Review Of Master Of Puppets — 5 years ago
Many people consider Master Of Puppets to be the most important heavy metal album ever released, and I am one of them. Although it is less innovative than the first two Metallica albums, it represents the pinnacle of the progressive thrash metal genre that they had pioneered.
The album is bookended by two very similar tracks: “Battery” and “Damage, Inc”, which feature melodic acoustic introductions fading into simple, blazing thrash. The rest of the tracks are more complex, such as “Master Of Puppets”, which starts with a finger-breaking introduction, transitions to a verse section with alternating 4/4 and 5/8 time signatures, has a several-minute interlude with twin guitars playing harmonized leads followed by a breakdown and blistering guitar solo, and returns to the introduction before slamming to a halt.
“The Thing That Should Not Be” breaks away from the thrash mentality to trade speed for extra heaviness. It does not meet the same quality standards as the rest of the album, but is a nice change of pace. “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” is another progressive epic, but a bit more subdued than “Master Of Puppets”. If the listener has somehow been lulled to sleep by the previous two tracks, “Disposable Heroes” is a drill sergeant-like wake-up call with some of the best uses of background vocals by Metallica since the “die!” chants of “Creeping Death” and an effective false ending.
“Leper Messiah” slows down the tempo again, resulting in a track that is almost, dare I say, funky. I challenge anyone to sit still while listening to it. “Orion” does not have the epic quality that “Call Of Ktulu” did, but is a fantastic instrumental nonetheless. The slow thrashy beginning and end are good by themselves, but the middle section led by Burton’s melodic bass playing is the highlight of the track.
Lyrically, James Hetfield has never been more consistent. Every song deals with control and powerlessness, whether it be from drug addiction (“Master Of Puppets”), insanity (“Welcome Home (Sanitarium)”), the government (“Disposable Heroes”), religious charlatans (“Leper Messiah”), anger (“Battery”, “Damage, Inc.”), or even a mythical creature (“The Thing That Should Not Be”). The tight, rigorous, pounding riffs of the songs add to the feelings of the helplessness of the controllee, while the blistering solos evoke the giddy madness of the controller. The result is an album that has stood the test of time and is a fitting swan song for Cliff Burton, may he rest in peace.