Album: "Ride the Lightning" vs "Master of Puppets"
Style: Thrash metal/heavy metal
Release date: 1984-07-27 and 1986-02-21
2. Ride the Lightning 2. Master of Puppets
3. For Whom the Bells Tolls 3. The Thing That Should Not Be
4. Fade to Black 4. Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
5. Trapped Under Ice 5. Disposable Heroes
6. Escape 6. Leper Messiah
7. Creeping Death 7. Damage Inc.
8. The Call of Ktulu 8. Orion
Today, I will be doing a bit of a different Monument-section. You see, I wanted to write something on Metallica and thought whether I should choose Lightning or Puppets as a Monument. But it seemed so dull and predictable and that's when I realized I could compare the two instead. After all, why shouldn't I? Both records have 8 songs and the track order is also very similar to each other. Astute readers may already noticed that I've switched places between "Damage Inc." and "Orion" and the reason for that is obviously that I want to compare as similar songs as possible. Seeing that "Orion" and "The Call of Ktulu" are the instrumental ones this only seemed natural. On a sidenote, I've always felt that "Damage Inc." and "Orion" should have switched places when it was time to release Puppets. Oh, well...
The band that everyone seems to love to hate these days (at least if you're a devout follower of Blabbermouth as I am) was once a universally acclaimed band that could do no wrong. It is difficult to comprehend in this day and age, but there was a time before "St.Anger", "Lulu", failed movie projects and dreadful symphonies when Metallica more or less ruled the metal-universe. And before that, the band was a bunch of teenagers that tried to play as fast as possible which they showed with their debut album "Kill 'Em All" (1983). After that followed what most people seem to hail as the band's best albums; "Ride the Lightning" in 1984 and "Master of Puppets" in 1986. And it seems that the most common belief is that the crowning masterpiece of the band's career is the latter album. I am here to uncover why that is and whether I agree or not.
So without further ado, I say let the unholy battle commence!
The covers wont be included in the final score, because that would be unfair as fuck if you know what I mean. They're both kinda similar and one doesn't need to be Einstein to understand that they were made in the 80's. Both covers fits it's respective title and overall feel of the album so they're both equally good. But there's really nothing that sticks out and neither had any big impact on me as a kid. In other words - quite the opposite when compared to anything by Iron Maiden during the same era.
1. Fight Fire with Fire vs Battery
Fast opening tracks, both beginning with acoustic guitars. If we I we're to rate them on the intro alone, "Battery" would easily win. It also the most "epic" of the two tracks whereas "Fight Fire with Fire" is more straight-forward and to the point. As an opener "Fight Fire with Fire" wins for me with it's raw fury. Also, I've never understood what is so good with "Battery"? Sure, the riffing is okay but the verses become tedious so fast with what James almost sounding like he's singing a nursery-rhyme. I fucking hate that. In my opinion, "Battery" is one of the most overrated songs in the band's discography and it has nothing to compete with if we're talking the third counterpart-song that is "Blackened". Also, there's no doubt that "We all shall die!" lyrically beats "Cannot kill the family, battery is found in me" by a mile or so.
Fight Fire with Fire
2. Ride the Lightning vs Master of Puppets
In my opinion, one of the best songs that Metallica has ever done is "Master of Puppets". It is an epic track with lots of twists and turns, amazing verses and an equally effective chorus. The interlude is also well written and it never feels as long as it actually is. The song "Ride the Lightning" has absolutely nothing to compete with when up against this monster. The '84 title track has one of the dullest choruses Metallica has ever written and when I listen to the song right now, I only really like the bridge-part where James screams "Someone help me..." etc. Easy win.
Master of Puppets
3. For Whom the Bell Tolls vs The Thing That Should Not Be
"For Whom the Bell Tolls" is the bass-driven monster of a song that made Clifford Lee Burton a well-known name in metal-circles. It is a mid-tempo beast that features some genuinely good songwriting, great vocals from James and bone-chilling lyrics about a man facing his death.
"The Thing That Should Not Be" is also a mid-tempo song and the lyrics are quite cool I guess since they're from H.P. Lovecraft. But that's where the comparisons ends. The latter song is so damn dull it makes it's 6:37 minutes seem like an eternity. Heavy? Yes, slightly but that doesen't help when the verses go nowhere and the chorus makes me yawn. Somewhere in the song, there are traces of what could've really been a great song but to be honest, the entire thing just feels like lazy songwriting compared to so much else we've heard with Metallica. They would do a similar thing two years later with the dreadfully boring "Eye of the Beholder".
For Whom the Bell Tolls
4. Fade to Black vs Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
This is actually the first song-battle where things become really difficult. Both songs are semi-ballads with lots of acoustic guitars and mellow verses. "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" has a chorus that is slowly being built up to and then goes all heavy. "Fade to Black" lacks a proper chorus but has a part that almost could be a chorus that also have slowly been built up to prior. I can't help but feel that "Fade to Black" feels a bit more "epic" even though they're quite similar in length and let's not forget the amazing ending to "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" starting from the part where James sings "Fear of living on...". That part alone is fucking amazing!
All in all, both songs are great and even though they're similar to one another they manage to be different as well. If I was forced to choose - which I am right now - I'll go with "Fade to Black" since it is amazing from start to finish, whereas the other one is just "great" from beginning to middle - then it becomes amazing.
So far, it's 3-1 for the '84-record and things look grim for "Master of Puppets".
