Early in the assortment of riffs, demos and
It also sounds completely wrong, an auditory heresy.
It sounds that way, of course, because we’re projecting the track’s future onto its past. At the time it was simply a lovely piece of songcraft that could have eventually become a song similar to “Fade to Black.” Instead, the song would become a nightmare about the going off to war and stepping on the wrong spot. It’s the story of
...And Justice for All is a cold, bleak record, one that resonates just as much now as it did 30 years ago. Listen to it with your 2018
The sound of cold can take many forms. We’ve all heard piano chords, synth patches and vocal melodies that remind us of snow falling, of dead leaves
Consider how “Blackened,” which opens the record, starts off. The guitars fade in, and that initial solo before the first riff kicks
Listening to the “Blackened (Work in Progress Rough Mix” found in the box set further proves the point. Yes, after 30 years of no bass there is a visceral thrill at hearing what the song sounds like with the bass turned up, but it also makes the song feel less special. It’s still a good song, yes, but it doesn’t stand out because the starkness of the released record isn’t there.
It’s an aesthetic decision that makes complete sense when you consider that this was a band that was trying to push through grief to get a record out. Their bassist, Cliff Burton, had died in 1986 in a bus crash while the band was on tour in Europe. The common belief is that the lack of bass on AJFA was a way to haze Cliff’s replacement Jason Newsted, but one can’t help but notice the oppressive gloom of the record is not all that different than the oppressive gloom one feels with the unexpected loss of a loved one.
...And Justice for All is, at the very least, the most interesting Metallica record to dig into, and with the recent changes in weather now certainly seems like a great time for you to sit down and revisit it. If you feel like the world is spinning out of control and there’s nothing to be done, there’s “Blackened.” If you find the justice system infuriating, “...And Justice for All” agrees. Mad at your parents? “Dyer’s Eve” understands. But this time, instead of focusing on what’s missing, focus on why it’s missing. When we lost the bass, we gained a metal masterpiece. A gloomy, at times overwhelming masterpiece, but a masterpiece all the same.