Great Metal Albums of 1986: Metallica- Master of Puppets


Here is one album which changed the shape of music in 1986. When Metallica’s third album, “Master of Puppets,” exploded onto the music scene in March of said year, no one was prepared for the storm it was to cause. Before this album, a lot of people, including some metalheads, turned up their snouts at thrash metal. There were the same old cliches that it wasn’t proper music or even proper metal, the musicians couldn’t play, the singer just screamed, yada, yada, yada. However, this album bulldozed all of those myths into oblivion and with “Master of Puppets,” thrash and speed metal became mainstream.

Let’s start off with me gushing over my all time favourite Metallica song, the opener “Battery.” Even thirty-four years later, every time I hear the song, I want to mosh around the place, smashing up small objects and throwing television sets and dogs and cats out of windows. (Note: I wouldn’t really do any of that.) “Battery” places first in another 80sMetalman Category: It is the best album opening song of all time. This is one song that grabs you by the pubes and makes you listen. It is the song which forms the foundation of this iconic album. I can go even further. The first time I saw Metallica live, supporting Ozzy in 1986, they opened with “Battery” and their set was fantastic! The second time I saw them, Donington 1987, they didn’t open with it and I thought they weren’t as good, I would go on to say they were disappointing as a result. Therefore, if Metallica were to play my dream concert, they would be contractually obligated to open with “Battery.”

The album tends to slow down after that manic opener. The title track is less fast paced but still ferocious. It does go bit acoustic in the middle but that helps make an eight minute plus song so great. Great lyrics contribute to it’s greatness as well. Things continue to slow down with “The Thing That Should Not Be.” Again, not a bad thing because the slowness of the song augment the power chords in it. It also gives it that ‘horror movie’ feel which I think Metallica were going for. That continues with the final song on side one, (I first got this on cassette), “Sanitarium.” The eerie intro on it actually makes you believe you are in such a place. Again, the lyrics and the way James Hetfield sings them add to that feeling. Even though, I have heard “Sanitarium” many times over the past three and a half decades, I have a fonder appreciation for it these days.

Side two starts with two songs I could personally identify with at the time. Three years after leaving US military service, I was feeling like a “Disposable Hero.” The American dream wasn’t working out for me the way I had hoped and the lyrics: “Twenty-one, only son but he served us well.” were felt in my veins. Of course, the speed and power of the song did their job in bringing those lyrics home to me. On the other hand, while “Leper Messiah” didn’t identify with me personally, I could still identify what it was about. Metallica were having a dig at the TV evangelists, like Jimmy Swaggart, who seemed to rule American television every Sunday morning. The lyrics, “Make a contribution and get a better saint,” definitely rang true on this song.

Closing out “Master of Puppets,” are the songs “Orion” and “Damage Inc.” “Orion” is a very interesting instrumental which wouldn’t be out of place on a prog-metal album, but it is not out of place on this album either. It builds you up for the great closer that is “Damage Inc.”

In any case, one thing this album proves is that one can be a talented musician and still play thrash metal. All four members do their jobs so well. James is  decent singer but an exceptional rhythm guitarist. While I don’t put Kirk Hammett on the same level as Vai, Van Halen or Malmsteen, he is still a great lead guitarist and I do disagree with those who call him “overrated.” Lars Ulrich proves his drumming skills here because not many drummers can play with such ferocity and then change tempo mid song and I can see why bassist, “Cliff Burton” was so badly missed after his tragic death later on in 1986.

Track Listing:

  1. Battery
  2. Master of Puppets
  3. The Thing That Should Not Be
  4. Sanitarium
  5. Disposable Heroes
  6. Leper Messiah
  7. Orion
  8. Damage Inc


James Hetfield- rhythm guitar, lead vocals

Kirk Hammett- lead guitar

Cliff Burton- bass

Lars Ulrich- drums


Master of Puppets is the last album made with Cliff Burton- R.I.P. Cliff

Cliff’s untimely death wasn’t the only tragedy that befell Metallica in 1986. During their live set in Washington DC, a young man was stabbed to death. There were stabbings at other concerts that year including Miami Sound Machine but of course the main stream media paid less attention to those. This is another thing that makes “Master of Puppets” so great, the fact that it was able to rise about the anti-metal feeling at the time and be the great album that it is.

Next post: Anthrax- Spreading the Disease




































22 Responses to “Great Metal Albums of 1986: Metallica- Master of Puppets”

  1. Game changer album for sure. For a band back in 86 there is no compromise on this record. Such a great album still to this day.
    Great write-up.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I think this is where everyone started to take notice. And to succeed in a world where 80’s Hard Rock dominated and they eventually came out on top and surpassed them all.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hot damn I am jealous of you seeing them live on this cycle.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is actually my least favorite of the first four. I’d go

    1. Kill ‘Em All
    2. And Justice for All
    3. Ride the Lightning
    4. Master of Puppets

    The raw fury of Kill ‘Em all is just an unbelievable rush, the progressive tendencies of Justice are so well composed and bleak that it makes up for the lack of bass, such strong songs on that one. The last two is splitting hairs, but I prefer Ride simply because it’s the more aggressive of the two, and there’s nothing on Master as dementedly wicked as “For Whom the Bell Tolls”. Also “Ride the Lightning” the song is Kirk’s best guitar work ever, it was all downhill from there.

    Of course, those are four classic records, and it’s hard to find fault with them. Their Garage Days Re-revistited EP is also fantastic. Serious game changers before they shit the bed with the middling filler on The Black Album.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Looking at that list posted, it almost feels wrong to have an album as awesome as Ride the Lightning at number three in any band’s discography, but that’s a testament to the quality of their early work.

      Liked by 1 person

      • All of those early Metallica albums are awesome no matter how you order them. For me,if Battery were on any of those other ones, then that one would become my new favourite.


  5. Awesome. Their last brilliant album, for me. Certainly grabbed me by the pubes!


  6. BillboardVagabond Says:

    Detailed description of a bygone era. I have the entire discography of Metallica for my son along with a lot of alternative rock. Thinking of the Metallica sound still gives me goose bumps

    Liked by 1 person

  7. One of the most important albums in metal as it brought Matallica to the forefront, despite the band already having two breathtaking albums under their belt.
    I was lucky to see them on their UK tour in ’86 – even meeting the band backstage, and just a week before their tragic bus accident. If memory serves well, Hetfield didn’t play guitar that night as he’d broken his arm in a skatboarding accident, and was joined onstage by a replacement guitarist who was normally their roadie/technician.
    Glad you have Anthrax STD up next, as that too was a timely album in making people sit up and notice thrash.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m jealous you got to meet them in person and right before Cliff’s death. I remember James’s skateboarding accident and a roadie took over the rhythm guitar duties. Was that the case when you saw them?

      Liked by 1 person

  8. oh man what an album that was, you’re right! I remember it tucked under the arm of so many of the lads at school and people lending and borrowing it..

    Liked by 1 person

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