Must Own Heavy Metal/Hard Rock Albums :
Artist : Metallica
Album : And Justice For All
Released : August 25, 1988
M.M. Album Rating : 4.5/5 (Loses .5 For Bad Production)
This week in 1988, the band Metallica released an album that continues to impress, but also continues to frustrate fans to this day. “And Justice For All” is a could’ve been, and should’ve been kind of album. For instance it could’ve been produced so much better. And it should’ve been the band’s masterpiece album. It’s actually interesting that this record talks about justice. Especially since the incredible material on this album, and new bass player Jason Newsted got “no” justice at all.
A couple of years prior to this, Metallica had released their landmark album “Master Of Puppets”. A record where everything for the band truly came together. Seven months later tragedy struck when they lost one of the greatest bass players ever Cliff Burton in a bus accident while on tour. This devastated the band, personally , emotionally, musically, and professionally. Cliff was such a huge part of the band’s sound. It was not going to be easy to replace him, or find someone that Lars and James would truly have confidence with.
After the loss of Cliff, the music James and Lars were writing was much darker, and more progressive. Many of the new songs were clocking in at over 8 minutes long. The band then hired Cliff Burton’s replacement Jason Newsted. When you hear the record however, you wonder why the band just didn’t record this album as a trio. Lacking confidence in Jason or just hazing him (depending on who you ask) all of the bass tracks are taken out, or buried so deeply they seem non-existent. The most irritating thing about this is how strong the material is. It really deserved so much better.
When you listen to this record today, especially on headphones it’s tragic how badly it sounds. It lacks the punch, and sounds like it was recorded inside a metal room with no insulation. Had this record been produced by someone like Rick Rubin (who wanted to work with the band after producing Slayer’s monumental Reign In Blood) at the time this could very well be considered the greatest hard rock/metal albums of the 1980s. The material, and Jason Newsted deserved better. But the biggest losers of all were the band themselves. They know now this was a huge missed opportunity. Part of the reason they made such drastic changes to their next album “The Black Album” in 1991. Where many true Metallica fans feel they lost their edge.
With all the negative things I have said though, this is still my favorite Metallica album. There are many rumors that James and Lars want to remix the album, and restore Jason’s bass tracks, or have Robert Trujillo record new bass tracks. (If they pull a Sharon Osbourne fans will raise hell. The last thing Metallica needs right now is another blunder). The reason for this is all of the bootlegs coming out now adding bass to the mix. The bootlegs still sound uneven though since the drums and guitars are so much louder. This record will always be remembered as a huge missed opportunity to make history. Especially following the excellent Garage Days EP where Jason proved he was talented enough to be in the band, and was accepted by the fans. The way “Justice” turned out is one of the first of many, many more blunders to come in the future from both Lars and James. Just think had they given the production of this record just a fraction of the time they spent producing the terrible “Load” records how it would’ve sounded.
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