At the end of 2010, Metallica's "Black Album" remains the top-selling CD since SoundScan began compiling sales numbers in 1991, barely edging out Shania Twain's "Come On Over" and Alanis Morissette's "Jagged Little Pill." While the Black Album is a solid album, it made me look back at the band's whole catalog, and decide which album I would choose if I could only buy one of their releases. I finally determined that without a doubt, I would go with Master of Puppets.
Why Master of Puppets is Metallica's Best Album:
The album begins with "Battery," a classic played with blistering speed and intensity. The acoustic intro leading into a fast and furious riff is a common theme in today's thrash and heavy metal music, but at the time was a fairly progressive idea. While "Fade to Black" on Ride the Lightning was probably one of the first popular metal songs to use the acoustic intro, it was more of a ballad than a straight-up moshing tune like "Battery." Battery is thrash metal at its core.
Another standout in an album where nearly every track has become a classic is the title track. "Master of Puppets" is the blueprint that thrash bands have followed for the last 20-odd years and is responsible for exposing hordes of radio listeners to the genre. To this day, "Master" is one of the fastest, heaviest tracks you'll hear on rock radio stations, and was the song that convinced me to explore heavier music and deviate from the Nu-Metal and "active rock" that I had been listening to in high school. The track is not only masterfully arranged and written, but also is one of Metallica's most meaningful tracks lyrically. It was written about former Metallica guitarist and Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine and his various drug addictions when he was with the band. The song is sung from the perspective of the drugs, an interesting take on an old rock and roll stereotype. "Taste me and you will see / more is all you need / you're dedicated to / how I'm killing you." It's also a staple of their live show, and you get to yell MASTER at the top of your lungs like 40 times, which is very cool when 20,000 other people are doing the same.
|Metallica circa 1986|
I do believe Metallica will be remembered as one of the most successful bands of the 20th (and 21st?) century, and Master of Puppets has a lot to do with that. As Metallica's "breakout" album, it exposed an entire generation to the thrash metal music that had, until that point, been largely an underground phenomenon. There isn't a single bad song on the album, and the best tracks are legendary. Say what you want about their other tunes, but to most fans, "Master of Puppets" is Metallica's defining song, and in the opinion of yours truly, it's the title track on their best album.
Be sure to check back soon for a different take from Matt.