Written By Jason Voorhees
Last week's episode saw us take a deep dive into Megadeth's catalog as we ultimately defined their best works of art.
This week we will take a journey into the chronicles of Metallica. The pioneers of thrash have already solidified their place as one of the greatest in heavy metal history. Over the years, Metallica has continued kicking ass and taking names. However; their career dominance in the music realm has not come without controversy. While there is no denying their legacy as far as entertainers, there discography remains one of the most widely scrutinized in metal.
In fact, whenever Metallica has moved to push the envelop in different musical directions, die hard fans have often cried fowl. During these times the band has been accused of "selling out" or "caving in to mainstream culture." No matter what disagreements may arise though, their discography catalog is superbly diverse and worthy of praise...well that is most of it.
It's certainly safe to say that most will agree that 'LuLu' and 'St. Anger' are low points in Metallica's journey. Furthermore, its regarded that 'S&M' may have been their most creative effort to date. So for purposes of this piece, those albums have been left out of the equation.
Nonetheless, we have focused our attention to Metallica's most relevant features and it should be a fun assignment. Of course as always, top album lists are a matter of opinion. In generating the rankings, we try to take all aspects into account including composition, album flow, album impact and album quality.
There has never been any middle ground with Metallica...you either love them or hate them...it's always black or white. However; when it comes to their catalog, there is always disagreements on which ones remain quintessential. With that being said...it's time to fade to grey...so without further ado...here is Metallica from fringe to Mount Rushmore...
10. 'ReLoad' (1997)
The band virtually took the leftovers from it's previous album and produced a counterpart. Originally planned as a 27 track album, it was instead released in two parts. The results were another mixed bag of confusion. Although there were finite traces of thrash in play, the record for the most part bears the hard rock mainstream epitaph of it's predecessor. Not a bad album by any stretch of the imagination. However; incessantly mediocre by standards of Metallica measurements. A few standout tracks to note like "Fuel", "The Memory Remains" and "The Unforgiven II." Too much filler and not enough thriller in the end. Certainly not the band's low point but far from greatness.
9. 'Load' (1996)
This was a come to Jesus moment for most die-hard Metallica fans. In fact, many would say that its trendy to have this album so low on the list. Those people argue that 'Load' is still a classic metal album and due some praise. These arguments are fair and for the most part the album shows flashes of brilliance and moments of clarity. However; musically and stylistically the record is lacking one of the essential elements that had made Metallica so great throughout the years. And that element is thrash. Dumbing down a records' sound and style does not make an album bad. Nonetheless, this was not what the fans wanted and ultimately the record suffered. Good but unfortunately not great.
8. 'Death Magnetic' (2008)
After the flop of 'St. Anger' expectations were unusually low when this album was released. Hardcore fans were craving that old school style and sound and Metallica passed the test with flying colors. Suddenly those grim expectations were replaced with a highly successful tour and above average album sales. The record found it's way to the number one spot on the Billboard Top 200. Metallica was back with a vengeance and fans and critics could not be happier. The album is loaded with stalwarts from beginning to end as the band returns to its roots. The only blemish is the compression style recording which taints the musical instrumental balance while deemphasizing its purity.
7. 'Garage, Inc.' (1998)
Some people would say that this record does not belong on a list of greats. However; this was Metallica stripped down to that good old raw and edgy flavor. That's what makes the album extremely underrated and underappreciated. Although most of the tracks are covers or re-recordings, it shows a side of Metallica that many of its most loyal fans had been missing. It once again shows that Metallica is capable of having fun and that was the x-factor. Many die hard fans have said the album sounds like AJFA era but better recording. Metallica once again embraced their roots on tracks like "Helpless", "Mercyful Fate", "Am I Evil", "Breadfan" and many more. It was Metallica on steroids which resulted in a well oiled machine. Definitely their most underrated. Raw and unfiltered, even the covers are ELITE!
