Ride The Lightning, by Metallica
During the year after the release of their debut album, Metallica was busy acquiring more musical skill thanks to some skilled instruction and also garnering a significant amount of attention for their musical ambition, which eventually led them to be signed to Elektra Records. Some band turmoil, including the departure of Dave Mustaine (who would later have a famous feud with the band he was forced to leave), was perhaps somewhat inevitable at this point, but Ride The Lightning is even to this day regarded as one of the most commercially and artistically successful metal albums ever made, even nearly 40 years after it was recorded and released. Does it stand up to the tastes of someone who is at best only a slight or mild fan of the genre? Let’s see.
The album begins with “Fight Fire With Fire” which begins with a lovely acoustic guitar part before transitioning into a heavy thrash metal track with suitably aggressive lyrics. The title track follows, with more aggressive instrumental parts and lyrics that reflect a dystopian view of living a dangerous and potentially violent life. “For Whom The Bell Tolls” is, as might be imagined from the title, a reflection of mortality and the relentless passage of time, much different in sound but not so different in focus from the later Bee Gees song of the same title, which is also a classic. “Fade To Black” has another strong acoustic guitar intro, moving into a moving series of vocals about the struggle to find the will to live. “Trapped Under Ice” has more thrash metal music with some considerable musical skill along with lyrics that portray a certain appropriate level of horror at the titular concept along with a shredding solo. “Escape” has the same kind of music as most of the songs on the album and lyrics that seek an escape from an unpleasant emotional situation, something that is not too uncommon in life or in rock music. “Creeping Death” seems to point back to historical horrors, while the album ends with a pulsating rock track in “The Call Of Cthulu” that points to more contemporary Lovecraftian horrors.
By and large, this album is precisely what one would expect. It shows some progress in musical virtuosity from the debut while also showing a coherent and high-concept album that deals with themes of horror, death, and the struggle to survive despite the horrors of life and one’s own perhaps overactive imagination. As someone who is fond of melodic music, for me the most interesting parts of this album are the songs where Metallica explore with complex song structures and also with acoustic and melodic elements that demonstrate a fondness for a broad array of guitar sounds. This is an album that consolidates the greatness of their debut album and also hints at some of the future directions that they would take as a band that remain worthwhile and enjoyable, and the progress demonstrated by all of the members of the band is something to enjoy and appreciate as well.