In late August, 1988, Metallica released their 4th studio, and probably 2nd best ever album … And Justice For All.
Following the untimely death of bassist Cliff Burton the band recruited Flotsam & Jetsom bass player Jason Newsted. Burton’s misfortune was Newsted’s chance to join the hottest ‘underground’ metal act going.
Metallica had done things their own way in what can only be seen as admirable. Their previous album Master Of Puppets is pretty much untouchable in the trash genre even if it is bettered by the just truly perfect Reign In Blood (Slayer).
Metallica, Slayer and Anthrax, three very different thrash acts all came to the fore of the underground metal scene in the late 80’s. With the speed and attitude of Punk, Metal became credible again – it was fresh.
Anthrax were the more cartoon band whilst Slayer were so on it in the late 80’s they almost transcended the whole scene forging their own brutal genre. Metallica were always the near classical offering – it’s easy to see why they became the most succesful thrash act of all-time.
Whilst Metallica’s first two albums were like a monster bedding in – with their 3rd album they hit a sound and style that they can only really now look back upon and try to emulate. The band did little commercial work and did not even make a single video until their 4th album. For this reason …And Justice For All is possibly the bands last truly great defiant record. Arguably their 5th album (Metallica) could be seen as the band restarting and going with the money, that’s not to knock it but that album is a safer sound – no wonder why it shifted so many units.
Blackened looms in with twin distant guitars forming and waiting for the inevitable fast beat. It is a solid album opener that really twists and turn like the wriggling behemoth it is. Hetfield has never been a truly great vocalist but this matters not one jot.
And Justice For All raises the bar already. Again the track stutters in that classical / thrash way that really only Metallica can pull off. Ulrich, as annoying as he is in interviews, is superb on the drums here. Hammett when given the opportunity showcases some guitar work that goes beyond thrash.
Eye Of The Beholder whilst not as strong as the two album openers features a deeper vocal delivery and ambles along with menace.
One is the song that marked Metallica going truly mainstream. In some ways it can be considered their best ever track. It was the first song the band gave in and made a video. It keeps all of the earnesty of their previous albums but it pretty much screams HIT at practically any ears / wallet. War themes and classical build the track is somewhat of a vehicle for what can only be seen as a great guitar solo. Released as a single both in video and vinyl format One hit a not so unlucky Number 13 in the U.K. Singles chart, it probably would have sold more had record shops had more understanding of supply and demand.
The Shortest Straw goes with the vibe of the whole album even if it is not really a stand out song in its own right.
Harvester Of Sorrow too has a slight filler feel to it – again that’s not to knock it. It has that classy broody chug that Metallica do so damn well.
The Frayed Ends Of Sanity has a build to it that settles for large periods before twisting away at thrash right angles.
To Live Is To Die is a lengthy near instrumental. Spoken words eventually appear it what can only be seen as a tribute to Cliff Burton. The song has an orchestral feel to it and it shows just how well the band can actually play.
Dyers Eve closes …And Justice For All in fast angular fashion. Whilst it is no Damage Inc. it is a very fitting rattle to wind things up.
On first hear in 1988 one noticed the album was not as good as Master Of Puppets but it welcomingly showed the band mature further. It’s the sound of a band realising their real potential and standing on a threshold about to step forward…