Review of Metallica's "...And Justice for All"
While this album was nominated for a Grammy in the now defunct heavy metal/hard rock category (Master of Puppets wasn't?...), it lost to Jethro Tull's “Crest of the Knave.” Yes, those guys who did Aqualung beat out Metallica for a metal album award. Yep. They did not receive proper recognition until their self-titled effort, which was not so great compared to their previous works, but I digress. The album “...And Justice for All” is a metal classic, not only for One ( and its badass music video), but the the other great tunes the CD holds. (It is also important to note that, for this review, I've listened to the remastered, or “fixed,” version of the album, which holds the proper amount of bass throughout).
The album starts with the building whine of two guitars, and throttles full-speed into an apocalyptic tale that is Blackened! Why this song was not a single is beyond me, though I might guess it has something similar to do with the tastes of the people who chose Jethro Tull over Metallica? The solo work here from Hammett is very impressive as are the vocals from Hetfield, throughout the album, really. This is the signature “end of the world” song from Metallica, whereas Slayer has about... well... dozens. About 2:53 is where things start to get really heavy; the echo is condemning for each word reiterated. “Termination! (termination). Expiration! (expiration). Cancellation! (cancellation). Human race! Expectation! (expectation). Liberation! (liberation). Population! (population). Laid to waste!” Pretty damn heavy.
The next song is ...and Justice for All, the title track. Clocking in at about 6 hours, it is one of the longest Metallica tracks ever. Or tracks ever. Unnecessary length aside, it's a proper anthem to justice, or the lack of it. It also holds true to one of the major themes of the album. Injustice, believe it or not. The lyrics here are some of the most brutal of Metallica's existence. “Justice is lost, justice is raped, justice is gone! Pulling your strings, justice is done!” While the song has more than one section that should have been trimmed, the overall impression is that this tune has itself a solid place on this record. Eye of the Beholder, while listenable, is probably the worst song here. That isn't saying much, really, but boring riffs and sub-par vocals detract noticeably from this setlist.
Now, we have the most popular song in the album and, indeed, one of the most popular metal songs of all time. Starting with cool, gentle riff and melodic strumming from Hammett, this is easily one of the most well-known tunes from Metallica. I almost feel it unnecessary to review it, but I will. The song, One, tells the tale of a wounded veteran in a hospital bed. He can't experience anything from his surroundings, and cannot feel the release of death. The epitome of helplessness, the man can only suffer and hope. Musically, the song shifts from ballad like notes to piercing metal riffs that lead, at around 4:30, to the most headbang worthy section of their entire careers! What a climax... Watch and listen:
Right after that beast of a song, comes its closest rival in heaviness; The Shortest Straw. This song has so much damn aggression it is hard to sit still. While following under the same old themes of the album, the riffs and volatile lyrics are what make this song such a monster:
Behind You, Hands Are Tied
Your Being, Ostracized
Your Hell Is Multiplied
The Fallout Has Begun
Oppressive Damage Done
Your Many Turned to None
You're Reaching Your Nadir
Your Will Has Disappeared
The Lie Is Crystal Clear
Following this, we have Harvester of Sorrow. A pretty decent mix of groove and heaviness, with all the lyrics, appropriately, assimilating to the rest of the songs. No love tunes here,folks. The riffs from this one impress, especially the balance and shift seen at 4:40ish. The chiming at the beginning and end of the songs also work well, securing this song's rightful place on the disc. Frayed Ends of Sanity, on the other hand, works pretty well until it gets unnecessary after the first two choruses and before the last. The musicianship is top-notch, no doubt, but you don't want listeners to fast forward through parts. That criticism aside, it is a great song and, interestingly enough, one of the few Metallica songs that have yet to be played in its entirety live.
The nest song is an instrumental and a tribute to the late Cliff Burton, Metallica's bassist who died in a bus crash. To Live is to Die may be the best of all four of Metallica's current instrumentals; starting with soft acoustic guitars that fades out and is replaced by a heavy beat of drums and heavier guitars. The shift lasts until the end of the song, where it fades back into acoustic. In between these shifts contains such a mix of power and beauty that it summons perhaps the strongest emotions of the whole album. From the solos to the main riffs, the song entire is worth several listens. To conclude the entire effort, Dyers Eve is the fastest (and perhaps angriest?) song on the record. Although the whole teens angst against one's parents is a bit too typical, the songs seems, to me, to have a bit more to it. James not only expresses hatred for his parents for their overprotection of him, but of them not being able to fully protect him from the world that he sought to experience. It could work, but is not meant to, as satire for the typical teens going through those things.