Posted: September 19, 2009

I have had an ongoing debate with a friend of mine over the last 5 or so years about the first 4 Metallica albums, as to which 3 are the ones to run up the flag poll. I have been holding the line with 1,2, and 3 while he has been pushing for 2,3, and 4. Anyone who wants argue for anything beyond those 4 records is a complete ass and needs to purge themselves from this life immediately.

So there is no argument over 2 and 3. We agree they are the 2 best albums ever made by Metallica. I also think that we can agree that of those 2 ‘Master Of Puppets’ is the one, the pinnacle, the crowning glory of there musical exploration in total.

What we are left with is a debate on Cliff Burton’s influence on the band and whether actually physically having him playing the music is more effective then the band realling in the wake of his death.
Before I go any further and before people start commenting on how much they have fallen, let me say, that in my opinion they get an eternal pass. The music created on those 4 albums is beyond reproach and since none of us have any idea the horrors that befell them as human beings after his extremely violent death, we can not judge how we would have handled it.
As I said before I have been of the 1.2.3. school for sometime and I think on re listening I can tell you why first of all there a couple crystallizing pinnacle moments on that first record particularly the bass solo(…take 1) and the chugaluga breakdown mid way through 4 Horsemen(which will never be beat in my book for simplicity and dynamic impact). The overall effect of the downstroke guitar playing of Hetfield is revolutionary and a lesson that I took to heart. Now as I stand here now I am caught in a wash of memories as I re listen to these 4 records, and I must say that most of them have to do with drugs. Some of them do not…I remember sheepishly selling bootleg Metallica demos in the parking lot of Arco Arena in Sacramento with none other then Steve Von Till, Doug Dirt(Oakland celebrity), our friend from Canada Jim(who went on to join The Exploited at some point). Have you heard the demo? The one with Dave Mustaine on it? It is great, but is hilarious lyrically and at times vocally. Anyway…I digress.
The primary issue that I have always had with 4. is that the production is horrific(although after listening to 30 seconds of St. Anger perspective is achieved, 4. ain’t that bad in fact it has a certain charm kinda like a hospital cafeteria) and the album led to the mainstream breakthrough and then led to the obvious downturn and emotional vacuum that brought us the 5th album and all the subsequent attempts. Upon my re listening I am struck with the depth of 4. The songs are raw and the emotions are on crushing. There are beautiful juxtapositional moments and devastating riffs abound. 4. is something to be hold it is and will always be the last breath that Clifford Lee Burton had creatively in this band. Although I’m sure that his shadow is still within there reach, I have always thought that space that he filled within them as people was a hole that could never be touched again.

Let the discussion begin…1. or 4.?