This album is the complete opposite of the "Black Album" in any way you look at it (and not only on the cover colors of the black/white) and it was issued on September 7, 1988.
When you listen to this album and then to the "Black Album", you realize very quickly what all the fuss was about around "Metallica's" upheaval. What was so different, and what significant change did the band go through? This album is what brought its success among metal lovers even before the success of the "Black Album" in the mainstream.
This is the album that puts the stamp that "Metallica" is one of the metal promises that is going to march this genre into the future.
So let's start telling the story...
1. Let's start with a quote from James Hetfield: "It was just us really showing off"
Songs that are no less than 6 minutes, more than three or four riffs in a song, and a significant number of breakpoints and transitions. No doubt it feels that they came to prove something. They came to prove that they are talented, that they know how to write and create rhythmic, fast, and complex trash metal music and they most of all came to show that they can !!
2. James and Lars Ulrich brought the producer Mike Clink to work on this album because they really liked the work he did with "Guns N' Roses" on the album "Appetite For Destruction" (they even became obsessed with this album), but this combination did not last long and very quickly they stopped working with him until their veteran producer Flemming Rasmussen was available and came to replace Mike.
3. The first thing you notice when listening to the album is the sterile production and dry/shallow sound of the album. The guitars sound very high, synthetic with no low frequencies at all, the drums sound like dry beats without volume and we will talk more about the bass later. Rasmussen claimed that this was not his intention at all and that it was a move that took place in the mix/mastering stage.
4. The two alpha males, James and Lars decided that the best way to create this album is when only the two are the ones who create, build, and assemble all the parts in the songs. There was no collaboration between the band members until the final stages of the recordings, even Kirk Hammet was invited to the studio only in the last ten days of the recordings. Not to mention Jason Newsted who recorded all the bass parts alone with the technician, without any of the band members or the producer !!
As Lars called it: "It was me and James running everything with an iron fist"
5. The album was written and recorded in the shadow of Cliff Burton's death. The bass player who was killed two years earlier left his friends stunned, hurt, and full of anger and aggression. Lars claimed they did not allow themselves to stop any activity because they feared they would lose the momentum they had gained and everything would be lost. They were afraid of drowning "in the depths" and disappearing from the face of the earth. So, after exactly one month and a day since Cliff's death, they have already performed with the band's new bassist Jason.
Sure you're asking yourself but what about the bass story on the album ???
So let's move on to the next point.
6. There are a few different versions and stories about the bass saga on this album, unequivocally and without a doubt everyone will agree that you can't hear the bass at all on this album. Jason did not even hear the bass after his recordings and when he was present to hear in the final mix that he was completely gone he was disappointed and hurt to the depths of his soul.
The question is Why?
- Hetfield recently claimed on Loudwire that since they performed the mix while touring (then there were no headphones but only monitors) they were exhausted and due to the noise their ears could not pick up the loud sounds so they kept asking Steve Thompson and Michael Barbiero, who were responsible for the mix to amplify the high frequencies.
- Hetfield himself also claimed then, that since the frequencies and sounds of the bass were so identical to the guitar, they simply disappeared within. It was impossible to tell when the guitar started and when the bass was ending and for that Jason claimed, that was what he knew how to do. In his previous band, he and the guitars created a wall sound together, they played the same thing. Here no one has mentored or worked with Jason.
- Steve Thompson, on the other hand, claimed that Lars came to him in the mix stage and asked him to lower the bass until he reached a point where he could barely hear it, and hence he will lower it by another 6-8 decibels. Steve thought it was a kid's joke or prank they wanted to do to Jason, but indeed Lars insisted it would be the final version.
Feel free to listen to the version of the album with the bass amplified:
7. Metallica members call this album the "Complaints" album because of the lyrics of the songs.
At the time Lars and James were regularly watching CNN to get ideas for the songs and also because their concern for issues related to the environment, politics, and society in general increased. Thus were written songs like "Blackened" which talks about environmental destruction, "And Justice For All" which talks about political corruption, and anti-war songs like "One".
8. The riff of the song "One" was based on an idea from the song "Buried Alive" taken from the album "Black Metal" by the band "Venom".
9. The song "One" is also "Metallica's" first song to have a music video. "Metallica" hired two filmmakers to create the "One" music video based on the 1971 film "Johnny Got His Gun". It conquered the MTV screen and became one of the most popular music videos of its time.
10. In order to continue showing the clip for the song without having to pay royalties to the creators of the original film, "Metallica"'s members acquired the rights to the film.
11. It is also the first song to be nominated "Metallica" for the Grammy Award and bring them to perform at the 31st Grammy Awards in 1989. "Metallica's" members debated the show and the nomination as it was against everything it represented, but they decided they could not give up such an opportunity to show the world who "Metallica" is. The fact that they eventually lost the award only strengthened their status and credibility among metal lovers. They called it 'GRAMMY Award Losers'.
12. The album cover shows "Lady Justice" whose source is the goddess of justice from Roman mythology. She is shown full of cracks, tied with ropes, her scales full of dollar bills, and part of her chest bare. The painting was created by Stephen Gorman who developed the idea of James and Lars to reflect on the topics the texts on the album talk about.
13. This is Metallica's second best-selling album after the "Black Album". The jump in sales was meteoric versus the sales of "Master Of Puppets" which sold in real-time tens of thousands of copies, to an album that brought "Metallica" up to sell millions of copies. It reached No. 6 on the Billboard 200 which was then unusual for a metal band and as we mentioned gave it a Grammy nomination.
14. The reviews of the album were divided, on the one hand, it was considered a groundbreaking, complex, progressive, and amazing album and on the other hand, some thought it was too ambitious and did not fit the band's capabilities and did not fit the genre of the time.
Without a doubt, this is one of the most important albums in rock history, and as we started the review, if you read the review on the "Black Album" you will understand exactly why everyone is talking about this change that "Metallica" has gone through and why it has so influenced its fans and genre lovers in general.