KamerTunesBlog

Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time

Thirty Year Thursday – METALLICA “MASTER OF PUPPETS”

[Welcome to Thirty Year Thursday, the weekly series on my favorite albums of 1986, which now shifts to the releases I didn’t discover until after 1986]

Artist: METALLICA
Album: MASTER OF PUPPETS

Metallica - Master Of PuppetsWhen I revisited the Metallica discography for my 4-part series in 2013, I was merely a casual fan who didn’t own any of their albums until a decade earlier. In fact, I had no interest in them during their rise to stardom in the ‘80s & ‘90s, as my tastes had veered away from heavy music by then. I had a similar experience with Iron Maiden, so when I fell heavily under their spell in the late-‘90s after a few random used-LP purchases, I decided it was time to reassess artists like Judas Priest and Metallica. While none of them have made a similar impact on me I still discovered some amazing songs & albums that I previously dismissed. I’m really pleased that I spent so much time with the Metallica catalog. It wasn’t always easy…my brain took a pummeling for nearly two months…but it was an eye- and ear-opening experience in many ways. The majority of long-time Metallica fans consider their first four albums to be the pinnacle of their career, often arguing about which one is their definitive statement. I’m not sure I have a favorite but it’s hard to dispute that their third long-player, Master Of Puppets, is a classic that’s arguably their finest hour. Here’s what I wrote about it in Part 1 of my Metallica series:

I’m not sure if they topped themselves with Master Of Puppets (1986) or merely matched the grandeur of the previous album, but there’s no doubt that the first five songs form a phenomenal set of music. “Battery” begins acoustically with a flamenco vibe, two guitars interweaving nicely. Eventually this gives way to a mega-fast tempo with lots of stops & starts. This sheer aggression points toward Pantera. “Master Of Puppets,” which deals with the wielding of & abuse of power, is the longest song on the album, and possibly the strongest as well. Featuring another killer riff and an amazing stop-start intro, it’s filled with hooks like “Obey your…master, master…” and “Just call my name ‘cause I’ll hear you scream.” The arrangement is impressive, shifting to a slower ballad tempo with melodic guitar leads and later returning to speed-metal with a searing guitar solo.

“The Thing That Should Not Be” finds them in Black Sabbath territory again, even adding in a slightly psychedelic effect in the verses that makes Hetfield sound a little like Ozzy Osbourne in his prime. It could be the basis for an interesting sci-fi/horror movie. I love the hook at “Hunter of the shadows is ri-sing…im-mor-tal.” “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” is a massive tune. Based on One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, it’s a moody ballad about a sane person locked against his will in a mental hospital. It builds slowly & effectively until it’s a full-on driving metal tune, and it points to the big hits they would have a few years later. “Disposable Heroes” begins with an extended instrumental section that acts like an overture, and there are great riffs, alternate time signatures (including a rare 6/8 feel) & strong lyrics about a young soldier being “bred to kill.” The music perfectly captures the anger & futility of the lyrics (“Soldier boy, made of clay, now an empty shell; Twenty-one, only son, but he served us well” and “Back at the front/you will do…what I say…when I say”).

The latter portion of the album suffers by comparison to these first five monster songs, but it’s not all filler. “Orion” is a long instrumental with a mostly steady beat, chugging bass & guitar and various solos. I especially like the shift to a slower, quieter section with twin melodic guitars (or is that one guitar with an octavider?). “Leper Messiah” is their attack on people who hide behind religion for their personal gain (“Send me money, send me green, heaven you will meet”). I wonder if there’s any connection to David Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust,” which included the term “leper messiah” in its lyrics. For me, Master Of Puppets ends on a weak note with “Damage, Inc.,” a fast metal-by-numbers tune that was probably a lot of fun for headbangers in concert, but I feel like they’ve done this better several times before. That doesn’t diminish my enjoyment of this amazing record, which is rightly hailed as one of the benchmark albums in the history of heavy metal. Sadly, it was their final record with Cliff Burton, who died in a bus crash while the band was touring to promote the album. It’s hard to imagine how they dealt with that loss and somehow returned with the biggest albums of their career.

