Thursday, March 03, 2011

Quarter Century Review: Master Of Puppets

Master Of Puppets
Produced by Metallica and Flemming Rasmussen.

Perhaps the finest album from metal's kings. Puppets is the last release to feature original bassist Cliff Burton. An album filled with masterpieces that received little or no airplay until 5 years after its release when Metallica's popularity soared. The album builds off of what the band began with 1984's Ride The Lightning, sprinkling acoustic guitars and "ballads" within a thrash template. Unabashed by "sell-out" claims, the band was merely exploring directions that their contemporaries hadn't dared.

"Battery," tolls the bell that begins the record with the aforementioned acoustic guitars. I have to imagine metalheads across the nation, mouths agape, hearing what could have been an Ennio Morricone soundtrack. The thrashing would begin soon enough but the songs' arrangements become more complex and drawn out with all tracks at least a minute longer than any the shortest song on Lightning. Anyone that was looking for a return to the Kill 'Em All status quo is still looking.

The overall sound of the album is remarkably the same as Lightning due to the continuing production and engineering of Rasmussen. The songs, though, are on another level. "Master Of Puppets" (first metal song about substance abuse as far as I know), "Battery", "The Thing That Should Not Be", and "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)," have never been out of the band's setlist rotation. One underappreciated genius song is "Disposable Heroes", a song that has been even more poignant over the past five years with the insurgence in Iraq. A story of soldiers being used as pawns and being told not to question why.

While Metallica would go on to far greater financial success, it is near impossible for me to think that they ever or will ever achieve greater musical success than this.

Overall Grade = 9.41

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