Thursday, May 11, 2017

METALLICA MAY-HEM!! - Ranking the Albums

IT HAS BEGUN! Metallica kicked off their North American tour yesterday in Baltimore and it marks the first time in TEN YEARS that the band is doing an extensive tour of the States. So this month, and it started a little bit last month, I am putting together a couple posts to share some thoughts I have about one of my two favorite bands (the other being Iron Maiden).

In this post, I'm going to run down my rankings of the Metallica albums and a couple of my thoughts on them. Now this list is THE BE ALL-END ALL of ranking the Metallica albums! Just kidding, everybody has their own tastes in music and probably ranks them all differently. Which brings me to my first point about Metallica, about how many of the original fans of the band seemingly hate them.

I find this very interesting as I got into Metallica later than most of the original 'Die-Hards' at around the year 1999. I'm not going to really disclose my age, but let's just say I was getting into my teen years at that time so I started really getting into music. My brother, who is a couple years older than I am, got me listening to Metallica and it really hooked me.

This is where I am different from the original Metallica fans of the early 80s. When I first started listening to them, I listened to all of their music up to that point as a whole. I didn't start out with the thrash metal that the old guard loved, I more or less started with all the songs from the 90s and listened a ton to Load and ReLoad. And guess what? I loved the hell out of it. Sure, I knew of Metallica's thrash stuff (which I love as well) but starting out the opposite of the old guard I thoroughly say that I love pretty much everything Metallica has done.

I get the feeling that many of the old fans felt 'betrayed' by Metallica's choice to change their style, but guess what? They don't have to continue to prove that they are the Masters of Metal. They did that. They are the biggest metal band in the history of the genre. What Metallica did in the 90s is they furthered their reputations as MUSICIANS. They sought out to try out new sounds and prove their worth and in my opinion they absolutely nailed the blues rock they put out in Load and ReLoad (which all the members of the band acknowledge they are big fans of blues).

This isn't to say that those are my favorite albums. We'll get into that later, but the fact of the matter that fans can get so pissed at a band for not making music that YOU like, doesn't mean that others (like me) heavily enjoy can't like that music as well. Sure, call them a 'sell out' or whatever, but I haven't sold out on them. They've climbed the pinnacle and anything they've done in the last 20 years is icing on the cake for me. I'm happy they continue to put out new stuff and try new things. And lately, they've gone back to some of that thrash metal sound that everyone loved to begin with.

Just think of it this way, every time an old guard tries to slander a band because they didn't like something, it has the potential to turn a younger fan (again, like me) away without exploring all of their music and falling in love with it. If you don't like it, just say it's not for you and move on. Don't call it 'trash' or anything, let it be and let others choose their own thoughts on the subject. I've been there before. Godsmack was a huge favorite of mine in the early 2000s and I love the Faceless album to death, but after that they changed their style and it wasn't really for me. I didn't slander what they were doing, it was their choice, and so I moved on.

So let's finally get into how I broke this down (you can punch me if you see me if you thought I was too preachy prior to this). Asking me to rank the Metallica albums is like asking me to pick my favorite kid. If I had kids, I guess. So how did I go about it? Empirically of course! I (sadly) ranked all of the original Metallica songs from 1 to like 110. I did it more or less by thinking which song would I rather listen to and slotting them into position. The song ranked first gets all 110 points all the way down to one point. I then scored the albums and then took the average point value of the songs. I had to take the average because albums like Load and ReLoad have a lot more songs on them and thus, skew the numbers in their advantage unfairly.

So without further ado, here we go!

10. ST. ANGER (score avg: 34.7)

I'm almost certain that many individuals will put this album last. Even though I have this album last, I have to say it is probably my favorite album cover of all 10. The reason I had to rank this album last is because there aren't any patented Kirk Hammett face-melting solos in here. Most people say 'piccolo snare' and get nightmares. I didn't mind it that much. This album does hold somewhat of a sentimental value to me as it was the first new album that I bought from them after I started listening to them. Whereas most people would just shrug this album away, I actually do enjoy this album at times. In high school I would do homework to this album and I would play these songs on my bass guitar when I had a bad day. Made me feel better I guess. I really enjoy a couple songs off here with All Within My Hands being my favorite. I love the riffs in the song, and that goes for a number of songs on this album. The riffs were so amazing to me that at times I didn't mind not having a solo mixed in there. Sweet Amber and Dirty Window are two more that I highly enjoyed. The Unnamed Feeling was another that I instantly liked. And of course, how can you not like the intro to Some Kind of Monster?

