METALLICA – “MASTER OF PUPPETS” VS. “THE BLACK ALBUM”


METALLICA – Just the band name alone explodes with pure Metal. Metallica is synonymous with Metal excellence, regardless of any Load or ReLoad moments in their bands storied history. Back on March 3, 1986, my Metal lovin’ life was transformed into a state of Metallidelirium… Master Of Puppets, the third studio album from Metallica, was released. I was already a proud and boisterous fan of Metallica in 1986, looking upon and listening to their debut Kill ‘Em All and sophomore Ride The Lightning albums as if they were Metal gospels.

Before I carry on any further… Master Of Puppets is my favorite Metallica album that this beyond legendary Metal band ever created.

Metallica was on quite a roll with their first three album releases, a generation of loyal Metallica fans was certainly bred from listening to them. I am one of those fans. The Black Album released in 1991 garnered a gazillion more fans, a whole new generation of them too. I can’t and never will dismiss The Black Album as a Metal goliath in the history of Heavy Metal. Often times, when “The Greatest Metal Albums Of All Time” lists are put together, I will see The Black Album in the top five. Truthfully, it doesn’t quite jive with me for Master Of Puppets is a more true measuring stick of the incredible career/catalog of albums that Metallica has created. Regardless, this is just my Metal opinion.

It just seems to appear this way, that Metallica fans that grew up in the “early” 80’s will lean towards Master Of Puppets, (or even Ride The Lightning), as their ultimate Metallica album. Metallica fans that I speak to, that are at least ten years my junior, will more often than not tell me The Black Album is Metallica’s finest. Am I “off base” here? I don’t think so, especially since I have the gift to gab about Metal with just about every person I bump into at fye, concerts, blogs and everywhere else I venture to in life. The topic of Master Of Puppets vs. The Black Album will “pop-up” more frequently than you can ever imagine.

The Black Album is undisputedly the biggest selling Metallica album of all-time. With that fact stated, The Black Album also spent four consecutive weeks as the #1 album on the Billboard 200 chart. I bought this album on or about it’s release date back in 1991, no mistaken. Enter Sandman was a melodically heavy, side-step of a song for Metallica and extremely addicting to my ears upon the very first listen. The same goes for Sad But True. Overall, the entire album was a sigh of relief for me, just knowing that Metallica did not have a song like One on it. Sorry, but any semblance of a ballad coming from Metallica, never mixed well for this lifetime Metalhead.

Back to Master Of Puppets. Battery. The opening track. Whoa. Whoa again. A scary fast Thrash Metal song. An angry sound with angry vocals. I fell in Metal love. Upon my very first listen to Battery, I felt as if the rest of the Heavy Metal world was now in the “catch-up mode”. Master Of Puppets was to the Thrash and Heavy Metal world back in 1986 what the iphone is to our world of communication today. Very, very, important. A cultural impact. Could not picture the world without this Master Of Puppets album… these were my Metal school of thoughts back in 1986. These same Metal school of thoughts I stand by still, in 2010.

The song Master Of Puppets, one word: excellence. My Metal memories of the Summer of 1986 is overridden with this song being blasted to it’s maximum potential at every single keg party, get-together, function or hang-out that my fellow Metalhead buddies and I engaged in back then. The entire Master Of Puppets album was played this way by me and my Metal peers, for arguments sake. The Master Of Puppets album felt like a victory back in 1986, a righteous fist being raised in the air, all in the name of Thrash Metal and all of it’s Metal genre cousins. A feeling that we Metalheads had finally, indeed, conquered all. In 1986, with the release of Master Of Puppets, we Metalheads along with the strength of Metallica behind us… really did conquer an era of Rock ‘N’ Roll.

