justice

Part 39 of a series that will run every Friday throughout 2012 as I discuss records that have affected me throughout the years – Flashback Fridays

Middle School can be a strange time for a kid (or Jr. High in some school districts).  Emotions run high, new thoughts and feelings start entering the mix. School work can start to feel like…well…work.  The pressure of life and real expectations starts to build in those 6th grade, 7th grade, and 8th grade hallways. Some kids cope with this really well and seem to excel at everything they attempt. Other kids shave their heads, rebel on family trips to Washington D.C., and listen to heavy metal. I don’t think you need to be a rocket scientist to realize which group I fell into. For me, listening to heavy metal provided an escape from the mundane routines of school (I probably wouldn’t have worded it that way back then, though). Metallica was one of my favorites from that era and in particular, their album …And Justice for All.

This was the first album from Metallica after the death of legendary bassist Cliff Burton. It also featured the first video EVER from the band by way of the stunning single “One”. I didn’t realize it at the time because of my age, but this was a hotly debated record within the Metallica and metal community. Had the band sold out with making a video? How did new bassist Jason Newsted compare to Cliff? Could you actually hear the bass in the final mix? And finally…were the songs just too damn long? These were all valid questions, and I think my answers would be – no, they hadn’t sold out, a band is allowed mainstream popularity if they stay true to their vision. Jason Newsted holds his own but isn’t quite as high in the mix on the record. The songs were epic both in length and feel but never outstay their welcome. To me, this record feels like a forgotten record. The lesser known album tracks are stunning and the lyrical topics are just as relevant today as they were in 1988. This is a heavy metal classic wedged between the earlier thrash records and the later commercial hard rock records.

Can’t tell if this is true or dream (album breakdown)

Blackened – The album starts off with an absolute metal classic. The music slowly fades in and the listener is pummeled with a noisy assault. James Hetfield growls his vocals as if he is a man possessed. There is a melodic sensibility underpinning the song which points the way towards the future of the band. Drums sound a little tinny, bass is almost non-existent in the mix – but it all works perfectly. Key lyrics:

Fire
To Begin Whipping Dance of the Dead
Blackened Is the End
To Begin Whipping Dance of the Dead
Fire
Is the Outcome of Hypocrisy
Darkest Potency
In the Exit of Humanity
Color Our World Blackened
Blackened

…And Justice for All – Acoustic guitar introduction before extremely heavy guitars enter the mix. From this point on the song vacillates between these two extremes. An almost prog feel to this song. Hetfield is again barking his vocals and there is more weight to the drum sound. The band started to think this song was too long almost immediately after the record was released, but I love every second of it. Key lyrics:

Lady Justice Has Been Raped
Truth Assassin
Rolls of Red Tape Seal Your Lips
Now You’re Done in
Their Money Tips Her Scales Again
Make Your Deal
Just What Is Truth? I Cannot Tell
Cannot Feel

Eye of the Beholder – Guitars mimicking a march of some sort with a slow fade in. Dark vibes permeate the atmosphere. Thrashy and yet melodic. The guitars sound positively menacing. Passionate vocals, nothing short of inspired. This track is all about your liberties slowly being taken away – can’t say that it is any less relevant in today’s day and age. The atmosphere gets even bleaker with the guitar solos that start with just about 2 minutes left. Key lyrics:

Do You See What I See?
Truth Is an Offense
You Silence for Your Confidence
Do You Hear What I Hear?
Doors Are Slamming Shut
Limit Your Imagination, Keep You Where They must

One – The song that sparked cries of “Sellout” when the album came out. It sounds just as perfect in 2012 as the day it came out in 1988. About the horrors of what soldiers who have served their countries can go through in the aftermath of war. The song slowly builds from a bluesy acoustic jam into a full on thrash metal anthem. The video (embedded at the bottom of this article) is an absolute classic. Key lyrics:

I Can’t Remember Anything
Can’t Tell If this Is True or Dream
Deep down Inside I Feel to Scream
this Terrible Silence Stops Me
Now That the War Is Through with Me
I’m Waking up I Can Not See
That There’s Not Much Left of Me
Nothing Is Real but Pain Now

The Shortest Straw – Militant guitars enter the mix before the band settles into a classic metal groove. Guitars fade away into a repetitive wail with Hetfield singing / shouting the lyrics. Slightly generic until the song hits the eerie (and catchy) chorus. Key lyrics:

Shortest Straw
Challenge Liberty
Downed by Law
Live in Infamy
Rub You Raw

Harvester of Sorrow – A song that is one of the few that has been a staple in concert by Metallica, it is a sludge metal jam, with slower thrash guitars and a chorus that rides that same sound. The guitar solo is exceptional and adds some variety to the sound of the song. Key lyrics:

Trapped Far Beyond My Fate
I Give
You Take
This Life That I Forsake
Been Cheated of My Youth
You Turned this Lie to Truth

The Frayed Ends of Sanity – An introduction that sounds like something from the movie The Wizard of Oz? Strange, but true. The song then segues into a slightly faster thrash groove. Impassioned vocals in tandem with the guitars so high in the mix – perfection. These lesser known Metallica tracks are sometimes the gems of the catalog. Key lyrics:

Never Hunger
Never Prosper
I Have Fallen Prey to Failure
Struggle Within
Triggered Again

To Live is to Die – The introduction is acoustic guitar perfection, sounding like something from a Yngwie Malmsteen record – proving that Kirk Hammett is simply in a world of his own. Black Sabbath like guitars overtake the song a minute or so in, which then gives us a mostly instrumental band work out. The lyrics were written by original Metallica bassist Cliff Burton (RIP). Key lyrics:

All this I Cannot Bear
to Witness Any Longer
Cannot the Kingdom of Salvation
Take Me Home

Dyers Eve – Speed metal at its finest, with the lyrics about a child confused by the evils of the world when separated from the ones who raised him (as far as I can tell). Surprisingly, the band did not play this song live until 2004, almost 16 years after recording it. The guitar solo takes the song to another level, an amazing fast and noisy track from Metallica. An amazing closing track, one of the strongest on the record. Key lyrics:

Innocence
Torn from Me Without Your Shelter
Barred Reality
I’m Living Blindly
I’m in Hell Without You
Cannot Cope Without You Two
Shocked at the World That I See
Innocent Victim Please Rescue Me

It is a tribute to the dedicated fans of Metallica that their records are so hotly debated. Full disclosure – I like just about anything Metallica has released, including 2003’s much loathed St. Anger. I think the band is one of the few bands that can blend mainstream appeal, stunning musicianship, and intelligent lyrics. …And Justice For All sounds just a little different from anything else in the bands discography and is the one I return to the most. If you don’t have a copy, I highly recommend you give it a chance. Join me next week as I talk about Dido’s No Angel.

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2 responses »

  1. liv4music says:

    On the inside of my high school class ring, instead of the usual signature inscription, I had inscribed, “Metallica Rules.” I always wondered if I would end up regretting it. It’s been almost 10 years, and I am more confident in my bizarre decision than ever.

    Needless to say, I am quite a Metallica fan.

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