Trouser Press
Back to: HomeReviewsWhat's New
 New Topic  |  Go to Top  |  Go to Topic  |  Search  |  Log In   Newer Topic  |  Older Topic 
 Metallica's MASTER OF PUPPETS reissue
Author: steevee 
Date:   11-12-17 14:50

Metallica's MASTER OF PUPPETS was the first heavy metal album I ever liked, and it came out at a time when I listened to nothing but punk, proto-punk and what would now be called indie rock. It really opened my ears to the genre, in large part because it was obviously influenced by hardcore punk. At the time, it seemed quite radical, and radio - even college radio! - reacted in kind, giving the album no airplay. The band didn't bother making a video, and listening to the album now, it's hard to figure out what song could make a potential hit single because the shortest one runs slightly over five minutes. While mellower than Venom's first two albums or even 1986's other thrash masterpiece, Slayer's REIGN IN BLOOD, it sounds like something much greater than its combination of influences from hardcore and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. There's a big touch of prog here as well, from the way the title track keeps building and falling in volume to the lengthy instrumental, complete with brief synthesizer intro, "Orion." The album is actually quite varied - "Battery" and "Damage Inc." are straight-up thrash (both are basically celebrations of the band itself and the power of their music), while "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" comes close to being a power ballad, albeit one that never could've become a hit in 1986. The album avoids all the cliches of both the hair metal of the time and the extreme metal it would influence: there's zero sexism, no shout-outs to Satan (although those can be entertaining), and the brief uses of violent imagery are purposeful. And lyrically, it's as on-target a portrait of the Reagan years as any punk album of its time, chronicling the hypocrisy of the religious right, rampant cocaine abuse, soldiers left to rot while the government sings their praises in theory, and health institutions that turn out to be really oppressive. (Plus a shout-out to Cthulhu!) The guitar solos avoid the kind of 16th-note shredding that can so easily turn into "I'm so technically proficient" wanking. The new reissue comes with a disc of demos and a live album recorded on the MASTER OF PUPPETS tour. The live album is a pretty good summary of the band's best material up to that point, and the guitar playing is sometimes rawer than they ever got in the studio. The demos are not revelatory, encompassing near-complete versions of MASTER OF PUPPETS songs and instrumental versions recorded when James Hatfield hadn't written the lyrics yet, but they're interesting to hear and more listenable than the demos on the AUTOMATIC FOR THE PEOPLE reissue. And they include one completely unreleased song, a cover by the punk band Fang. I like Metallica through the black album, although I know a lot of fans of their early music bail either after this album (and bassist Cliff Burton's death, which changed their sound) or the follow-up AND JUSTICE FOR ALL, which first brought them to the mainstream. But they seemed completely baffled what to do next when they suddenly became the biggest rock band in the world at the exact moment grunge made heavy metal unfashionable, and they have never fully recovered.

Reply To This Message
 Re: Metallica's MASTER OF PUPPETS reissue
Author: mats84 
Date:   11-12-17 16:26

Sounds interesting, I'd give this a listen because I'm familiar with the album and I'd have to see how it holds up.

I've always had a strange relationship with heavy metal in that the only bands associated with the genre that I've ever like have been more "pre-metal" - a little Thin Lizzy and Sabbath and a whole lot of Motorhead.......

Then there was a period where in the circle I hung with some people liked Metallica and Megadeth and it wasn't the same for me as Motorhead but I could tolerate it........I guess it's like liking Aerosmith and feeling a little behind the times when Guns and Roses were out. It's the same but not identical.......

I would be much more comfortable with my beloved golden-era Motorhead (Fast Eddie lineup) but I did like it from time to time and didn't mind it certainly - I like that line in Damage Inc "never happy endings on these dark sets"..........after that I never really got into metal because I thought it was the lesser version of Punk - like Mission of Burma and Husker Du had a force that was the same but a smarts that was entirely different although I don't think Metallica and Megadeth were dumb bands at all in that Ride the Lightning/Master of Puppets/Peace Sells era either.

It's a strange connection/disconnection the line between what we think of as "Trouser Press" bands and bands that we'd maybe call unhip or something. A lot of this is different now where kids can like a lot of bands and it's all my experience when you only had 10 bucks to buy an album and you could only buy one - then you drew clear lines in the sand - but Metallica themselves probably had the same broad taste as kids today do and Guns N Roses also for that matter............Metallica's ascension to pop superstardom in a lot of ways is like U2 or REM ........on their own terms, creating and expanding their fanbase, people came to them rather than vice versa.