Wearing the Master Of Puppets concert t-shirt constantly, was like wearing a badge of Metal honor. As I wore this t-shirt, from 1986 until it finally met it’s final demise from over wear… wherever I may have roamed… people looked at it with either horror and disgust or they wanted to talk about it, as if Metallica were the Metal equivalent to the Beatles. My seeing Metallica twice on their Master Of Puppets tour wasn’t just bragging rights back then… it was as if I had been to see The Holy Grail itself and I had been anointed as a Metal prophet.

Now, it is July 3, 2010. I look upon both the Master Of Puppets and The Black Album with undeniable respect and reverence. It’s no secret that Master Of Puppets is the heaviest and fastest album out of the two, being a full-throttle Thrash Metal album. Yet, that is not why Master Of Puppets is my favorite Metallica album, the real reasoning for me is that Master Of Puppets was and still is the real heart and soul sound and energy of what Metallica was really about in the 1980’s. The other non-secret is that The Black Album is Metallica’s biggest seller. I only hope this is not the sole reason as to why so many professionally paid Rock critics put this album in their “top 5″ lists. A biggest selling album does not necessarily equate it to being the best offering musically, from that respective bands catalog of albums.

Any fan can choose any Metallica album to be their favorite, it’s a personal choice and there is no right or wrong answer for fans. However, once major mainstream magazines begin to idolize The Black Album in “Top 5 All – Time” lists without even comparing it to Master Of Puppets, well, that just comes across as journalistic bias and purely following the status quo leader. The professionally paid mainstream Rock media ignoring Master Of Puppets and not including it on any “Top 5 All-Time” lists won’t make it go away.

It’s my thought that The Black Album became much more popular due to it’s semi-commercial accessibility. In reflection, could it have been the strength in popularity of Metallica as “THE” Metal band to beat and/or be measured against be the REAL reason for the strong record sales of The Black Album after all? The Metallica momentum was in full swing way before The Black Album was released and Master Of Puppets was a Metal historic building block and reason for this momentum in the first place.

What are your thoughts? Am I all alone in thinking Master Of Puppets is better than The Black Album?

* If you care to read about my seeing Metallica live, a long time ago, in a Metal world far, far, away, then click on the cool link below:

My greatest Metal memory/experience of my life.

LONG LIVE METALLICA!

Stone.

21 Responses to “METALLICA – “MASTER OF PUPPETS” VS. “THE BLACK ALBUM””

  1. “Am I all alone in thinking Master Of Puppets is better than The Black Album?” – Stone

    No – that is still my fav. BUT with “Ride the Lightning” right on it’s heels!

    The MAJOR difference between the two I will sum up in TWO WORDS:

    [ C l i f f B u r t o n ]

    METALLICA built their empire album by album and by moving out of the underground slowly but surely. They built their fan base with a lot of hard work, guts and dedication. That’s for sure!

    But, with Cliff gone, you started to see the writing on the wall with “And Justice for All”, which took forever to make (compared to the other releases up to that point) and was a riff VS drum fest and suffered terribly because of it.

    Here’s my version of what went wrong:

    Lars: “turn my drums up and turn the low end (bass) freq. knob up on my bass drum and floor toms.”

    James: “hey, now turn MY guitar up man”….

    Kirk: “I don’t care just tell me when to play a solo ok”…

    Jason: “when do I get to do something? whut, I don’t want to play along with the same crunchy guitar rifss, I wanna’ try something different”….

    Lars: “shut up and do what you are *paid to to do bro”….

    James: “yeah, like he said -but turn that bass down dude, and did I mention it before?!, “turn my damn gtr up louder mr. mixer/sound engineer man -oh, wait that is me. Done.

    Lars: “no it’s ME too, that’s it, I am turning my parts up even louder when that bastard is gone” ad nauseum.

    Anyway there were some fine riffs on that LP, but all of the songs were way too long and it sounded like they were just cutting n’ pasting riffs here and there to fill up the arrangements (i.e. songs).
    There were even a few of Cliff’s left over parts and or unused pieces to pilfer -and pilfer they did in “To Live is To Die”. I am OK with that since they actually gave him credit.