So how does Master Of Puppets stack up against the rest of their discography for you? Metallica fans can be very opinionated…I learned that the hard way as I promoted my blog series three years ago…but I appreciate their passion. I look forward to hearing from you.

Advertisements

34 comments on “Thirty Year Thursday – METALLICA “MASTER OF PUPPETS”

  1. stephen1001
    August 11, 2016

    Those first two tracks are a 1-2 opening punch that’s tough to beat!

    Like

  2. 1537
    August 11, 2016

    Nice, I’m a later convert too. ‘Battery’ is sometimes my fave Metallica track by far but I find I rarely play MOP, I always reach for ‘Ride the Lightning’ over it.

    Like

    • I can see where Ride The Lightning would be some fans’ favorite, especially those who were fans at the time. For me it’s a toss-up, but then again I also think some of the later albums (including the self-titled black album) are better than their reputations.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. deKE
    August 11, 2016

    This album I bought at the time of its release Rich as they were getting the press coverage as well as opening up for Ozzy!
    They just had a go for it attitude with this album and that they did!
    Nice Flashback…..

    Like

    • Had I been more of a metal-head at the time I’m sure these guys would have blown me away, but you can see where my musical tastes were in ’86 via the first 31 posts in this series. It’s been fun to go back & investigate metal from that era. Some amazing artists & albums, none more so than Iron Maiden. One day I will tackle their discography here.

      Like

      • Kevin
        August 12, 2016

        I eagerly await your Iron Maiden dissertation.

        Like

      • Thanks, Kevin. I was hoping to have an Iron Maiden series under my belt by now but life circumstances have limited the amount of time I have to devote to complete artist discographies. Things are moving in the right direction and hopefully sometime next year I’ll get back to “regular programming.”

        Like

      • Phillip Helbig
        August 15, 2016

        Me too!

        Like

      • Thanks, Phillip. See my reply to Kevin’s comment for an explanation of why a Maiden series hasn’t happened…yet.

        Like

  4. keepsmealive
    August 12, 2016

    30 years? Holy crap, Rich, we’re old! 🙂

    Nice one, time to fire it up here in honour of your post. Let’s start with BATTERY!

    Like

    • Sorry I made you feel old. That didn’t happen for me since I first heard this album only about 15 years ago. The first 30+ posts in this series have made me feel old, though.

      Whenever I hear “Battery” I think of the scene in Old School where they pick up the frat recruits in the van. I wonder if any others fans make that connection.

      Like

      • Phillip Helbig
        August 15, 2016

        I’m not a Metallica fan, but when I hear “Battery” I think of Lars saying “Battery?!?!” from behind the drumkit in the documentary film Some Kind of Monster. Every one should watch it. It has some great scenes, including the one where this occurs (I don’t want to give too much away, because it ends on a real zinger) and some featuring Lars’s father.

        Like

      • I saw that Metallica documentary once but don’t remember the “Battery?!?” scene you’re referring to. It was a surprisingly intimate portrait of a band in chaos. I continue to be surprised that they allowed it to be released, but I think it helped humanize them to their fans & detractors alike. After the Napster debacle they needed an image overhaul.

        Like

  5. Murphy's Law
    August 12, 2016

    A friend loaned me this cassette in high school. Absolutely blew my mind. I listened to some metal and was familiar with some punk, but I had never heard the elements combined in such a way with skill and power and emotion. I think this is their best album.

    Like

    • A lot of my friends fell hard for these guys in high school and college, but they were not for me at the time. Even when Maiden started getting huge around ’82/’83, I wasn’t ready for a new generation of metal bands. It took me 15 years before I finally discovered their awesomeness. I can only imagine how blown away you were when you heard this album for the first time.

      Like

  6. mikeladano
    August 12, 2016

    Yep I agree with these words Rich.

    I’ve lost a lot of interest in Metallica since St Anger. I’m not sure if my tastes have matured or if I’d just heard it too many times.

    I do like Master. I think it might be their best overall. I too find the second side to be slightly less than side one.

