photo & text by nacrowe
out of their entire catalogue, ...AND JUSTICE FOR ALL (ELEKTRA, 1988) is unique in that it showcases METALLICA, for better or worse, in a moment of transition. you can definitely see the first three records (KILL EM ALL, RIDE THE LIGHTNING and MASTER OF PUPPETS) as an early version of the band made up of a triumvirate of talented songwriters and composers in that of JAMES HETFIELD, LARS ULRICH and CLIFF BURTON. with BURTON out of the picture due to his tragic untimely passing, essentially the rest of their career has been heralded by HETFIELD and ULRICH, with ...AND JUSTICE FOR ALL their first foray.
and it shows.
BURTON arguably was the most versatile musician within METALLICA and the most open to outside influences including CLASSICAL MUSIC. this is pretty much gone and what is left is a epically brutal album filled with complex time signatures that are constantly shifting, lyrics dealing with retribution, pain and suffering, as well as (famously) little to no bass guitar. this is an album that is pretty much all about HETFIELD and ULRICH and thus primarily guitars and drums. it is almost impossible to listen to this record and not think of how BURTON would have made these collections of riffs and song ideas more cohesive and impactful to the listener.
taht is not to say that this record does not have standout tracks. "BLACKENED," "DYER'S EVE," "HARVESTER OF SORROW," "...AND JUSTICE FOR ALL" and of course "ONE" absolutely crush and are fan favorites to this day. me included. in fact i wouldnt even say that this record is a disappointment since it shows METALLICA at the their most uninhibited and least restrained peak. where it falls is only in comparison to their stellar previous two records, which arguably (in my opinion) are two of the best METAL albums ever bar none.
it is a record only made more interesting given the follow-up a few years later that largely abandoned its complexity and ambition in favor of a more streamlined sound. i agree with those that add this record with the BURTON-era albums as the essential METALLICA records, and its been interesting see the risk-taking and artistic risks the band has made since. its just that the post ...AND JUSTICE FOR ALL output has been not as convincing for fans of their 1980s output.
i couldn't recommend ...AND JUSTICE FOR ALL any more strongly. an essential THRASH METAL record that is absolutely required listening.