The best records by the thrash-metal rebels who became one of the biggest bands in the world.
The thrash-metal rule breakers who blew up the Eighties hard-rock scene and went on to become one of the biggest bands in the world
Ride the Lightning
The speed-metal fury of Metallica’s debut, Kill ‘Em All, made them underground heroes, but they sealed their legacy on
Ride the Lightning. Although heshers called them sellouts for playing below 220 bpm, the band proved its versatility with a tender song about suicide (“Fade to Black”), the devastating “For
Whom the Bell Tolls,” which marched along steadily enough that you could actually hear its crunching riffs, and the biblically apocalyptic “Creeping Death.” Metallica made room for melody too, and Kirk Hammett’s guitar solos became a beacon for the band, especially on the closing “The Call of Ktulu.”
Master of Puppets
Metallica’s third album is thrash-metal perfection, from the galloping aggression of “Battery” to the pile-driving pummel of “Damage, Inc.” James Hetfield rails against drug addiction (“Master of Puppets”), war (“Disposable Heroes”), greedy televangelists (“Leper Messiah”), and Lovecraftian monsters (“The Thing That Should Not Be”). But what’s hugely impressive is how each tune is its own mini-symphony with spiraling, ornate riffs, and finger-breaking solos. There are also moments of true heart, such as Hetfield’s arresting descent into madness on “Welcome Home (Sanitarium),” and dearly departed bassist Cliff Burton’s intricate melodies on the instrumental “Orion.”
...And Justice for All
Metallica’s commercial breakthrough is also their most uncompromising album — nine bleak, brutal progressive-thrash odysseys about political corruption (the title track), nuclear war (“Blackened”), state-sponsored censorship (“Eye of the Beholder”), and coldblooded parents (the album’s best song, “Dyers Eve”). Its most harrowing track, “One” — a torturously slow depiction of a quadriplegic soldier praying for death — was an unlikely breakout hit, propelling the band into arenas. “We were firing on all cylinders,” bassist Jason Newsted said. “Once the ‘One’ video came out, we were ready for it, and the world was ready for Metallica.”
After seeing concertgoers zone out during the seventh or eighth minute of their Justice epics, Metallica tightened things up with Mötley Crüe producer Bob Rock. The result was the Black Album, their bestselling record of the past three decades.
“Enter Sandman” was a gutsy, stadium-size anthem that bands have been trying to copy for decades. Metallica channeled spaghetti-Western panache on “The Unforgiven,” Zeppelin-like mysticism on “Wherever I May Roam,” and West Side Story flare (literally) on “Don’t Tread on Me.” The album also contained the band’s first full-on ballad, “Nothing Else Matters,” later covered by artists ranging from Shakira to Miley Cyrus.