Friday, February 22, 2013

Metallica- Master of Puppets: Audio-Intellectual Horror Production 07/06/06

In 1986, the "best metal album of all time" was released. This would be the third Metallica album, and the last one to feature bassist Cliff Burton who died in a bus accident shortly after the album(which ironically has a graveyard on the cover) was released. The next release, "... And Justice For All" would credit newcomer Jason Newsted as bassist, but it is now well-known that original members of the band made the bass lines nearly inaudible in the mix both as a way of hazing on Newsted and honoring Burton. Considering that many consider this Metallica's best work, some might say Cliff Burton died at a pretty damn good time. Here's my Review: The biggest thing Master of Puppets has going for it is ambiance. It also makes sure that this ambiance isn't just a bunch of metalheads worshipping the "Master" or Satan, or any of the generic crap people uninformed towards the album might think about when they first hear the album. Rather, Master of Puppets raises real life issues to extravagant tales of darkness as if it's an art form. Battery begins the album with an agressive thrash metal verse and chorus and a solo that isn't as memorable as most on the album but adds to the speed and agression of the track. And of course Metallica makes sure that the "battery" isn't some fictional machine but a metaphor for aggression and the moshpit. A memorable line states "cannot kill the family, battery is found in me" which suggests a mosher is getting out aggressions of his home life the fun way: with metal music and fat people bowling everyone over. We are quickly treated to the strongest track, "Master of Puppets." As a matter of fact it's so strong that in my opinion it is more the reason for the album's high regard than the album itself. The song begins with "end of passion play, crumbling away, i'm your source of self-destruction" suggesting devil worship until lines like "veins that pump with fear", "needlework the way", and "chop your breakfast on a mirror" clue you in that it's actually an extravagant tale of drug addiction. That addiction is "pulling your strings" and "twisting your dreams". Perhaps the fact Metallica would later be dubbed Alchoholica makes this song even darker, since the not even human sounding voice lead singer James Hetfield uses might just be talking to himself. Master of Puppets also has an eerily beautiful solo somewhere in the middle of the song which is quickly built up to an evil marching band sound, pumped forth by Lars Ulrich's pounding drumset with Hetfield crying helplessly at the Master of Puppets. This is one of the most memorable bridges(interludes) in all of metal history, and later on the guitar once again comes in to identify the struggle in a way even Hetfield's voice can't. It ends with demonic laughter, yet another memorable moment in metal history. "The Thing That Should Not Be" services horror junkie Kirk Hammett's love affair with all things H.P. Lovecraft, yet again after the former album(Ride the Lightning)'s instrumaental closer "Call of Ktulu" did the same. The song takes a much slower approach than usual to create ambiance. Depending on your mood this either works perfectly or the slow speed bores you after having heard the first two tracks. When it works it's great, when it doesn't it's boring but as always it's interesting to look up which H.P. Lovecraft tale this references. "Welcome Home(Sanitarium)" once again puts the Metallica album's ballad at track #4. Where "Fade to Black" on album Ride the Lightning was beautiful and sympathetic towards suicides, this ode to the movie "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" is eerie and allows Hetfield to portray sympathy once again to an insane man's caged feelings and wish to escape; this is convincingly played in the bridge by Hetfields "mirror stares back hard, kill it's such a friendly word, seems the only way for reaching out again" . The ending solo is the least memorable of the classic Metallica ballads, but the rest of the song does eerie if not scary about a million times better than most horror movies. "Disposable Heroes" is the only track to rival Master of Puppets' length clocking in at over eight minutes. Look closely at the cover art and you should be able to see an army hat on the leftmost cross. The song is a rebellion against the draft(which is more for ambiance since it wasn't around in 1986) that has Hetfield taking the character of and mocking a drill sergeant while barking orders like "you will die when i say you must die! BACK TO THE FRONT!". In my opinion it has one of the best solos on the album and its chugging riff helps illustrate the battlefield but it can fall through and occassionally be boring. "Leper Messiah" is the worst track on the album because it only yells at and mocks televangelists forgetting to create the ambiance on the other album tracks. Like "Thing that Should Not Be" it takes a slower approach but isn't as interesting or anywhere near as eerie as that track. As a matter of fact the only reason I don't hate it is because it was "dedicated" to Tammy Faye and the lines "send me money, send me green, heaven you will meet" do a good job of making fun of its subject matter. Take that Tammy! You Leper Messiah you. "Orion" is a soothing track named after its "starry" bridge. It's quite relaxing to listen to and it probably was a good song for the rest of the band to play at Burton's funeral since his bass begins the most memorable part of the song at the bridge.(and yes they actually played this at his funeral) Last but a long way from least we have the closer, the speedy "Damage Inc." The line "***** it all and no regrets I hit the lights on these dark sets" would be echoed on the worst Metallica album's title track "St. Anger". That song could obviously never hope to achieve the white knuckle riffs and soloing of this track which, because the metal heads just can't help it bless their hearts, goes into typical metal lyrics describing the band as a steamroller crushing all. At least "bleeding on your knees conformity, or dying on your feet for honesty" let's you keep your rebellious feeling of intelligence with its clever rhyme scheme. Overall, Master of Puppets is an eerie and intellectual take on what could have been typical bonehead metal. Unfortunately slight hiccups like Leper Messiah's yawn-inducing riffage keep it from being "perfect" It is still a musical landmark you must listen to at least once, though 4.5/5 Vocals/Rythym guitar: James Hetfield Drums: Lars Ulrich Lead Guitar: Kirk Hammett Bass Guitar: Cliff Burton

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