Fade to Black
5. Trapped Under Ice vs Disposable Heroes
Ouch, this is another difficult one. "Trapped Under Ice" is a thrash-metal anthem on it's own merits and even though I hate the guitar-solo in the beginning, the verses are ace, the chorus is stellar, the bridge is great and Lars' drumming is some of the best during his entire career. On the other side of the fence we have "Disposable Heroes", a song that is twice as long, much more epic, more twists and turns and arguably more interesting lyrics. If I had a hard time choosing a winner in battle #4 - it is nothing compared to what I had this time. Ultimately, the victory goes to "Disposable Heroes", but it is by the slightest margin.
6. Escape vs Leper Messiah
Once more a tough battle ahead. This time it's due to the fact that we are arguably dealing with the least good songs on each album. Everyone knows Metallica wrote "Escape" as a potential radio-hit but nothing ever became of it. The song is sort of fast mid-tempo I guess which sounds weird but actually makes sense if you listen to it. There is nothing wrong with the verses whatsoever and I like the pacing. The chorus is a bit cringe-worthy though and I totally get why this song recieves so little love from both fans and the band. But the part with "See them try to bring the hammer down..." is cool as fuck!
On the other hand, "Leper Messiah" has no excuses as it wasn't written to please a wider audience. It is not a very exciting song but it isn't bad either. It's a cool mid-tempo verse with a boring pre-chorus and a chorus that is ok. And as usual, the song really picks up a lot when it's time for the bridge. It's weird that I find so many Metallica-songs that I consider quite "weak" have so many damn good bridges which just makes the hair on my arms stand straight up. Both songs are ok - nothing more, nothing less - but it would be fault by default if I didn't give the victory to "Leper Messiah".
7. Creeping Death vs Damage Inc.
Let's just get it over with ok? "Damage Inc." is a good song. A fast thrasher that has nothing to be ashamed for. It's lyrics might not be the best penned down by Hetfield but who cares when a song is this good! BUT... "Creeping Death" is the best song ever written by Metallica. Period. Amazing verses, amazing choruses and perhaps the best bridge I've ever heard in my life. End of story.
8. The Call of Ktulu vs Orion
So, we're at the final battle and the two instrumental songs. The score is 4-3 to "Ride the Lightning" so "Orion" really has to win this if "Master of Puppets" shall remain the undisputed king. The tension is thicker than fog. Or not. Here we go
I rarely enjoy instrumental tracks whatsoever. The only two exceptions are tracks I've already ranted lots about on this blog earlier - namely "Perverse...Almost Religious" by Moonspell and "La Masquerade Infernale" by Arcturus. Both are short tracks, leaning heavy on keyboards and atmosphere alone. Both these Metallica-songs are long, droning tracks over 8 minutes each with just guitars, bass and drums. This cannot end well...
"The Call of Ktulu". It has a nice build-up and when the song goes heavy it's still sounding damn good! Then, nothing happens... After 2½ minutes I am already a bit bored and we still have more than 6 minutes to go. Kirk tries to do some fancy wah-wah stuff and Cliff also does what he can with his bass-wizardry but when the rythm goes on and on the same way for fucking forever - what little salvage is there left? The guitar solo in the middle of the song doesen't help either - I just want it to end.
"Orion" begins spooky as hell and I like that creeping feeling it evokes. When the heavy guitars begins, it sounds just like a verse to a regular song - such a shame that there are no vocals present. When something finally changes (after way too long) it is cool as fuck and I find myself nodding my head along to the music. Wouldn't you know it? Here comes Hammett with another boring guitar solo that tries to hide the fact that we've heard the same boring chugga-chugga verse from James for an eternity. Compared to "The Call of Ktulu" this one changes completely somewhere in the middle of the song and even though it's not the best thing I've heard from this band it is refreshing just to hear something new. But what in the holy hell are the lead guitars doing at 05.15!?? It sounds like Kirk is playing a lullaby or something. It is completely wrong for the song and just feels like he's playing what he's feeling at the moment. More soloing and more chugga-chugga. Sigh...
I am having a really hard time to pick a winner for this final battle and it's dissapointing that I had to end with the most boring parts from each records. Oh, well. After much consideration "The Call of Ktulu" somewhat unexpectedly wins. At least it is consistent and fits the album, unlike "Orion".
The Call of Ktulu
Ride the Lightning 5 - 3 Master of Puppets
And that means that "Ride the Lightning" is our winner. When I first started to write at the top of this blog-post, I was certain that this would be case. Then I started writing and the score became 4-4 as I thought "Orion" would win easily over "The Call of Ktulu" which wasn't the case at all (I hadn't heard either song in a long time mind you). On a sidenote, I find "To Live is to Die" to be Metallica's strongest instrumental track. Also, I first had "Trapped Under Ice" as a victor over "Disposable Heroes" but when I re-visited the latter song I realized how much stronger it is.
However, it was extremely tight between the two albums and I think they're both Monuments and worthy of their places in metal history. As I mentioned in the beginning, both albums are very similar but I get why "Master of Puppets" is hailed as the better of the two. Hetfield's vocals are stronger, all the instruments are tighter, the songs are more complex and the production is vastly superior. But sometimes I feel like the complexity goes too far (hello "Orion"!) and I love the simplicity of "Fight Fire With Fire". Furthermore, I like the crudeness of Hetfield's voice on "Ride the Lightning", I like how the playing sometimes isn't top notch (though mostly it is) and I find the slightly "colder" production fits the album like a glove. But above all, it has so many good moments on so many songs. If I were to pick stand-out moments on each album (I wont though, since we would be here all day) - I am certain that "Ride the Lightning" would win easily. For me that is. You're free to think that "Master of Puppets" is the better of the two. But you're wrong.
Eyes of glass stare directly at death
From deep sleep I have broken away
No one knows, no one hears what I say"