Probably over time a band that I have listened to more than any other, I set myself the challenge of ranking the catalogue of Metallica albums in order of awesome/greatness/gashness.
Have a read below and see what you think.
Sorry, actually totally not sorry.
With things like this sometimes it’s hard to pick a bottom album and single one out as bands worst, despite the dizzying heights that they have reached picking the bottom few for Metallica wasn’t ever going to be that much of a challenge, Lulu sadly was an artistic experiment that went very wrong and is only good for two things, a shiny coaster and table related memes.
13. St Anger
Yes I know, the other obvious choice. For sadly obvious reasons.
The awful drums, the overlong songs, the lack of solos.
All fair and often suggested gripes with this album.
For me, the songs were dull, it was nice to see the hand trying a few different options with the slower and heavier doom of “Some Kind of Monster”, but for me, much like the other 6 and 7 minute plus length songs, they didn’t do enough to hold my attention.
10/11/12. Garage Inc, Binge & Purge, S & M
I’m bundling this lot together here as despite them being amazing, I’m not sure I should be putting them above any of the actual decent studio albums!
But I do still think they deserve a place in this list even if they are just covers and live albums. But as it’s Metallica they aren’t just normal live or covers albums, the bundling of past with what was current songs and line ups on Garage Inc was a nice twist on the tried and tested cover album formula, and the sheer size of Binge and Purge set it apart.
Then comes the orchestra, acknowledged it could be written off as a sneaky best of set, just sayin, but beyond that hearing the huge orchestral versions of some of the songs transformed them into something magical, highlights for myself being “One” and “Master of Puppets” which now by comparison sound quite flat and dull in their studio form.
The second half/leftovers (delete as applicable) of the post black album slump double hit from the Load sessions.
The worlds largest metal band cut their hair, started wearing suits and released to heavy rock albums back to back, this was sacrilege to their thrash fans. Some embraced the change and appreciated the extra melody and the quite frankly huge sound Bob Rock had given the band. Unfortunately despite the positives, this collection was lacking direction and consistency, yes “Fuel” is awesome, “Bad Seed” is great fun and the groove on “Devil’s Dance” is ridiculous.
But, as they wander like a drunk after the beer soaked fun of the other songs into the gutter and poorly lit alleys of nothing with songs like “Low Mans Lyric” and “Where The Wild Things Are” the leftovers tag starts to feel applicable as this is an album that runs out of steam and is padded out with a few fillers.
8. Death Magnetic
A victim of the loudness war.
A great album marred by poor production.
Something something Lars is a bad drummer and he probably kicks the disabled….
All things I have seen thrown at this album over the years.
Some fair, some not, none of them really deal breakers.
For me this is an album, that much like ReLoad runs out of steam and tails off for the last couple of songs. This is, if it’s possible, the most formulaic Metallica album, as it follows their usual structure of two fast ones to start, then a slow one, a ballad at about two thirds in a penultimate epic instrumental number before trying to thrash it all out to close.
This should leave the fans happy as it’s ticking all the boxes Puppets, Lighting, Justice and Black did.
But, it’s doing it with a lower calibre of songs that again are too long and as mentioned at the start are arguably poorly produced and clip the sound at every turn.
“All Nightmare Long” and “Broken, Beat & Scarred” are exceptional as is a furiously overlooked “Cyanide” , it’s just a shame that the final 4 songs are pretty awful, especially “The Unforgiven III”.
What makes it even more galling is that they would release “Beyond Magnetic” 3 years later with 4 much better songs that would have been a brilliant second half to the album. We will have to file that under what could have been though!
7. Kill ’em All
Yep I know, I know.
Yes I fully understand that it’s a legendary piece of work.
Yes I appreciate it’s punk fuelled spot in the history of thrash.
But I also find it a bit boring, and despite it being a live favourite, I hate “Seek and Destroy”.
But I still can’t deny the palatable energy and excitement that flows through this album.
“Hit The Lights” and “Whiplash” are still as exhilarating today as it was then, “The Four Horsemen” pointed at the epic songwriting the lads were able to channel with ease over the next couple of albums.
But in the second half the terrible tinny production, James’s screeching vocals start to grate and the excitement begins to wane as the songs drag. It’s a brilliant debut album, but it’s not a brilliant album, that would come though. And very soon.
6. Hardwired…To Self Destruct
Their latest effort, and the one I have spent the least time with.
Maybe I have grown out of the band? Maybe they just aren’t as good as they used to be?
Who knows, well maybe I do, but that’s for another day.
A huge double album, triple for some fans depending on which version you bought, I must admit, the triple disc version is excellent and at the time cost an extra £2 and was well worth it, the extra songs from compilations and the live set from Record Store Day are brilliant, and that sense of excitement from the band and the live performance is fantastic.
But, back to the actual album.
The band are in fine form, tight riffs, some heavy groove and easily the closest that the band have sounded to the Metallica of old that a lot of the fanbase wanted them to return to. Lead single “Hardwired” hammers the point home in short sharp measures before the follow up “Moth Into Flame” hits us with all the tropes we love from the band, with a few changes of pace, big riffs, huge chorus, it’s a template Metallica song, and a very good one.
And it’s where the band truly succeed with this album, it’s just them being them, St Anger and Death Magnetic felt like they were a band trying to be Metallica, this time it just seems to flow a lot better, yeah across the two discs maybe they could trim a track here or there, but they are all of a very good standard I wouldn’t like to pick which one!
5. …And Justice For All
My first Metallica album.
