Monday, September 30, 2019

Album Review: Master of Puppets by Metallica

During my sophomore year of college, the walk from my dorm room to the music building was approximately nine minutes. I know this because I could start the song "Master of Puppets" at the time I left, and the song would be finishing just before I made it to class. I have no idea how many times I did this, but it was definitely at least a few times per week, if not every day at some points during the year. As a fan of Metallica, I don't think anyone should be surprised at all to hear me say that Master of Puppets is an absolute masterpiece.

The first track on the album, "Battery", is definitely one of Metallica's best songs, and one of the best album openers I can think of. On the flipside, "Damage, Inc." is one of the best album closers as well. Between these two bookends, we have some of the best songs of Metallica's early years. Similar to Ride the Lightning, there's not really a bad song on the album. But Master of Puppets definitely sounds more refined and deliberate than either of Metallica's earlier albums. To me, Puppets sounds like the culmination of everything Metallica had been developing from their inception to Cliff Burton's death shortly after the release of the album. Nothing Metallica has released since has sounded quite like this.

While Master of Puppets is absolutely the pinnacle of Metallica's early sound, there are songs, such as "The Thing that Should Not Be", that remind me more of the way Metallica sound later in the band's career. Some people like to say that Metallica sold out and slowed down with their self-titled black album, but they probably haven't listened to Master of Puppets very closely.

Now, I'm going to have to come out and say it. I like Ride the Lightning more than Master of Puppets. Don't get me wrong, they're both amazing albums that I 100% recommend to anyone who's even remotely interested in listening to metal. But there are some songs on Master of Puppets that I just don't like as much as others. But of course, you know an album is really special when my main complaint is that some songs are great and others are merely good.

In my last review, I mentioned how I love energy and excitement in music. Master of Puppets, like any good Metallica album, absolutely brings these elements in spades... most of the time at least. The heavy energy is balanced out with some of Metallica's most beautiful interlude sections, which usually involve incredible guitar harmonies. Harmonized electric guitar is one of my favorite sounds in music, right alongside the Saxophone soli. "Orion" probably is the best example of this, which is coincidentally my best listening recommendation for classical music nerds who don't "get" metal.

Is Master of Puppets my favorite Metallica album? Nope, not even close. But is it a masterpiece anyways? Absolutely. The world is better off because this album exists and every metalhead whose favorite album is Puppets is absolutely right that Master of Puppets is arguably Metallica's best album ever. In my album reviews, I've decided to only award a whole number of stars between one and five. But for Master of Puppets, I really wanted to give it four and a half stars. Of course, I've already broken my own rules before, but this one seems a little bit more important because it could mess up my spreadheet. So, to decide between four and five stars, I will be flipping a coin. And the result is...

I give Master of Puppets four stars out of five, but it's the best four star album possible. My favorite track is "Master of Puppets", mostly because it has one of my favorite guitar solos of all time during the interlude.

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