I sure do like writing about the metal, it would appear. But I couldn’t let such a momentous anniversary pass without note. Today marks 25 years since Metallica released “Master of Puppets” which I consider to be their best album and possibly the best in the genre they created and inspired.
I vividly remember listening to it for the first time. My friend Bill lent me a cassette of Rainbow’s “Straight Between the Eyes“ with “Puppets” on the other side (what? huh?). At first, I was a little confused by how insane the Rainbow record sounded compared to the others I had heard, but quickly figured out what was going on. For me, the experience was on par with hearing “Live-Evil” (the Miles record, not the Sabbath live album). My tiny, tiny listening world to date was completely turned on its head and nothing was ever the same again. It was just that big for me, as it was for many listeners. Even today, I consider it a major influence on my music and my idea of what an album can and should be.
From those first doom chords of “Battery” (all albums should open like this) to the cosmic metal of the instrumental “Orion” and finally to the punishing “Damage Inc.” the album is a journey, a complete experience. The epic title track is itself a microcosm of the sweep of the whole record. It’s an album album – based on the same formula as “Ride the Lightning” but perfected and packed even more tightly with killer riffs, apocalyptic imagery of both the interior and exterior variety, and fantastic guitar work. I love Kirk Hammett, but for me, the real hero of Metallica has always been James Hetfield’s right hand.
It might surprise some folks (but not all) to hear that I think that Zubatto Syndicate owes quite a bit to early Metallica and to “Master of Puppets” specifically. The structure of “Mechas Over Manhattan,” with its combination of high speed metal with a slow, sloggy center, is a pretty bald attempt to fuse ideas from that genre with jazz and the rest of the Zubatto soup. There’s even a little nod to the classic intro to ‘Battery” in the intro to “Arrival.” I’ve also been nursing a notion for a related surprise that may or may not appear at our CD release party in May.
So Happy Birthday or Anniversary or whatever to one of the great ones. Here’s metal up your @$$.