The moment the old world ended and, from out of the ashes, was born again!
Long before the silliness that became the post “black album” pop culture worship of all things METALLICA, these L.A. thrashers had serious balls and mad skills. 1984’s ‘Ride the Lightning‘ was the true beginning of the end. A technically precise, lyrically profound, and rage-fueled fire and brimstone collection of eight behemoths of Thrash Metal.
Don’t get me wrong, their debut ‘Kill ‘Em All’ is a damn fine album–gritty and mean, filled with unpolished gems of Thrash bliss. Yet, ‘Ride‘ is in an entirely different league. Working off a meager budget ($30 thousand) and with producer Flemming Rasmussen these four lads from sunny Southern Cal journeyed all the way to Copenhagen, Denmark to record this masterpiece.
Demonstrating growth in both composition and artistry over the year since ‘Kill’ and driven by bassist Cliff Burton’s musical training they incorporate a depth and complexity missing from earlier works. Tempo shifts, counter-melodies, acoustic intros, and intricate solos/breaks give these tracks weight and lingering impact. Beauty and madness, destruction and peace, brutality and imagination.
The serene opening to “Fight Fire With Fire” lulls the listener before unleashing relentless riffage, apocalyptic vocals, and nerve shattering rhythms. Setting the stage for the uncontainable rage lying within.
Thematically ‘Ride‘ spans social injustice, impending global doom, the horrors of warfare, and many other “happy” topics well-suited to torment and madden even the most harmonious of souls.
Best of the Best tracks includes the lyrical, bass heavy tone poem “For Whom the Bell Tolls“, suicidal pseudo-power ballad “Fade to Black“, nosebleed riff monster “Trapped Under Ice“, and the deadly plagues of “Creeping Death“.
Not yet commercially
polished ruined, Hetfield’s voice here is a thing of pure, sweet fury. While Lars Ulrich and an oft-overshadowed Kirk Hammett both rose to Metal legends on this album. And Cliff Burton’s talent simply can’t be undervalued as one of the best the Metal world has ever (or will ever) see. R.I.P.
Arguably, their follow-up release, 1986’s ‘Master of Puppets’, is a stronger album—it is a heavier one. Yet, one can’t deny the impact ‘Ride the Lightning‘ has had, and continues to have, on Heavy Metal music. No one outside of Metal had ever taken any Thrash band seriously until METALLICA unleashed this beast. Fast, melodic, angry, haunting, mean, yet, devilishly inviting. Easily among the best Metal albums all time.