    But where was Jason in the mix?

    *Jason was basically inaudible on this “super dry and dull” production and was only credited on “Blackened” too. Wow.

    All that aside, it was a turning point in their career because they decided to make a video. No biggie, but why? who knows as they were able to build their popularity and dedicated fan base with relatively NO radio airplay and not much mainstream media exposure til now. Then MTV started playing “One” on the hour, EVERY hour and then millions of new peeps were being exposed daily to METALLICA. Remember MTV was very influential and instrumental to a bands career during this era.

    This was the beginning of the end for me though. Or at least the writing on the wall was starting to “appear” on the wall. I don’t think they (or even any of us) detected that.

    They went on about their business and played for packed houses and larger stadiums all over the world.

    What they did good = they toured non stop worldwide to promote it and partly because of that, the album was the best selling Metallica record upon its release. It’s sold over 5 million copies (and that is only after 91′ when Sound scan started reporting -so it’s release predates than system by three years folks!).

    So a few years went by and now it’s time to start working on the BLACK LP. I would assume their record label and management expectations were at their highest peak ever. So there was probably a lot of pressure on them to top that.

    What I like about the BLACK LP the most is the sound quality. It is without a doubt the BEST-sounding record in their career and I love the sound of it. Was it more more commercial, yes, but Lars’ drums are POWERFUL and set a standard for the time IMO for production values.

    Now of course Mr. Bob Rock is to credit for that and NOT the Metallica boys. *BTW they spent $1 million to get that production and it was reportedly remixed three times. Yikes…

    Can you officially say it’s over, let’s start up the overblown “excess period” from now on.

    So that album and period was good and bad for them. The album and the band were pretty much critically acclaimed and commercially successful everywhere on the planet.

    What to do now? Get on the road and tour. And tour they did. Even longer than “And Justice…” This time for almost 3 years! Incredible IMO.

    But personally I think they thought this was the pinnacle of their career and put everything they had into it and that period basically exhausted the “life” out of them and subsequent tour.

    Initially the band was not interested in having Rock produce their album, but changed their minds as Ulrich stated; “We felt that we still had our best record in us and Bob Rock could help us make it.” To me that proves their sentiments.

    At the end of the day, these records are BOTH good for what they are and are two totally different beasts altogether IMO. It certainly is interesting to think back on it all and reflect on the outcome, that’s for sure.

    As much as the BLACK LP does *not represent “my METALLICA” that I grew up with, I do respect it immensely and when other bands out there started comparing/calling them “the LED ZEPPELIN” of our time, then you know they had made quite an impact & impossible to the calculate the enormity of. That is awesome. Think about that one for a bit…

    *On a side note, I do know that this is officially when I wrote off my fav. band of all time unfortunately! It’s been a love/hate relationship ever since.

    Sorry if I was a bit long-winded, besides bandwidth is relatively cheap these days and I just drank my 2nd double espresso and your post topic just hit me at the right time Stone! ;)

    To tell you the truth -I wish this was a debate that we NEVER had to have though! “Death Magnetic”…don’t even get me started on that one.

    Peep this great post:

    http://www.dyers.org/blog/archives/2008/09/12/why-metallica-can-shove-death-magnetic/

    Rock on!

    Kinger
    Demolish Fanzine

    • metalodyssey Says:

      No problem with the long comment… it’s all good on my end. :)

      My main objective with writing this post was to get the Metal word out: THERE WAS A METALLICA BEFORE “THE BLACK ALBUM”!

      As I stated in my post, I do revere BOTH albums… only I don’t want a very historic/important time in Metal history, (“Master Of Puppets”), to be ignored because “The Black Album” sold the most units and was embraced by Hollywood Metalhead Wannabees.

