It’s time to cap off Metallica week and that means it’s time for my album ranking. I’ll be going worst to first on the Metallica discography, sorting out the cream from the chaff (whatever that really means, I don’t know).
This ranking will include the ten full-length studio albums credited to Metallica. It will not include EP’s , singles, live albums with orchestras, live albums without orchestras, etc. It will also not include Lulu, the 2011 collaboration album with Lou Reed. That one is a bit tricky since it’s a full-length album that features the band in its entirety, but I’m going to go with the typical list that most people use. Also, Lulu is an abomination.
Let’s head into the waters here, I don’t think my list is radically unpredictable (mostly).
10 – St. Anger (2003)
This isn’t a hard call. I can find people in the wild who defend this album, but honestly I think it sounds bad and I have a hard time even listening to it. The production choices are beyond questionable, they’re flat out trash. And the songs are generally a mess. Finding a few diamonds in the shit doesn’t mean the album is redeemed in any way.
9 – Death Magnetic (2008)
This album is far, far better than its predecessor, but it’s still not all that great. The band did sound like they were trying again, but it also does sound like they are trying, rather than succeeding. And the album after this stands as proof that such is the case. There are a few nice songs on here, The Day That Never Comes stands out to me. But it’s not an album I feel like visiting much, or at all really.
8 – Reload (1997)
Kind of a “second half” album to their 1996 effort, Reload is a groove-based, almost blues and country styled album. A departure for Metallica, sure, but a pretty decent sounding effort overall. I do think this lacks real heavy hitters but it’s a collection of songs that are fine enough to listen to. I’d cite The Memory Remains as my favorite.
7 – Load (1996)
The band, not content with their 1991 reinvention, got haircuts and released some alt-metal. The world was abuzz about the physical and musical changes, but honestly they put out some stuff here that I really like. I think the first seven tracks are all bangers, that includes I think all of the singles. I like the last two songs as well – it’s the stuff inbetween that loses me a bit. If that were trimmed up some, I’d probably be ranking this one higher. I do truly think they wrote some really good songs here, regardless of what they were “supposed” to do.
6 – Hardwired … To Self Destruct (2016)
If Death Magnetic was supposed to be a return to form, Hardwired truly was, at least in places. Several of the songs here are the kind of bangers not really heard since 1991, if not even earlier. There are some secondary tracks on this huge album, to be sure, but even some of those are pretty nice. This album did recapture the magic in some way and it was damn nice to hear. The title track and Spit Out The Bone are the best work Metallica have cranked out in a very long time.
5 – The Black Album (1991)
I’d almost be cheeky and rank this lower but that would be dishonest – while I’m not in love with the whole thing, there some damn great songs on here. Wherever I May Roam and Sad But True are stellar songs, a handful of others are very nice and a few are good without being great. There are some, mostly towards the end of the album, that I can’t quite get into, but overall this was a success, both in my book and in the sales book. Can’t really argue with it.
4 – …And Justice For All (1988)
The first album without Cliff Burton could have went any number of ways, but Metallica were able to alter their formula some without sacrificing the core of their sound. Harvester Of Sorrow always gets me going, and One is a masterpiece and one of the band’s most iconic songs. While it sounds odd production wise (and lacking in bass), it makes up for that with a batch of great songs.
And this was the album I talked about in much more detail back on Monday – post here.
3 – Kill ‘Em All (1983)
The debut was a monster of a record – putting thrash on the map when the genre wasn’t a known quantity yet outside of local live scenes. This was very hard-hitting, fast and savage metal that pulled no punches and delivered a fist full of great songs. Not a weak note here and a still beloved collection of metal all these decades later.
2 – Master Of Puppets (1986)
The band’s third album is often cited as a “perfect” metal record, and for good reason. All eight songs are total masterpieces and every note hits hard. The album is crisp, clear and totally devastating. It set the band on a path of superstardom not touched by any other thrash act.
I had this record as an Album of the Week awhile back, here is that post.
1 – Ride The Lightning (1984)
Metallica’s second effort still possessed a bit of the savage energy found on the debut, but the songwriting refinement here ramped things up exponentially. Some stuff still hits heavy, like For Whom The Bell Tolls and Creeping Death. And the band’s first ballad Fade To Black was a metal masterpiece. While some find fault with a few songs on the album, especially Escape, nothing on the record bothers me any. I’ve played this album thousands of times and I’ll likely play it thousands more before I push up daisies.
Ride The Lightning has been an Album of the Week in the past, here is that post.
That does it for the Metallica album ranking. I doubt this is a “final” ranking as I would expect at least one more album, but all that can be sorted out down the road. And while I’ve talked plenty about them this week, this will be far from the final time I discuss Metallica on here – they are a lynchpin in heavy metal as well as my own musical formation.