Home > Music > Metallica – Ride The Lightning (1984)

Metallica – Ride The Lightning (1984)

folderMetallica (n.) – A band I can’t possibly hope to write objectively about. This is the first metal album I listened to in its entirety (Although if you count Tanzwut as a metal band, maybe not); the one that brought me into the scene. Let’s get this out of the way – Ride the Lightning is my favorite Metallica album, and a lot of metalheads seem to prefer it over Master of Puppets… which may be more popular with the general public. Hard to say, really. It’s not like they’re fundamentally different from each other, but I am willing to hypothesize that it’s simply because Ride the Lightning is just that bit faster and leaner than its successor. Keep in mind that 1984 was an extremely influential year for metal recordings, and that label’s rubbed off on this one in particular.

For Metallica, Ride the Lightning represented an expansion of songwriting and instrumental technique. Even Kill ‘Em All the year before experimented with such concepts, but they’re executed better here. 1980s Metallica relies on relatively simple instrumental parts arranged in complex song structures often reminiscent of ’70s progressive rock. It’s more sensible than you might think at first, especially since much of Metallica’s influences (traditional heavy metal, often filtered through NWOBHM/speed metal bands like Diamond Head and Mercyful Fate) experimented with prog at times. Given that this album had been outsped and almost certainly outperformed, Metallica gets credit for applying extended songwriting to relatively intense thrash metal. Admittedly, even their contemporaries tried their hand at it – Hellhammer’s song “Triumph Of Death” even pulls the trick, but Metallica pulled it off with a degree of refinement that wouldn’t be matched for a few years, not even by themselves.

I see a few trends arising as a result of this – the extreme metal bands that DID listen to Metallica in their golden age often shared some influences, but most of the ones that wrote complicated songs crammed all their changes and sections into a shorter timeframe. I can’t really think of any extreme metal bands that wrote really long songs until at least the second wave of black metal – Immortal, Burzum, and Darkthrone all released albums in 1991/1992 that had these extended compositions. A couple of the more ‘accessible’ speed/thrash bands (like Voivod) got there earlier, and this says nothing about the whole “prog-metal” movement as it developed in the late 1980s. Either way, I consider this concept to be what makes Metallica relevant, and I find it ironic that Metallica found its earliest commercial success with their longer songs, but their artistic heyday was something of a different era – one where the music establishment still occasionally catered to an audience’s desires for narrative and dynamics in music. If that sounds crusty and misanthropic, it probably is, and I wasn’t even alive then! The moral of the story is that independent musicianship is the key to musical success in this era.

Highlights: “Ride the Lightning”, “Fade to Black”, “The Call of Ktulu” (sic)

  1. 2014/05/24 at 21:37

    I will never forget buying this on cassette shortly after it came out. I honestly believe that my life was forever changed in a profound way the second that “Fight Fire With Fire” kicked in. They absolutely tore the roof off of the Sherwood Country Club in Indianapolis on the tour the following January. I was lucky enough to see them that night and again in April of ’86 at Market Square Arena opening for Ozzy on one of Cliff’s final American appearances. I really miss that era of the band!

  1. 2014/06/06 at 21:29
  2. 2016/04/12 at 18:57

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