Sunday, 13 December 2009

CD Review: Ride The Lightning, by Metallica (1984)

Just one year after their underground debut, Metallica land at a major label and unleash a tight eight-track set that is a major landmark on the heavy metal landscape.

Immediately spreading their wings from their humble beginnings, Metallica announce the length and breadth of their ambitions. The tracks on Ride The Lightning are dramatically longer and substantially more complex. The maturity of the songwriting is dramatically evolved. Now there are variations in the tempo -- not everything is played at 100 miles per hour. Melodies take their time to dig in and entrench. Kirk Hammett's guitar solos are no longer the raison d'etre of the songs, transforming instead into frequent dramatic exclamation marks. James Hetfield's vocals are cleaner, replacing aggression with increased confidence.

The album is most notable for three quite brilliant tracks. Fight Fire With Fire kicks off with a deceptive acoustic opening that explodes into a monstrous guitar showcase, announcing in less than 45 seconds that Metallica are back, bolder, badder and better. The track later throws in manic sliding guitar solos just for good measure.

Creeping Death is among the best heavy metal tracks ever recorded. For over 6 minutes, it combines sheer crushing but controlled drumming power with blazing speed, historic and histrionic guitar solos and a demonic melody that climaxes with the epic - and quite creepy - "Die! Die! Die!" section.

And the album closes with the grand instrumental The Call of Ktulu, clocking in at close to 9 minutes of sure-footed and confidently paced metal power.

Ride The Lightning, For Whom The Bell Tolls and Fade To Black are all excellent. Trapped Under Ice and Escape are the relatively weak tracks on the CD, but are surrounded by such quality material that they almost pass unnoticed.

It is noted that a couple of the songs on the CD (Ride The Lightning and The Call Of Ktulu) provide a co-written credit to Dave Mustaine, who had long since departed the band.

Ride The Lightning is both a natural extension of Kill'Em All and a dramatic departure from it. It announces Metallica as a diverse, multi-talented machine capable of fast evolution. And the album stands near the top of the charts in terms of the best that 1980's heavy metal offered.


James Hetfield - Guitar, Vocals
Lars Ulrich - Drums
Kirk Hammett - Guitar
Cliff Burton - Bass

Songlist (ratings out of 10):

1. Fight Fire With Fire - 10
2. Ride The Lightning - 8
3. For Whom The Bell Tolls - 8
4. Fade To Black - 9
5. Trapped Under Ice - 7
6. Escape - 6
7. Creeping Death - 10 *See video below*
8. The Call Of Ktulu - 10

Average: 8.50

Produced by Metallica.
Engineered by Flemming Rasmussen.

All Ace Black Blog CD Reviews are here.

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