Album Of The Week – July 25, 2022

This week’s pick is one that was always going to wind up here, the only question was when. I could write about the album in my sleep and I could probably write this without hitting play on it (though I will). But all the fuss raised up over the title track’s use in a hit TV shows means the time to talk about it is now.

Metallica – Master Of Puppets

Released March 3, 1986 via Elektra Records

My Favorite Tracks – Damage Inc., Disposable Heroes, Welcome Home (Sanitarium)

Metallica’s third album would showcase some polish and a very consistent approach. The band would make waves after its release as the record gained momentum without the benefit of radio or MTV play. It would go one be considered one of the band’s finest moments, even as tragedy cut short the album’s touring cycle.

It’s a fairly lean track list with eight songs but there’s almost an hour’s worth of music to get into. Let’s dive in to one of heavy metal’s most noteworthy albums. Also, a note – the videos posted are all live performances that may not reflect everything discussed in the post, and were also performances after the death of Cliff Burton.

Battery

Opening with one hell of a thrash attack. The song is a scorching track that pays tribute to the band’s fans, being the “battery” that Metallica draws from during shows. It’s also a reference to San Francisco’s Battery Street, where Metallica roamed in their early days. This song showcases how Metallica were able to retain the savagery of their early career while also refining their sound.

Master Of Puppets

The title track is a mammoth epic clocking in at 8:36. The long runtime did not deter fans – the song is one of the band’s most popular and stands as the track played live the most in the group’s 40-year career. The song tackles the issue of drug addiction and how the drugs wind up being the master controlling the user.

Master Of Puppets was the only single released from the album. The song did ok on the charts for a single not supported by video play at all and very light radio play, thrash wasn’t a radio gem in 1986. The song would chart again in 2022 when its use in a pivotal scene in the hit Netflix show Stranger Things sent the world to discover or re-discover it again.

The Thing That Should Not Be

A slower number that sees Metallica again visit the H.P. Lovecraft eldritch horror universe. It is a suitably heavy, doom-laden track about a sinister horror driving victims to madness. It is a track that gets flack in some circles but it’s one I enjoy. The song was massively influential to one Brian Warner, who would go on to become Marilyn Manson.

Welcome Home (Sanitarium)

A noted highlight from the album comes in the form of a song similar in form and spirit to Ride The Lightning’s epic Fade To Black. Making use of slower and haunting instrumentation, the song paints an explicit picture of being abused inside a mental facility. The song was reportedly influenced by the movie One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.

This is another showcase of how Metallica were able to do far more than just beat the listener into submission. The song does ramp up the aggression after a long build but its desolate harmonies in the early verses are its calling card.

Disposable Heroes

Another marathon busting the 8-minute mark, this titanic effort tackles a soldier being sacrificed on the battlefield by a ruthless, uncaring leader. It is a stark look at the horrors of war, a subject often brought up by Metallica. Even with the long run time, this song is fast and unrelenting throughout.

Leper Messiah

This song slows things down a hair but doesn’t let up on the heaviness at all. It is a look at a conman preacher, a favorite target of ’80’s metal bands (who were often the favorite targets of said preachers). The song does pick up the pace as it goes along, establishing a series of movements and an ear toward arrangement and composition beyond the usual scope of thrash.

Orion

Metallica had one instrumental song on each of their prior releases and kept the ball rolling with this one. The song is a trippy, out there track that is the brainchild of bassist Cliff Burton. Much of the unconventional noise is coming from his bass. Parts of the song do thrash along in more standard ways.

Damage Inc.

The album closer is an absolutely pummeling affair that starts attacking the listener just after a quiet intro ends. The song describes a corporation (Damage, Incorporated) that mows over humanity in its quest to get bigger. It’s cool that the band were able envision these dystopian kind of horror scenarios that don’t reflect reality at all…

Master Of Puppets would serve to further the career of Metallica and lead the group to new heights of success. The album sold well out of the gate and the band landed a coveted opening spot on Ozzy Osbourne’s American tour, playing arenas for a five month haul.

As the band were trekking Europe that September, a bus accident in Sweden would claim the life of bassist Cliff Burton. The band decided to press on, hiring Flotsam And Jetsam bassist Jason Newsted as the new member.

Though the tour cycle for Master Of Puppets was cut short, the album has gone on to hold a significant place in the band’s catalog and in heavy metal overall. This album, alongside Slayer’s Reign In Blood, Megadeth’s Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying? And Anthrax’s Among The Living would establish the “Big Four” of thrash metal. Thrash itself would see a huge spike in popularity through the remainder of the decade and Metallica were often hailed as the ultimate practitioners of the craft.

Master Of Puppets is often regarded as a “perfect” album and the quintessential thrash record. It is toward the top of countless “best of metal” lists and sees a spot at or near the top of most any Metallica album ranking. Its legacy is immense and casts a massive shadow over the world of heavy metal.

And that legacy continues on. 36 years past its release and long after the band set aside thrash and became one of the world’s biggest musical acts, the song Master Of Puppets has taken on a new life through its use in Stranger Things. Not that Metallica necessarily needed the rub, but the frenzy from the show has copies of the album flying off record store shelves again. A new generation of fans are jumping in to the pit, and so it goes for the titans of heavy metal.

7 thoughts on “Album Of The Week – July 25, 2022

  1. Great take on such an iconic album. This album helped put thrash on the map. However, for me, it wasn’t “Among the Living” that got me digging Anthrax. It was their previous album, “Spreading the Disease,” which came out the same year as the others in the big four which made me an Anthrax fan.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have a few Metallica’s on vinyl and this is one of em. Cool writeup. Loved the fact when they recorded this they weren’t millionaires so they were going for it and of course it paid off for them and still is!

    Liked by 1 person

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