On Saturday, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum welcomes Metallica to the list of popular music’s all-time greats. The band did as much as any group to establish and define thrash metal, then gradually slowed down and became one of the world’s biggest rock bands.
To celebrate the band’s hard-won recognition, Scene presents The Great Metallca Debate. D.X. Ferris, the paper’s designated metalhead, is moderating. He’ll introduce topics, which will be answered by Chris Akin, Classic Metal Show host and webmaster of Pitriff.com, and Matt Wardlaw, former Metal Show host, Radio 92.3 Inner Sanctum host and proprietor of music blog AddictedToVinyl.com. Stay tuned all week for more.
Today’s topic: Best Metallica Album, and why?
Ferris: Ride the Lightning, Metallica’s second album, might not technically be the band’s best, but it’s sure as shit my favorite. Metallica III, 1986’s Master of Puppets, is probably the best capital-A album, in terms of the combination of kick-ass-it-ude and as a coherent listening experience. The production’s better. It’s a little more accessible. It’s just a bit — a little bit — less deadly. The content on both discs is well-rounded: MOP follows the template from Ride The Lightning. You have total-frakkin’-rippers. You have slow songs — dare we call them ballads? Things wind down with a slower instrumental. All in all, MOP is a tad more palatable. But Ride The Lightning, goddamn, it’s like a tank moving at 100 mph, firing heavy artillery shells the whole time. And it’s a better jukebox album. “Fight Fire With Fire” is one of the great Side-One-Track-Number-Ones. Soon after the album’s release, the deceptive acoustic intro would become one of metal’s great clichés. But at the time, it was an incredible fake-out, starting the record with a delicate intro like Ozzy’s “Dee” or “Goodbye to Romance.” Then BANG-FRIGGIN’-POW, one of the fastest, heaviest tracks ever. Lars’ drumming wasn’t particularly complex, but it was amazingly vicious and propulsive. No wonder they’re still going strong. The kind of velocity, it takes you at least 25 years to wind down. I can’t even think that fast, which is probably one reason the songs still give me goosebumps 24 years later.