I Celebrate Their Entire Collection: Metallica [Parental Advisory, Explicit Content]
[Welcome to the third installment of “I Celebrate Their Entire Collection,” Stew Over’s feature on the bands we love. I caution you, Tipper Gore would not approve of the language in today’s post.]
It’s time to stop fucking around. Enough of this shit about love, and I’m tired of talking about hipster bands. The only Explosions Effect you’ll read about today is the one that blows your arms off. The only love you’ll experience is your heart’s final beats as a badass guitar solo melts your face. That’s right, kids, it’s time to talk about the best metal band in the entire fucking world, Metallica.
Metallica has been my favorite band since I started listening to music. Something about their music has always appealed to me. The fast guitars, the dirty riffs–I can’t exactly put my finger on it–all I know is that it’s all fucking incredible. I own all their albums and have seen them in concert four times and counting. For me, seeing Metallica in concert is a completely different experience than seeing any other band. It’s a complete and total release as I spend three hours screaming at the top of my lungs. The next day my neck hurts, I can’t talk, and I can’t hear.
Metallica’s career is over 30 years old, and the band members are officially old men, as they are all close to 50 years old. This hasn’t affected my enjoyment of the shows, as they’re still kicking ass and playing for over 2 and half hours. In terms of their albums (which I’ll get into in a minute), I think every one of them is fucking awesome. Now even people I’d consider big Metallica fans will end up saying one of their albums sucks. While I can agree that St. Anger is probably their worst album, I still think it’s great. Just know that going in. Hate all you want, but there isn’t another band in the world I’d rather listen to. I certainly don’t feel that there’s been a band who’s had a career as long as Metallica’s that can boast their incredible library of albums and the influence they hold on metal, and still fucking kill it in concert.
Now, on to their albums. Let me know your favorite in the comments.
Kill ‘Em All- July 25, 1983
Originally planned to be titled Metal Up Your Ass, the first studio album Metallica ever released has its share of classics. I’ve never been shy about preferring other albums over it, though. I really don’t like the sound of James’s voice on the album, and the songs lack the polish of their next three: Ride the Lightning, Master of Puppets, and …and Justice for All. Still, Kill ‘Em All is badass, and it sports one of the coolest album covers of all time. There are three absolute classics that stand up to anything else they’ve done. “Hit the Lights” is a great opening track that sets the tone right off the bat. It’s loud and incredibly fast. “Seek & Destroy” speaks for itself. And “The Four Horsemen” is as great lyrically as any other Metallica song. “The Horsemen are drawing nearer / On leather steeds they ride / They have come to take your life!” That pretty much sums up what early Metallica was all about.
Favorite Songs: Hit the Lights, The Four Horsemen, Jump in the Fire, Phantom Lord, Seek & Destroy
Ride the Lightning- July 27, 1984
Now, I’ll fully admit this is purely my preference, but I like Ride the Lightning the smallest bit more than Puppets. Really it will depend on my mood. You can listen to this album, and you’ll have your face melted off time and time again. I think I give the nod to Lightning because my favorite Metallica song, “For Whom the Bells Tolls,” is on it. The opening sequence of Zombieland, an amazing movie in its own right, uses “Ride the Lightning” to its full potential. It’s almost as if that song was written to score a zombie apocalypse. Beyond that track, however, there are so many awesome tracks on this album, from the “DIE, DIE, DIE” chant in “Creeping Death” to my favorite instrumental, “Call of Ktulu,” finishing it off. “Creeping Death” may be my favorite Metallica song in concert. There’s something truly special about listening to a packed stadium yell “DIE!!!” over and over again at the top of their lungs.
Favorite Songs: Fight Fire with Fire, Ride the Lightning, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Fade to Black, Creeping Death, The Call of Ktulu
Master of Puppets- March 3, 1986
It’s easy to understand why Puppets is considered by many (most/all) to be the greatest Metallica album of all time. If you needed to pick one album that really showcases what Metallica is about, this is the one you’d choose. Nonstop energy throughout, great songs, great riffs, just fucking awesome. Every time Metallica plays in concert, you will hear “Master of Puppets,” and it will be one of the highlights of the show. A great moment in cinema occurs when the song is featured in the movie Old School. Tell me the addition of “Puppets” doesn’t make that scene.
Metallica has plenty of accolades in the music community, but I’ve seen Puppets at the top of more “Top X Metal Albums of All Time” lists than any other. For example, Music Radar named it number 1 (Lightning was number 4, Justice was 11, and Kill ‘Em All and Metallica made the list as well). The point is, Metallica is really well respected in the metal community, and of all their work, Puppets is widely considered to be their best.
Favorite Songs: Battery, Master of Puppets, Welcome Home (Sanitarium), Orion, Damage, Inc.
…And Justice for All- August 25, 1988
Fast. Heavy. Energetic. Everything you want from Metallica. Puppets, Lightning, and Justice represent the Holy Trinity of metal albums as far as I’m concerned. Justice contains some of the greatest guitar solos in history, too. Also, the video for “One” is the greatest metal video of all time. There is zero argument to be made. I feel Justice loses a little steam towards the end of the album, but that’s just because the earlier songs are so fucking awesome. I also find it amazing that Metallica was able to create this incredible album while grieving the loss of their bass player. Cliff Burton was one of the most incredible bass players of all time and to be able to create an album this good after losing him speaks to how ridiculously talented the band is.
