And so the Metallica blog rolls onto this, their quite frankly awesome second album which upped their game quite considerably and moved them to the next level. They'd gone from acne-bumfluff sloppiness on Kill 'Em All into more prescision arrangements, tighter playing and overall better songs as well as more confidence in trying new things. Not bad for a band dubbed 'Alcoholica' due to their perchant for a vodka or 85...
Released in 1984, it soon put them at the forefront of the then getting-off-it's-feet Thrash Metal scene. In fact, one of Metallicas early tours was supporting Geordie metallers Venom and accounts claim that Metallica blew Venom away as by that point, the headliners were old hat and a bit tired. It's been well documented that Metallica were influenced by the NWOBHM scene (The royalties that Diamond Head got for the cover of "Am I Evil" kept them going for a while) but on this album, they brought some of their own ideas to the forefront. Some of these worked, but some didn't. This is also the last Metallica album to feature songs that former guitarist Dave Mustaine contributed to. Mind, he claimed to have wrote stuff on "Master Of Puppets" but Dave Insane says a lot of things - doesn't mean they're right or true...
Opening with "Fight Fire With Fire", it starts off with an acoustic riff which lulls you into a false sense of security before the whole thing kicks off good and proper. It's something that caught on like a dose of clap with every band and their sisters doing the same thing for a very, very long time (Death Metal bands however, updated it to a 'moody keyboard' intro but the intent is still there). Now, when I first heard this I could tell what was gonna happen, but nothing actually prepared me for the song proper - the acoustic passage reaches a crescendo before slamming into quite frankly, one of the most brutal riffs ever written! Slight obvious nod to British punk band Discharge (One of my fave bands of all time), the song is a relentless assault. They were doing thrash on KEA, obviously, but the musicianship is muvh better. It's not as sloppy and is tighter and more coherent. They even get a harmony thing going after the solo with duel guitars! This song is one of the best songs to open an album with. Fucking excellent. Next up is "Ride The Lightling" which is about the death penalty and how it's wrong. I agree. Now, I'm not a liberal (Anyone who knows me will certainly testify that with fucking spades) but I don't agree with it on the grounds it's irreversable and it doesn't actually bring crime down. Keep them alive and test cosmetics on them instead of bunnies. Anyway, back to the song. It slows the pace down but it's still monsterously heavy - and I daresay that the chorus is actually quite catchy! Great solo as well (Even though Kirk Hammet is quite averave when it comes to solos - it's all pentatonic in 'E'). "For Whom The Bell Tolls" is up next which is about the Ernest Hemmingway novel of the same name. There has been many a time I've had a stiff neck after headbanging to this monster! The intro has Cliff Burton (RIP, fella) playing a riff on his bass which sounds doomy and awesome as fuck, before crashing into a song which discusses the ills of war. After that we're then onto one of the most controversial songs Metallica have ever done - "Fade To Black". Not because it's about suicide but because it features an acoustic guitar quite prominently. See, back in the day, metalheads were never the most diverse people in the world so the sound of acoustic songs would bring accusations of "selling out", something the band didn't do until they hired Motley Crue producer Bob Rock and recorded an album of radio friendly chart friendly arena rock songs which totally pissed on their legacy and everything they stood for at this point. "Fade To Black" was an ok song.
Side 2 kicks off with the furious "Trapped Under Ice", a song which 'borrowed' the riff from an Exodus song called "Impaler" (Kirk Hammet used to be in Exodus. The guy who replaced him - Rick Hunlot - was a much better guitarist anyway). Its a nice thrash number which leads us up to what I'd consider to be the weakest song on the album - "Escape". It has a way different vibe to the other songs which indicates it would probably be more comfortable on the first album as it has that NWOBHM vibe, especially with lyrics of teenage rebellion. It's a song which I can listen to but wouldn't be adverse to skipping. Definately the weakest song on the album. "Creeping Death" more than makes up for it with it's lyrics inspired by a Charlton Heston movie called 'The Ten Commandments' (Story goes that when the band were watching it and got to the bit where the first-born sons of Egyptians start getting killed, Cliff goes "Woah, creeping death!"). It's a song which still makes the live set today - the mid section comes from an Exodus song called "Dying By His Hand". Seriously, Kirk, if you're gonna pilfer from your old band then give them some of the royalties too! After this we get the first in a line of epic songs Metallica would do - "The Call Of Ktulu"! Well, we think they meant "Cthulu" as in the God from H.P Lovecraft stories who had a squid for a head and was just utterly mental or something. This was the last song written by Dave Insane and it contains a D minor chord progression which he's used in other Megadeth songs (The excellent "Hangar 18" being one of them). The songs original title was "When Hell Freezes Over" so you can understand why they changed it...but it's a fantastic song which rounds the album off nicely.
The production on this album was awesome as well, it sounds very full and didn't have much of that "mid 80's tinniness" that a lot of thrash albums at the time had. As mentioned, the gap in quality between this and KEA isn't so much a gap, but a chasm. This is a far better album and shows a band who've figured out who they want to be and where they want to go. These days, they're past it and more like a cabaret act but that's a story for another time.
8/10 - Oh, you have my attention and may
be my money, time and heart.
You can buy this album on iTunes.
You can listen to it on Spotify.
you can buy on Amazon