Category Archives: Retrospective

Metallica – Master of Puppets [Retrospective]

Master of Puppets, Metallica. Just thinking of this album is metal. Master of Puppets is arguably the most famous and influential metal albums of the 80’s (and all time). Sure, there was Reign in Blood, Number of the Beast, Operation: Mindcrime and others, but none of those albums were comprised entirely of iconic songs, nor are they as easily heard throughout modern metal music.

Metallica Master of Puppets album cover

When you think of the big four in Thrash metal, each band really has their magnum opus, all of which are legendary in the metal community. For those uneducated in the lore of metal, the big four in thrash are/were: Anthrax, Megadeth, Slayer, and Metallica. Among The Living, Rust in Peace, Reign in Blood, and Master of Puppets are the bands’ best albums (respectively). All undeniably great albums, but none with quite as much clout and following as Master of Puppets. None of the other albums are as complete, either. Longer songs, bigger solos, more memorable hooks and riffs, better production, and just as pissed off.

The best (and perhaps most ironic) part about Master of Puppets is that the three best songs on the album were co-written Cliff Burton. This is unsurprising if you know about Burton’s history, and how he helped James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett how to theorize and harmonize. As Hetfield says, “without Cliff, we wouldn’t be where we are today.” Beyond the songs co-written by Burton, each songs brings a lot of technical prowess and songwriting ability to the album. One of Metallica’s most popular songs, “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” perhaps is a prime example of this. “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” has a unique song structure, beautiful (and skillful) solos, and among the greatest metal guitar tones ever used. The thing is, every song has most of these elements, showcasing them in a different manner every time – making for an extremely fresh and interesting listen no matter how many times you do so.

A must-have for every good metal collection, and a must-hear for anyone who wants to like metal, Master of Puppets is nothing short of iconic. It is Thrash metal, and then so much more. Unlike the the other bands in the big four, Metallica (and this album especially) have the ability to appeal to metalheads of every type and age.

Track picks: All of them, fool.

Overall score: 11/10 devil horns

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Blind Guardian – Imaginations from the Other Side [Retrospective]

Number 48 on Metal Storm’s Top 100 Albums, number 19 on RateYourMusic’s top albums of 1995, and one of the best power/speed/heavy metal releases for all time. That’s right, you guessed it (or maybe not), Imaginations from the Other Side by Blind Guardian.

blind guardian imaginations from the other side

Every legendary metal band from years past have one album that seems to epitomize and embody that band entirely. Perhaps the most prominent example of this would be Black Sabbath’s Paranoid. For Blind Guardian, Imaginations from the Other Side is undoubtably the album that epitomizes them.

In a year in which the Gothenburg sound was bursting on the scene and seemingly taking over, Blind Guardian (along with Iced Earth and Gamma Ray) delivered their greatest albums. For Iced Earth and Gamma Ray, it’s more debatable, but Imaginations from the Other Side really is Blind Guardian’s magnum opus. Hansi Kürsch delivers his best performance of his career on this album (even including his work in Demons and Wizards). The lyrics are incredible, and take the listener on a grand adventure. Beyond that, he pushes the boundary to the extreme with his vocal power and presence. The heat on his voice throughout this album is simply incredible. André Olbrich is on his game in this effort as well. While he may not be the fastest or best guitarist around, his creativity and writing for the guitar parts is on par with the best in metal – ever. Somehow André found a way to stay true to what power metal guitars were supposed to sound like, but still write something that was not like everything else out there. His solos on the album are absolutely perfect. They are not simply sweeping, blistering solos. They have feeling and emotion, which all guitar solos ideally should have.

Now that I’ve established that the album was near perfect in terms of writing, I want to comment on the production of the album. With such a huge vocalist in power metal, it’s a feat to have everyone in check, and no one getting snubbed for the spotlight. Power metal is somewhat notorious for this, allowing the vocalist to overshadow everyone during the more powerful vocal parts – this only happens where appropriate (and written) for the vocalist to be overshadowing everyone. Aside from the balance of the different elements on this album, the sound of the “choir” (the gang vocals) is the best I have ever heard for a power metal album I have ever heard.

From top to bottom, this album is a masterpiece. It capitalizes on every element necessary for a power metal album, and then some. Full of big vocals, fast guitars, pounding drums, and an epic story line – this is easily one of the most quintessential metal albums of all time.

Track picks: Don’t be a fool. On an album this good, every track needs to be listened to. I will say, though, that the two singles from the album were “Imaginations from the Other Side” and “Bright Eyes”

Overall score: 11/10 Devil horns