Nicholas Burton chooses Metallica’s Master of Puppets as his essential album
As soon as you hear the opening riffs of Master of Puppets, you immediately realize that Metallica’s third studio album is unlike anything ever heard within the space of Metal music. An 8-track masterpiece that continues to blow away upcoming generations’ judgements on what heavy/thrash metal can achieve not only instrumentally and musically, but also lyrically. The album illustrates the capability of the 4-manned metal outfit, and why they’re still considered to be the best metal band in the world. Let’s revisit Metallica’s finest creative achievement, and the last album created with late bassist Cliff Burton, so that you can understand how they’ve influenced all metal artists who have come since.
By the time Master of Puppets arrived in 1986, Metallica had grown to a relatively large status with next to little radio play. The ferociousness of their live shows spoke for themselves, and as the previous album Ride the Lightning illustrated, there was a creative emphasis on their studio albums, while also cohering with their devotion to heavy metal. That is what ultimately makes Master of Puppets so unique to listen to. Despite possibly being the heaviest album ever made, it is also one of the most original pieces of work produced by not just a heavy metal band, but by any musical artist(s). It does follow a formula that Metallica adopts from Ride the Lightning through to …And Justice for All, but there’s a reason Metallica adopted this formula for their most critically acclaimed albums. It worked. And it worked well.
The opener ‘Battery’ starts with calm acoustic chords, slowly building the intro to ultimately become one with depth and impact. With 6 guitars being played in total during this introduction, it can’t be underestimated as to how much depth there is felt within their perhaps finest opener to-date. The main riff is a triplet machine of destruction, with about as much heaviness as you can form into a heavy metal track in the 1980’s. It never even thinks of surrendering before we hear the ending notes, by which time you’re already pretty helpless since your face has melted.
The album swiftly moves onto the title track – a track which every hardcore Metallica fan knows is perhaps their best song. Ever. With an iconic, riff-based intro, it already surpasses an average metal hit. Just as you think it begins to end, it only just starts. The guitars and bass move into a beautiful symphonic-like interlude, with the guitars striking the highest notes they can handle. The proof of the brilliant interlude is when you hear it transferred into a piano piece. Once heard, you can hear how easily Metal can be moved to any instrument. As the song progresses, the melodies and riffs transform like an unchanging monster, becoming more deadly and unpredictable by the minute, before the final chorus eventually arrives. At the length of 8 minutes and 35 seconds, Master of Puppets is metal symphonic masterpiece that is likely to make a life-long impact.
Alarmingly, we’re only 2 tracks in. I will spare you from my dissection of every track, but the main point here is the creative depth and heaviness that can be found when listening to this genre-defining album. Every track is this deep. This is an album which showed everybody the power of metal, and the power that four young men can creatively achieve, while battling against no radio play, and a judgmental society. You don’t have to love metal to enjoy this album. For you’ll at least gain a level of respect listening to its achievements. If you don’t, well it doesn’t really matter, because the millions of fans know just how special it is. This album could be the diving board into a whole other world of music. I hope it kicks your ass.