Unsurprisingly it holds a special spot because of that, but it also ranks highly in the grand scheme of their releases because it’s a damn good album, a smidge overlong in places where some 9 minute songs might have made the album flow a bit better if they were closer to 6 minutes, but as a collection of work this is the sound of a band stretching their writing legs and considering its their first post Cliff album, I think and feel a little like they are trying to move on through distancing themselves a little from the band they were, as they aren’t that band anymore and are evolving into the next generation of the Metallica. That said, despite slowing down a little for “Harvester of Sorrow” or “Frayed Ends Of Sanity” and “One”, they still managed to book end the album with thrash-tastic bangers “Blackened” and “Dyers Eve”.
Oh, and there is bass on the album, just not as much as maybe there should be, but the mix makes the album sound cold and harsh, which considering the loss of Cliff, I would imagine it’s probably how 3 of the members felt during the recording of said album.
4. Master Of Puppets
The greatest thrash album ever made.
The best Metallica album.
The best metal album ever made.
Yep, I have seen all of the above mentioned about Puppets, it’s an amazing album, a huge step in songwriting for the band, their mastery of dynamics is shown near perfectly on this album as they veer from a quiet and calm acoustic opening to “Battery” before it tries to thrash your skin off after 60 seconds.
The melodic curveball the title track throws before it hits it’s halfway mark surprised the hell out me on first listen, almost as much as the calm and tranquil first half of “Sanitarium” as it builds towards the seething frustration fuelled conclusion.
It also contains arguably their heaviest number in the grooving body blows of “The Thing That Should Not Be”.
And we haven’t ever mentioned their most adventurous piece “Orion”, a sprawling 8 and a half minute instrumental that grabs your attention and doesn’t let go until “Damage,Inc” sneaks up on you and tries to rip your head from your shoulders to finish.
3. Metallica/Black Album
Easily the most pivotal album in the bands career as it took them from metal heroes to the mainstream with a string of hits including “Enter Sandman”, “The Unforgiven”, “Sad But True”, “Nothing Else Matters” and “Wherever I May Roam”.
Some bands don’t have that many bonafide classic hit songs in their career, yet Metallica crammed them into the same album.
As always when a band escapes the underground they automatically get shade from a huge chunk of the fans. It’s odd, every other genre celebrates when a band makes it, in metal we hate it. It’s very silly, but of all the bands out there, Metallica have easily had more hate and disdain thrown their way because of their success than any other.
So much so, the fans tend to fall into pre or post black album factions.
And it’s a shame, as this album is majestic. It’s nigh on faultless. Chunky heavy where needed, “Through The Never”, “Holier Than Thou” and any of the last 3 songs! Melodic at pretty much every turn and again stepping into the calmer ballad territory which was starting to highlight James as a decent singer after he screeched his was through the first few albums.
It’s 12 reasons why Metallica became the biggest metal band in the world, it still sells thousands of copies each and every week and they toured for the best part of 4 years supporting it.
2. Ride The Lightning
After the whirlwind they kicked up with Kill Em All, Metallica had quite the reputation to uphold.
So, what did they do.
They smashed it. Like proper smashed it. Despite the love thrown at Puppets this is in my eyes, the best thrash album Metallica made, and stands shoulder to shoulder with Peace Sells and Seasons in The Abyss as one of the best thrash albums of all time, period.
After the calm acoustic intro fools you into wondering if you have the right CD in the player, the feedback gives way to distortion then the first riff arrives and before you know it your head is banging and you are shouting “Fight Fire With Fire” with a massive grin on your face. But much like all the work that would follow, they were proving, even at this early stage that they were more than one trick ponies, with the heavier groove of “For Whom The Bell Tolls” sitting next to the semi ballad of “Fade To Black” before thrashing the listeners again with “Creeping Death”.
It’s only on “Escape” that they drop the ball, sorry I think that song is awful and skip it every time! Bar that, it’s a masterclass in heavy metal with a mix of pace and dynamics most bands only dream of.
Which leaves Load, yep, Load is top of the tree.
The one where Metallica started wearing designer suits.
The one where they all cut their hair.
The one where they abandoned their thrash roots.
The one where they did what they wanted, how they wanted and when they wanted.
Seems like the most Metallica thing to have done.
After the backlash toward the Black album, they could have retreated back into thrash and played it safe, but no. They continued further down the rabbit hole away from metal and into the rock world.
Acknowledged, a very heavy version of it, but still very much rock.
The grooves that were hinted at in previous works were king here.
And the riffs certainly did groove instead of thrash. Which in all honesty I think if the fans could get past that, they would be able to see this for what it is. A top drawer piece of heavy rock laden with grooves, tight rythym ‘s and easily James’s strongest vocal performance of his career.
With slightly more personal lyrics in comparison to what has come before, they became more human on this album.
It’s a huge sprawling album with 3 epics stretched though it’s runtime, “Bleeding Me” oozes blues build and tension before exploding at its conclusion, “Ronnie” is armed with some deliciously quirky riffing as is the amazing “Poor Twisted Me”.
But not to be outdone, they still manage to punch with some venom on “Wasting My Hate”.
Yes it’s also got the country song on it, which I like, but I can see why that one might be a bit too much for some! Still doesn’t stop it being the strongest collection of Metallica songs for my ears.
Catch Ben Jekyll on Saturday between 8-10pm with Dancing With The Dead, feel free to send hate and distain for putting Load at number one to firstname.lastname@example.org