Review by Sonny for Metallica - Ride the Lightning (1984)
As the godawful winter of 1984 was about to turn into 1985 my musical heroes were, quite frankly, starting to suck. Sabbath had released Born Again the year before, Brian Robertson had fucked Motörhead up, the stalwarts of the NWOBHM were fading fast, Priest had been in decline for ages and hair / glam metal seemed to be the only shitty game in town as far as metal was concerned.
Then, on a whim, I picked up a copy of a various artists metal comp called Hell Comes to Your House in the desperate hope of finding something on it that didn't blow. Most of it wasn't very good, but then I heard IT. IT being Metallica's Creeping Death and IT blew my fucking mind! That one hit of Bay Area genius was the heaviest thing I'd ever heard and was all I needed to turn me into a thrash junkie. Suddenly things were looking up!
Of course, I went out and bought the album that spawned this awesome song as soon as was humanly possible - infuriatingly I did have to wait until the next day when the shops opened and then, even more infuriatingly, another week or so because the crappy local record shop had to order it from the wholesalers (kids today, you've never had it so good with your fancy internet-thing!) So in the meantime I drove everyone nuts playing Creeping Death over and over again until I had the hallowed album itself in my now clammy, shaking hands.
Anyway, enough with the context and on to the music. Metallica's debut, Kill 'Em All was and is, a great, raw slab of break-necked thrashing mayhem. Ride the Lightning, however, showed a quantum leap in songwriting ability, providing more than just high speed riffs to bang your head to. Sure, if you wanted that, this had it - Fight Fire With Fire and Trapped Under Ice to name just two provided that in spades. However, with tracks like For Whom the Bell Tolls and Fade To Black, the band showed they weren't afraid to rein the rampaging tempo in and slow the tracks down to allow them room to breathe and exhibit how the foursome's songwriting was rapidly maturing.
The aforementioned Trapped Under Ice and Escape kick off side two and both are good songs, but in the context of the rest of the album, I feel they are a step down in class, but all that is completely blown away by the album's closing brace - Creeping Death and it's telling of a vengeful god's infanticide against the pharoah and his people, followed in short order by instrumental The Call of Cthulhu and it's reference to a very different god. These two tracks back to back still stand as the epitome of thrash metal to me.
Master of Puppets is a slightly more consistent album in terms of songwriting quality, but this record stands as a monument to the coming-of-age of thrash metal as a genre and, for me, a personal landmark on my road of metal discovery.