master of Puppets is a mix of emotions. In-between moments of head-banging, one can’t help but to remember that this is the last album fans ever got from the 1983-86 Metallica lineup. Bassist and backing vocalist Cliff Burton died in Sweden during the band’s European leg of the Damage Inc. tour that supported this album.
It was in the year 1986 that Metallica solidified their place in trash metal and in the hearts of thrash metal fans for generations to come. Master of Puppets was the second album produced during Metallica’s partnership with Flemming Rasmussen, who also c0-produced Ride The Lightning and …And Justice for All.
Master of Puppets, the band’s third studio album, released eight powerhouse songs that shared heartfelt and honest emotions to the tune of control and abuse of power. The dynamic title track, “Master of Puppets,” is a good example of the album’s creative lyrics. “Veins that pump with fear, sucking darkest clear. Leading on your deaths construction” are just some of the lyrics of living a life controlled by drugs that have made this song a memorable metal anthem. Despite the social changes of the 80s, it was still taboo to be open about this lyrical subject matter, proving again that Metallica were trendsetters in the genre.
Master of Puppets put Metallica in a league of their own when it comes to their sound. Each track on this album is quality work and they flow in a way that continues the overall drive. “Battery” is the track that sets the tone for the album as the opener begins with a little acoustic guitar instrumentation that can be best described as the calm before the storm…the storm of pounding drums and insane guitar riffs that continues in the tracks to follow and demand attention. “Orion” is eight plus minutes of magnificent instrumentation that specifically features Cliff’s lead bass playing style. His solo is an original work of art and a reflection of his technical skills that make him one of the best bassist’s to ever play metal. Despite absence of lyrics, this track doesn’t stray from the overall sound of the album.
The album closes with “Damage Inc.,” another top track from the album with an opening of sound waves that build anticipation and lead into a military-styled frenzy of drumbeats and guitar playing that continues throughout the track.
Since Master of Puppets, Metallica has continued to master a brilliance for creating thoughtful and emotional lyrics and pairing them with heavy and driving instrumentation. Their style has changed, becoming more commercial since the release of the Black Album. Despite the dismay of some fans, the band continues to produce platinum-status records, achieve unimaginable accolades (such as the title of “The First Band to Perform on All Seven Continents”), and grow their fan base with a new generation of metal/rock music.
If the band didn’t carry on after Cliff’s death, this album would have been a great final record and would still have its legendary status. Lucky for us, Metallica continues to rock, as they believe Cliff would have wanted, and has seen immeasurable success thanks to their loyal fan base that has recognized excellence in the music they produce. Master of Puppets remains their signature album and is indeed metal perfection.
It is obvious that Master of Puppets is an amazing album and a staple in thrash metal culture. The album was the thrash genre’s first platinum release, going on to sell over six million copies, and it redefined what was to come in mainstream metal. It solidified Metallica’s reputation for powerhouse music and made them innovators of the genre and set the bar for others to measure up to.
In recent years, Master of Puppets has been included on several best albums lists, including: No. 67 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time (2003) and Time Magazine’s 100 Best Albums of All Time (2006).
After going multi-platinum with Master of Puppets, Metallica would end the 80s with the release of …And Justice For All. During the 90s, the band released three more studio albums – Metallica, Load, and Reload with mixed reception.
2003 brought a lineup change as Robert Trujillo would replace bassist Jason Newsted, who departed to focus on his side projects. While he did not perform on St. Anger, Metallica’s first album in the new millennium, Trujillo’s permanent residency with the group began on the album’s support tour.
The 2000s also brought the release of Death Magnetic and the World Magnetic Tour shortly after. The band hasn’t released any studio albums since but created the independent music label, Blackened Records. The band, including past and present members, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009.
Metallica joined forces with Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax for global tour dates in 2010 and 2011 as part of the hugely successful Big Four tour.
In September 2013, the band created their own 3D concert experience, Metallica: Through the Never, which was released on IMAX screens. They ended the year by playing a show, Freeze ‘Em All, in Antarctica, becoming the first band to ever play on all seven continents. In an interview afterwards, Lars Ulrich stated that 2014 would be about making the next Metallica record with a hopeful 2015 release date.
Reviewer: Lindsey Riley
IRC: Lilen Pautasso
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