9. HARDWIRED... TO SELF DESTRUCT (score avg: 45.8)

Frankly, I was surprised that this one came in as low as it did for me. I really liked this album when it came out last November. I listened the hell out it, and I guess that the newer songs didn't grow on me as much as Metallica's other stuff. Some of the songs on the back end didn't really sway the needle with me, but a couple entered into my 40 like Spit Out the Bone, Moth Into Flame, and Atlas, Rise! Those three songs I really enjoyed and made my long flight back from Japan feel shorter. There were a bunch of solos that I dug on this album and a ton of riffs that brought a smile to my face. Here Comes Revenge and Now That We're Dead are some others that are just fun to listen to and have a nice groove.

8. LOAD (score avg: 47.9)

If it wasn't for a couple songs on this album, it might have been below Hardwired for 9th, but there are some that I rate very highly on here. One of my top 10 favorite songs comes off of here and is Bleeding Me. The first time I heard that song, I was in love with it. I love the blues of it and the solo by Kirk is one of my absolute favorites. The S&M version of that track is so relaxing to me that I listen to it all the time. I'm also a huge fan of King Nothing and 2x4. In fact, one of the first Metallica songs I listened to (besides the well known Black Album ones) was Ain't My Bitch. Another relaxing track that I love off this album is The Outlaw Torn. Not to be forgotten is Wasting My Hate, which I feel like is the greatest Metallica song to not have a solo in it. There is a lot of great things on this album, but there are also some things I wasn't big on. And pretty hard on it my rankings that drug it down. Songs like Mama Said, Thorn Within, and Poor Twisted Me fell almost in my bottom ten, and ultimately brings the score way down.

7. RELOAD (score avg: 49.2)

This album fared a little better than Load because the depth of songs to me was a lot better. I was a huge fan of almost everything on this album when I first heard it. Fuel and Memory Remains are fan favorites and I love them as well, but I like some of the lesser knowns on here. Fixxxer is probably my favorite track off the album. But here are four others that I find highly underrated: Slither, Bad Seed, Where the Wild Things Are, and Prince Charming. Ultimately, this added depth strengthened the album as a whole to me and put it over Load. Also, one other note about these two albums. I know they aren't considered metal by really anyone and most die hards hate them. But here's something you can't deny: These are really, REALLY good ROCK albums and are a lot better than what a lot of other bands have ever put out!

6. DEATH MAGNETIC (score avg: 51.5)

This album really grew on me the more I listened to it. I don't think there was really any song that really broke into my upper echelon of songs, but there also wasn't any songs that really bottomed out in my list. Well, except for My Apocalypse, I'm not too big a fan of that song, but I will still listen to it. I think why I enjoyed the heck out of this when it came out is because it was a return to form after St. Anger and they made me smile like a kid in a candy store with their bone crushing riffs and shredding solos. The first time I head the main riff in Broken, Beat, and Scarred I can't deny it, I giggled like a little kid it was so awesome to hear it. I also really liked their return to an instrumental piece with Suicide and Redemption. Also, Unforgiven III totally made up for the other sequel to The Unforgiven and became one of my favorites on the album. I would have to say that my favorite track on here would be That Was Just Your Life as it reminded me a lot of Hit the Lights, except on steroids.

5. METALLICA (Black Album) (score avg: 55.5)

Well here we go, we're getting into the reason why most of you are here, right? To see which of the 'BIG' albums is going to come out on top? Well the first domino to fall is the Black Album. It falls this low because of the album cover. Except the Don't Tread on Me Snake is awesome, but look at that cover, man. Can it get any blacker? (Had to get a Spinal Tap reference in here!) Just kidding, it didn't beat the other four albums because I feel like some of these songs are overplayed to me. Don't get me wrong, I'm as much of an Enter Sandman fan as the band thinks everyone is, but I'm not as big on Sad But True and Wherever I May Roam as a lot of people. Honestly, my favorite songs off here, other than The Unforgiven, are Holier Than Thou, Through the Never, and Of Wolf and Man. I do like Nothing Else Matters a lot, if nothing else for Kirk's bluesy interlude in the middle or for James's crushing guitar solo at the end. I also fondly enjoy My Friend of Misery (probably because I'm a bass guitar player) and also of The God That Failed.

