Metallica – Ride The Lightning
One year after the release of their iconic debut album, Kill ‘Em All, Metallica returned to elevate thrash to another level. 1984 and on wards was practically a melting pot for this genre with bands such as Exodus, Megadeth, Anthrax, Slayer and Annihilator showcasing their own unique styles whilst purposefully opposing the conventional popularity of 80’s glam metal. However, there’s no denying that Metallica were practically the representative of thrash and helped to truly drive the genre forward in this era.Ride the Lightning is quite simply a fantastic album, most prominently showcasing the progression of the band in terms of song writing. This can be attributed to not only being settled in their line up but also through the musical talents of bassist Cliff Burton. The writing process benefited from his vital background in music theory and composition as well as the range of bands that he exposed to the rest of Metallica. These influences and the raw talent that Metallica possessed allowed a metal masterpiece to be born.The opening track Fight Fire with Fire immediately demonstrates a contrast against the relentless thrash driven Kill ‘Em All with introductory soft acoustic melodies. However, the listener is not completely deceived, as after 40 seconds we’re propelled into one of Metallica’s fastest riffs that’s increased in heaviness through its noticeably fuller production, a consistent element that runs throughout the album. Duelling solos from James Hetfield and Kirk Hammet hark back to the NWOBHM style that Iron Maiden defined whilst Hetfield’s vocals are noticeably gruffer and lower than before. The title track is one of the stand out songs, an intricate portrayal of a man condemned to death by electric chair. The pace is menacing, the riffs are heavy and the solos are blistering: three elements that Metallica abide by.Well, for the 80s at least.For Whom the Bell Tolls, one of Metallica’s most well-known songs, opening with that classic bass riff that’s been countlessly mistaken for a guitar over the years. This is a quintessential example of Metallica’s ability to create a sense of atmosphere and foreboding in their creations, proving that a track doesn’t have to be fast to be heavy.In contrast to this, Fade to Black was Metallica’s first attempt at a ballad which they were vigorously slated for at the time. However, the song is nothing short of beautiful, showcasing the quality of Hetfield’s lyrics that are emotively performed to describe the struggles of depression. The delicate sadness conveyed transforms into pure power in the second half with Hammet’s solo not only demonstrating his talents but his ability to conjure up emotions simply through the medium of his guitar.The end of the album continues with the consistent variety showcased beforehand: Trapped Under Ice returning to heavy metal, Escape attempting a more radio friendly tone, Creeping Death exuding a pure thrash classic and finally The Call of Ktulu demonstrating Metallica’s complex instrumental abilities.Ride the Lightning is a brilliantly creative album and was the springboard that propelled Metallica into producing the revered Master of Puppets, released just two years later. The fact that Metallica still consistently play a range of songs from Ride the Lightning to this day is a testament to its greatness.