Metallica: ...And justice for all
19/02/10 || Smalley
Ever since K unfortunately deleted a bunch of our Class6 reviews, Global Domination has found itself without a write-up for “…And justice for all”, and I just can’t let that stand, so here I am to review this landmark album. Oh, don’t assume the regular format means I don’t think “justice” is a classic, nothing could be further from the truth; if I made a top 5 of my favorite metal albums, this would be on it, and I consider it to be slightly (only slightly) below “Master of puppets”. Sadly, I feel the strong focus Metallica brought to this one was a result of their tragic loss of bassist Cliff Burton, which would also affect the album in another, more tangible way, but I think he’d be happy with what his band mates achieved after his passing, and since this is the last truly great Metallica album, it serves as an excellent musical eulogy for Burton and the good Metallica we knew and loved.
After a sweet guitar solo from Kirk fades in on “Blackened”, Hetfield’s roughly-produced, urgent riffing kicks in, as do his outraged vocals, and while “justice” isn’t his finest hour vocally, it is his first good performance, having just been adequate on “puppets”, and rather weak on the previous two albums. In addition to that, Lars actually does a nicely energetic job of drumming here, for the first (and probably last) time in his life; granted, he’s still no Lombardo, and his drums do sound awfully dry, but hopefully, you’ll get used to that. Anyway, from the overall intensity and fury of “Blackened”, it’s obvious that Cliff’s death left the band with a lot of rage to get off their chests, and they do so superbly for almost the entirety of the album; catharsis therapy never sounded so good.
From there, the epic, supremely pissed-off title track is the purest expression of the overarching theme of injustice here (again, almost certainly inspired by Cliff’s death), then “Eye of the beholder” ensures that “justice” is doing nothing but get better as it goes along, with a cool, “drowned voice” effect for Hetfield, excellent soloing from Kirk, and great, strength-through-repetition lyrics: “Do you see what I see?/Truth is an offense/You’re silenced for your confidence/Do you hear what I hear?/Doors are slamming shut/Limit your imagination, keep you where they must”.
Then… “One”. It’s just amazing the way this song stays calm and sorrowful for the first 3 1/2 minutes, intermittently letting off steam with quick bursts of heavy riffing, before finally building up to an all-out shred fest for the final three minutes, with pummeling, stop-start riffs from Hetfield that don’t let you headbang, they make you. Regardless of if the music video for “One” is where Metallica started to sell out, they couldn’t have picked a better song to make one for, since, “One” is not only my favorite Metallica song, but currently, my favorite song, period. If you haven’t heard it yet, then son, your life just ain’t complete.
Unfortunately, we’re now in the mid-section of “justice”, where, while the songs are still great, they are a touch similar, making this part of the record drag a bit. Still, plenty of great stuff to be heard here, from the relentless tempo, intense soloing, and excellent chorus of “The shortest straw”, to the crushing darkness of “Harvester of sorrow”, to the inspired lift from The Wizard Of Oz that opens up “The frayed ends of sanity”, a song that truly makes you feel like you’re hearing the frenzied, desperate thoughts of a man slowly going insane.
The mostly instrumental “To live is to die” starts off the final section of “justice”, coming in with serene, soothing acoustic guitar, soon to be replaced by heavy, lumbering riffage, which is itself eventually replaced by clean guitar work and lilting orchestra strings(!!!). The heavy riffing soon starts up again with more energy, and Hetfield speaks the only lyrics of the song, a 5-line poem written by Cliff. I won’t post it here, since, if you haven’t heard “To live” yet, I feel I’d be spoiling the listen, and would prefer if you just experienced it for yourself. Finally, the song finishes up with that opening acoustic guitar line coming back in, only to be abruptly cut off at the end, just as Cliff’s life was cut off so abruptly.
Now, that would’ve been a good note to end “justice” on, not quite the best track here, but still very good, but Metallica had to go and record “Dyer’s eve”, a whiny tantrum-fest about how shitty and unfit James’s parents were. Regrettably, it keeps “justice” from being a good album all-around, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s the song that lead to the nu-metal movement, so a big blech for it.
Besides that though, “…And justice for all” has the most powerful, expressive songwriting of Metallica’s career, maybe not as entertaining as the songwriting on “Puppets”, but still incredible regardless. And alright, so maybe the other guys were hazing newcomer Jason at the time, and you can barely hear his bass here, but so what? Bass schmass, this ain’t a jazz album, it’s metal, so suck it up ‘cause it’s no big deal. You’ll get used to the production oddities eventually, and won’t mind some non-audible bass or a dry drum/guitar sound, especially not with these songs, and though this gets more detractors than anything else in Metallica’s classic 80’s trilogy, I’ll always treasure it, and hope this review was a defense worthy of an album that I love to fucken death.
Oh, and Lumberjack? You suck.
- Released: 1988
- Label: Elektra
- Website: www.metallica.com
- James Hetfield: guitar, vocals
- Kirk Hammett: lead guitar
- Jason Newsted: bass
- Lars Ulrich: drums
- 01. Blackened
- 02. …And Justice for All
- 03. Eye of the Beholder
- 04. One
- 05. The Shortest Straw
- 06. Harvester Of Sorrow
- 07. The Frayed Ends Of Sanity
- 08. To Live Is To Die
- 09. Dyers Eve