6. 'Hardwired...To Self Destruct' (2016)
Metallica returned with a vengeance on this effort. After an eight year hiatus the band decided to once again embrace their thrash roots and bash the sound barrier. Although the record once again suffers from frequent over production and sound dubbing, it was certainly a step forward from 'Death Magnetic' as far as songwriting goes. While the previous record was more straightforward and dull, this one replicated those classic riffs and hooks of old while staying true to the thrash formula. Definitely Metallica's best album in decades and one that solidified their return to the top of the food chain. Multiple mega hits and fan favorites. Welcome back to the Top!!
5. 'Kill 'Em All' (1983)
The birthplace of Metallica. Their debut album helped forge the beginning of the thrash metal explosion. Armed with ferocious guitar riffs and licks and paced by the dynamic double bass drum beats, the band laid the groundwork for all future thrash metal artists. Metallica left San Francisco to team up with Johnny Zazula and MegaForce records in New York. The result was a raw and fast masterpiece filled with that signature thrash energy and sound. Standout tracks include 'Seek and Destroy", "Hit the Lights," "No Remorse" and "Jump in the Fire" among others. Very little filler...just balls to the wall in your face metal. Definitely a defining album and among the band's very best!
4. '...And Justice For All' (1988)
This has long been a personal favorite. A truly angry album that matches the emotions of the band. Long time bassist Cliff Burton had recently died in a tragic bus accident and the band was still fresh off the grieving process. Enter Jason Newsted. Of course the album does get criticized for it's inaudible sound, mainly the lack of aggressive bass prowess. Nonetheless, the album featured a more in depth song progression. The songwriting was more dynamic than previous albums, much longer songs and complex arrangements. Of course, the album also featured the band's first video for the track "One"; which is one of their greatest songs all-time. Although they missed out on a Grammy Award, Metallica hit a slam dunk on this one folks.
3. 'The Black Album' (1991)
It's extremely hard to say that their self titled album is not their very best of all-time. It's one of the highest grossing albums in metal history, their highest charting album, has multiple mega hits as well as sleeper stalwarts from beginning to end. The album features a more streamlined approach while sustaining enough thrash to wet the lips of hard core fans. No matter where you stand on this argument, there is no doubting the importance of 'The Black Album' in Metallica's gaining entrance into mainstream royalty. The album is truly Metallica at its peak as far as songwriting and the band definitely sounds more polished and consistent. Although it's not Metallica's best overall album, it truly remains their most successful hands down.
2. 'Ride The Lightning' (1984)
Metallica tore the cover off of the sophomore slump on this masterpiece. In fact, for any other band this would certainly take the cake for top album. However; this is Metallica. No matter where your loyalty lies, there is no debating the greatness of this one. It has everything that you could ask for in a thrash metal sensation. The band took a huge step in progression as far as songwriting and musicianship with particular focus on lyrical mastery. Tracks like "Fight Fire With Fire", "For Whom the Bell Tolls", "Ride The Lightning", "Creeping Death", "Trapped Under Ice" and "Fade to Black" are all elite. The album is a heavy metal masterpiece...one that they would surprisingly top!
1. 'Master Of Puppets' (1986)
Simply put...the holy grail for Metallica. Not only is 'Master of Puppets' Metallica's best album, it truly reigns as one of the greatest heavy metal albums in history. A supreme thrash metal masterpiece...as close to perfection that an album can get. Their third album features a more mature approach in both songwriting and composition. However; the band was able to maintain the classic fundamentals of thrash while remaining raw and aggressive with hooks and riffs. 'Master of Puppets' is peak Metallica before their mainstream rise. Everything about the album is gold including the cover art that defines it. Heavy metal royalty at its finest and Metallica's grand slam home run of albums.
Well, we hope that you enjoyed this week's edition. Metallica always gets the juices flowing and they are one of the most interesting bands to debate. So where do you have these albums ranked? What's your pick for number one?
We certainly would love to get more audience participation with this segment moving forward. Let us know what bands you would like us to cover!! Looking for feedback as this could make it more interesting for our loyal fans...Anyways, hopefully you all are staying safe and sound in quarantine. Well...if your bored you can always check out Kevin and Johnny on Thursday evenings 7PM-9PM, as they cover all of your favorites from past and present! Who knows...maybe you will even hear some Metallica this week...can't wait to find out. As we leave you...please enjoy this timeless classic from the 'Master of Puppets' masterpiece...
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