Monday, August 19, 2019

Album review: Ride the Lightning by Metallica

The first time I ever remember being exposed to Metallica was seeing somebody wear a Ride the Lightning T-shirt. Today, I probably own more Ride the Lightning-related Metallica merch than for any other album. It's not that RTL is my favorite Metallica album, it's just that the artwork looks so darn cool. I don't own many vinyl albums, but Ride the Lightning is definitely one of them.

My number one complaint with Ride the Lightning has nothing to do with the music, and everything to do with the packaging of my physical copy of the CD. Instead of a plastic jewel case, Metallica's early albums have been released inside paper sleeves. These are probably a lot more environmentally friendly, and maybe even more attractive looking, but they utterly fail at containing a CD and booklet. Worst of all, they don't fit in my CD organizer. But of course, I'm here to review the album, and not the woefully inadequate packaging.

Ride the Lightning is, in my opinion, the best of Metallica's first three albums, featuring bassist Cliff Burton. I love every single song on this record, and the production isn't half bad either for 1984. Ride the Lightning certainly packs a sonic punch that not every album does. It truly is Metallica at their best- aggressive, complex, and thoroughly sincere.

During some of the hardest times of my life I've turned to Ride the Lightning. There's something about it that just speaks to me when I'm at my lowest. There's just something comforting about hearing someone else say that life sucks, and knowing that you aren't alone. The song "Fade to Black" in particular is probably the most relatable one of the album for me- it's another slow build up song with a huge emotional payoff at the end, which is my favorite kind of song. I remember listening to the end guitar solo and refusing to take my earbuds out to talk to my then-girlfriend because there was no way I was going to cut Kirk Hammett short. I handed one earbud to her instead, but I don't think she really felt it the same way I did. Not everyone will relate to the same music, or be emotionally touched by the same things. That's totally fine. But when you do find something that means the world to you, it's important to listen close and enjoy it. For me, I guess that means I need to listen to more 1980s thrash metal.

When I think of classic Metallica, Ride the Lightning and the songs on it will always come quickly to mind. The album is made up of nothing but absolute classics and underrated gems. Among the under appreciated songs of the album, "Escape" stands out to me. It's the most optimistic song on the album, and probably the most happy sounding song too at times. The contrasting tone really sets it apart in my mind. After all, most of the album is about death, destruction, and how much life sucks. It's kind of nice to have a song about taking initiative.

I give Ride the Lightning five stars out of five, and my favorite track is "Fade to Black", with an honorable mention to "Creeping Death".

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