Lav­ish vinyl over­haul/reis­sue for Me­tal­lica’s most piv­otal al­bum.

Classic Rock - - The Hard Stuff Reissues - Philip wild­ing

Thirty-one years later, it’s still hard to over­es­ti­mate the im­pact Me­tal­lica’s Mas­ter Of Pup­pets had on the world. Their most pro­found and em­phatic mu­si­cal state­ment, it would come to de­fine them, and with the death of bass player Cliff Bur­ton on that al­bum’s tour, it book-ended an era for the quar­tet when they went from be­ing cel­e­brated as the most im­por­tant metal band on the planet to be­ing an­other in­fa­mous rock act for­ever marred by a grue­some fa­tal­ity. To their credit, as a unit they re­cov­ered, re­newed and moved on, and in last year’s Hard­wired… To Self De­struct showed that even three decades later, they’re still ca­pa­ble of fury and angst.

For those of us still mar­vel­ling at their un­par­al­leled and so­phis­ti­cated leap from the Kill ’Em All de­but to their Ride The Light­ning al­bum, Mas­ter was a whole other level of eru­di­tion. Strange to think now that there was out­rage in some quar­ters when they in­tro­duced acous­tic gui­tars to the au­di­ence at Hammersmith Odeon (think Bob Dy­lan’s ‘Ju­das’ de­ba­cle when he went elec­tric, but in re­verse) on the Light­ning tour. Though if their au­di­ence and crit­ics were still cling­ing to the past, Me­tal­lica were march­ing pur­pose­fully for­ward to the beat of their own drum (toms and dou­ble bass drums, mostly), set­ting the spark to the flame of a gen­uine mu­si­cal rev­o­lu­tion.

All that his­tory costs. If you want this Remastered Deluxe Boxset – that’s how they’re sell­ing it – then be pre­pared to dig deep as it comes in at around $175 US and at a very pre­cise £139.68 in the UK if you go via Ama­zon. That said, this collection brings new mean­ing to the term ‘ex­act­ing’.

Flem­ming Ras­mussen’s strangely thin pro­duc­tion has been boosted and remastered so the ti­tle track now sounds and feels like some­one’s driven a dump­ster truck through your French win­dows, but aural tweak­ing is only the be­gin­ning. So while you revel in the orig­i­nal al­bum, you can un­box three vinyl records, 10 CDs, two DVDs, one cas­sette, a hard­cover book (Me­tal­lica are mas­ter gurn­ers, as th­ese ex­clu­sive pho­tos bear out), a folder of hand­writ­ten lyrics, six badges and a Dam­age, Inc. litho­graph.

And as al­lur­ing as all the at­ten­dant bells and whis­tles are, it’s the at­ten­tion to de­tail that will have you shout­ing, “Take my money!” at your com­puter screen.

There’s some­thing quite heart­en­ing, if tem­pered with a sense of un­ease, at hear­ing Cliff Bur­ton’s lazy stoner drawl again all th­ese years later. He and the rest of the band (Kirk Hammett sounds about fif­teen – you half ex­pect his voice to start break­ing) are cap­tured here across two of the discs in in­ter­views with ra­dio sta­tions and de­funct mag­a­zines like Metal Forces and Sounds. Ul­rich’s voice crack­ling down the line to Lon­don from his home in San Fran­cisco, try­ing to in­di­cate the mag­ni­tude of the al­bum they’d just made, is a joy to be­hold. It’s a real arte­fact, a low-rent relic and just one of the many gems to be un­earthed here.

The real joy of this collection isn’t the mul­ti­ple discs of ex­clu­sive live shows recorded from the sound desk, though they are bril­liant and cap­ti­vat­ing. What’s more ex­cit­ing still are the discs that let us flick through the band’s in­di­vid­ual notes and ideas that would even­tu­ally be­come Mas­ter Of Pup­pets. Sit back as Het­field or Hammett lit­er­ally click the tape machine into life, the thin hum of a re­hearsal room or bed­room in the back­ground, as one of them picks out the in­tro, note for note, to Bat­tery, or the bridge from Orion. It’s a gen­uine thrill.

As are the discs ded­i­cated to the writ­ing and demo­ing of the fi­nal al­bum. You can lit­er­ally hear the songs be­ing pieced to­gether in the band’s writ­ing room. Early demos are splashy and given to fall­ing apart – you can tell how they’re far­ing by Ul­rich’s ex­cla­ma­tions as the var­i­ous songs shud­der to a halt. At one point it sounds like he shouts, “That was aw­ful!” and he’s not wrong. That said, by the time you get to the band’s taut run-through of The Thing That Should Not Be and Fang’s The Money Will Roll Right In, you can al­most feel the magic be­gin­ning to fill the room.

It’s a won­der­ful in­sight into the machi­na­tions of one of the big­gest bands in the world, as well as the fal­li­bil­ity that can only be over­come by hard graft and equal amounts of in­spi­ra­tion. The sub­se­quent live discs re­alise the thrilling out­come of all that hard work.

This is a bril­liant time-stamp of a band on the cusp of great­ness. In this al­len­com­pass­ing collection, Me­tal­lica have ac­tu­ally man­aged to im­prove on per­fec­tion.

‘Me­tal­lica have man­aged to im­prove

on per­fec­tion.’

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