In celebration of Metallica’s tenth studio effort ‘Hardwired to Self Destruct’, which came out today November 18, 2016 – I’ve decided to rank each album from top to bottom. This is probably the worst idea I’ve had in quite some time because there’s no right answer to this while still being honest, but I’m gonna do it anyway and suffer the consequences.
#10. Load (1996)
Ranking LOAD at the bottom isn’t even that fair because there’s some great shit on here. I love ‘Hero of The Day’ and ‘Until it Sleeps’ was actually one of the first Metallica songs I had ever heard because I was only 11 years old when that creepy video came out. I think that’s the one with drummer Lars Ulrich riding a snake shirtless and pledging allegiance to Satan or something. Maybe I’m thinking of something else entirely. This was however a drastic shift in pace from the thrash elements that made Metallica who they are and many weren’t comfortable with that shake-up.
#9. The Black Album (1991)
We all know ‘Enter Sandman’ by now. Metallica play it every damn show and I’m quite sick of it. Like really sick. And for the longest time this was, like many other 8-year-olds – my fav. track from the band. I considered putting this record as number 10 because I can barely stand listening to it anymore. As harsh as that sentiment is that statement is by no means a judgement on the quality of the Black Album, because it’s the band’s top-seller and one of the most important hard rock records ever made. But that’s just what it is – hard rock. This was the first of two big shifts in Metallica’s sound – their mainstream bump. The transition from thrash metal to just… metal? rock? I don’t know. I also can’t stand ‘Sad But True’ – it’s my least favorite song the guys have ever done.
#8. Reload (1997)
‘Fuel’ is the best song that Metallica did in the 90’s. That’s right – the entire 1990’s. I’m including Sandman, Nothing Else Matters – you name it. “Gimme fuel gimme fire!” Hot damn – one of the best intros in all of music. Doesn’t even matter that this wasn’t a classic thrash Metallica track, it was pure fire – you could drive fast to it, kick ass to it, headbang to it – doesn’t matter at all, son. Reload was a blistering follow-up to the previous year’s Load and in my humble opinion the better of the two.
#7. St. Anger (2003)
Get over Lars’ drum-sound. Metallica went through some tough shit. They were in the middle of hiring a new bass player (so they recruited that psycho Robert Trujillo), released a documentary about how messed up they all were personally and they tried writing in a different way for the very first time – as a band, more collaboratively than ever. The end results are mixed for many fans but I fucking love St. Anger – the ferocity, the fact that it sounds like the world’s heaviest band not giving a shit and just laying waste to someone’s garage with these insane riffs. ‘The Unnamed Feeling’ is one of the band’s best songs to this day.
#6. Hardwired to Self Destruct (2016)
‘Spit Out The Bone’ is one of the strongest Metallica songs ever written. Like a fine mix of Ride The Lightning, Master of Puppets and Death Magnetic — the blistering ‘Spit Out The Bone’ is so damn fast, so damn heavy, and so damn good that it’s hard to believe Metallica have been doing this for over 30 years. Hard Wired is as diverse an album as it is jacked up on speed – and this record is hyper-sonic hair-trigger quick… The title track sounds like Metallica was honouring ‘Battery’ while ‘Murder One’ could have fit in nicely on the Black Album or even Re-Load. (full review HERE).
#5. Kill Em All (1983)
The first studio album from Metallica – Kill Em All is a thrash metal shitshow with production that sounds like they recorded the thing under a bridge while a tornado tried to murder them. ‘Seek and Destroy’, ‘The Four Horsemen’ and my personal favorite cut from the album ‘Hit The Lights’ – all set the stage for what would be the biggest band in thrash metal history – the kings of the big four. This is where it all began and despite that nasty ass production – it kicks ass.
#4. Ride The Lightning (1984)
The band’s sophomore album ‘Ride The Lightning’ was such an improvement over their debut in every single way. The record sounded crisper, the guys played tighter and the songs were amazing. ‘Fade to Black’ and ‘Creeping Death’ are a couple of the greatest metal songs ever written and who else would be devastated if the guys didn’t at least play the latter at some point during a concert? If I don’t hear Trujillo screaming ‘Motherfucker Die!’ at least a couple times then I don’t want to be there man.
#3. Death Magnetic (2008)
A band reborn – ‘Death Magnetic’ is Metallica following up 1988’s ‘And Justice for All’ – but doing so 20 years later. This is the album that saw the guys returning to their thrash metal roots but still evolving as a band in the process. Hetfield got his shit together, Hammett mysteriously conjured up more solos from his magical stoned bag of tricks, Lars’ drums didn’t piss people off anymore and Trujillo was finally embedded in the studio process. ‘All Nightmare Long’ is my favorite cut and I could listen to ‘Death Magnetic’ all day long – I almost had it at number 2 on this list – it was really close for me…
#2. Master of Puppets (1986)
Most die-hards will tell you that ‘Master of Puppets’ is Metallica’s greatest work. It’s hard to deny them that argument because not only is that album art iconic, but the songs here are monumentally bonkers – classic – all of them. ‘Battery’ is a freight train to the face – a blistering thrash metal tour-de-force and we all know how great that title track goes off live right? Even the lesser known cuts off this record are fantastic – ‘Damage Inc.’ and ‘Disposable Heroes’ if made by any other metal band would likely be their greatest two hits, but because this is Metallica, we just get those suckers as an added bonus along with everything else.
#1. And Justice For All (1988)
‘One’ is the best Metallica song of all time. Like it or not, that’s the hit. It incorporates several elements that make the band more accessible to audiences who don’t just dig thrash, without selling out in any way shape or form. The song builds and builds until it explodes at “Landmine! Has taken my sight!” – PS: That breakdown is the greatest thrash riff – ever. Nothing else comes close except for the intro to Slayer’s ‘Raining Blood’. ‘Blackened’ and ‘Eye of The Beholder’ are also true gems that I would love to see the band play more of live. From that glorious album art to the mesmerising sonic assault of the songs – ‘And Justice for All’ is Metallica’s finest. Period.