      I would confidently venture to guess… that a “large” crowd of fans who once bought “The Black Album” are not even listening to Heavy Metal anymore. This “crowd” bought “The Black Album” because it was “the in thing” to do. Now, this same crowd is clamoring for an ABBA reunion album.

      Stone

  2. I like the black album, I think it gets a bad rap, but there is some filler on it. If they “sold out”, the sold out to a good sound, so I have no problem with it.

    I definitely prefer Master of Puppets. Black is the first Metallica album I ever heard but Puppets is the first one I owned and I played it constantly for months after buying it. It’s the greatest thrash album of all time and one of the greatest metal albums period. They made some very moody and beautiful music on Puppets.

    • metalodyssey Says:

      Amen, Metal Misfit! :)

      I’m very much “into” The Black Album… I just don’t understand why the “big-shot” magazines think it’s o.k. to dismiss Master Of Puppets (and Ride The Lightning) for Metal sakes, like they do. Master Of Puppets being “the greatest Thrash Metal album ever” is quite an honor to give… and you are not getting any argument from me on that! I actually will agree with you.

      Stone

  3. I will take Master of the Puppets over the black album any day of the week, and twice on Sunday!

  4. The “Black” album is good. I like “…And Justice For All” too.

    But “Master Of Puppets” (or 「メタル・マスター」 “Metal Master”, as it’s titled in Japan) is a masterpiece!

    My favorite Metallica album, though, is the first one I ever heard…”Ride The Lightning”!

    Their entire catalog is metal perfection…until “Load”. They went consistantly downhill from there. “S&M”, “St. Anger”, “Death Magnetic” – it’s hard to believe those albums were released by the same band that made “Kill ‘Em All”, “Ride The Lightning” and “Master Of Puppets”!

    • metalodyssey Says:

      Tell it like it is tokyo 5! You said it well with “masterpiece” too. This goes to show… all those albums that The Black Album sold doesn’t mean a darn when it comes to “the greatest Metallica album”… and Master Of Puppets and Ride The Lightning has been mentioned as such across the board, thus far, through all the comments.

      BTW… I kinda like that Japanese title version – “Metal Master”… it has a cool vibe to it.

      Stone

  5. Master of puppets is great, but Ride the lighting was easily their best album. The Black album is okay. A mixed bag overall. And justice for all was their first real downfall. It was boring which was was something Metallica had never been on any of their previous albums.

    Oh and I have to add the best thrash album of all time is Slayer’s Reign in blood without a doubt.

    • metalodyssey Says:

      I would never argue against Reign In Blood being the best Thrash Metal album of all time. Reign In Blood is probably the heaviest/fastest and meanest Metal album I have ever listened to in my entire life… it’s unreal legendary. I don’t think this album could ever be topped by even Slayer themselves.

      It’s most likely my “Metal memories” being attached so tightly with/to Master Of Puppets, that it makes me consider it all the more as the best Thrash Metal album of all time. Still, the songs on MOP just rage along to this very day!

      Ride The Lightning is so great… it is so easily understandable why any fan would have it as their favorite Metallica album. When you look back at that ’80’s decade, there were these amazing albums being released… and each one mentioned has the attributes of being the best… those ’80’s were a historic time for Metal. There may never be another time like it.

  6. I like both albums but prefer ‘Master of Puppets’ by a large margin, of course both albums are waaaaaaaaaay better then ‘St. Anger’ but I have to admit that album has grown on me over the years

    • metalodyssey Says:

      Don’t feel weird about listening to “St. Anger”… I will still listen to “Load” and “ReLoad” myself. For what they are, those albums just demonstrate that Metallica was/is a great Hard Rock band too. It’s just the first three Metallica albums that hold the weight, the glory and the total Thrash Metal thrills that this band is capable of throwing down… at the drop of a Metal dime.

  7. Master of Puppets is not only my favorite Metallica album, it is my favorite metal album of all time. It is a goddamned work of art. People use the cliche that a certain artist or record was ahead if its time, but with Master of Puppets, I actually think its true: That album would have critics dropping their jaws if it were released today.