Favorite Songs: Blackened, …and Justice for All, One, Shortest Straw, Harvester of Sorrow
Metallica- August 12, 1991
“The Black Album,” as it commonly known, had crossover appeal and marked Metallica’s jump from superstars to uber-stars. During this period, Metallica also started making videos on a regular basis, something they said they’d never do (since it’s not metal, apparently). Everyone has heard “Enter Sandman,” even teenage girls (also not metal, apparently). Regardless, the album has a ton of awesome tracks and will always remind me of the summer I spend hot air-gunning paint off my house in 90-degree heat. If I didn’t have Metallica on the three CD disc changer I probably would have gone insane. This album has sold a crazy amount of copies- it went platinum 15 times. It’s the 25th-best-selling album in United States history. “Creeping Death” is my favorite concert song, but “Sad But True” might be a close second.
Favorite Songs: Enter Sandman, Sad But True, The Unforgiven, Wherever I May Roam, Nothing Else Matters
Load- June 4, 1996
This is the album best known for marking when Metallica officially “sold out” (unless you consider that happening on The Black Album). They cut their hair, wrote slower songs, and ushered in a different sound. It was grungier and more radio friendly, and it featured less thrash metal. I was fine with this, but others weren’t. Their loss. I think there are some amazing songs on the album, but you have to go in not expecting to hear the same Metallica that created Puppets. “Until it Sleeps” is an incredible track and I think more than anything shows their range. Maybe surprisingly because Metallica was known for playing fast, I’d rank “Until it Sleeps,” one of their slowest songs, as one of my favorites.
Favorite Songs: 2 x 4, Until it Sleeps, King Nothing, Wasting My Hate, The Outlaw Torn
Reload- November 18, 1997
The album that followed Load wasn’t full of as many classic Metallica riffs and certainly had its fair share of radio-made hits. I listened to this album a ton back in high school, but it has aged worse than any other on the list. “Fuel” and “Memory Remains” are overplayed, and there are some songs that even I will skip over if they come on. There’s still good aggressive energy to be found, however, and if you need something to listen to while driving, this is a good album for that. Also, “Unforgiven II” fucking rocks.
Favorite Songs: Fuel, Memory Remains, Unforgiven II
Garage, Inc.- November 24, 1998
This is a 2-disc album. The first disc is covers, and the second is old B-sides and stuff from their box set Live Shit: Binge and Purge. This was my first introduction to some of the older stuff, so it was all fresh and awesome to me. I enjoyed some of the covers, including “Whiskey in the Jar,” which is my favorite drinking song. Some of the songs are a little overlong for my taste, but if I’m in the right mood, I can listen to them all. Their cover of Bob Seger’s “Turn the Page” and the resulting video are both incredible as well.
Favorite Songs: Whiskey in the Jar, Overkill, Turn the Page, Die, Die My Darling
S&M- November 23, 1999
S&M, Metallica’s collaboration with the San Francisco Symphony, is the closest thing they have to a greatest hits album. The symphony adds extra energy to some songs but falls flat on others. The two original songs, “- Human” and “No Leaf Clover,” are cool as shit, however. The first Metallica show I went to was the tour to support the album, and although they didn’t have the orchestra with them, I think I probably remember this album fondly because of the experience. Since this album, Metallica has adopted the practice of entering to “The Ecstasy of Gold” during each of their concerts. It’s really a great song to get you pumped up to hearing them.
Favorite Songs: The Ecstasy of Gold, No Leaf Clover, Hero of the Day, -Human
St. Anger- June 5, 2003
Metallica almost broke up while writing this album. The well-done documentary about the album making process, Some Kind of Monster, provided an incredibly candid look at the creation of the album. Metallica was certainly not portrayed in a great light, and I still find it amazing that they allowed the whole world to see the in-fighting and their counseling sessions. At the end of the day the album came out, and while I’ll admit it’s my least favorite, I still find it very listenable. You can tell that the album doesn’t flow all that well and that creating it was a difficult process. James was getting over his addiction, and you can sense the massive amounts of rage he has throughout the album. The lyrics are easily the worst of any Metallica album, but I don’t want to belabor these points. If you want criticisms of Metallica’s work or St. Anger in general, Google is just a click away.
Favorite Songs: Some Kind of Monster, Shoot Me Again, Sweet Amber
Death Magnetic- September 12, 2008
Death Magnetic, the most recent proper studio album, brings the Metallica sound back to its roots. You’ll hear a lot of classic variations of old themes throughout, and the energy level is ratcheted back up. Some of the songs on this album stand up to the best stuff they ever wrote. Also, guitar solos: Welcome back. I saw them in concert twice as they promoted this album, and both times were amazing. Metallica is currently in the studio writing their tenth studio album, and I can’t wait.
Favorite Songs: That Was Just Your Life, The End of the Line, Broken, Beat & Scarred, All Nightmare Long