Monday, April 16, 2018

Metallica - ...And Justice For All (1988)

Well, this album would fit nicely in a "Top 10 most ironic album titles ever" list. After the tragic death of Cliff Burton, Metallica was left without a bassist, eventually recruiting Jason Newsted from Flotsam And Jetsam. Apparently, the rest of the group did not seem to have much faith in the new recruit, because he is close to completely absent in this record. The bass is non existent, and still to this day it is not sure who is to blame, whether it is the influence of Lars Ulrich, the mixer Steve Thompson, or someone else. What we do know is that Jason was the victim, and that he did not get any justice.

So now that we have taken care of the clear ear sore of this record, let us focus on the other stuff. "...And Justice For All" saw Metallica going to a more progressive style, going for longer and more complex song arrangement, even more so than what both "Ride The Lightning" and "Master of Puppets" presented. There is no song under 5 minutes in here, and three even going over the 9 minute mark, surely making lovers of "Kill 'em All" a little uncomfortable when finally diving into this 1 hour and 5 minute long beast. This album is surely creative, but it might have taken one too many liberties.

Exhibit A on when the prog side of Metallica goes wrong, the instrumental track "To Live Is To Die". It is a 9 minute and 49 second song with very little substance in it, some nice licks for sure, but it does not lead to anything. No climax, no epic solo, no emotional roller coasters, just a complete waste of space and time. The band knows how to do great instrumentals, so what happened here?

Fortunately, the other longer song on the album is more than passable. The title track has a nice catchy tone to it, both in riffs and in structure, while "The Frayed Ends of Sanity" has a fantastic flow to it that feels completely natural. Then we have "One", the most famous song out of this record (and the first song Metallica accompanied with a music video), a two part song where the first half is slow and moodful, and the second half is complete madness. It is a great display of the band's diversity, and both the lead up to the solo and the solo itself still gives me goosebumps. Just masterful.

Not only is this the most progressive record in the Metallica discography, it might even be the heaviest. Songs like "Blackened" and "Dyers Eve" are really fast and heavy maulers that definitely rank among the heaviest that the band has ever done. Then we have more slow heavy songs like "Eye of The Beholder" and "Harvester of Sorrow", two songs that may not stand out amongst the crowd, but fills the holes of the album nicely. This makes "...And Justice For All" an unique step for the band, trying to evolve even further in their sound, unfortunately with mixed results.

So while this record is overall a very nice experience when you only look at what the songs are like, it is fully spoiled when the production is added. Sure, neither "Lightning" or "Puppets" have perfect production, but this album is just so flat, not giving that extra oomph that every song needed to truly pop. That is what hinders "...And Justice For All" from becoming another master staple in the band's discography (and maybe that instrumental too). It is a nice album, but the major flaws are simply too hard to ignore, even with a blindfold.

Songs worthy of recognition: One, Blackened, The Frayed Ends of Sanity, Dyers Eve

Rating: 7/10 Shortest Straws

More reviews of Metallica
Kill 'em All
Ride The Lightning
Master of Puppets
St. Anger
Death Magnetic
Hardwired... To Self-Destruct

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