Metallica brought their fusion of progressive thrash metal into the mainstream with the double LP …And Justice for All in 1988. The album was nominated for a Grammy and has been certified eight times platinum, selling eight million copies in the United States alone. The band’s fourth album overall, …And Justice for All, was the first to feature bassist Jason Newsted after former bassist Cliff Burton lost his life in a tour bus accident in 1986. The album was the first of a lucrative record deal and was intended to be released in 1987. However, Metallica was offered several lucrative festival dates that summer, which ultimately delayed the album’s release for another year.
Co-produced by Flemming Rasmussen, the album is noted for a rather sterile production. Newsted’s bass guitar is all but omitted from most mixes, which were actually engineered by guitarist/vocalist James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich. Rasmussen did work on adjusting the overall guitar sound of Hetfield and lead guitarist Kirk Hammet, using layered techniques to achieve a harmonized sound which contrasted the thumping rhythms and riffs of the core.
The album gained near universal critical acclaim, especially within the progressive metal community. The dark lyrics drawn from subjects of struggle and strife, giving …And Justice for All a conceptual uniformity around notions of political and legal injustice. The tracks on the album were much longer in length than previous Metallica material, which actually caused much of the material to be dropped from future live shows due to their length and complexity.
…And Justice for All by Metallica
|Released: September 6, 1988 (Elecktra)
Produced by: Flemming Rasmussen & Metallica
Recorded: One On One Recording Studios, Los Angeles, January–May 1988
|Side One||Side Two|
…And Justice for All
|Eye of the Beholder
|Side Three||Side Four|
|The Shortest Straw
Harvester of Sorrow
The Frayed Ends of Sanity
|To Live Is to Die
|James Hetfield – Lead Vocals, Guitars | Kirk Hammet – Lead Guitars
Jason Newsted – Bass | Lars Ulrich – Drums
A chorus of guitars swells to introduce “Blackened”, which treats the listener to a spectrum of rudiments and sudden stops to change into the song’s differing sections. Hammet provides a good guitar lead on both sides of a divide while Newsted receives composition credit on a track where he cannot be heard. The title song “…And Justice for All” follows with a gentle guitar intro, sounding Randy Rhoads inspired with some overdubs. Soon the group fires off into the main thrash metal riff sequence and works through the long and complex arrangement which includes Hammet’s two distinct sounding different guitar leads. Hetfield took the title from the last four words of the Pledge of Allegiance and uses the lyric as an ironic reflection on social injustice. “Eye of the Beholder” rolls in like a marching army, with the verse sounding a bit like some of the group’s future 1990s material.
“One” is the song that really put Metallica on the mainstream map. The simple and light intro and verses are fresh with plenty of guitar overdubs and melodic vocals, all leading to the standard but powerful metal riff during the song’s final sequence. The song became Metallica’s first Top 40 hit despite the fact that it received virtually no airplay of pop radio. However, the band did shoot a promotional MTV video (for the first time ever) which integrated some footage and dialogue from the 1971 film Johnny Got His Gun, which was the inspiration for the song in the first place.
The double LP’s third original side contains some less potent tracks. “The Shortest Straw” starts with a cool, deadened, almost-Zeppelin riff during the intro but retreats into typical Metallica during the rest of the song. Although it was the lead single from the album, “Harvester of Sorrow” is really kind of repetitive and mundane, while “The Frayed Ends of Sanity” contains an interesting intro riff before the nearly-eight-minute song falls into a repetitive pattern, making it way too long for lack of changes.
However, the album does finish on a strong note on its fourth and final side. The extended instrumental “To Live Is to Die” starts with acoustic fade-in and drums somewhat off in background before being interrupted by the stabbing rhythm of the second section. Overall, this nearly 10-minute piece is interesting with good overdubbed leads and a nice break in the middle with only a flanged guitar before it kicks back into a full arrangement. Burton posthumously received co-writing credit as the bass line was composed prior to his death and the spoken words towards the end of the song were written by Burton. “Dyers Eve” finishes the album with super speed drumming of Ulrich and some extraordinarily sharp rudiments. The group never lets up in this closer as if to try and squeeze every last bit of blood out of the final track of the album, which ends abruptly.
…And Justice for All was Metallica’s most complex, ambitious work ever and a surprise commercial success, reaching number six on the Billboard charts. While it is still regarded a quarter century later, fans and critics lament the odd mixing decisions, which leave some potent compositions tarnished with a half-spectrum sound.
Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 25th anniversary of 1988 albums.