    Like

    • I’m guessing your tastes have matured as much as you have. I’ll let you figure out if I meant that as a compliment. 😀

      It’s hard to choose between Master Of Puppets, Ride The Lightning and *gasp* the Black Album as far as which one is their best. I’m sure old-school Metallica fans dismiss the Black Album simply because it was so popular, but objectively it’s a great album and really consistent.

      Liked by 1 person

      • mikeladano
        August 12, 2016

        Funny thing Rich, but I actually like Load a lot better than Black. I don’t dislike Black at all, I just find it overly simple and familiar for what I want to listen to these days. Load on the other hand is less familiar, but so much groovier.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Not sure I feel the same way regarding Load vs The Black Album, if only because the former is way too long and has too many lesser moments. It takes a special band/artist to fill 75+ minutes with consistently great new music and I don’t think they pulled it off, even though there are plenty of awesome tracks. I wonder if The Black Album will be one of those records that sounds amazing to you after years of not playing it. That’s happened to me a lot of times.

        Liked by 1 person

      • mikeladano
        August 16, 2016

        If you add in the unedited version of Outlaw Torn, I believe Load clocks in well over 80 minutes. I have to say I used to do that daily.

        Like

      • I’ve never heard the unedited version of “Outlaw Torn.” Is it worth seeking out? Not sure that album needs to be any longer than it already is.

        Liked by 1 person

      • mikeladano
        August 18, 2016

        It’s not worth seeking. I can’t remember which single it’s on. It’s just a little longer with more jamming.

        New Metallica single went out today. My review is up.

        Like

      • I heard the new Metallica single yesterday. I don’t usually care to hear new songs out of the context of the album but figured I would make an exception in this case. I think it’s excellent and bodes well for the rest of the album. Nice review too, by the way. You don’t waste any time, eh?

        Liked by 1 person

      • mikeladano
        August 19, 2016

        That was genuine excitement on my part! As soon as I heard the track I had to write it down.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Murphy's Law
        August 13, 2016

        It’s a close race between Master and Lightning – they’re structurally similar albums (for me, it’s Master by a hair). I don’t dislike the Black Album, but I prefer the longer, more intricate song structures. My initial reaction to the Black Album was that these songs don’t sound finished. When it came out …And Justice for All was my favorite, but it’s paled somewhat over the years.

        Like

      • It’s hard for me to choose a favorite between Ride The Lightning and Master Of Puppets, but I might lean toward the latter just like you. As a huge prog-rock fan I should rank And Justice For All at the top but the thin production keeps it from being my favorite. Perhaps that will change if/when they do a proper remix/remaster with some bass.

        Like

  7. J.
    August 12, 2016

    Great post, Rich. Aside from a few bits and pieces, I’m fairly new to Metallica. This one and Ride The Lightening struck me right away as being pretty awesome and unlike the Metallica I knew. Some really tremendous, and visceral, stuff on those.

    Like

    • I agree about the tremendous & visceral nature of those two albums. I’m so glad I gave them the attention they deserved. It’s amazing how well they’ve held up over 3+ decades, too.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. 80smetalman
    August 18, 2016

    For me, this is Metallica’s best album. Battery is one of the best album/concert opening songs of all time, it just grabs you by the throat and says, you’re gonna listen! On a personal note, having been out of the service for nearly three years when Master of Puppets came out, I definitely felt the lyrics of Disposable Heroes. Great post.

    Like

    • I never saw Metallica in concert but I have no doubt that “Battery” would be a kick-ass start to any show. Good point about “Disposable Heroes.” I’m sure the band would be pleased to know how those lyrics impacted you.

      Liked by 1 person

      • 80smetalman
        August 21, 2016

        The second time I saw them, they didn’t open with “Battery” and I felt they weren’t as good.

        Like

      • Do you remember which song they opened with at that show?

        Like

      • 80smetalman
        August 22, 2016

        Unfortunately, no. I do remember that their second song was “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to subscribe to KamerTunesBlog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 305 other followers

Archives

%d bloggers like this: