Metallica are a strange beast for me. When I came to them it was by the time they had became the all slaying arena giants with their fifth album and as is natural for a fan of a new band, I went through their back catalogue with a teenager's enthusiasm. When I first heard this album, I hated it. It was just boring, dull and pointless to my ears. For me, I was all about Master Of Puppets was (and still is) their best work. But every time I heard this when I was younger, I just could not understand why my friend's would rave on about it. The live versions of the songs were far superior to me and I would rather eat my own underbelly hair than listen to it. So, to start off our look at the back catalogue it is only fitting that I start here with an album I had very little time for - it can only go well. This album is the first which was recorded with the classic line up, obviously after Dave Mustaine had left the group (indeed his contribution is still noted with four of the ten tracks here having his writing credits). With this album now being 30 years old at the time of this review, has it aged better than when I heard it all those years ago.
Starting with "Hit The Lights" and it's wall of noise approach the band lay down their trash mandate from the off. Fast guitar solos, manic drumming and a constant drumming. I feel that this has such a debt with NWOBHM (especially Judas Priest) that they should be tried for day light robbery. The song as still not improved that much for me, it sounds just a bit too confused - it wants to be metal, punk and rock all at the same time and on this track at least they had not quite got there. "The Four Horsemen" (originally called "The Mechanix" when Dave Mustaine was in the band, also later redone with Megadeth) is a much better song; it has a much more focused drive. I love the middle section when they are naming the four horsemen themselves; the bridge, slow section and solo just nail this as one of the better tracks of the album.
After this is "Motorbreath" which bring the speed along, making the memory of "Hit The Lights" fade a little further. It is by no means an essential song, but it is ok, keeping the pace going and is instantly forgotten once "Jump In The Fire" comes out. This is another song which was originally written with Mustaine and again the lyrics were changed to deal with the Devil's point of view on people. I have to praise the band here, they sound tight and well oiled on that recording. After this is "(Anesthesia) - Pulling Teeth" which is essentially a bass solo by Cliff Burton. This is a genius moment as it shows how good this man was and what he brought to the band. Truly if you on have to hear one moment in this album, go for this song. It is just noise and fantastic.
So we are half way through the album and "Whiplash" is the next song to come up. This was the first single released off the album and in 2005 Motorhead won their first Grammy with a cover of this song. It is a song which can be used as one of the first true Trash Metal classics, I can see the appeal of this song but it really is not doing much for me. I love what they do in someways - especially the solos, but I also get a dull boredom with this track. Sometimes my brain just doesn't work and this is one of their moments. "Phantom Lord" does not improve my feelings for this album any further if the true be told. Apart from the bass work and solo I find myself distracted by anything that is around me, this is not what should be happening. But after a day with this album on, the track has not improved one iota, other tracks have on here; this track is not one of them.
"No Remorse" is next, and it brings a bit of interest for me here. It feels a lot more lively and it has one of the best early break downs to a solo in Trash Metal I have heard. For me, this is the song of the album (with "(Anesthesia) - Pulling Teeth" being the best track) and one of their best of the career, it starts with a shredding solo and just keeps getting better till at the end of the six minutes plus track your just uplifted by the song's true spirit and drive. After this song though is what lots of other people call the break out moment of the album - "Seek & Destroy". Now for me I do not dislike the song, I don't love it by any stretch of the imagination but I can see why people like it and why it is still a standard in their set all these years later. The final track is "Metal Militia" which ends the album with a manic speed that would probably start a fight in an empty room. Again, it owes a lot to NWOBHM here, but unlike "Hit The Lights" it works.
So has this improved for me, well it is better than I remember; but it is still average at best. This is not the band I first heard, it is who they were so in terms of evolution, it is genesis and should be treat with respect. However, it is still patchy in places and apart from a few genius moments it is nothing more than an average Trash Metal album. They would get better than this, but people should hear it at least once. Just don't expect the world to move any more than it was going to anyway; it will be lucky if it moves out of the box.
5 out of ten - It could have been a bit better
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You can listen to the album on Spotify here