Sunday, May 9, 2010

Album Review: Metallica - Ride the Lightning

I may have given the impression in a previous post that I don’t take heavy music seriously. Not so folks. True, I do enjoy it in a different way to the morose stuff I generally review round these parts, but at its best, heavy music can be vitalising and cathartic.

For those familiar with Metallica through their self-titled 1991 album, also known as the black album, their 2nd album, released in 1984 will sound a lot different. This was Metallica in their true thrash / speed metal days. It opens up with some gently plucked guitar before Kirk Hammett’s enormous bludgeoning guitar riff comes in, played at breakneck speed for opening track Fight Fire With Fire. James Hetfield bellows out the barely decipherable lyrics, frantically trying to keep up with the music.

The title track follows, with an exhilarating opening, a pounding drum beat from Lars Ulrich and a great guitar riff from Hetfield. He mostly sings about death here, like a lot of the best metal, notably in the bridge when he roars “I don’t want to DIIEEE!” The portentous atmosphere is added to by For Whom The Bell Tolls, which starts with spooky bells before the guitars come in. The opening riff changes a couple of times, each one better than the last before the vocals come in.

Fade to Black provides a bit of a breather. It’s Metallica’s first foray into slower music. Again it’s largely about death, but features some really nice sounding acoustic guitar and a great lead guitar, as Hetfield does a bit of proper singing, “I have lost the will to live, simply nothing more to give”. Things speed up a bit in the bridge as the heavy guitars come in as Hetfield returns to his metal roar.

Back to speed for Trapped Under Ice, with more frenzied guitars, while Escape is a bit more mid-paced, almost sounding like a good song from one of the rubbish metal bands that were around in the 80s (Def Leppard/Van Halen). Creeping Death has yet more breakneck speed and high intensity with yet more hammer horror atmosphere, while closing instrumental The Call of Ktulu opens with a pretty picked guitar part before the heavy guitars come in and riff away for 8 minutes or so before the pretty opening part returns, then the album closes in dramatic style with all guns (and guitars) blazing.

One criticism is that the production does not allow much of Cliff Burton’s bass in the mix. However, this album was a breath of fresh air for metal at the time in comparison to the aforementioned rubbish that was around. This music demands to be taken seriously, as my wardrobe full of black t-shirts will attest to.