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Review of Metallica's "Ride the Lightning"
"Ride the Lightning," recorded in Denmark and released in 1984, is heavy metal band Metallica's second studio album. It features the single Creeping Death and has, in 2003, been certified an incredible 5 time Platinum. Obviously well-received, "Ride the Lightning" came before Metallica's breakthrough and before their best material. So, how does it compare to their following works? Read on...
The album begins with an acoustic introduction (yes, on a thrash metal album. But it was rare at the time) that starts Fight Fire with Fire. What follows is speed. And lots of it. What a riff! Duh Duh, DUH DUH DUH! Duh Duh, DUH DUH DUH! Couple that with James' then-killer vocals, and you've got yourself a metal tune. As always, Kirk's solo's impress and Lars' drums were decent. The dual solo heard hear is also worthy of some air guitar an headbanging. From there, we have a great balance between the high notes of the guitars and the beating of the drums and bass to start off the title track, Ride the Lightning. Its lyrics deal with an upcoming execution and the thoughts running through the victim's head. It was also a social stance made against the flawed justice system, but you wouldn't think that it could come in just a badass form with such deadly vocals. The riffing is good, but the vocals are so harsh it's masterful.
Someone help me...Oh please God, help me!
They're trying to take it all awaaaay!
I don't want to diiiiiee!
The song, overall, suffers from a middle section that is a bit too lengthy. Great composition and skill, no doubt, but unnecessary. The third song is called For Whom the Bell Tolls, which is based on the Hemingway novel and details war and death; subjects that would later be prevalent in Metallica and were already evident in metal. It starts with a bell ringing and then shifts to the introducing tune. The bass here sounds like and is commonly mistaken for a guitar. That's Cliff Burton, for you. A very emotional tune, James asks why a man would kill for a hill, but doesn't have an answer (who does?). The intercepting higher notes performed by Kirk here work extremely well. If one word was used to describe this song, it would be "power!" Check it out below:
The next song on this album is one of the best. Fade to Black, Metallica's first and most beautiful power ballad, circles around depression and suicide. It begins with a solemn tune that is, throughout the song, intertwined with Kirk's varied solo. Lyrically and musically profound, this one is definitely one of the biggest fan favorites, and my personal favorite, as well. Around four minutes into the song, there is the most emotional shift of Metallica's career:
No one, but me, can save myself, but it's too late!
Now I can't think, think why I even should try
Yesterday seems as though it never existed
Death greets me warm, now I will just say goodbye!
The rest fades out after Hammett's solo climaxes and then fades as well. Easily one of the best songs ever written. What follows isn't exactly up to par with Fade to Black, but works well enough.
Trapped Under Ice, in spite of being rather sophomoric in lyrics, works well enough for the album. While it isn't the worst thing they've written, it seems strange when presented on the same disc as the songs that proceeded it. As if it weren't enough, Escape is of even lesser quality. It details a man's escape from prison and anger against society. While the separate verses aren't bad at all, the chorus borders on the painful. Maybe that explains why the band has never played it in its entirety.
The album, to finish, shifts on last time, and for the better, with Creeping Death! Everything about this song is great; the speed, the lyrics, and especially the interlude. Lyrically, it deals with Biblical curses and plagues (so the title makes sense). If the intelude of Fade to Black was the most beautiful, the interlude seen here is the heaviest! A section written by Kirk, originally for Exodus:
Die! By my hand
I creep across the land
Killing first-born man!
A classic Metallica moment, to be sure. And to conclude the entire effort, The Call of Ktulu is the first and only instrumental. It starts slow in an almost haunting manner, and progressively speeds up around a minute and a half into it. As far as Metallica instrumentals go, this one ranks, in my opinions, fourth of the four. Which is not the say that it is bad, but just that the others were much better.
Overall: 8/10 I really wanted to rate this album higher, but the two mediocre songs prevent me from doing so. The vocals, as is the case with all early Metallica releases, are top notch for the music and the musicianship really foreshadowed what Metallica would come to be. If Trapped Under Ice and Escape were replaced by two other songs on the same level as the rest, this would be their best release and a definite 10.
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