4. KILL EM ALL (score avg: 60.0)

This is where my upper echelon truly begins. Kill 'em All (a.k.a. METAL UP YOUR ASS) provided a bunch of my top 40. I always get a kick out of the Metal of Your Ass shirts and everything you see because if it wasn't for record studio execs not letting them use that as the name of this album, that is truly what it would have been called. Instead, Metallica named it Kill 'em All in reference to those execs. Heh. The Four Horsemen is by far my favorite song off this album, but others like Hit the Lights, No Remorse, Motorbreath, and Jump in the Fire really get my blood flowing. This is the beginning of where you see the average scores go way up as a ton of the songs off the old four are rated really high to me. Granted, Dave Mustaine provided the studio recording of this album, but I've seen Kirk Hammett perform all these solos like they were his own. Sorry Megadeth fans.

3. RIDE THE LIGHTNING (score avg: 65.8)

It is really hard to come up with things to say about these last three albums as everything that has ever been said or written seems to be known about them. But coming in third to me is Ride the Lightning, but I really like almost every song on this album (and the top four albums for that matter). I think the song that drug the score down for this one is Fight Fire With Fire as I felt it was the weakest opening track of the top four albums. I know James hates, and I mean HATES, the song Escape, but I know a lot of people that enjoy it. I enjoy it, but it was also farther down my list. My favorite song on here is the instrumental Call of the Ktulu. It was just amazing to me to hear that song the first time and not be blown away. Ride the Lightning's solo and interlude part are one of my favorites in any Metallica song. For Whom the Bell Tolls and Creeping Death are fan favorites. And of course, Fade to Black was an instant classic the moment they unveiled it for the first time.

2. MASTER OF PUPPETS (score avg: 71.8)

I know this may be a shock to some, that I rate Master of Puppets second on this list. This, to many, is the penultimate Metallica album. But it came in second ever so slightly. This album, despite having four of my top ten favorite songs on it, ended up lower because of most likely one song, The Thing That Should Not Be. For whatever reason, I just cannot rank that song very high despite the awesome riff because of the majority of the time in the song where there is nothing but lyrics. Most Metallica songs fill the void in with shredding riffs, but for some reason this song always leaves me feeling wanting. Despite what many think, I actually think Master of Puppets is the most iconic Metallica song, not Enter Sandman or One. My favorites off this album though are Battery, Leper Messiah, Orion, and Welcome Home (Sanitarium). I love the entire Orion song and the dicotomy of the first and second halves. The cosmic groove of the latter half continues to be one of my favorite parts of any song, of all-time. Sanitarium is one of my go to songs to kick back and relax.

1. ...AND JUSTICE FOR ALL (score avg: 73.4)

Here it is, my pick number one pick. My top two favorite Metallica songs come off of this album and most of my top 20. I really think if it wasn't for The Thing That Should Not Be, then Master of Puppets would be number one. This album, coming off the heels of the death of Cliff Burton, I could only imagine was this would sound like if he was still there and they didn't put the mute to Jason's bass guitar throughout much of this album. This album is already my favorite, but if it had the same sound as Master of Puppets, it wouldn't be close to me. Blackened is in my opinion the best opening track on any of the albums, and is my favorite song by the band. Immediately it is followed up by the title track, and features some of my all-time favorite riffs. As good as One is, I'm more of a fan of Harvester of Sorrow and Dyer's Eve. Shortest Straw is one of the most underrated songs that the band has released. And then you add in Eye of the Beholder and To Live is To Die? Come on man, this album is the greatest one they have released. I'll admit, it took awhile for The Frayed Ends of Sanity to grow on me, but there is some genius to the madness embedded in the riffs of that song. Of all the Metallica albums, this one, to me, is one that I could put the disc in my car, and never once hit the 'next' button. And that is why it is ranked number one in my opinion.

But everybody's opinion is different so if you disagree feel free to let me know! I would love to hear some opinions of others as I always love talking music. So there you have it, my rankings of all ten of the original full length albums that Metallica has put out there. Hope you enjoyed it!

Thanks for reading,

Mike G.


My Top 10 Metallica Songs:

1. Blackened
2. ...And Justice For All
3. Bleeding Me
4. Battery
5. Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
6. The Four Horsemen
7. Call of the Ktulu
8. Leper Messiah
9. Orion
10. Harvester of Sorrow

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