By Jackson K.
Written after the death of bassist Cliff Burton, the infamous ...And Justice For All album is Metallica’s most caustic and abrasive masterpiece who’s ideological lyrics are disturbingly relevant in today's culture. Perhaps their best album, …And Justice for All is Metallica’s most vicious and complex masterpiece by far, and the intensity alone is enough to make someone go deaf.
The opening track, “Blackened”, is singer-songwriter James Hetfield’s morbid account of the ending of our planet, reciting that there is no second chance for Earth, as years and years of progress are wasted. Serving the same role as “Battery” on Master of Puppets, and sharing an eerily similar theme to “Fight fire with Fire” on Ride The Lightning, it begins with a slow guitar part which then explodes into full speed thrash that’ll make you want to smash your head through wall.
The centerpiece of the album is of course, “One”, the nearly 8-minute song about a man with no arms, no legs, who can’t hear, can’t see, and can’t speak. Serving as a metaphor for being trapped in your own body, it is the song that exposed the band to the rest of the world and its impact hasn’t dulled since. All the elements of the song work as a unit, and by listening to it again and again, it’s easy to see why some consider this to be one of the best, if not the best song Metallica has ever written.
… And Justice For All begins and ends at a neck-breaking pace. Between each point, the songs are quite expansive (every song clocks in at over six minutes), both in length and in the technique that was used to emphasize these points. The hook of the anti-conformist anthem “Eye of the Beholder” is perhaps one of Metallica’s most memorable. The main riff of “The Shortest Straw”, a song about the victims of Government irrationality, speeds atop the song as if it's trying to run away from something. The opening line of “Harvester of Sorrow” reflects some of the heaviest sounds found in the record. A rare moment of humor occurs in “The Frayed Ends of Sanity” when they incorporate a chant from the Wizard Of Oz.
The title track, which is nearly ten minutes long, employs many of the same techniques used throughout the album. Its lyrics express the unfairness of our legal system, and how many are trapped within the horrors of the unjust machine. As for the second to last track of the album, “To Live Is to Die”, it serves as the sort of key to understanding the whole album. A lengthy instrumental, it’s the band's tribute to late bassist Cliff Burton, and includes a brief spoken word passage that includes lyrics more desolate than anything they have ever recorded. Lyrics provided by Cliff Burton himself.
They mourn their friend by posthumously publishing his own death wish, and while flawed in some aspects, …And Justice For All will stand as a true testament to the power of heavy metal.