Happy 24th Birthday, METALLICA's Master of Puppets!
By: Navjot Kaur Sobti
Respiring in the capillaries of all we hail as classic and timeless in thrash is METALLICA'S Master of Puppets. The 55-minute record just made its 24th birthday, marking nearly two and half decades post-release: that fine day – March 3, 1986 – when tales of eroded sanity, rising demons, and whiskey-laden backlashes stirred everyone from the choir kids to the hard rockers to come out and shatter some cranial tissue to its serving of hard, fast, aggressive riffage.
Arguably as vital for the thrash movement as Metallica’s earlier releases – Ride the Lightning and Kill 'Em All – the album diverged from thrash conventions, putting two steps and two fists forward into the realm of melody, introspective song-writing, and slower instrumentations (à la “Sanitarium”). Delivering themes and a tone far beyond the more traditional calls against the establishment, organized religion, and greater-good politics, it was with this evolved sensibility that the album diffused the masses: climbing its way up to #29 on the Billboard 200, selling 500,000 copies (with not so much as a single radio airing, music video, or single itself), and reaching platinum status come the 90’s. Provoking the same primal response in fans worldwide – the music was now rooted equally, and more universally – in that unresolved fury that builds in our gut, as in the darkest strata of the human psyche.
While the album’s release was tragically followed by the untimely death of the band’s original bassist, Cliff Burton, his death seemed to mark what was the record’s ascension into a worldwide embrace. It was from their first Master of Puppets tour onwards that both metal and nonmetal worlds continued to intersect, forming a collective fist for the fury and sorrow that was Metallica: having thus been deemed as one of the all-time essential albums (period.) by such magazines as TIME, Rolling Stone, Guitar World, and Kerrang! and Q Magazine. And regardless of the releases that followed or preceded it – the undying debate of the “Old” and “New” Metallica being of two completely two different breeds – with the emotive solos of “Master of Puppets” and the enraged calls of “Sanitarium,” the record has preserved its status in the musical world: continuing to saturate the airwaves and headphones of young’uns and old rockers today. From all of this, if one thing is clear – it’s that it intends on staying right where it’s at, forever hellbent on conforming to and obeying no one and nothing – be it the passage of merciless time herself.