Post Edited (11-12-17 16:32)

Reply To This Message
 Re: Metallica's MASTER OF PUPPETS reissue
Author: steevee 
Date:   11-13-17 09:40

Well, MASTER OF PUPPETS got the top 40 on the Billboard top 200 in 1986 and went gold with no airplay and without the band making a video. I think they had just accumulated a certain amount of popularity by touring relentlessly and through word of mouth. Their music at the time was also accessible both to metal heads and people outside that scene who were not pop fans. When AND JUSTICE FOR ALL came out two years later, it made the Billboard top 10 and, I think, went double platinum, but still, they couldn't get radio stations to play "One," even though it now sounds totally melodic compared to all the awful nü-metal that did get airplay later. It sold really well as a single but barely scraped the top 40. With the black album, they did make a deliberate attempt to shorten their songs and stopped writing politically conscious lyrics in favor of love songs and, honestly, some really stupid shit, like "Of Wolf and Man." I still think songs like "Enter Sandman" and "The Unforgiven" hold up fairly well, and in retrospect, they were writing ballads as early as "Fade to Black" on RIDE THE LIGHTNING. Have you seen the documentary METALLICA: SOME KIND OF MONSTER? It makes it clear that around the time the band was writing songs for ST. ANGER, they had no clue what they were doing and were only still together for the money, and I think that's true of almost everything they've done since the black album. Their double album of covers is the only thing I really enjoy from that period, and it shows that they did have broad taste and like Killing Joke and Nick Cave as much as Diamond Head and other New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands.

Reply To This Message
 Re: Metallica's MASTER OF PUPPETS reissue
Author: Michael Toland 
Date:   11-13-17 10:00

"But they seemed completely baffled what to do next when they suddenly became the biggest rock band in the world at the exact moment grunge made heavy metal unfashionable, and they have never recovered."

A fair assessment. They were all over the place for years.

I saw them a couple of years ago at the X-Games. With the exceptions of "Fuel" (apparently their permanent opener now), "Enter Sandman" and "One," every song was from the first three albums. Clearly a statement. The band looked like they were having a blast playing the songs, too. Outside of subpar sound (the fault of the venue, not the band), it was a terrific show.

They carried that spirit into the next studio album Self Destruct, with mixed results. (If you're curious, I covered it here.) Master will forever be their masterpiece, I think.

Reply To This Message
 Re: Metallica's MASTER OF PUPPETS reissue
Author: steevee 
Date:   11-13-17 10:51

I think HARDWIRED...TO SELF DESTRUCT is a double album, and I liked about 25 minutes of it. Slayer - or even Testament - have done a much better job of aging gracefully within metal.

I have a funny story about MASTER OF PUPPETS. In the '90s, a friend of mine worked at a record store where a 12-year-old wanted to buy a copy of it. His paranoid Christian mom looked at the artwork and song titles and asked "Is the master of puppets Satan?" My friend said "No, actually 'Master of Puppets' is an anti-drug song."

Reply To This Message
 Re: Metallica's MASTER OF PUPPETS reissue
Author: Delvin 
Date:   11-13-17 11:13

Having seen Metallica four times, I can say they definitely delivered the goods.

I first saw them opening for Ozzy, supporting Ride the Lightning. At the time, a lot of Ozzy's audience seemed to find Metallica a bit too intense, even radical. But to someone who'd heard and enjoyed plenty of punk rock, it worked perfectly.

By the next couple of times I saw them, they'd reached that wider audience, radio play or not. The show that sticks in my mind, always, is their 1989 show at Red Rocks. It stands out not so much for the headliner, but for the way the audience abused their opening act, The Cult. Having seen The Cult three times, I considered them one of the best live bands of their time. And they lived up to that, in front of Metallica's audience; the crowd was rockin' along to their music. But song after song, as soon as The Cult stopped playing, the crowd suddenly seemed to remember that they weren't Metallica, and began booing and throwing trash.

It's been 25 years since I last saw Metallica, or wanted to. To me, they peaked with the black album -- good tight songwriting, intense sound quality, no compromise of musicianship as far as I was concerned. Load had a lot of good songs, but Reload sounded like just what its title implied: a disc of leftovers. The Garage Inc. covers collection was cool, but nothing else they've done has gotten my interest up.

Reply To This Message
 Threaded View   Newer Topic  |  Older Topic 

 Need a Login? Register Here 
 User Login
 User Name:
 Remember my login:
 Forgot Your Password?
Enter your email address or user name below and a new password will be sent to the email address associated with your profile.