Metallica’s metal masterpiece remains one of the greatest heavy records to ever be made. Many tracks are now staples of classic music radio and the band continues to draw in a new generation of fans. Part of Metallica’s draw is because of the raw yet fresh sounds from Master and it’s predecessor Ride The Lightning.
If Ride The Lightning was a hit to the wall in centerfield then Master of Puppets was an out of the park homerun. Both albums are still enjoyable listens. Master has a slightly more lasting quality which could be attributed to a few things. It might be the more polished production that still captures sheer heaviness that was evident on Lightning. It could be the incredible structure of the compositions and the emergence of Metallica as a solid group of musicians capable of painting dark lyrical imagery. I have vivid memories of kids in grade school older than me drawing this album cover. One drew a depiction of a blood-soaked soldier’s grave with the caption “Disposable Heroes”. Some misinterpreted the songs as glorifying war. It was actually the contrary. It painted the reality of how so many on the front lines felt disposable. It was about control from governments giving orders. Most giving the orders were no even close to those frontlines. The title track was written about addictions and the control those addictions can have. They are strong strings in harnesses difficult to embrace. It says that addiction is a real fight.
Welcome Home “Sanitarium” is this great progressive song with an escalating tempo and brutal riffing. It draws sketches of time passing and time appearing to stand still (look at the classic opening line) in a mental-health facility. A patient wanting to be left alone to deal with their internal battles. Magnificent guitar work and an almost haunting vocal from James Hetfield during the song’s slow-tempo movements.
Late bassist Cliff Burton’s incredible prowess permeates throughout in the epic instrumental “Orion”. Burton co-composed and arranged some of the structural aspects of the composition and found a great place to drop in one of music’s most elegant and powerful chordal-like bass parts followed in time with a blistering distorted solo that stands as one of the finest to ever be recorded on electric bass guitar.
Master of Puppets deserves many long-form reflections from all critics and fans. It’s cultural significance and selection for preservation ensures that it will be discussed hundreds of years from now and well beyond the future time.