Metallica: Talkin' Thrash
…And Justice for All
In January 1988, Metallica reconvene with producer Flemming Rasmussen, this time at One On One Studios in Los Angeles, to begin work on their fourth full-length album. Titled …And Justice for All, the effort is the most progressive and technically challenging in the band’s catalog, boasting just nine songs for a combined length of more than one hour.
HAMMETT Things changed after Cliff’s death. Even our sound changed. On Justice, we kind of fell prey to that whole virtuosic, late-Eighties thing that was happening. All of a sudden, everyone wanted to be progressive and show off their abilities. Somehow, just playing fast and heavy took a backseat to that.
HETFIELD Sometimes we look back at some of our material and wonder how—or why—we ever came up with certain parts. There was a lot of urgency to that material, but a lot of it was just wank—just us showing off. But that’s where we were at that time.
Though the album is Newsted’s first full-length effort with Metallica, his bass parts are almost completely inaudible on the finished product. This is widely believed to be the result of the rest of the band’s “hazing” of the bassist, though they deny the charge.
HETFIELD The bass was obscured for two reasons. First, Jason tended to double my rhythm guitar parts, so it was hard to tell where my guitar started and his bass left off. Also, my tone on Justice was very scooped—all lows and highs, with very little midrange. When my rhythm parts were placed in the mix, my guitar sound ate up all the lower frequencies. Jason and I were always battling for the same space in the mix.
NEWSTED I can’t explain how much grief I dealt with—and still deal with—over that record.
HAMMETT There was a lot of anguish after Cliff died, and basically Jason was the punching bag. We vented so much on him, and it wasn’t really fair.
…And Justice for All is released on September 6, 1988, and becomes Metallica’s biggest album to date. It is also their mainstream breakthrough. This is in large part due to the success of the song “One,” for which the band films its first music video. In the video, Hetfield’s dark lyrics are set against disturbing images from the 1971 film adaptation of Dalton Trumbo’s antiwar novel, Johnny Got His Gun.
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