…And Justice For All, by Metallica
Reviewed by Stuart Taylor
So…. I quite like metal. From funeral doom to hair metal. From slaying mighty dragons to pretending that we’re all pirates. From heavy progressive elements to a savage beatdown. One day I’d really like to go to Wacken. In full plate mail with a viking drinking horn…
And Metallica have actually got a special place in my heart. “Orion” was the first song that I learnt on the bass. “Nothing Else Matters” was the first song that I learnt on the guitar. I literally shut myself in a room until I had it down. And yet I’ve heard little of them outside of the legendary Cliff Burton era, so I’m going in pretty blind. And excited.
But this is a shoe in, right?
The first mistake I made was to listen to the original album version. It sounds like it MIGHT be a good album, but it’s hard to tell because the it sounds like the album was mixed down and then piped through a pair of tin cans attached by string. While that could be written off as a charming quirk of the more thrashy end of the genre, I find it off putting, so I search for a remastered version, which fortunately there is.
So I settle down to what I vaguely expected it to be. Aggressive guitars metal galloping across a field of shredding solos that somehow manage to keep just this side of tasteful. Its clear that Hetfield can sing, but I find the vocals poor in all honesty. Fortunately, they need to do little other than frame the beatdown happening elsewhere, which they do admirably.
My second mistake was to try to listen with fresh ears. Even the chunkiest riffs that would have excited the 14 year old me feel dated and the solos can sometimes just flip over from cool metal awesomeness into Spinal Tap territory. The only thing to break the onslaught is the occasional tempo change blistering in from leftfield and the standout track ‘One’.
… And Justice For All is an ironic title, the whole album is lyrically very dark and seems to be a cry against a system that has the power to abuse and manipulate justice in order to achieve its aims. Its not a rally call, in so much as a sneer at people who would like to claim justice, but actually are its enemy. And so it seems to have captured some of the Zeitgeist of the current political and social climate in spite of its age.
I give …And Justice For All a 6/10. As genre defining and influential it was for the time, its hard to take it quite as seriously these days which probably is a reflection on me more than the music. It’s a good album and good start point to jump off into MEEEEETTTTTTAAAL but doesn’t really scratch the itch when I need something very, very….. very heavy in my life.