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… And Justice For All

Vertigo (1988)
Rating: 10/10

Two and a half years since the release of their platinum-selling (in the States, at least) Master Of Puppets LP, the boys in Metallica have finally unleashed its follow-up and what a monster it is!!

As was the case with all their previous outings, Metallica once again prove to be the undisputed leaders of the new metal movement, completely pissing on the likes of Anthrax, Overkill, Testament and Exodus while surpassing even Slayer in terms of sheer heaviness and raw brutality.

Clocking in at just over 65 minutes, …And Justice For All can rightly be referred to as Metallica’s finest hour to date as well as one of the heaviest records ever. Granted, there are no real surprises here in terms of the band going out on a limb and trying out ideas that haven’t, at one point or another, touched upon on their previous efforts, but even so, the group have never sounded as strong and together as they did on this particular piece on vinyl, and they certainly don’t seem to be showing any signs of slowing down.

Anyway, there are nine tracks on offer, so let’s proceed with a track-by-track run-down:

1. ‘Blackened’: Energetic, uptempo opener that takes a sharp turn about halfway through the song and continues in slow, grinding fashion before returning to its original pace towards the end of the song. It’s a little more involved than Metallica’s previous openers, but it retains that classic Metallica feel without getting too complex for its own need.

2. ‘…And Justice For All’: After a brief acoustic intro, the boys rip into this ten-minute epic that features some interesting time changes and a killer chorus which is sure to go down a storm live. As on the rest of the album, James Hetfield’s vocals are simply brilliant on this one, particularly as he switches from his regular singing style to near-growls during the chorus. Good job, Jim!

3. ‘Eye Of The Beholder’: Another uppety-tempo, epic-like track that contains some brutal riffing as well as a very strong chorus which sticks in your mind upon the very first listen. Not my personal favourite, but a rocking cut nevertheless.

4. ‘One’: After starting out as a semi happy-sounding ballad, this one turns into a brutal barrage of death, with crunching, galloping riffs bursting out of the speakers one after another in completely annihilating fashion. This song is definitely the most build-up sort of track on the whole album.

5. ‘The Shortest Straw’: A brutal, uptempo cruncher that will surely go down as one of Metallica’s best. Typical Bay Area-type galloping riffing and an excellent chorus make this one of my personal faves.

6. ‘Harvester Of Sorrow’: Like ‘The Shortest Straw’ this is a very heavy, straightforward sort of song, although ‘Harvester Of Sorrow’ is a bit more controlled and grinding than its predecessor. It’s not as involved as some of the other tracks on the album, but it’s certainly no less effective.

7. ‘The Frayed Ends Of Sanity’: One of the less-instant tracks on the LP, this one is uppety-tempo with lots of super-heavy riffing and some cool vocal lines. I wouldn’t say that it’s one of the best songs on the album, but it’s one that’s definitely grown on me after repeated listenings.

8. ‘To Live Is To Die’: A ten-minute instrumental that doesn’t even sound half that long due to its very flowing structure and some excellent old Black Sabbath-like riffing. Although the band deny it, this sounds very much like Metallica’s tribute to the great late Cliff Burton, especially as it contains some riffs written by the man before his death two years ago. Possibly Metallica’s best instrumental yet.

9. ‘Dyers Eve’: The best way to describe this song would be this album’s answer to Master Of Puppets’ ‘Damage Inc.’. By far the fastest track on the record, this song features some super-fast double-bass drumming from Lars Ulrich and immensely intense, face-ripping riffing from James Hetfield. Great lyrics, too!

As usual, the production is first-rate (a bit “drier” than that of Master Of Puppets, but quite appropriate nevertheless), and the playing standard has only gotten better, all of which adds up to make this as close to a perfect album as I have ever heard.

As if I really need to say it, …And Justice For All is guaranteed to be worshipped by every Metallica fan all across the globe.

Borivoj Krgin

Review taken from Metal Forces, Issue 31 (1988)