by Justin Stockton
After the success of their debut album and a successful tour supporting Raven in 1983, Metallica were picked up by a major label and headed right back into the studio to record their sophomore album.
On July 27th,1984, Metallica released “Ride The Lightning”. The album was hugely anticipated for the year and it sold very well, extremely better than Kill Em All did. But exactly what did Metallica expand on with this record and what made it stand out from the thousands of other records coming out at the time? Well lets throw this album into the cassette player way back when and find out.
1.Fight Fire With Fire-Opening with some almost classical acoustic guitar I'm sure put off a lot of fans who first heard this in '84 but I think it is perfect because it just fads right into James' fast as fuck riffing. Right away you can hear the improvements especially in the production. The larger presence of reverb makes a lot of these songs a lot bigger than how they would have sounded if they sounded like the songs on Kill Em All as well. The chorus is very catchy and shows a lyrical change in the band to more serious subjects like war and apocalypse like so many other. Thrash bands would use as their template. The solo I always catch my self listening to James and I think this song is a prime example at how rock solid of a rhythm player Hetfield really is and Lars' drumming skills have greatly improved with him using more double bass pedal more frequently. A perfect opener that absolutely grips you and doesn't let go.
2.Ride The Lightning- The title track is nothing short of a classic with more of a chugging sound then full on thrashing. Kirk's solo here is actually one of my favorites because of how well it builds from being more melodic to being a full on attack. The lyrics are catchy as hell and the vocals have a higher presence and feel a lot more mature than the last album as well. Again a great song that is a big highlight on the album.
3.For Whom The Bell Tolls-This is probably the most simple and memorable song on the album for how catchy it is. It also has probably one of the most recognizable bass lines in the beginning as well. I also think these are some of the best lyrics James has written with them being dark and catchy at the same time. This is the most mid paced song on the album but because of that it has a heavier feel with how hard everyone plays their instruments. Definitely the most recognizable song on the record.
4.Fade To Black-This is the ballad on the album and no it isn't a cheesy Poison ballad, it deals with depression and has some really killer arrangements to it. This song I actually hold a lot to me because I listened to it a lot in a dark period in my life to get me through. The end really ramps up and goes into another memorable solo by Hammett. This I think is the second most recognizable song on the record.
5.Trapped Under Ice- This song goes back to the thrashier formula the first two songs used and holds just as much originality as the first two songs and just doesn't let up at all. How James spits the lyrics it just is so damn catchy and the chorus is a favorite of mine as well. The solo is very well done as well. Another near perfect thrash metal song.
6.Escape-This song has more of a standard Heavy Metal song from the 80's and the melodies during the chorus are very interesting and I think it is a good change of pace and is definitely a very original song. The riffs are top notch as well especially at the end with the air raid sirens in the distance it just sounds so heavy.
7.Creeping Death- Easily the best written Metallica song ever. Period. The reason is because it is a thrash song yes but it is one of the most epic thrash numbers ever recorded. The verses are just absolutely sang with great precision and the lyrics are very well written as well. It also has an amazing chorus that is just so fucking epic you can't help but at least nod your head to it. The melodies in the soloing sprinkled throughout adds some variety as well and the bridge with the chugging heavy riffs while the backing vocals are screaming “Die Die Die!” is just so heavy at least for 1984 standards, there was not a lot of American bands playing this good with this much intensity and having chemistry like these four had at the time. The highlight of the album bar none.
8.Call of Ktulu- The first real instrumental Metallica recorded and it is a monolith of a closer for the album. It is very atmospheric and stays at a mid tempo most of the time and I think the thing I like the most about it is the bass. What the hell is Cliff doing in the backround? It is so crazy and wah wah'd out and frantic I think he is the busiest one in this track. It is a very well written finale and paces itself very well and without overstaying it's welcome.
Overall, I give Ride The Lightning a 9.9 out of 10. This is easily the closest you could get to having a perfect album(I just don't believe in a perfect album), and especially for their sophomore release, it is amazing to see how they have improved in a years time. Between the production values and the band expanding upon their playing capabilities, this album improves on everyone that kind of irked me about the first record and increased everything I enjoyed to eleven. However, I wished at points certain instruments were a bit louder like Cliffs bass in parts of Call of Ktulu but these are just slightly nit picks and I believe when we look at “Master of Puppets” next I believe those problems are fixed. This is easily my favorite of their first three and is a classic, a blueprint for a lot of bands to follow and next time we'll see how they continued their creative high with “Master of Puppets”.
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