Review #235: Metallica, Metallica

Karla Clifton
3 min readFeb 7, 2022

#235: Metallica, Metallica

Remember how I said in my last review that old-school heavy metal albums were the driving force of my project? Well, listening to two old-school heavy metal albums back to back makes it even better.

Master of Reality was released in 1971, and Metallica’s black album came out in 1991. When I turned this record on, I immediately thought, Wow, metal came SO far in 20 years. Metallica sounds about a thousand times heavier than Sabbath. Maybe it’s the higher production value, maybe it’s the fact that James Hetfield’s voice is about seven octaves lower than Ozzy’s.

I mean, just look at “Enter Sandman.” Not only is this maybe the best album intro ever (I’ve probably said that a dozen times but each time I really mean it) but it’s maybe song ever, point blank. Try not singing along to Exit light! Enter night! Take my hand! We’re off to never-never land! You can’t.

Metallica, much like an onion, has layers. These aren’t all speed-metal songs, unlike Master of Puppets (#97). That came out five years before this one, and man, how they’ve grown. “The Unforgiven” is of course full of epic guitars, but Hetfield’s voice is genuinely lovely. To say nothing of “Nothing Else Matters,” which is a sweet song about staying true to yourself. An empowering ballad on a Metallica album; who woulda thunk?

But don’t get it twisted: this is album has the speed metal guitars I know you want, you sick bastard. “Holier Than Thou” and “Of Wolf and Man” are both a little terrifying, though not nearly as terrifying as “Through the Never.” TWISTING! TURNING! THROUGH THE! NEVER! Imagine me singing that with my choirgirl voice.

But of course, I knew all that about Metallica before I started my review. I think the thing that most surprised me most was how simply well-constructed this album was. “Wherever I May Roam” has a middle-eastern-inspired guitar riff that seemed ahead of its time. It took me some time to figure out what the intro guitar solo on “Don’t Tread On Me” was, but on my third listen I figured it out. It’s “America” from West Side Story! That’s so smart!

In my Master of Puppets review, I mention that I’ve tried my hand at being a Metallica fan before. This might be the album that turns me into a true believer.

Other Highlights: “My Friend of Misery” and “The Struggle Within” both have Sabbath-inspired emo lyrics, but compare the downer “The God That Failed” to Sabbath’s “After Forever” and you’ll see why I think Metallica is more badass than them. If you’re still not convinced, listen to Hetfield growl on “Sad But True.”

IS RS FULL OF IT? This might be controversial — disrespectful, even — but I think this album is better than Master of Reality. Thoughts?

Review #234: Master of Reality, Black Sabbath

Review #236: Discovery, Daft Punk