8/03/2014

30 Years of RIDE THE LIGHTNING

 

The thirtieth anniversary of Metallica's seminal sophomore album, Ride the Lightning, was a few days ago. The importance of this album cannot be denied, not just to metal but to my life. It remains my third favorite album of all time (with only Megadeth- Rust in Peace and Metallica- Master of Puppets topping it), as well as being the band's second best album (Master is their best, of course).

Kill Em All was the first true thrash metal album and was immediately heralded by fans and critics alike. It presented a game changer, by mixing the technicality of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest with the speed of punk, clearly inspired by Motorhead. This was heavier music than any band had put out up and until, then. And. was a big middle finger to the LA glam metal scene, of the time. As such anticipation of their next album was high. And, they delivered beyond all expectations. Tempo changes, more mature lyrics, and a growth in music in all levels, Ride is a perfect masterpiece of the thrash and metal world.

I got into Metallica late in their career, with their fourth album ...And Justice for All. Along with Megadeth and Anthrax, they got me into thrash metal and made me move away from the glam metal I was hearing at the time. Ride pretty much solidified them as one of my favorite, and eventually favorite, bands of all time. While, I have had an eventual love/ hate relationship with the band over the years, their importance and influence is huge.

Anyway, to honor this album, I'm going to talk about each track, from it.

Fight Fire with Fire- The opening track is one of the most influential songs around. It's the first time a truly heavy band starts a song with an acoustic, slow sound, that tricks the listener into thinking he is about to hear a "soft" track. Er, wrong! It soon explodes into an all out assault on the earlobes and plays at massive speeds, with a pounding drumbeat from Lars Ulrich to go with it. The song is about nuclear warfare, a staple of thrash metal bands at the time. But, let's be honest here, that was some scary shit back then, and it's arguable whether it still is today.

Ride the Lightning- Next we go into the title track, one of my personal favorites on the album. With a blistering intro and a killer riff, that sounds truly "electric". Which is perfect since the song is about a man who is on the electric chair. Told from his frantic and terrified POV, it has some pretty memorable lines, all song/ screamed perfectly by James Hetfield. Including my personal fav: "I don't want to die" Chilling!!

From Whom the Bells Toll- Opening with the always loved by metal bands sound of a clanging bell, this song. inspired by the Ernest  Hemingway book of the same name, deals with another favorite theme of thrash bands, the horrors of war. It lacks a chorus, but it has a great crunching and dark sound  coupled with Hetfeild's haunting vocals. It also is a great bass song that really proves why Cliff Burton was one of the greatest bass players in all of metal.

Fade to Black- Way before the 90s Metallica was called a sellout for this semi-ballad, that is today considered one of their best track and rightfully so. I call it a semi-ballad, because it does get heavy at the end with an almost grandiose feel to it. It opens with a beautiful lead by Kirk Hammet and goes into what is a beautiful, haunting, and powerful song. Perhaps the most powerful song the band has ever written, in both it's feel and lyrical content. Told from the point of view of a suicidal man, it is perhaps the greatest song on the subject (one that many metal and hard rock bands revisited over the course of time) in the metal world. As someone, who has battled and battles with depression, ever since high school, this is one that I have always had a very special connection to. It never fails to "get to" me especially, when my feelings are down.

Trapped Under Ice- Perhaps the fastest song on the entire album, this one is pure speed metal, with an intro that will make you bang your head at a breakneck pace. A man wakes up in a cryonic state and can't escape from being, well, trapped under ice. It ranks as one of the heaviest song of it's time period.

Escape- This song about rebellion has only been played once by the band, at Orion Music + More festival in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The band, especially Hetfeild, hate the song. I don't really know why. I guess it sounds less heavy and has more of a anti-establishment feel rock style than that of a thrash band. But, that's fine by me. I have always loved the song, and the badass lyrics were perfect for a little punk kid, like me. Still is.

Creeping Death- And, now comes my all time favorite song in the history of the universe. Heavy, fast, and a total fucking ass-kicker this a Metallica classic and concert staple. It deals with the plagues put on the people of Egypt by God and passover. The bridge where it says "Die by my hand" is chanted along by fans at concerts and even at metal bars. Hammet's lead is one of my favorite ever of his. In all, a perfect song.

Call of Ktulu- This instrumental closes off the album. It has another slow intro, but the song starts to build up, while keeping a creepy feel to it. It then heads into a crunching sound, and it is all perfect as this one takes on another heavy metal preferred theme, Lovecraft. It is, of course, inspired by Cthulhu. 

So, what are your feelings about this album? How did it influence you? What is your favorite track on it? Where does it rank in comparison to the other Metallica albums? I would love to know!

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