Metallica “… And Justice for All”

The latest inductee: [No. 46]

The making of Metallica’s “… And Justice for All”

released: August 25, 1988

label: Elektra


Many will cry sacrilege, but we’re gonna say it anyway: …And Justice for All is Metallica’s finest hour. Before the bitching and moaning begins, here’s a quick look at Justice by the numbers: nine songs, 65 ½ minutes, a bazillion parts per song, and No Fucking Bass. Released on August 25, 1988 (a date immortalized in song by Dillinger Escape Plan’s “8.25.88”), …And Justice for All was Metallica’s first full-length with bassist Jason Newsted, who had stepped in for the dearly departed Cliff Burton in 1986. All kinds of people will make all kinds of arguments for 1983’s Kill ’Em All, 1984’s Ride the Lightning and 1986’s Master of Puppets—especially Master of Puppets—but many of those arguments are based upon the faulty assumptions that Justice a) would have had audible bass lines if Burton had played them, and b) could have somehow been a better album if he were alive. But the fact is that Burton couldn’t have played on …And Justice for All no matter how much anyone—including Metallica vocalist/rhythm guitarist James Hetfield, drummer Lars Ulrich and lead guitarist Kirk Hammett—may have wanted him to. In a way, Burton’s absence confirms Justice’s supremacy in Metallica’s canon: Because Newsted’s tracks were all but nonexistent on the album, Metallica essentially proved that they didn’t actually need a bass player.
Whatever the case, Justice remains Metallica’s most complex and progressive album to date, a monolithic mid-range juggernaut that produced the band’s first single (“One”) and, arguably, their fastest song, like, ever (“Dyers Eve”). Lyrically, Hetfield was on top of his game, writing viciously efficient and prescient lyrics about the failings of the legal system (the title track), the loss of freedom and civil liberties (“Eye of the Beholder”) and the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Combined with the album’s savagely precise riffery and bottomless power grooves, the overall effect is like a battery of machine guns spitting serrated razor blades through the listener’s face. Metallica began the Justice sessions at One on One studios in Los Angeles with Mike Clink, who was enjoying nascent superstardom as the producer of Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction. After recording a pair of covers with Clink, the band ended up calling in Flemming Rasmussen, the Danish producer who had worked on Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets. What happened immediately before, during and after is henceforth committed to Decibel’s Hall of Fame. —J. Bennett (with additional reporting by David Fricke)

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  • Chriscox10

    j. bennett you are right on target with your review of this record by metallica
    …and justice for all. nothing more can be said, so? enough said by me.

  • Anonymous

    I 100% disagree with bro. This is just my opinion, Master of Puppets is by far a masterpiece. Not just of metal, but of all music. listening to it again I just can’t help but admire the album. A true masterpiece. Thats just me.

  • Paul

    I Like “Master of Puppets” the best too but the margin is tiny. Justice was too contrived and “to Live is to Die” was too long. Also, “Dyer’s Eve” is as fast as Battery after the speed slightly upped after recording, which makes “Battery” Metallica’s fastest song since they didn’t cheat and speed up the tape like I believe they did with the “Justice” album. Also “Master…” has songs all within the sweet zone: 5:12 and 8:33, prooving they knew a decent song should be at least 5:12 and never needs to be over eight and a half minutes. There aren’t any albums I can think of where the songs are relatively long but the deviation of song length is never been smaller: 5:12.35 (“Battery”) to to 8:32.5 (Master of Puppets). Also the production is still brave, dry and in your face unlike any thrash metal album released before Master of Puppets. It was the album more responsible of raising the attentions span of thrash lovers than any other. These two, “St. Anger” and Death Magnetic are my four Favourite Metallica albums with “St. Anger” being the bottom of the four

    • Usuk

      You should have mentioned that St. Anger was one of your favorites at the beginning of your post. It would have saved me the trouble of reading it.

  • Lauren Glenn

    To Live Is To Die was only there for Burton and that’s about it…… The songs are a beginning of the decline of Metallica’s song-writing strength that you could hear all over Master of Puppets….. They really just need to get Flemming Rasmussen back. He gave them the best albums of their career, no question.

  • Shannon

    It is a masterpiece

  • DantheMan

    Master of Puppets. Often claimed to be the best metal album ever. My ass, it’s not even Metallica’s best! This, however, is some of metal’s finest. Even with it’s production and long songs, it is a masterpiece. The lyrics are biting and true, the singing is awesome and in your face, for once Lars’ drumming is fenomenal and Kirk’s solos are the best of his career. The only downside is the lack of Newsted but I’m already used to this album’s sound, it would be hard to imagine it other way.