After a very mellow opening that led us to a building crescendo, the “Master Of Puppets” album started smashing our skulls with its opening track “Battery”. It was an assault from the beginning with the words “Lashing out the action, returning the reaction Weak are ripped and torn away, Hypnotizing power, crushing all that cower, Battery is here to stay”. As I listened to it once more while I penned these reflections I still found my head banging and the blood pumping through me with the same excitement as it did when I first heard the tune and the rest of this classic album thirty years ago. Yes my friends, the third album by the mighty Metallica, the long admired and often venerated masterpiece “Master Of Puppets” reached its thirtieth anniversary of release on this very day. Happy 30th Master. The Metal faithful still bow humbly to you.
I’m happy to report that I was one of the first in my circle of friends from way back in the day to own a copy of this album and remembered how I pretty much picked up a copy only minutes after the clerks at the long shuttered Tower Records in downtown Manhattan had placed them on the shelves. Now I should also share with you that around this time I was not really the biggest Metallica fan and had only truly enjoyed bits and pieces of their first two albums. Now despite this I was getting into heavier stuff as the release date for the brand spanking new Metallica album drew near and when one of the girls in our number said how she wanted to get this on the night it was released at Tower, a small group of us jumped in the car and headed to the city. I didn’t mind getting home way late since I was between jobs at the time so it didn’t matter if I slept in. I even listened to it once when I got home but did it through headphones as I didn’t want the folks to kill me. I’d become a full on Heavy Metal drummer at this point so was more accustomed to the nighttime anyway. The next day a decent group of friends all came over to hear the new works since their school was right nearby my house. No headphones were used at that point so most of my block heard the album and I was fine with that. True story. Thirty years later I can tell you that I actually still have that original vinyl and sometimes still talk to the girl who convinced us all to head into the city for a midnight shopping spree. Come to think of it, I can add that even some of the dudes that came over for that first listening in my folks basement are still in my circle. Go figure. Now to talk more about the actual release.
Giving this the once over again I have to stress just how good this one still sounds after all these years and it’s no wonder at all why it’s such an impacting album in the eyes of fans and critics alike and remains as such. The primary creatives on the album were James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich and once the songs had been structured properly, both Cliff Burton and Kirk Hammett came in to wrangle it all together. I mentioned being a drummer earlier and will admit that I was not the biggest Lars fan based on the first two efforts. That changed a lot with this album as I felt the skills and overall performance were miles better and Ulrich was now on the short list of my favorite Thrash Metal drummers. The eight track album came care of Elektra Records and ran just under one hour in length but based on the intensity of these tunes it might feel like its running just a little bit faster than it actually is. Let’s take a look at the original track list, and mind you there has been no expanded remaster yet to speak of which is kind of a shame to find being the case on such a milestone birthday.
2. Master Of Puppets
3. The Thing That Should Not Be
4. Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
5. Disposable Heroes
6. Leper Messiah
7. Orion (Instrumental)
8. Damage Inc.
Since the Metal barrage for me began with the opening tune “Battery” this remains one of my very favorite tracks on the album and by Metallica historically. I don’t think I need to say that the album’s title track is nothing short of the perfect Metal tune because it contains just so damned much. This song would be the albums only single by the way if you were interested in that stuff. I should let you know that I had half of the album as my favorites and the rest were songs that I would still play but not as often as the others. Continuing on with what I most enjoyed about the release I am brought to “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” which I always found myself humming around the streets of NYC for some reason. Maybe it was based on the city being a little crazier back then, I dunno. I sort of liked “Leper Messiah” but not as much as the closing tune “Damage Inc.” which I felt was a circle pit making tune if there ever was one. You readers can let me know what your own favorite tunes on this one are and some of your own personal reflections on when you first heard this one in the comments below when we are all finished. Metallica toured as direct support for Ozzy Osbourne on his “The Ultimate Sin” tour and that really helped their cause and showed a larger audience what they were all about. As a sidebar, I recently toasted Ozzy’s album for that go round on THIS LINK so check it out when you have time. One of the sadder points about this album is that it’s the last to feature the late great Cliff Burton. The bassist was killed while on tour in Europe later in the year and that sucked since he was so young and had so much talent to offer. I left off a lot of the technical detail and deeper points about its creation and such but with that stuff already locked into Wikipedia you didn’t need to have me rehash any of it. I’ve embedded that link for you to peruse of course but I wanted to muse on my own album memories more with this one. Now I think it’s time to give it another spin by using headphones to feel like I did that night in my parent’s basement after only owning it for a short time. Thanks Metallica for giving Metal such an album, it’s quite possibly the best one in your now expansive catalog.
Metallica announced that they were re-issuing their first two albums a few weeks ago and I documented that news HERE. Sadly you still have to wait for this kind of treatment for “Master Of Puppets” but if you don’t have this album for any reason, you can order it on Amazon.com via the link below for super cheap. You should also be a little ashamed to be a Metal head that does not own this album in the year 2016 unless you have just recently converted from the Rap, Pop or Country side.