"Kill 'em All", the jump Metallica took with their sophomore effort "Ride The Lightning" is one of the biggest any band has done from first to second record. While the debut had its own great charm, "Ride The Lightning" was way more ambitious in almost every other way. It got more complex song writing, cleaner production (not too clean though), tighter chemistry between the instruments, and a broader variation in the set list. It is more or less the perfect continuation for a band that helped start up a big sub genre.
Even if the band has evolved to this point, there were still some elements of that raw power and speed that was the trademark of "Kill 'em All", not making the changes all too drastic. The opener "Fight Fire With Fire" do open with a little acoustic bit, but then turns into the younger, angrier brother of "Whiplash", shredding everything with its furious speed. "Trapped Under Ice" also falls under the same category, a pretty simple and aggressive piece that also could have been on the debut, but each song do have a bit that shows how the band has changed, something different to weigh up the aggression, which is really nice.
Something else that showed the band's evolution was in the lyrics, which tackled a wide variety of subjects, from thoughts of suicide in "Fade To Black" to the biblical story about the plagues of Egypt in "Creeping Death". The guys certainly showed that they were not any old numbnuts, just going fast for the sake of going fast, and singing about any random shit. There is genuine thought behind the music and lyrics, and the work behind it all is certainly impressive.
As far as the overall track list goes, "Ride The Lightning" is filled to the brim with some fantastic tunes, 8 in total. The most noteworthy is probably "Fade To Black", just for how delicate and dark it is, with its theme about suicide. It is a beautiful track with an amazing emotional solo that captures you in an uncomfortable way. The most famous song though is probably "For Whom The Bell Tolls", a really nice song for sure, but just like with "Seek And Destroy" from "Kill 'em All", it is one of the lower points of the record.
Nah, my personal favourite have to be the title track, maybe because it could almost be classified as a progressive metal track, but also because there is a lot happening in here, so you wanna come back to it and hear it again and again. I also love the instrumental "The Call of Ktulu", it certainly has that ominous creepy feeling of a ritual song that would summon the famous slumbering overlord monster. It is also hard to dismiss "Creeping Death", just for the flow that it creates, a great live track that works really well on record as well.
The only real miss in this record is "Escape", a fine track that just does not seem to fit in here. It is not aggressive, it does not have any drive to it, and among the other songs, it just fades in comparison. It is hard to follow through with the mantra "all killer, no filler", so I can forgive the band for including "Escape", but it does keep me from counting this album as one of the greatest ones in existence.
No matter what though, "Ride The Lightning" is still a brilliant sophomore effort, one that every up and coming band hopes to create. It takes what the band did great in the debut, improved on the parts where they did not do so good, and also showed growth in their writing and playing. This album is a thrilling ride with twists and turns, with every song acting like a chocking jolt going through your body, releasing a fantastic feeling. So strap into the electric chair, and join the ride.
Songs worthy of recognition: Ride The Lightning, Fight Fire With Fire, Fade To Black, Creeping Death, The Call of Ktulu
Rating: 9,5/10 Bells tolling
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