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METALLICA's Ride The Lightning Producer: "Their Technical Abilities Were Not As Developed As Their Ambition"

Even though their creativity was popping off the charts.

Photo of James HETFIELD and METALLICA and Cliff BURTON and Lars ULRICH and Kirk HAMMETT
Photo: Mike Cameron/Redferns/Getty Images

Metallica producer Flemming Rasmussen recently told Metal Hammer that one of the challenges to recording Metallica’s Ride the Lightning, the sophomore follow-up to Kill ‘Em All, was the band were still technically in a stage of infancy, even though their creativity was popping off the charts.

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“Their technical abilities then were not as developed as their ambitions….  So, when we listened back to what we had done, they were blown away, and were so proud. I had never heard that kind of power come through the studio speakers. While they were in the studio, they were visited by the guys from Bronze Records, who wanted to sign them for Europe, and when [label owner] Gerry Bron listened to the finished album he said they'd want to re-record everything in London. When they left, James (Hetfield) looked at me and said, 'What an idiot!' [W]e knew that they hadn’t a clue if they couldn’t hear it was an amazing album. Bronze blew their chance to sign them right there."

Rasmussen produced three albums for Metallica between 1984 and 1988: Ride the Lightning (1984), Master of Puppets (1986), and …And Justice For All (1988). In recent years, he has been most-sought after for his insight into Metallica’s most critical years as a growing heavy metal titan. He has in the past been critical of the band, especially for the mix of … And Justice For All.

Producer Bob Rock worked with the band on their 1991 follow-up to … And Justice for All, the mega-successful Metallica, which began a musical partnership between band and producer that was both lengthy and produced some of Metallica’s most polarizing material.

You can listen to the title track from Ride the Lightning below, performed live in Louisville, KY at the Louder Than Life festival on September 24. 2021.

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