The holy trinity of metal is Metallica, Slayer and Anthrax. Much like prog, this genre pretty much sprang out of nowhere in a clear format. Those three groups simultaneously advanced the musical style in the early 80s, turning up the aggression and speed of hard rock and whipping it into the frenzy known as thrash. But Metallica will forever be the most famous and melodic of the three. Their strongly cynical, macabre worldview and sexless, agoraphobic lyrics provided the blueprints for basically every hard rock subgenre to come, while their highly technical playing style blew away their British contemporaries (Iron Maiden and the like).
Though it’s too monotonous and doomy for its own good, this record remains a solid mission statement for the band: dark portents, psychological and physical suffering, and depression are their clear lyrical influences. The music is fittingly sharp, brutal clattering with blistering solos and the occasional acoustic interlude for pathos. Though fans would dismiss the radio-ready production of their fifth, self-titled album, Metallica was never afraid to show a softer, more unguarded side (represented here by “Fade To Black”).
Despite their clumsily over-the-top negativity and sometimes clownish evil posturing, they could occasionally dabble in more complex conceptualism and psychological penetration. Furthermore, although the genre is typified by James Hetfield’s gruff bellowing, Kirk Hammett’s chugging guitar, and Lars Ulrich’s ostentatious drumming, the band doesn’t get enough credit for creating structurally complex, densely packed tunes. Groups following in their wake would take that aesthetic to comical extremes, but Ride the Lightning is a more or less adequate (and completely rocking) record.
Key track: “Ride the Lightning”
See also: Master Of Puppets – Metallica (1986), Metallica (The Black Album) – Metallica (1991), Death Magnetic – Metallica (2008)