    I love an awful lot about Master, but perhaps most of all is that the record is so damned progressive and visionary — without the pretension of Rush or Dream Theatre, or sacrificing any of the tenants of metal and thrash.

    I do have a soft spot for certain tracks off of Load and Reload, but generally speaking, my life would be missing nothing if the Black Album had never seen the light of day.

    • metalodyssey Says:

      Whoa! Well stated. Whoa again. I am psyched that your response comes with some very believable passion for this “Master Of Puppets” album. Very credibly put.

      I do uphold RUSH and Dream Theater on a very high Metal pedestal though. :)

      Alright, since the “commentary section” brings out the “hidden truths” in us sometimes, here I go: I really do like “Hero Of The Day” from “Load”. Gee Metal whiz I’ll admit that. That song just grabs at my Metal soul and shakes it around.

      Stone

  8. Haha – Hero of the Day is a weird song. I have a love/hate thing with it, exactly the same way I do with Until It Sleeps – the honesty is really challenging and stimulating to me as a listener, and some of the vocal melodies are surprisingly great; but the actual lyrics are clumsy in a way that Metallica’s usually weren’t up to that date.

    I guess I should say that “The Unforgiven” is the one track from the Black Album that I really liked.

    • metalodyssey Says:

      I am a lifetime devotee to the New York Yankees. With that said, “The Black Album” shall always be connected to the World Champions… “Enter Sandman” is “the song” that relief pitcher/closer Mariano Rivera comes out of the bullpen to. It’s been his song for basically his entire career, for sake of argument.

      Your insight merits many Metal thoughts… thanks for the comments.

      Stone

      • >I am a lifetime devotee to the New York Yankees.

        I guess you know then that their oldest announcer died yesterday and the owner of the team died today.

        • metalodyssey Says:

          Bob Sheppard as with the late Mel Allen, were the two “voices of the Yankees” that shall never be matched. When I used to hear Bob Sheppard across the P.A. system at Yankee Stadium, it meant everything was alright with the world because Yankee Baseball was happening in the now!

          I am too young to remember Mel Allen calling Yankees games though… yet I do remember Mel Allen’s famous weekly television series… “This Week In Baseball”.

          There shall never, ever, be another Baseball owner like George Steinbrenner. His opening up of his wallet/checkbook paved the way for all the rich free agent signings that we see/read about today. In reality, every Major League Baseball player should hold thanks to George Steinbrenner… for he believed in paying and at times, overpaying the value for a ballplayer. I will always be grateful that George Steinbrenner cared enough about the Yankees that he would pay any amount of money to make them compete and win titles.

          As history does show, money really does not buy a World Series Championship, if it did, the Yankees would be Champs every year that I’ve been alive!

          George Steinbrenner and Bob Sheppard… two legends of Major League Baseball that never even had to play the game. Both men changed the game… for the better. May God Bless both of them.

          Stone

          • metalodyssey Says:

            I must throw in the late/great and Hall of Famer Phil Rizzuto as being yet another… “voice of the Yankees too”! I grew up listening to Phil… he felt like an uncle to me. That is the way the Yankees feel to me, they are family. I can’t describe it any differently and I accept this feeling for what it is.

            As an extra sidnote: George Steinbrenners generosity and charitable ways were always overshadowed by the media making him out to be a big, rich, fat cat. Living so close to NYC all of my life, I know the news stories about just how giving the Steinbrenner family has been over the decades to the needy. Without citing actual references, trust me on this… George Steinbrenner and the Yankee organization always has and always will have hearts of gold.

            Stone

  9. hey i learned metallica wih th black album.
    but thn i looked back,and discovvered master of puppets and they enver did before or ever after better. and for me master is the best sonng they ever made

  10. Before Death Magnetic came out, The lack Album was the last great album Metallica did imo

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